Four years have passed since Eurydice’s death (the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice), but Orpheus remained faithful to her as before. He did not want to marry any woman from Thrace. Once in early spring, when the first petals appeared on the trees, the great singer was sitting on a low hill. The golden guitar lay at his feet. The singer took it, jingled the strings slightly and sang. All nature listened to his wonderful singing. Orpheus’s song sounded so powerful, so captivating and attractive to the singer, that wild animals flocked around him like enchanted, leaving the surrounding forests and mountains. Birds came from all sides to listen to the singer. Even the trees shifted from their places and surrounded Orpheus; oaks and poplars, slender cypresses and deciduous plane trees, pines and firs gathered around the singer and listened to him; not a single twig, not a single leaf trembled on them. It was as if the whole of nature was enchanted by the wonderful singing and the sounds of Orpheus’ guitar. Suddenly there were loud shouts in the distance, the sound of timpani and laughter. These were the Kikon women who celebrated the merry feast of the noisy Bach. The Bacchanalians were getting closer and closer; here they see Orpheus and one of them shouts loudly:

The Death of Orpheus, 1874, Emile Jean-Baptiste Philippe Ben

“Hey, there it is, the misogynist!”

The Bacchanal swung her sawdust and threw it at Orpheus. But the ivy that covered the sawdust protected the singer. Another Bacchanal threw a stone at Orpheus, but the stone, subdued by the enchanting singing, fell at Orpheus’ feet; as if begging his forgiveness. The shouts of the Bacchanalians rang louder and louder around the singer, their songs sounded louder and louder, and the timpani rang louder and louder. The noise of Bach’s feast drowned out the singer. The Bacchanalians surrounded Orpheus, attacking him like a flock of birds of prey. Sawdust and stones were poured on the singer like a city. In vain did Orpheus pray to be spared; the furious Bacchantes do not listen to the voice to which trees and rocks are subdued. Bloody, Orpheus fell to the ground, his soul flew away, and the Bacchanalians tore his body with their bloodied hands. They threw Orpheus’ head and guitar into the clear waters of the Heber River. And – oh, a miracle! – the strings of the guitar, carried by the waves of the river, sound softly, as if mourning the death of the singer, and the shore sadly invites them. All nature mourned Orpheus: trees and flowers wept, animals and birds wept, and even the dumb rocks wept, and the rivers came from the tears shed. The nymphs and dryads untied their hair in mourning and put on dark clothes. Heber carried the singer’s head and guitar farther and farther to the vast sea, and the waves carried the guitar to the shores of Lesbos. Since then, the sounds of wonderful songs have been heard on Lesbos. And the golden Orpheus lyre was later placed by the gods among the constellations in the sky.

Orpheus’ soul descended into the realm of shadows and saw again those places where Orpheus had once sought his Eurydice. The great singer met Eurydice’s shadow again and hugged her lovingly in his arms. From that moment on, they could be inseparable. The shadows of Orpheus and Eurydice wander in the twilight over the fields, overgrown with asphodels. Now Orpheus can turn without fear to see if Eurydice is following him.

The head and lyre of Orpheus, dumped on the shores of Lesbos, Gustave Courtois, 1875

Exposed according to Ovid’s poem “Metamorphoses”