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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Effect of Orpheus’s Song in Hades

By Ovid (43 B.C.–18 A.D.)

Translation of Henry King

SO sang he, and, accordant to his plaint,

As wailed the strings, the bloodless ghosts were moved

To weeping. By the lips of Tantalus

Unheeded slipped the wave; Ixion’s wheel

Forgot to whirl; the Vulture’s bloody feast

Was stayed; awhile the Belides forbore

Their leaky urns to dip; and Sisyphus

Sate listening on his stone. Then first, they say,

The iron cheeks of the Eumenides

Were wet with pity. Of the nether realm

Nor king nor queen had heart to say him nay.

Forth from a host of new-descended shades

Eurydice was called; and halting yet,

Slow with her recent wound, she came alive,

On one condition to her spouse restored,—

That, till Avernus’s vale is passed and earth

Regained, he look not backward, or the boon

Is null and forfeit. Through the silent realm

Upward against the steep and fronting hill,

Dark with obscurest gloom, the way he led;

And now the upper air was all but won,

When, fearful lest the toil o’ertask her strength,

And yearning to behold the form he loved,

An instant back he looked—and back the shade

That instant fled! The arms that wildly strove

To clasp and stay her, clasped but yielding air!

No word of plaint even in that second death

Against her lord she uttered,—how could love

Too anxious be upbraided?—but one last

And sad “Farewell!” scarce audible, she sighed,

And vanished to the ghosts that late she left.