pale swam her spirit
for flute & electronics (c.7'15")
The story of Orpheus tells of a young man who could charm the hearts of men, beasts, and even the gods through the power of his song. Orpheus ventured to the underworld to reclaim the soul of his wife, Eurydice, who was taken from him on the day of their wedding. He struck a deal with Hades and Persephone in which Eurydice would be allowed to return to the land of the living with him on the condition that he not look back at her until they had exited the underworld. Due to trickery or anxiety, Orpheus looked behind him before Eurydice had crossed out of the underworld, and in that moment her soul was called back to the realm of the dead.
Despite being the center of the story, Eurydice has little to no agency. Even her decision to marry Orpheus is questionable due to his ability to charm whoever he wanted. Frankly, Eurydice’s experience is entirely unfair and out of her control. In Virgil’s telling of the story in Georgics book IV, Eurydice does not speak until her second death at the entrance to the underworld. This piece is meant to explore that moment, suspended in time where Eurydice, who has been following Orpheus throughout the entirety of the story, is finally given the agency to deliver her monologue before her return to the underworld. One might be tempted to read this monologue as the somber farewell of two lovers being torn from one another, but if read with a tinge of spite it becomes quite damning. Eurydice is finally expressing the consequences of Orpheus’ actions, dooming her to a second death.
Performed by Christian Paquette, flute
from Georgic's book IV
Thrice o'er the Stygian lake a hollow sound
Portentous murmur'd from its depth profound
Alas! What fates our hapless love divide,
What frenzy, Orpheus, tears thee from thy bride!
“Again I sink; a voice resistless calls,
Lo! On my swimming eye cold slumber falls.
Now, now farewell! Involv'd in thickest night,
Borne far away, I vanish from thy sight,
And stretch tow'rds thee, all hope for ever o'er,
These unavailing arms, ah! Thine no more.”
She spoke, and from his gaze forever fled,
Swift as dissolving smoke trough aether spread,
Nor more beheld him, while he fondly strove
To catch her shade, and pour the plaints of love,
Deaf to his prayer no more stern Charon gave
To cross the Stygian lake's forbidden wave.
What shall he do? Where, dead to hope, reside?
‘Reft of all joy, and doubly lost his bride;
What tears shall sooth the inexorable God?
Pale swam her spirit to its last abode.