Monday, November 8, 2021

From Vita Nova: "Relic" by Louise Glück


The Nobel Prize-winning poet Louise Glück can take apart a classical myth and reassemble it exquisitely.  In "Relic," Eurydice expresses subtle anger at Orpheus's narcissism.  "How would you like to die/while Orpheus was singing?"  In Glück's collection Vita Nova, there are other references to the myth and a few poems from Orpheus's point-of-view.

"Relic" (from Louisa Glück's Vita Nova)

Where would I be without my sorrow,
sorrow of my beloved's making,
without some sign of him, this song
of all gifts the most lasting?

How would you like to die
while Orpheus was singing?
A long death; all the way to Dis
I heard him.

Torment of earth
Torment of mortal passion--

I think sometimes
too much is asked of us;
I think sometimes
our consolations are the costliest thing.

All the way to Dis
I heard my husband singing,
much as you now hear me.
Perhaps it was better that way,
my love fresh in my head
even at the moment of death.

Not the first response--
that was terror--
but the last.

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