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November 22, 2007

Orpheus of Underbank

Orpheus was a poet and musician. So good was his music, and his lyre playing in particular, that he could charm the birds out of the trees and change the course of a river into the same bargain.

One day he met Eurydice, and by the time he could pronounce her name [yoo-rid-uh-cee] they had fallen in love and gotten married. It was a blissful marriage and they lived happily in Underbank, doing elaborate puppet shows for passing tinkers.

Sometime later, when Eurydice was out shopping in Huddersfield, she was chased by some Chavs and, silly thing, ran into a pit of snakes – you know, the way you do.

Alas and alack, Eurydice died of the snake bites and Orpheus, back in Underbank was understandably upset. He took up his lyre from out of the cupboard under the stairs and played so sadly that even the gods and the nymphs wept.

Well, after a while the gods and nymphs got pretty fed up with Orpheus moping around all day, playing his sad songs and making them cry, so they suggested he go down into the Underworld, under Underbank, and get Eurydice back.

Orpheus was fair made up with this idea and immediately applied for an Arts Council grant. When the money came through, as it did in those far-off days, he set off, pausing only to ring his mate Dante, who was holed up in Florence trying to write a comedy, and tell him where he was off to.

The Underworld, as you can imagine, was not a friendly place, all manner of difficult characters abounded there. But Orpheus managed to lull everyone into a false sense of security with his wonderful music. Even Hades his self, aka Pluto – God of the Underworld, and his better half Persephone, fell under the spell of his lyre, and they agreed to let him take Eurydice back up top, back up to Underbank.

But there was a catch - gods can be right bastards. Orpheus must lead the way and Eurydice would follow him, and, here’s the catch, Orpheus must not turn round and look back until they had both safely reached Underbank.

Well, he hadn’t seen Eurydice for ages. What was a man to do? He tried, I’m sure. But it was too much for him and before they reached the safety of Dunford Road, Orpheus turned round to gaze upon his beloved Eurydice. And what happened? Eurydice disappeared in a proverbial puff of smoke.

Orpheus was right pigged off with this so he foreswore the love of women thereafter and took to entertaining young boys instead. This didn’t sit too well with some folk, especially the Thracian Maenads – a bunch of Mad Woman who spoke fluent Thracian. So next time he went out for a beer the Maenads tried to stone him to death.

But Orpheus had his lyre with him and his beautiful music prevented the stones from hitting him. The Maenads were furious, in fact they were so enraged that they tore him to pieces in a wild Bacchian orgy and threw his head and lyre into the river. So be warned, gentle traveller, don’t fuck with Maenads when they've had a few.

The Muses gathered up his bits and pieces and buried them for him up on Mount Olympus, where nightingales sang over his grave. And Orpheus’ soul returned to the Underworld where he was reunited with Eurydice forever.

[Editor’s note, for the sake of clarity: Underbank is in Holmfirth]

Posted by john at November 22, 2007 10:58 PM


Oh, come on! This HAS to be a myth. I don't believe that money from the Arts Council EVER used to come through.

Posted by: Daphne at November 23, 2007 07:36 AM