Music is a very powerful tool that people use throughout life. One of its most important attributes is how it allows people to show their emotion. History is abundant with different myths and legends about such music. The legend of Orpheus and Eurydice is one that strives to show the emotion of the music and melodies performed by a man who is separated from his lover by different worlds. Both Orpheus and Eurydice by Czeslaw Milosz, and Orpheus and Eurydice by John Godfrey Saxe, are great examples of separate depictions that show different emotions from Orpheus's music. Both of these poems show how powerful and compelling music can be, while still keeping the author's originality by showing the emotions in different ways. It may be that music, while having many forms, almost always has the ability to express emotions in a way that affects everyone.
Music can be considered to be like an onion. For one to truly understand it, we must look at all aspects of the person’s life. The foundation of a person's life can be just as important as the outcome of their music. In both poems, Orpheus's love for Eurydice is the foundation for his music. In Saxe's poem, Orpheus was living a joyous life before his wife was tragically taken from his world. After losing Eurydice, the poem says that Orpheus would not "marry another" (Saxe 37). After not being able to forget Eurydice, Orpheus travels to a place called Hades to rescue Eurydice. Milosz forgoes the beautiful love story that occurred before Eurydice's tragic death and brings us straight to Orpheus’s emotions at the gates of Hades. He writes "Only her love warmed him" (Milosz 13). Whether his love for Eurydice is the begging of his quest or the motivation that keeps him going, it is clear that he was determined to rescue the love of his life.
Another important aspect to the layers in music is always the setting. Both of these depictions occur in a place called Hades, but both describe Hades to be different. Milosz depicts Hades as a place of turmoil and torture. It is described as a "labyrinth" and a place called "Nowhere" (Milosz 16-28). If one were to travel to this version of Hades, they would be surrounded by guilt and fear, as they see people who haunt them from their past. This Hades is truly a place where the dead are tortured. Saxe, however depicts Hades as a simple afterlife for all Greeks and Romans. Saxe goes as far to say that Hades is "a different place from the terrible furnace" (Saxe 33). This Hades seems as if it is a peaceful place for those who have died under good circumstances. While both of these poems depict different versions of Hades, the important thing to remember is that Orpheus was in turmoil, not because of his surroundings, but because of his separation from Eurydice.
One of the most important layers of Orpheus's music is how he uses his developing melodies to search for, and obtain his precious Eurydice. In Saxe's depiction, Orpheus first uses his music to get within the...