×

Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Orpheus: The Song of Life
     

Orpheus: The Song of Life

by Ann Wroe
 

See All Formats & Editions

The captivating "history" of the figure of Orpheus, his enduring legacy as the force and muse of creation itself.
For at least two and a half millennia, the figure of Orpheus has haunted humanity. Half-man, half-god, musician, magician, theologian, poet, and lover, his story never leaves us. He may be myth, but his lyre still sounds, entrancing everything that

Overview

The captivating "history" of the figure of Orpheus, his enduring legacy as the force and muse of creation itself.
For at least two and a half millennia, the figure of Orpheus has haunted humanity. Half-man, half-god, musician, magician, theologian, poet, and lover, his story never leaves us. He may be myth, but his lyre still sounds, entrancing everything that hears it: animals, trees, water, stones, and men. In this extraordinary work, Ann Wroe goes in search of Orpheus, tracing the man and the power he represents through the myriad versions of a fantastical life: his birth in Thrace, his studies in Egypt, his voyage with the Argonauts to fetch the Golden Fleece, his love for Eurydice and the journey to Hades, and his terrible death. We see him tantalizing Cicero and Plato, and breathing new music into Gluck and Monteverdi; occupying the mind of Jung and the surreal dreams of Cocteau; scandalizing the Fathers of the early Church, and filling Rilke with poems like a whirlwind. He emerges as not simply another mythical figure but the force of creation itself, singing the song of light out of darkness and life out of death.

Editorial Reviews

The Independent
This insightful and visionary study, treading a perfect line between imagination and scholarship, is as readable and necessary as a fine novel. Ted Hughes, another mythographer, would have loved it.
New Statesman
Ann Wroe has an acute eye for pastoral detail . . . [Orpheus] will leave you dancing.
New Yorker
Did Orpheus exist? Wroe thinks he did, and still does, and dedicates this lyrical biography to doubters.
Choice
In rich, poetic language, Wroe (an editor for The Economist) reflects on the meaning of Orpheus's life, in terms of both its mythological origins and its influence on art and literature.
From the Publisher
"This insightful and visionary study, treading a perfect line between imagination and scholarship, is as readable and necessary as a fine novel. Ted Hughes, another mythographer, would have loved it." — The Independent

"Ann Wroe has an acute eye for pastoral detail . . . [Orpheus] will leave you dancing." — New Statesman

"Wroe's melodic style breathes new life into his adventures with Jason and the Argonauts, his eternal love of Eurydice and interminable mourning for her and descent into Hades . . . Wroe brings mythology and Orpheus so vividly to life that readers may be convinced that he actually did exist and, indeed, still does. A book to make readers laugh, sing, and weep." — Kirkus, starred review

"Did Orpheus exist? Wroe thinks he did, and still does, and dedicates this lyrical biography to doubters." — New Yorker

"In rich, poetic language, Wroe (an editor for The Economist) reflects on the meaning of Orpheus's life, in terms of both its mythological origins and its influence on art and literature." — CHOICE

"Orpheus combines a scholar's attention to evidence with a poet's flair for words in this startlingly original history that traces the obscure origins and tangled relationships of the Orpheus myth from ancient times through today . . . This is a brilliant book. The reader will come away with a new appreciation and understanding of the power and beauty of the Orpheus myth." — Library Journal

Library Journal
Wroe (senior editor, Economist; Being Shelley: The Poet's Search for Himself) combines a scholar's attention to evidence with a poet's flair for words in this startlingly original history that traces the obscure origins and tangled relationships of the Orpheus myth from ancient times through today. It's mildly frustrating when one can't identify the source of an allusion—the book has no notes—but the tradeoff is worth it because Wroe succeeds in making the reader feel what it might have been like to follow Orpheus, who preached a universe in which "everything, from the atoms to the stars, moved in circles of reciprocal desire, and Love made everything dance." The appeal of this "first singer of holy songs," who quieted birds and made streams and mountains follow in his footsteps, has persisted: modern thinkers as disparate as Nietzsche, Freud, Jung, Cocteau, and Anouilh have written about him, and Rilke is virtually Wroe's guide throughout this book, as the poet composes his dazzling sonnets to Orpheus in a whirl of creativity that is very much Orphic in its intensity. VERDICT This is a brilliant book. The reader will come away with a new appreciation and understanding of the power and beauty of the Orpheus myth.—David Keymer, Modesto, CA
Kirkus Reviews
Economist briefings and obituaries editor Wroe (Being Shelley: The Poet's Search for Himself, 2007, etc.) delivers a transformative adventure of myth. The story of the semi-god Orpheus, the young man with a lyre, has been told and retold across the ages. His music enchanted the trees, calmed the seas and gave birth to light, life and love. According to poet Rainer Maria Rilke, Orpheus taught his followers to "become what you are." Wroe's melodic style breathes new life into his adventures with Jason and the Argonauts, his eternal love of Eurydice and interminable mourning for her and descent into Hades. Orpheus appears in some guise in a wide variety of cultures across centuries--e.g., as a Thracian king, Sir Orfeo in Breton and Irish stories or his invocation on a fifth-century BCE sacrificial token from Olbia on the Black Sea. Even with all that, however, he was not a true god, but only halfway divine; as Horace wrote, "the gods' interpreter." As Wroe writes, "godhead gradually slipped away from him, leaving only a sense of election and the power, through his music, to change landscapes, seasons, hearts." In her tuneful prose, the author recounts the influence of Orpheus on a veritable pantheon of writers and musicians, including Ovid, Virgil, Milton, Shelley, Keats, Cocteau and a host of others. Wroe brings mythology and Orpheus so vividly to life that readers may be convinced that he actually did exist and, indeed, still does. The author ends as she began, with Rilke at work, contemplating the magic of Orpheus: "Beyond the windows, over the hills, fresh clouds were streaming and shape-shifting as fast as the toiling, teeming world. But Orpheus's song rang higher and holier, eternally." A book to make readers laugh, sing and weep.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781468308266
Publisher:
Overlook
Publication date:
02/25/2014
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
887,290
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Ann Wroe writes for The Economist. After earning a doctorate in medieval history from Oxford, she worked at the BBC, covering French and Italian politics. She joined The Economist in 1976 and has held the posts of Books and arts editor and American editor. She has written five other books and is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Royal Society of Literature.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews