Fairy-Tale Files, published once weekly, feature three variations of a fairy tale chosen by one of Fairy Tale Review’s editors, readers, editorial assistants, or contributors.
It’s often said that the story of Orpheus and Eurydice is a poet’s myth, and that’s often meant in a disparaging way, to say that poets romanticize their own pain. I agree—but not in disparagement—that the myth speaks to the possibility of beauty inside of suffering. I agree in the way that the myth tells us the story of the human capacity to create beautiful things even when the only thing we can have faith in is the loss of faith itself.
It is perhaps for this reason that Rainer Marie Rilke turned to the myth in his 1922 Sonnets to Orpheus. Rilke wrote the sequence of 55 sonnets at the time that he was finishing the far more famous Duino Elegies. In the myth, Eurydice is only a shadow when Orpheus finds her in the underworld; the same is true of meaning in Rilke’s poems, as he makes use of ambiguous, indefinable pronouns. The poems are sometimes slippery, sometimes confusing, sometimes confounding, but always compelling.
The second disc of Arcade Fire’s double album Reflketor begins with a two-song take on the story—“Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)” and “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus).” Once again, the mystery of the myth lies in the songs’ slippery pronouns. Over rara-inspired beats, Win Butler and Régine Chassagne echo each other’s cries that “it’s never over.” What “it” is may be unclear, but it’s clearly, beautifully haunting – and a haunting reminder that loss itself is sometimes a beauty.
This edition of Fairy-Tale Files is brought to you by Mauve Issue contributor Emma Bolden.