Sunday, May 06, 2007


What is it about the figure of Orpheus that makes him an endless source for poets? Even when he barely appears, when he remains silent, Orpheus is everywhere.

I just finished reading "Dante's Metam-Orpheus: The Unspoken Presence of Orpheus in the Divine Comedy" by Leah Schwebel, an excellent article which appeared in Hirundo: The McGill Journal of Classical Studies, Volume IV : 62-72 (2005-2006).

Schwebel writes:

"Dante only explicitly names Orpheus once* in his Divine Comedy, upon seeing him within the Limbo for intellectuals. Yet the function of the Orpheus figure in the Divine Comedy, similar to his function in literature, is that of chimera. The shade of Orpheus residing in Dante's Limbo serves only as the mold for the multiple imprints the figure leaves throughout the text."

*Canto IV, Line 124, Robert Pinsky trans. of The Inferno of Dante, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (1994), p. 41


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