The Abraham Cowley
Text and Image Archive

Famous Orpheus: Some Points of Departure

"Famous Orpheus--" Ibycus, frag. 10a

The mythical figure of Orpheus,
civilizer, musician, and thaumaturge, is obsessively important to Cowley as to Renaissance artists in general, but gains added topicality from the Stuarts' misguided attempts to coopt Orphic harmony as a trademark for their brand of kingship. Every aspect of Orpheus' story (see for instance Bacon's summary-discussion) could prompt sweeping reflections on language and memory, on gender and mastery, and on the basis as well as the prospects of Western civilization at large; the links I furnish here, with the studies they excerpt and cite, should do much to explain and define at least some of the ways in which Cowley orchestrates such reflections throughout the six books of Plantarum.
Related Links:
Orpheus Playing the Lyre, Orpheus beyond the Bacchantes 1 and 2, and Young man and American wild women
Orpheus his Descerpcion (On the Stuart king Charles I's Beheading)
Bacon's "Orpheus; or Philosophy," from The Wisdom of the Ancients (1619; Spedding, Ellis, and Heath [1870] 6.720-22)
Images-References Keyed to the Latin Line-Numbers of Cowley's Plantarum
Luca della Robbia's Orpheus, from the 15th-c. Campanile in Florence, with an online anthology of Orpheus studies
Titian's Orpheus and Eurydice (1511), with other supporting links
Orpheus in the wilderness anon. woodcut (Ovid's Metamorphoses ca. 1513), a crude yet crucial source for Bellini's great Orpheus and Circe
Ovid Illustrated: The Renaissance Reception of Ovid in Image and Text, with additional Ovid links
Coin of Gordian III, Hadrianopolis, Thrace: Orpheus losing Eurydice to Hades
Afterlives: Orpheus' legend in music
Orphée dans les arts plastiques: links to Perseus and other image-archives
Further Reading:
Bernstock, Judith E. Under the spell of Orpheus : the persistence of a myth in twentieth-century art. Carbondale, 1991.
Borgeaud, Philippe. Orphisme et Orphée: en l'honneur de Jean Rudhardt. Geneva, 1991.
Brumble, H. David. Classical Myths and Legends in the Middle Ages and Renaissance: A Dictionary of Allegorical Meanings. Westport, CT, 1998 (pp. 248-53 on Orpheus).
Camboulives, C., and M. Lavallée, eds. Les métamorphoses d'Orphée. Brussels, 1995.
Detienne, Marcel. "The Myth of 'Honeyed Orpheus.'" In Myth, Religion, and Society, ed. R. L. Gordon. Cambridge, 1981, 95-109.
Freiert, W. K. "Orpheus: A Fugue on the Polis." In Myth and the Polis, ed. D. Pozzi and J. Wickersham. Ithaca, 1991, 32-48.
Gantz, Timothy. Early Greek myth: a guide to literary and artistic sources. Baltimore, 1993, 721-25.
Heath, John. "The Stupor of Orpheus: Ovid's Metamorphoses 10.64-71." The Classical Journal 91/4 (1996), 352-70.
Jesnick, Ilona. The Image of Orpheus in Roman Mosaic: an Exploration of the Figure of Orpheus in Graeco-Roman Art and Culture . . . Oxford, 1997.
Migraine-George, Therese. "Specular Desires: Orpheus and Pygmalion as Aesthetic Paradigms in Petrarch's Rime sparse." Comparative Literature Studies 36/3 (1999), 226-46 (Click
here for the MUSE Web-version [access restricted]).
Nagy, Joseph F. "Hierarchy, Heroes, and Heads: Indo-European Structures in Greek Myth," In Approaches to Greek Myth, ed. Lowell Edmunds. Baltimore, 1990, 199-238.
Rebhorn, Wayne A. The Emperor of Men's Minds: Literature and the Renaissance Discourse of Rhetoric. Ithaca, 1995 (Chapter 3: "Circe's Garden, Mercury's Rod"--the mixed blessings of Orphic refinement; see too Cowley's essay, "The Dangers of an Honest Man in Much Company").
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. 2 vols. Washington, DC, The National Gallery, 1979 (1.47-50, sketching various art-historians' readings of Bellini's cryptic Orpheus).
Simonds, Peggy Munoz. "'Sweet Power of Music': The Political Magic of 'The Miraculous Harp' in Shakespeare's The Tempest." Comparative Drama 29/1 (1995), 61-90.
Tervarent, Guy de. Attributs et symboles dans l'art profane: dictionnaire d'une langue perdue, 2nd ed. (Geneva, 1997).
Warden, John, ed. Orpheus: The Metamorphoses of a Myth. Toronto, 1982.
Wells, Robin Headlam. Shakespeare on Masculinity. Cambridge, 2001 (pp. 23-28, 181-96 passim on Orpheus).

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