Eurydice: Listening: A Picture By Burne Jones



I

As sentient as a wedding-bell,
The vibrant air throbs calling her
Whose eager body, earwise curved,
Leans listening at the heart of hell.
She is one nerve of hearing, strained
To love and suffer, hope and fear-
Thus, hearkening for her Love, she waits,
Whom no man's daring heart has gained.

II

Oh, to be sound to such an ear!
Song, carol, vesper, comfort near,
Sweet words, at sweetest, whispered low,
Or dearer silence, happiest so.
By little languages of love
Her finer audience to prove;
A tenderness untried, to fit
To soul and sense so exquisite;
The blessed Orpheus to be
At last, to such Eurydice!

III

I listened in hell! I listened in hell!
Down in the dark I heard your soul
Singing mine out to the holy sun.
Deep in the dark I heard your feet
Ringing the way of Love in hell.
Into the flame you strode and stood.
Out of the flame you bore me well,
As I listened in hell.

IV

I listen in hell! I listen in hell!
Who trod the fire? Where was the scorch?
Clutched, clasped, and saved, what a tale was to tell
-Heaven come down to hell!
Oh, like a spirit you strove for my sake!
Oh, like a man you looked back for your own!
Back, though you loved me heavenly well,
Back, though you lost me. The gods did decree,
And I listen in hell.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on March 23, 2023

1:12 min read
114

Quick analysis:

Scheme AXXABCDB XCEEXXXXFD AXXXAXAA AXAAXXAFA
Closest metre Iambic tetrameter
Characters 1,211
Words 241
Stanzas 4
Stanza Lengths 8, 10, 8, 9

Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward

Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward was an early feminist American author and intellectual who challenged traditional Christian beliefs of the afterlife, challenged women's traditional roles in marriage and family, and advocated clothing reform for women. In 1868, three years after the Civil War ended, she published The Gates Ajar, which depicted the afterlife as a place replete with the comforts of domestic life and where families would be reunited—along with family pets—through eternity. In her 40s, Phelps broke convention again when she married a man 17 years her junior. Later in life she urged women to burn their corsets. Her later writing focused on feminine ideals and women's financial dependence on men in marriage. She was the first woman to present a lecture series at Boston University. During her lifetime she was the author of 57 volumes of fiction, poetry and essays. In all of these works she challenged the prevailing view that woman's place and fulfilment resided in the home. Instead Phelps' work depicted women as succeeding in nontraditional careers as physicians, ministers, and artists. Near the end of her life, Phelps became very active in the antivivisection movement. more…

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