Underground is a word with many meanings and connotations. It might mean literally under the earth, like the First World War battle of the miners trying to undermine each others’ trenches as described in Birdsong (Sebastian Faulks). Or it could be the spiritual or intellectual sort of Dostoevsky’s, Notes from the Underground. More playfully it could be the rabbit hole to another world in, Alice in Wonderland or simply a snug underground chamber like Badger’s house in, Wind in the Willows or a hobbit hole (though, there is nothing snug about the Mines of Moria.)
Perilous expeditions to underground worlds have been with us at least since the Ancient Greeks and the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is one of the most compelling tales to have come down to us. The story has
remained popular until the present day and has inspired countless writers and artists to create their own interpretations.
Orpheus was the son of Apollo and the muse Calliope. He was the ultimate musician able to charm the birds from the trees with the beauty of his lyre playing and singing. Before his expedition to the underworld, Orpheus was one of the Argonauts accompanying Jason on his quest for the Golden Fleece. Orpheus saved most of his shipmates by drowning out the entrancing singing of the Sirens with his own music – which suggests less lyrical melody and more heavy metal.
Rather appropriately, as “underground” rock music was a precursor to heavy metal and Orpheus’s next adventure was to venture into the underworld seeking to get his wife, Eurydice (recently deceased from a snakebite), back. From the dead His music so charmed Hades and his wife (for half the year) Persephone that they agreed but warned that, as Eurydice followed him out of the underworld, Orpheus must not look back.
Guess what happened nexr?
The Underground by Seamus Heaney
There we were in the vaulted tunnel running,
You in your going-away coat speeding ahead
And me, me then like a fleet god gaining
Upon you before you turned to a reed
Or some new white flower japped with crimson
As the coat flapped wild and button after button
Sprang off and fell in a trail
Between the Underground and the Albert Hall.
Honeymooning, moonlighting, late for the Proms,
Our echoes die in that corridor and now
I come as Hansel came on the moonlit stones
Retracing the path back, lifting the buttons
To end up in a draughty lamplit station
After the trains have gone, the wet track
Bared and tensed as I am, all attention
For your step following and damned if I look back.
For an altogether different take on the story, check out Carol Ann Duffy’s “Eurydice”
“…Like it or not,
I must follow him back to our life –
Eurydice, Orpheus’s wife –
to be trapped in his images, metaphors, similes,
octaves and sextets, quatrains and couplets,
elegies, limericks, villanelles,
There is lots of music with an underground theme – here are a few (thanks due to Norman M for introducing me to Lindsey Stirling)