Tree Buriel by Denny Derbyshire

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,
histories, myths…”


There is lots of music with an underground theme – here are a few (thanks due to Norman M for introducing me to Lindsey Stirling)

2 thoughts on “Underground

  1. Underground

    They walk down the wooden stairs the modern tourists
    Over one hundred and thirty metres down
    Suddenly there are huge chambers
    Illuminated by large salt crystal chandeliers
    They look up high into the ceiling
    And they marvel at the beauty

    Thousands of tonnes of table salt
    Have been removed over many centuries
    Figures and statues carved out over hundreds of years
    A concert hall, a resort for recuperation
    As well as chapels cafes and restaurants
    The last supper carved in one wall
    And other saints in another
    Linking us with those miners of yesteryear
    Who dedicated their lives to
    Hacking out the rough salt and
    Sculpting all those figures underground
    With no daylight
    Hundreds of kilometres of galleries

    This was one of the world’s oldest operating mines
    In the town of Wieliczka near Kraków in Poland
    The salt mining finished in 2007
    And now it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site



  2. Underground

    what comes to mind,
    Is the tube in London.
    A busy station with lots of people,
    It goes round the city, all below
    And costs very little considering the flow.

    There are animals that live under the ground,
    Like Badgers and moles who live in sets ,
    And rabbits who live in burrows.

    The Rock Music underfround,
    was heavy metal rock ,
    the kind you banged your head to,
    with leather jackets, doc martins boots,
    were all the rage,
    and everyone forgot their age .

    The main underground,
    that comes to mind again,
    Is the wee blue electric Train,
    I got on each morning at Airdrie.
    It was called th Express
    It got you to work for 8 ocklock,
    Queen Street Station,
    Was its Destinatiom,
    Stopping at all other Stations along the way,
    before you know it you were there,
    and then you had to climb that dreaded stair.

    I loved the Train,
    but when i moved home,
    It was not there anymore,
    As living on an island,
    There is no need,
    Especially for speed.

    Its a laid back way of life up here,
    and you can get a boat from the pier,
    Its good to go on holiday,
    But there is no better place to stay,
    so we dont need the underground,
    The mainland can keep it safe and sound.

    by Donna Keenan


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