Epic, Part ii (Hadestown)

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I’ve been thinking about this song all day, and was going to tweet about it but then I was like… nah bitch, this is what we started a blog for!

I just think each word of this song is so lovely… in case I have yet to persuade you to listen to this album, Hadestown is a rock opera performed by Anaiis Mitchell and many others, that explores the story of Orpheus & Eurydice.

The story of Orpheus and Eurydice is an Ancient Greek one. In this song, Orpheus is singing about Hades, the god of the underworld, whose wife, Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, the goddess of fertility & nature, is also a major player in the story arc of the album. Anyway so Orpheus, the idealist/artist/musician/lover of beauty, is trying to save his love, Eurydice (who symbolizes purity, justice, innocence…) from Hades after her untimely demise, and in so doing travels to & observes the Underworld (“Hadestown”).

The story that Orpheus is singing about here is the story of how Hades and Persephone came to be wed. Hades, of course, symbolizes something like the devil and is used as a metaphor for an oppressive economic system which values production over human thriving (sound familiar??)… in any case, the story goes that Hades kidnaps Persephone one day after falling madly in love with her above ground, and tells her that if she eats/drinks nothing during her time there, she can leave, but if she eats even a seed from the underworld, she will have to spend a month of every year as his wife in the underworld.

Look, it’s a weird story, I don’t know why he would tell her this, or why she would eat SIX SEEDS which is NOT a meal, but I didn’t write the story and sometimes with metaphors that isn’t really the point. Anyway so she eats six seeds, and this is meant to explain the passing of the seasons – Demeter, goddess of the earth and the harvest, weeps for her daughter during the times she’s in the underworld with Hades each year, and so the earth dies and becomes cold and inhospitable until she returns during the second half of the year.

This song, though, is just Orpheus for the first time imagining what it must have felt like for Hades the day he saw Persephone and fell in love with her. He’s humanizing Hades for us, a little bit, in this song. But it’s… I think what makes it so beautiful is something about the matter-of-factness but also the heaviness of the lyrics, which are so… simple on the surface, but have so many more layers of meaning waiting for the listener to explore…

I don’t know, I just have been thinking about it since this morning so I wanted to share. I think there’s something so wonderfully piercing about some of the lines…

The heart of the king loves everything
like the hammer loves the nail…

Hades is king of the scythe and the sword,
he covers the world in the color of rust – 
he scrapes the sky, and he scars the earth
and he comes down heavy and hard on us…
But even the hardest of hearts unhardened
suddenly when he saw her there… 
And suddenly Hades was only a man,
with the taste of nectar upon his lips…

UGH it’s just so good.

Update: I don’t know if it’s embarrassing that I didn’t know this, but “Persephone” actually means “murder” or “SLAUGHTER” in Greek, so. That may be relevant information to those who actually read this…

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