White dawn. Stillness When the rippling began
I took it for sea-wind, coming to our valley with rumors
of salt, of treeless horizons. But the white fog
didn't stir; the leaves of my brothers remained outstretched,
--from Denise Levertov, "A Tree Telling of Orpheus"
A fellow poet inquired, in a general Facebook way, about why many women find the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice anti-feminist. He was puzzled but genuinely interested. The answer, in a general Facebook way, was that Orpheus was objectionable because he was forcing his dead wife to do what he wanted, which she herself may not have wanted to do: that is, return from the underworld and live with him again.
Reading their responses, I wondered what I'd been overlooking in this myth, which I have read and reread since childhood, and which has always seemed so intensely sad. And I realized, of course, that I have always identified with Orpheus rather than the shadowy Eurydice. It is the love and the loss that pulls me, and to me this seems to have nothing to do with gender roles, only with the intensity of the myth's delineation of character. Eurydice is not an interesting person in that story. She is a cipher, a symbol, a mist. I felt as if the women who responded to the Facebook question believed that the myth should have been a different myth.
What do you think?