It is a tragic episode of Greek mythology.
Eurydice dies from the bite of a snake.
Orpheus goes to the Underworld to try to save her. He implores the rulers of the Underworld to let him bring back Eurydice.
They are subjugated by his song, and, touched, authorize him to bring her back with only one condition: that he does not turn over to his beloved until they are on the ground.
The episode, as we said, is tragic, since Orpheus does not succeed in holding back and at the last moment turns back to Eurydice.
This myth is told to us by Ovid in his Metamorphoses.
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In total silence, they set out on a steep, dark path, plunged in a dense, opaque fog.
They were very close to approaching the surface of the earth. Orpheus was afraid that Eurydice would abandon him and, eager to see her, in love, he turned his eyes. Immediately she fell backwards, stretching out her arms, struggling to be seized and to grasp him, but the unfortunate woman only caught the air that was slipping away.
And, dying again, she did not reproach her husband for anything – what else would she have complained about, if not for having been loved?
She said a supreme “goodbye” to him, which he would hardly hear, and then she returned to the place from which she had come.
OVID, METAMORPHOSES, BOOK X
The illustration for this article is a painting by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (1796–1875) entitled Orpheus Bringing Eurydice from the Underworld, dated 1861, and on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.