Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus

Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus
by Theodora Goss

The water has a dim and glassy hue.
A mass of airy bubbles clings to curls
that tumble through the river-bottom’s marls,
and cypresses hang heavy with their woe.

Our hair-tips touch the water’s urgent tow
as we lift this possessor of blue lips
and single eye that out its substance weeps,
from the dark river bound by thorny may.

Now sing, my sisters, piercingly and slow,
and sweetly as the honey of the comb,
for this rank weed, and beat the hollow drum,
and kiss and turn the leprous cheeks away.


(The painting is Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus by John William Waterhouse. I wrote this poem a long time ago, but I’m almost certain it was inspired by the Waterhouse painting. It can be found in my collection Songs for Ophelia.)

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