No easy thing accepting the inevitable. No easy thing rejecting the instinct to hold on. It’s here and then it’s gone. It was never here nor there at all. Some campaigns are not worth marching on an empty stomach to fight. The retreat to the place beyond the pines will be as ignominious in its homecoming as two hundred and fours years ago when Napoleon decided to seize back Lady Russia into the wedlock of his continental system and came home empty-handed. Early winter of a summer campaign, he should have come prepared for the prospect that she would not return willingly. For all that money and prestige, the least Emperor Bonaparte could have done was to requisition good quality overcoats and bearskin hats for every brother in that Grande Armée. He did not because men are hasty in their march to folly.
The little Corsican with the tenacity to hold on long after others relinquished grip had no predecessor to go on, but Hitler should have known better. He had Napoleon’s experience to act as a sobering reminder. Another man of history who thought he could take back what was never his, the Reich chancellor would learn to his eternal damnation that just because the season was summer didn’t mean necessarily that Russia was the place to make a lasting impression.
Love and hate, two sides of the same coin forged in the fires of obsession.
Of history’s litany of star-crossed lovers, it is Orpheus and Eurydice who endure as a symbol to the pain of lost love and its subsequent descent into obsession. In the myth, death snatches Eurydice from Orpheus. A tale engrossing (and personally touching) enough to upset the game plans of history’s master tacticians is stopped in its tracks by a snake in the grass that doesn’t care for love to succeed. Devastated by her early departure from this life, Orpheus’ disconsolate strings play on until his ballads reach the gods themselves. As for the nymph Eurydice, we lovers of true fable will never know how well she Took her cursed luck, for her heart, if it be broken, lies shattered in pieces in the Hadean recesses.
So heartfelt and melodious is the voice of Orpheus, so sweet his lyre, that he secures a second chance to have her again. His subterranean journey past homeless, fleeting souls and dark hellish spires brings Orpheus to the court of Hades, who on hearing him play the lyre is moved to grant her a second crack at life, on the precondition that until both emerge into the daylight he must not look back. In the spirit of Hellenic myth tragedy he does. He is no different from all humans who have loved, for their greatest weakness is to glance back at the helpless, receding apparition of Eurydice, their Eurydice, whom they battled for years to get over.
I think the myth of Orpheus endures as a telling reminder not to look back on things that time has eclipsed; that the instant one casts a retrospective eye on a lost love, the more intangible, the more irretrievable the loss becomes. Nevertheless, tis easier said than done to evict she who resides permanently in a ventricle of the heart.
Hades’ ploy was to issue his writ to Orpheus knowing full well the lovesick boy would fail because men are weak and cannot forget.
Hades was never going to relinquish Eurydice to the material world because only gods know when what is done is done. Finding courage to change the things one can lies within the reach of mortal men, but having the wisdom to know the difference, now that’s the preserve of the gods.