Before the act, before the fact

he watched, as if the incentive

would have made him more attentive

as if to be aware the moment

of her death, would be to scare

away that yellow coil of snake

the gods had hidden; and by this act

would cause them to relent, that fate

would somehow defer to art

would be aware the doorways of his heart

would be unhinged, and leave him

no more likely than shadows in the dark.

But we must dance

to the play of happenstance

Life is a series

of unanswerable queries.

Whatever our position, they would pluck

dream apples from our mouths. Our patents

come to nought. It isn’t luck

or even talent that makes success,

but who paid the highest graft

or knew just whom they should caress.

His tears made billiards on the earth.

He played upon whatever instrument he knew

He called upon the powers of heaven.

But this is no tale whose ending

could be changed. It was not as though

he were deranged, but his music

had an air so melancholy

that the Maenads took it as folly.

Because it was so heart-rending.

they begged him to alter it,

and to try to be more jolly.

Better sometimes to let ourselves be led

than be torn to shreds;

Thus Orpheus would not give in

to Maenads’ wishes,

and so he ended as food for fishes.