Back in the days of flower power, the streets of Berkeley, California, were lined with romantically attired flower children selling tie dye scarves and badly made silver jewelry, resulting, we were led to suppose, from the expression of their creativity. There’s a lady in the United States who has built a media empire on showing people how to be creative by putting wreaths of rosebuds on their front doors and painting their dining rooms pink and yellow. Every week my mail offers me software which is guaranteed, for twenty-five pounds, or fifty, or a hundred, to increase my personal creativity. What can it possibly mean?
Hell is the eclipse
of art, the shadow of craft
on us, not moving.
Blame nobody, he told himself, lightheadedly.
And then it was in front of him, terminating a vista of weeds and bomb rubble—Milles’s Orpheus Fountain.
It took a man, he thought. Esthetikon circuits couldn’t do it. There was a gross mixture of styles, a calculated flaw that the esthetikon couldn’t be set to make. Orpheus and the souls were classic or later; the three-headed dog was archaic. That was to tell you about the antiquity and invincibility of Hell, and that Cerberus knows Orpheus will never go back into life with his bride.
There was the heroic, tragic central figure that looked mighty enough to battle with the gods, but battle wasn’t any good against the grinning, knowing, hateful three-headed dog it stood on. You don’t battle the pavement where you walk or the floor of the house you’re in; you can’t. So Orpheus, his face a mask of controlled and suffering fury, crashes a great chord from his lyre that moved trees and stones. Around him the naked souls in Hell start at the chord, each in its own way: the young lovers down in death; the mother down in death; the musician, deaf and down in death, straining to hear.
Halvorsen, walking uncertainly toward the fountain, felt something break inside him, and a heaviness in his lungs. As he pitched forward among the weeds, he didn’t care that the three-headed dog was grinning its knowing, hateful grin down at him. He had heard the chord from the lyre.