The One remains, the many change and pass; Heaven’s light forever shines, Earth’s shadows fly; Life, like a dome of many-colour’d glass, Stains the white radiance of Eternity. (Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats by Percy Bysshe Shelley)
“Back to happier subjects, we do throw good parties here.” Orpheus beams at me, radiating goodwill. “Lavish banquets, fountains of wine, dancing choreographed by the Graces. Even my father occasionally honours us with his presence, and everyone sings paeans to him. Then we play duets together, him on his lyre, me on my lute.”
“Yes, I am also a Son of God,” he looks down modestly. “There are quite a few of us actually, though we’ve kept a low profile since the Downfall. My father is Apollo, who once ranked even higher than Zeus.” His chest swells visibly as he looks up. “Everyone knows Sun Gods are the greatest, even though now and again they get usurped by the Old Thunderers … sorry, Brethren of the Skies.”
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare; Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss, Though winning near the goal yet, do not grieve; She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!
John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn
“We’re almost out of our time together. Do you have any more questions?” asks Orpheus, my guide in Paradise.
“Not for the moment, thank you, you’ve given me such a wealth of information to reflect on and absorb. You’re a star!”
“Alas not I, only my instrument,” he raises an ironic eyebrow. “And you’re welcome. I enjoy coming here and it gives me a chance to spend time with my wife.”
“Your wife?” My face must have fallen a little, for Orpheus gives me one of his most radiant smiles and pats my hand gently.
What wond’rous life in this I lead! Ripe apples drop about my head; The luscious clusters of the vine Upon my mouth do crush their wine; The nectarine and curious peach Into my hands themselves do reach; Stumbling on melons as I pass, Ensnar’d with flow’rs, I fall on grass. (Andrew Marvell, The Garden)
I find myself walking though a cool green tunnel of foliage. As I emerge into the bright morning I see a lake sparkling ahead of me in the middle distance. I am standing at the top of a steep grassy bank covered in myriads of daffodils, all in full bloom and gleaming yellow gold in the sunlight. The place looks familiar yet altered, enhanced. Turning round I see a garden planted with flowering shrubs, glowing in the sunlight and scenting the air with their heady fragrance. Suddenly I recognize where I am: rus in urbe; a garden which is also a public park, where Basil and I have often walked and enjoyed its salubrious beauty. I walk down the bank of daffodils into a glade of trees surrounding a spring. I stand there for a moment drinking in the cool tranquillity of this oasis.
As the boat glides gently down the river I sink once more into a light trance in which time seems to be suspended. It is too dark to make out anything beyond the banks, though occasionally vague shapes seem to flit past.
Suddenly I am aware that the boat has stopped and is moored to the riverbank. The Boatman raises his hand and indicates that I should disembark. The sky is lightening, colour returning to the scenery, and I step out carefully.
The riverbank is covered with beautiful, tall, lily-white flowers, which emit a subtle fragrance as I brush through them and emerge into a lush meadow. Meanwhile my ear is caught by the sweetest sounds of music.