Instructions to the Orphic Adept by Robert Graves


Instructions to the Orphic Adept by Robert Graves

So soon as ever your mazed spirit descends

From daylight into darkness, Man, remember

What you have suffered here in Samothrace,

What you have suffered.


After your passage through Hell’s seven floods,

Whose fumes of sulphur will have parched your throat,

The Halls of Judgement shall loom up before you,

A miracle of jasper and of onyx.

To the left hand there bubbles a black spring

Overshadowed with a great white cypress.

Avoid this spring, which is Forgetfulness;

Though all the common rout rush down to drink,

Avoid this spring.


To the right hand there lies a secret pool

Alive with speckled trout and fish of gold;

A hazel overshadows it; Ophion,

Primaeval serpent straggling in the branches,

Darts out his tongue. This holy pool is fed

By dripping water; guardians stand before it.


Run to this pool, the pool of Memory,

Run to this pool.


Then will the guardians scrutinize you, saying:

“Who are you, who? What have you to remember?

Do you not fear Ophion’s flickering tongue?

Go rather to the spring beneath the cypress,

Flee from this pool.”


Then you shall answer: **I am parched with thirst*

Give me to drink. I am a child of Earth,

But of Sky also, come from Samothrace.

Witness the glint of amber on my brow.

Out of the Pure I come, as you may see.

I also am of your thrice-blessed kin,

Child of the three-fold Queen of Satnothrace;

Have made full quittance for my deeds of blood,

Have been by her invested In sea-purple.

And like a kid have fallen into milk.

Give me to drink, now I am parched with thirst,

Give me to drink!”


But they will ask you yet: “What of your feet?”

You shall reply: “My feet have borne me here

Out of the weary wheel, the circling years,

To that still, spokeless wheel: Persephone,

Give me to drink!”


Then they will welcome you with fruit and flowers,

And lead you toward the ancient dripping hazel,

Crying: “Brother of our immortal blood,

Drink and remember glorious Samothracei”

Then you shall drink.


You shall drink deep of that refreshing draught,

To become lords of the uninitiated

Twittering ghosts, Hell’s countless populace

To become heroes, knights upon swift horses,


Pronouncing oracles from tall white tombs,

By the nymphs tended. They with honey water

Shall pour libations to your serpent shapes,

That you may drink.


(Text Source. All images in the public domain unless stated.)


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