Recent archaeological discoveries together with modern explorations of the continuing power of myth to convey profound insights into theological, human and cosmological matters have combined to encourage a significant growth in general and scholarly interest in Orphic texts. An important influence on Plato and the Platonic tradition, the Orphic myths speak of the mysteries of the unfolding universe and the journeyings of the soul within its coils.
Martin West’s Orphic Poems, first published in 1983, continues to be regarded as essential reading for those engaged in Orphic studies. One reviewer summarized it with these words: “This literary history of Orphic poetry represents a pioneering achievement, and is unlikely to be bettered until new textual evidence comes to light.”
Martin West (1937-2015) was one of the leading scholars of his generation—his work focused upon archaic and classical Greek poetry, but to this area of learning he brought a breadth of understanding which drew upon many cultures of the ancient world. An obituary in the Independent enthused: “Martin West’s achievements stagger every classicist—but he himself was not staggered. He worked on, matter-of-factly, producing endless illuminating books. . . His mode of scholarship displayed an impressive straightforwardness and cohesion. It did not claim to cover all aspects of Greek literature that matter; but his whole approach, monumentally realised, will lastingly challenge and enlighten classicists. That approach is as important as the individual discoveries, which can scarcely be numbered.”
The Orphic Poems, M. L. West, The Prometheus Trust, 2016
Hardback. Octavo. There is a dent to the cover next to the spine, otherwise like new. 275 pp.