Cupid and Psyche
CUPID and PSYCHE
The mythology of Ǽrohs (Eros or Cupid; Gr. Ἔρως) and Psykhí (Psyche; Gr. Ψυχή) is known in its most complete form from the writing of Lucius Apuleius Madaurensis (125–180 CE). The story is an important part of his book The Metamorphosis, also known as The Golden Asse (beginning in Book IV.28 and ending Book VI.24). This myth occupies a full fifth of the book.
Apuleius was a Numidian Berber from Madaurus, North Africa. He studied at Carthage and at Athens in Greece, where he became learned in the teachings of Plátohn (Plato; Gr. Πλάτων), and too at Rome. Apuleius also traveled extensively, to Asia Minor and Alexandria Egypt. He was initiated into various Mystíria (Mystery Religion; Gr. Gr. Μυστήρια) and was a priest of Asklipiós (Asclepius; Gr. Ἀσκληπιός). In addition to The Metamorphosis, extant are the following works by Apuleius: On Plato and His Doctrine, On the God of Socrates, Florida, Apology, a translation of On the Universe [De Mundo]); there are many more works now lost.
The translation which follows was made by William Adlington in 1566. The Golden Asse in Adlington's translation was a favorite of Shakespeare. We have somewhat modernized the archaic English, mostly the spelling of certain words, but it is hoped that the charm of the original language has been retained.
This page includes the beautiful engravings of Marc Antonio Raimondi (1480–1534 CE) based on sketches and studies created by his teacher, Raphael (1483-1520 CE). These studies were fashioned as preliminary work for the frescoes which Raphael painted in the Villa Farnesina in Rome illustrating the text of Apuleius' story. The reproductions of these engravings were found in The Story of Cupid and Psyche by Robert Howard Russell, 1901.
Download the Text and Prints: Cupid and Psyche
See below the text for a Neo-platonic interpretation of the fable of Cupid and Psyche by Thomas Taylor.
The Story of Cupid and Psyche
The narration is given by an old woman to the virgin Charite, in order to calm the girl, who had been captured and held ransom by bandits.
There was sometimes a certain King, inhabiting in the West parts, who had to wife a noble Dame, by whom he had three daughters exceeding fair: of whom the two elder were of such comely shape and beauty, as they did excel and pass all other women living, whereby they were thought worthily to deserve the praise and commendation of every person, and deservedly to be preferred above the residue of the common sort. Yet the singular passing beauty and maidenly majesty of the youngest daughter did so far surmount and excel them two, as no earthly creature could by any means sufficiently express or set out the same.
By reason whereof, after the fame of this excellent maiden was spread abroad in every part of the City, the Citizens and strangers there being inwardly pricked by the zealous affection to behold her famous person, came daily by thousands, hundreds, and scores, to her fathers palace, who was astonished with admiration of her incomparable beauty, did no less worship and reverence her with crosses, signs and tokens, and other divine adorations, according to the custom of the old used rites and ceremonies, than if she were Lady Venus (ed. Aphrodíti; Gr. Ἀφροδίτη) indeed: and shortly after the fame was spread into the next cities and bordering regions, that the Goddess whom the deep seas had born and brought forth, and the froth of the waves had nourished, to the intent to show her high magnificence and divine power on earth, to such as erst (ed. formerly) did honour and worship her, was now conversant amongst mortal men, or else that the earth and not the sea, by a new concourse and influence of the Celestial planets, had budded and yielded forth a new Venus, endued with the flower of virginity.
So daily more and more increased this opinion, and now is her flying fame dispersed into the next Island, and well nigh into every part and province of the whole world. Whereupon innumerable strangers resorted from far Countries, adventuring themselves by long journeys on land and by great perils on water, to behold this glorious virgin. By occasion whereof such a contempt grew towards the Goddess Venus, that no person traveled unto the Town Paphos (ed. Gr. Πάφος, a town of Cyprus), nor to the Isle Gyndos (ed. Knídos or Cnidos; Gr. Κνίδος), nor to Cythera (ed. Kíthira; Gr. Κύθηρα) to worship her. Her ornaments were thrown out, her temples defaced, her pillows and cushions torn, her ceremonies neglected, her images and statues uncrowned, and her bare altars unswept, and foul with the ashes of old burnt sacrifice. For why, every person honoured and worshipped this maiden in stead of Venus, and in the morning at her first coming abroad offered unto her oblations, provided banquets, called her by the name of Venus, which was not Venus indeed, and in her honour presented flowers and garlands in most reverend fashion.
This sudden change and alteration of celestial honour, did greatly inflame and kindle the love of very Venus, who unable to temper her self from indignation, shaking her head in raging sort, reasoned with her self in this manner, behold the original parent of all these elements, behold the Lady Venus renowned throughout all the world, with whom a mortal maiden is joined now partaker of honour: "My name registered in the city of heaven is profaned and made vile by terrene (ed. mundane) absurdities. If I shall suffer any mortal creature to present my majesty on earth, or that any shall bear about a false surmised shape of my person, then in vain did Paris the shepherd (in whose judgement and confidence the great Jupiter [ed. Zefs = Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς] had affiance [ed. trust]) prefer me above the residue of the Goddesses, for the excellency of my beauty: but she, whatsoever she be that hath usurped mine honour, shall shortly repent her of her unlawful estate." And by and by she called her winged son Cupid (ed. Ǽrohs = Eros; Gr. Ἔρως), rash enough and hardy, who by his evil manners contemning all public justice and law, armed with fire and arrows, running up and down in the nights from house to house, and corrupting the lawful marriages of every person, doth nothing but that which is evil, who although that he were of his own proper nature sufficiently prone to work mischief, yet she egged him forward with words, and brought him to the city, and showed him Psyche (for so the maid was called), and having told the cause of her anger, not without great rage, "I pray thee (quoth she) my dear child, by motherly bond of love, by the sweet wounds of thy piercing darts, by the pleasant heat of thy fire, revenge the injury which is done to thy mother by the false and disobedient beauty of a mortal maiden, and I pray thee, that without delay she may fall in love with the most miserable creature living, the most poor, the most crooked, and the most vile, that there may be none found in all the world of like wretchedness." When she had spoken these words she embraced and kissed her son, and took her voyage towards the sea.
When she came upon the sea she began to call the Gods and Goddesses, who were obedient at her voice. For incontinent came the daughters of Nereus (ed. Niréfs; Gr. Νηρεύς), singing with tunes melodiously: Portunus (ed. Roman God of ports and harbors) with his bristled and rough beard, Salacia (ed. Goddess of the Sea and wife of Neptune) with her bosom full of fish, Palaimon (ed. Gr. Παλαίμων) the driver of the Dolphin; and the bands of the Trumpeters of Triton (ed. Gr. Τρίτων, messenger of the Sea), leaping hither and thither, and blowing with heavenly noise: such was the company which followed Venus, marching towards the ocean sea.
In the mean season Psyche with all her beauty received no fruit of honor. She was wondered at of all, she was praised of all, but she perceived that no King nor Prince, nor any of the superior sort did repair to woo her. Every one marveled at her divine beauty, as it were some image well painted and set out. Her other two sisters which were nothing so greatly exalted by the people, were royally married to two Kings: but the virgin Psyche sitting at home alone, lamented her solitary life, and being disquieted both in mind and body, although she pleased all the world, yet hated she in her self her own beauty. Whereupon the miserable father of this unfortunate daughter, suspecting that the Gods and powers of heaven did envy her estate, went to the town called Miletus (ed. Mílitos [Gr. Μίλητος], where was the sanctuary of Dídyma [Gr. Δίδυμα] which was the seat of an oracle of Apóllohn) to receive the Oracle of Apollo (ed. Apóllohn; Gr. Ἀπόλλων), where he made his prayers and offered sacrifice, and desired a husband for his daughter: but Apollo though he were a Grecian, and of the country of Ionia, because of the foundation of Miletus, yet he gave answer in Latin verse, the sense whereof was this:
Let Psyche's corpse be clad in mourning weed
And set on rock of yonder hill aloft:
Her husband is no wight (ed. creature) of humane seed,
But Serpent dire and fierce as might be thought.
Who flies with wings above in starry skies,
And doth subdue each thing with fiery flight.
The Gods themselves, and powers that seem so wise,
With mighty Jove (ed. Zefs = Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς), be subject to his might,
The rivers black, and deadly floods of pain,
And darkness eke, as thrall to him remain.
The King, sometimes happy when he heard the prophesy of Apollo, returned home sad and sorrowful, and declared to his wife the miserable and unhappy fate of his daughter. Then they began to lament and weep, and passed over many days in great sorrow. But now the time approached of Psyche's marriage, preparation was made, black torches were lighted, the pleasant songs were turned into pitiful cries, the melody of Hymns was ended with deadly howling, the maid that should be married did wipe her eyes with her veil. All the family and people of the city wept likewise, and with great lamentation was ordained a remiss time for that day, but necessity compelled that Psyche should be brought to her appointed place, according to the divine appointment.
And when the solemnity was ended, they went to bring this sorrowful spouse, not to her marriage, but to her final end and burial. And while the father and mother of Psyche did go forward weeping and crying to do this enterprise, Psyche spake unto them in this sort: "Why torment you your unhappy age with continual dolour (ed. anguish)? Why trouble you your spirits, which are more rather mine than yours? Why soil ye your faces with tears, which I ought to adore and worship? Why tear you my eyes in yours? why pull you your hoary hairs? Why knock you your breasts for me? Now you see the reward of my excellent beauty: now, now you perceive, but too late, the plague of envy. When the people did honour me, and call me the new Venus, then ye should have wept, then you should have sorrowed as though I had been dead: for now I see and perceive that I am come to this misery by the only name of Venus, bring me, and as fortune hath appointed, place me on the top of the rock, I greatly desire to end my marriage, I greatly covet to see my husband. Why do I delay? why should I refuse him that is appointed to destroy all the world."
Thus ended she her words, and thrust her self amongst the people that followed. Then they brought her to the appointed rock of the high hill, and set her hereon, and so departed. The torches and lights were put out with the tears of the people, and every man gone home, the miserable parents well nigh consumed with sorrow, gave themselves to everlasting darkness.
Thus poor Psyche being left alone, weeping and trembling on the top of the rock, was blown by the gentle air and of shrilling Zephyrus (ed. Zǽphyros; Gr. Ζέφυρος, the west wind), and carried from the hill with a meek wind, which retained her garments up, and by little and little brought her down into a deep valley, where she was laid in a bed of most sweet and fragrant flowers.
Thus fair Psyche being sweetly couched among the soft and tender herbs, as in a bed of sweet and fragrant flowers, and having qualified the thoughts and troubles of her restless mind, was now well reposed. And when she had refreshed her self sufficiently with sleep, she rose with a more quiet and pacified mind, and fortuned to espy a pleasant wood environed (ed. encircled) with great and mighty trees. She espied likewise a running river as clear as crystal: in the midst of the wood well nigh at the fall of the river was a princely edifice, wrought and builded not by the art or hand of man, but by the mighty power of God: and you would judge at the first entry therein that it were some pleasant and worthy mansion for the powers of heaven. For the embowings above were of Citron and Ivory, propped and undermined with pillars of gold, the walls covered and sealed with silver, divers sorts of beasts were graven and carved, that seemed to encounter with such as entered in. All things were so curiously and finely wrought, that it seemed either to be the work of some Demi-God, of a God himself. The pavement was all of precious stones, divided and cut one from another, whereon was carved divers kinds of pictures, in such sort that blessed and thrice blessed were they which might go upon such a pavement: Every part and angle of the house was so well adorned, that by reason of the precious stones and inestimable treasure there, it glittered and shone in such sort, that the chambers, porches, and doors gave light as it had been the Sun. Neither otherwise did the other treasure of the house disagree unto so great a majesty, that verily it seemed in every point an heavenly Palace, fabricate and built for Jupiter (ed. Zefs, Zeus) himself. Then Psyche moved with delectation approached nigh, and taking a bold heart entered into the house, and beheld every thing there with great affection, she saw storehouses wrought exceedingly fine, and replenished with abundance of riches. Finally, there could nothing be devised which lacked there: but amongst such great store of Treasure this was most marvelous that there was no closure, bolt, nor lock to keep the same. And when with great pleasure she had viewed all these things, she heard a voice without any body, that said, "Why do you marvel Madame at so great riches? behold, all that you see is at your commandment, wherefore go you into the chamber, and repose your self upon the bed, and desire what bath you will have, and we whose voices you hear be your servants, and ready to minister unto you according to your desire. In the mean season, royal meats and dainty dishes shall be prepared for you." Then Psyche perceived the felicity of divine providence, and according to the advertisement of the incorporeal voices she first reposed her self upon the bed, and then refreshed her body in the bath. This done, she saw the table garnished with meats, and a chair to sit down.When Psyche was set down, all sorts of divine meats and wines were brought in, not by any body, but as it were with a wind, for she saw no person before her, but only heard voices on every side. After that all the services were brought to the table, one came in and sung invisibly, another played on the harp, but she saw no man. The harmony of the Instruments did so greatly shrill in her ears, that though there were no manner of person, yet seemed she in the midst of a multitude of people.
All these pleasures finished, when night approached Psyche went to bed, and when she was laid, that the sweet sleep came upon her, she greatly feared her virginity, because she was alone. Then came her unknown husband and lay with her: and after that he had made a perfect consummation of the marriage, he rose in the morning before day, and departed. Soon after came her invisible servants, and presented to her such things as were necessary for her defloration. And thus she passed forth a great while, and as it happeneth, the novelty of things by continual custom did increase her pleasure, but specially the sound of the instruments was a comfort unto her being alone.
During this time that Psyche was in this place of pleasures, her father and mother did nothing but weep and lament, and her two sisters hearing of her most miserable fortune, came with great dolour (ed. anguish) and sorrow to comfort and speak with their parents.
The night following, Psyche's husband spake unto her (for she might feel his eyes, his hands, and his ears) and said, "O my sweet Spouse and dear wife, fortune doth menace unto thee imminent danger, whereof I wish thee greatly to beware: for know that thy sisters, thinking that thou art dead, be greatly troubled, and are come to the mountain by thy steps. Whose lamentations if thou fortune to hear, beware that thou do in no wise either make answer, or look up towards them, for if thou do thou shalt purchase to me great sorrow, and to thy self utter destruction." Psyche hearing her Husband, was contented to do all things as he had commanded.
After that he was departed and the night passed away, Psyche lamented and lamented all the day following, thinking that now she was past all hopes of comfort, in that she was closed within the walls of a prison, deprived of humane conversation, and commanded not to aid her sorrowful Sisters, no nor once to see them. Thus she passed all the day in weeping, and went to bed at night, without any refection (ed. refreshment) of meat or bathing.
Incontinently after came her husband, who when he had embraced her sweetly, began to say, "Is it thus that you perform your promise, my sweet wife? What do I find here? Pass you all the day and the night in weeping? And will you not cease in your husbands arms? Go too, do what ye will, purchase your own destruction, and when you find it so, then remember my words, and repent, but too late. Then she desired her husband more and more, assuring him that she should die, unless he would grant that she might see her sisters, whereby she might speak with them and comfort them, whereat at length he was contented, and moreover he willed that she should give them as much gold and jewels as she would. But he gave her a further charge saying, "Beware that ye covet not (being moved by the pernicious counsel of your sisters) to see the shape of my person, lest by your curiosity you deprive your self of so great and worthy estate." Psyche being glad herewith, rendered unto him most entire thanks, and said, "Sweet husband, I had rather die than to be separated from you, for whosoever you be, I love and retain you within my heart as if you were mine own spirit or Cupid himself: but I pray you grant this likewise, that you would command your servant Zephyrus to bring my sisters down into the valley as he brought me."
Wherewithal she kissed him sweetly, and desired him gently to grant her request, calling him her Spouse, her Sweetheart, her Joy, and her Solace. Whereby she enforced him to agree to her mind, and when morning came he departed away.
After long search made, the sisters of Psyche came unto the hill where she was set on the rock, and cried with a loud voice in such sort that the stones answered again. And when they called their sister by her name, that their lamentable cries came unto her ears, she came forth and said, "Behold, here is she for whom you weep, I pray you torment your selves no more, cease your weeping." And by and by she commanded Zephyrus by the appointment of her husband to bring then down. Neither did he delay, for with gentle blasts he retained them up and laid them softly in the valley. I am not able to express the often embracing, kissing and greeting which was between them three, all sorrows and tears were then laid apart.
"Come in (quoth Psyche) into our house, and refresh your afflicted minds with your sister."
After this she showed them the storehouses of treasure, she caused them to hear the voices which served her, the bain (ed. bath) was ready, the meats were brought in, and when they had filled themselves with divine delicacies they conceived great envy within their hearts, and one of them being curious, did demand what her husband was, of what estate, and who was Lord of so precious a house? But Psyche remembering the promise which she had made to her husband, feigned that he was a young man, of comely stature, with a flaxen beard, and had great delight in hunting in the hills and dales by. And lest by her long talk she should be found to trip or fail in her words, she filled their laps with gold, silver, and Jewels, and commanded Zephyrus to carry them away.
When they were brought up into the mountain, they took their ways homeward to their own houses, and murmured with envy that they bare against Psyche, saying, "Behold cruel and contrary fortune, behold how we, borne all of one Parent, have divers (ed. various) destinies: but especially we that are the elder two be married to strange husbands, made as Handmaidens, and as it were banished from our Country and friends. Whereas our younger sister hath great abundance of treasure, and hath gotten a God to her husband, although she hath no skill how to use so great plenty of riches. Saw you not sister what was in the house, what great store of jewels, what glittering robes, what Gems, what gold we trod on? That if she have a husband according as she affirmeth, there is none that liveth this day more happy in all the world than she. And so it may come to pass, that at length for the great affection which he may bear unto her he may make her a Goddess: for by Hercules (ed. Iraklís; Gr.Ἡρακλῆς), such was her countenance, so she behaved her self, that as a Goddess she had voices to serve her, and the winds did obey her. But I poor wretch have first married an husband elder than my father, more bald than a Coot, more weak than a child, and that locketh me up all day in the house."
Then said the other sister, "And in faith I am married to a husband that hath the gout, twofold, crooked, not courageous in paying my debt, I am faine (ed. obliged) to rub and mollify his stony fingers with divers sorts of oils, and to wrap them in plasters and salves, so that I soil my white and dainty hands with the corruption of filthy clouts, not using my self like a wife, but more like a servant. And you my sister seem likewise to be in bondage and servitude, wherefore I cannot abide to see our younger sister in such great felicity; saw you not I pray you how proudly and arrogantly she handled us even now? And how in vaunting (ed. boasting) her self she uttered her presumptuous mind, how she cast a little gold into our laps, and being weary of our company, commanded that we should be borne and blown away? Verily I live not, nor am a woman, but I will deprive her of all her bliss. And if you my sister be so far bent as I, let us consult together, and not to utter our mind to any person, no not to our parents, nor tell that ever we saw her. For it sufficeth that we have seen her, whom it repenteth to have seen. Neither let us declare her good fortune to our father, nor to any other, since as they seem not happy whose riches are unknown: so shall she know that she hath sisters no Abjects (ed. contemptuous persons), but worthier than she."
But now let us go home to our husbands and poor houses, and when we are better instructed, let us return to suppress her pride. So this evil counsel pleased these two evil women, and they hid the treasure which Psyche gave them, and tore their hair, renewing their false and forged tears. When their father and mother beheld them weep and lament still, they doubled their sorrows and griefs, but full of ire and forced with Envy, they took their voyage homeward, devising the slaughter and destruction of their sister.
In the mean season the husband of Psyche did warn her again in the night with these words: "Seest thou not what peril and danger evil fortune doth threaten unto thee, whereof if thou take not good heed it will shortly come upon thee. For the unfaithful harlots do greatly endeavor to set their snares to catch thee, and their purpose is to make and persuade thee to behold my face, which if thou once fortune to see, as I have often told, thou shalt see no more. Wherefore if these naughty hags, armed with wicked minds, do chance to come again (as I think no otherwise but that they will) take heed that thou talk not with them, but simply suffer them to speak what they will, howbeit if thou canst not refrain thy self, beware that thou have no communication of thy husband, nor answer a word if they fortune to question of me, so we will increase our stock, and this young and tender child, couched in this young and tender belly of thine, if thou conceal my secrets, shall be made an immortal God, otherwise a mortal creature."
Then Psyche was very glad that she should bring forth a divine babe, and very joyful in that she should be honored as a mother. She reckoned and numbered carefully the days and months that passed, and being never with child before, did marvel greatly that in so short a time her belly should swell so big.
But those pestilent and wicked furies breathing out their Serpentine poison, hurried to bring their enterprise to pass. Then Psyche was warned again by her husband in this sort: "Behold the last day, the extreme case, and the enemies of thy blood, hath armed themselves against us, pitched their camp, set their host in array, and are marching towards us, for now thy two sisters have drawn their swords, and are ready to slay thee. O with what force are we assailed this day! O sweet Psyche I pray thee to take pity on thy self, of me, and deliver thy husband and this infant within thy belly from so great danger, and see not, neither hear these cursed women, which are not worthy to be called thy sisters, for their great hatred and breach of sisterly amity, for they will come like Sirens to the mountains, and yield out their piteous and lamentable cries." When Psyche had heard these words she sighed sorrowfully and said, "O dear husband, this long time have you had experience and trial of my faith, and doubt you not but that I will persevere in the same, wherefore command your wind Zephyrus, that he may do as he hath done before, to the intent that where you have charged me not to behold your venerable face, yet that I may comfort my self with the sight of my sisters. I pray you by these beautiful hairs, by these round cheeks delicate and tender, by your pleasant hot breast, whose shape and face I shall learn at length by the child in my belly, grant the fruit of my desire, refresh your dear Spouse Psyche with joy, who is bound and linked unto you for ever. I little esteem to see your visage and figure, little do I regard the night and darkness thereof, for you are my only light."
Her husband being as it were enchanted with these words and compelled by violence of her often embracing, wiping away her tears with his hair, did yield unto his wife. And when morning came, departed as he was accustomed to do.
Now her sisters arrived on land, and never rested til they came to the rock, without visiting their parents, and leapt down rashly from the hill themselves. Then Zephyrus according to the divine commandment brought them down, though it were against his will, and laid them in the valley without any harm: by and by they went into the palace to their sister without leave, and when they had soon after embraced their prey, and thanked her with flattering words for the treasure which she gave them, they said, "O dear sister Psyche, know you that you are now no more a child, but a mother: O what great joy bear you unto us in your belly? What a comfort will it be unto all the house? How happy shall we be, that shall see this Infant nourished amongst so great plenty of Treasure? That if he be like his parents, as it is necessary he should, there is no doubt but a new Cupid shall be borne." By this kind of means they went about to win Psyche by little and little, but because they were weary with travel, they sat them down in chairs, and after that they had washed their bodies in bathing they went into a Parlor, where all kind of meats were ready prepared. Psyche commanded one to play with his harp, it was done. Then immediately others sung, others tuned their instruments, but no person was seen, by whose sweet harmony and modulation the sisters of Psyche were greatly delighted.
Howbeit the wickedness of these cursed women was nothing suppressed by the sweet noise of these instruments, but they settled themselves to work their treasons against Psyche, demanding who was her husband, and of what Parentage. Then she having forgotten by too much simplicity, what she had spoken before of her husband, invented a new answer, and said that her husband was of a great province, a merchant, and a man of a middle age, having his beard interspersed with gray hairs. Which when she had spoken (because she would have no further talk) she filled their laps full of Gold and Silver, and bid Zephyrus to bear them away.
In their return homeward they murmured within themselves, saying, "How say you sister to so apparent a lie of Psyche? First she said that her husband was a young man of flourishing years, and had a flaxen beard, and now she sayeth that he is half gray with age. What is he that in so short a space can become so old? You shall find it no otherwise my sister, but that either this cursed queen hath invented a great lie, or else that she never saw the shape of her husband. And if it be so that she never saw him, then verily she is married to some God, and hath a young God in her belly. But if it be a divine babe, and fortune to come to the ears of my mother (as God forbid it should) then may I go and hang my self: wherefore let us go to our parents, and with forged lies let us colour the matter.
After they were thus inflamed, and had visited their Parents, they returned again to the mountain, and by the aid of the wind Zephyrus were carried down into the valley, and after they had strained their eye lids, to enforce themselves to weep, they called unto Psyche in this sort, "Thou ignorant of so great evil thinkest thy self sure and happy, and sittest at home nothing regarding thy peril, whereas we go about thy affairs, and are careful lest any harm should happen unto you: for we are credibly informed, neither can we but utter it unto you, that there is a great serpent full of deadly poison, with a ravenous and gaping throat, that lieth with thee every night. Remember the Oracle of Apollo, who pronounced that thou shouldest be married to a dire and fierce Serpent, and many of the Inhabitants hereby, and such as hunt about in the country, affirm that they saw him yesternight returning from pasture and swimming over the River, whereby they do undoubtedly say, that he will not pamper thee long with delicate meats, but when the time of delivery shall approach he will devour both thee and thy child: wherefore advise thy self whether thou wilt agree unto us that are careful of thy safety, and so avoid the peril of death, and be contented to live with thy sisters, or whether thou wilt remain with the Serpent, and in the end be swallowed into the gulf of his body. And if it be so that thy solitary life, thy conversation with voices, this servile and dangerous pleasure, and the love of the Serpent do more delight thee, say not but that we have played the parts of natural sisters in warning thee."
Then the poor and simple miser (ed. archaic meaning of miser, one who is miserable and hopelessly in love) Psyche was moved with the fear of so dreadful words, and being amazed in her mind, did clean forget the admonitions of her husband, and her own promises made unto him, and throwing her self headlong into extreme misery, with a wane and sallow countenance, scantly uttering a third word, at length did say in this sort: "O my most dear sisters, I heartily thank you for your great kindness toward me, and I am now verily persuaded that they which have informed you hereof hath informed you of nothing but truth, for I never saw the shape of my husband, neither know I from whence he came, only I hear his voice in the night, insomuch that I have an uncertain husband, and one that loveth not the light of day: which causeth me to suspect that he is a beast, as you affirm. Moreover, I do greatly fear to see him, for he doth menace and threaten great evil unto me, if I should go about to spy and behold his shape wherefore my loving sisters if you have any wholesome remedy for your sister in danger, give it now presently." Then they opened the gates of their subtle minds, and did put away all privy guile, and egged her forward in her fearful thought, persuading her to do as they would have her: whereupon one of them began and said, "Because that we little esteem any peril or danger, to save your life, we intend to show you the best way and mean as we may possibly do. Take a sharp razor and put it under the pillow of your bed; and see that you have ready a privy burning lamp with oil, hid under some part of the hanging of the chamber, and finely dissembling the matter when according to his custom he commeth to bed and sleepeth soundly, arise you secretly, and with your bare feet go and take the lamp, with the Razor in your right hand, and with valiant force cut off the head of the poisonous serpent, wherein we will aid and assist you: and when by the death of him you shall be made safe, we will marry you to some comely man."
After they had thus inflamed the heart of their sister fearing lest some danger might happen unto them by reason of their evil counsel, they were carried by the wind Zephyrus to the top of the mountain, and so they ran away and took shipping.
When Psyche was left alone (saving that she seemed not to be alone, being stirred by so many furies) she was in a tossing mind like the waves of the sea, and although her will was obstinate, and resisted to put in execution the counsel of her Sisters, yet she was in doubtful and divers opinions touching her calamity. Sometime she would, sometime she would not, sometime she is bold, sometime she feareth, sometime she mistrusteth, sometime she is moved, sometime she hateth the beast, sometime she loveth her husband: but at length night came, when as she prepared for her wicked intent.
Soon after her husband came, and when he had kissed and embraced her he fell asleep. Then Psyche (somewhat feeble in body and mind, yet moved by cruelty of fate) received boldness and brought forth the lamp, and took the razor, so by her audacity she changed her mind: but when she took the lamp and came to the bed side, she saw the most meek and sweetest beast of all beasts, even fair Cupid couched fairly, at whose sight the very lamp increased his light for joy, and the razor turned his edge.
But when Psyche saw so glorious a body she greatly feared, and amazed in mind, with a pale countenance all trembling fell on her knees and thought to hide the razor, yea verily in her own heart, which doubtless she had done, had it not through fear of so great an enterprise fallen out of her hand. And when she saw and beheld the beauty of the divine visage she was well recreated in her mind, she saw his hairs of gold, that yielded out a sweet savor, his neck more white than milk, his purple cheeks, his hair hanging comely behind and before, the brightness whereof did darken the light of the lamp, his tender plume feathers, dispersed upon his shoulders like shining flowers, and trembling hither and thither, and his other parts of his body so smooth and so soft, that it did not repent Venus to bear such a child. At the beds feet lay his bow, quiver, and arrows, that be the weapons of so great a God: which when Psyche did curiously behold, she marveling at her husbands weapons, took one of the arrows out of the quiver, and pricked her self withal, wherewith she was so grievously wounded that the blood followed, and thereby of her own accord she added love upon love; then more broiling in the love of Cupid she embraced him and kissed him a thousand times, fearing the measure of his sleep. But alas while she was in this great joy, whether it were for envy, for desire to touch this amiable body likewise, there fell out a drop of burning oil from the lamp upon the right shoulder of the God. O rash and bold lamp, the vile ministry of love, how darest thou be so bold as to burn the God of all fire? When as he invented thee, to the intent that all lovers might with more joy pass the nights in pleasure. The God being burned in this sort, and perceiving that promise and faith was broken, he fled away without utterance of any word, from the eyes and hands of his most unhappy wife. But Psyche fortuned to catch him as he was rising, by the right thigh, and held him fast as he flew above in the air, until such time as constrained by weariness she let go and fell down upon the ground. But Cupid followed her down, and lighted upon the top of a Cypress tree, and angrily spake unto her in this manner: "O simple Psyche, consider with thy self how I, little regarding the commandment of my mother (who willed me that thou shouldst be married to a man of base and miserable condition) did come my self from heaven to love thee, and wounded mine own body with my proper weapons, to have thee to my Spouse: And did I seem a beast unto thee, that thou shouldst go about to cut off my head with a razor, who loved thee so well? Did not I always give thee a charge? Did not I gently will thee to beware? But those cursed aides and Counselors of thine shalt be sufficiently punished by my absence." When he had spoken these words he took his flight into the air. Then Psyche fell flat on the ground, and as long as she could see her husband she cast her eyes after him into the air, weeping and lamenting piteously but when he was gone out of her sight she threw her self into the next running river, for the great anguish and dolour (ed. anguish) that she was in for the lack of her husband; howbeit the water would not suffer her to be drowned, but took pity upon her, in the honour of Cupid which accustomed to broil and burn the river, and threw her upon the bank amongst the herbs.
Then Pan the rustic God sitting on the river side, embracing and [instructing] the Goddess Echo (ed. Ikhóh; Gr. Ἠχώ) to tune her songs and pipes, by whom were feeding the young and tender Goats, after that he perceived Psyche in sorrowful case, not ignorant (I know not by what means) of her miserable estate, endeavored to pacify her in this sort: "O fair maid, I am a rustic and rude herdsman, howbeit by reason of my old age expert in many things, for as far as I can learn by conjecture (which according as wise men do term is called divination) I perceive by your uncertain gate, your pale hue, your sobbing sighs, and your watery eyes, that you are greatly in love. Wherefore hearken to me, and go not about to slay your self, nor weep not at all, but rather adore and worship the great god Cupid, and win him unto you by your gentle promise of service.
When the God of Shepherds had spoken these words, she gave no answer, but made reverence to him as to a God, and so departed.
After that Psyche had gone a little way, she fortuned unawares to come to a city where the husband of one of her Sisters did dwell. Which when Psyche did understand, she caused that her sister had knowledge of her coming, and so they met together, and after great embracing and salutation, the sister of Psyche demanded the cause of her travel thither. "Marry (quoth she) do you not remember the counsel you gave me, whereby you would that I should kill the beast which under colour of my husband did lie with me every night? You shall understand, that as soon as I brought forth the lamp to see and behold his shape, I perceived that he was the son of Venus, even Cupid himself that lay with me. Then I being stricken with great pleasure, and desirous to embrace him, could not thoroughly assuage my delight, but alas by evil chance the boiling oil of the lamp fortuned to fall on his shoulder, which caused him to awake, and seeing me armed with fire and weapons, did say, 'How darest thou be so bold to do so great a mischief? depart from me and take such things as thou didst bring: for I will have thy sister (and named you) to my wife, and she shall be placed in thy felicity,' and by and by he commanded Zephyrus to carry me away from the bounds of his house."
Psyche had scantly finished her tale, but the sister pierced with the prick of carnal desire and wicked envy, ran home, and feigning to her husband that she had heard word of the death of her parents, took shipping and came to the mountain. And although there blew a contrary wind, yet being brought in a vain hope, she cried, "O Cupid take me a more worthy wife, and thou Zephyrus bear down thy mistress," and so she cast her self headlong from the mountain: but she fell not into the valley neither alive nor dead, for all the members and parts of her body were torn amongst the rocks, whereby she was made a prey unto the birds and wild beasts, as she worthily deserved.Neither was the vengeance of the other delayed, for Psyche travelling in that country, fortuned to come to another city where her other sister did dwell; to whom when she had declared all such things as she told to her other sister, she ran likewise unto the rock and was slain in like sort. Then Psyche traveled about in the country to seek her husband Cupid, but he was gotten into his mothers chamber, and there bewailed the sorrowful wound which he caught by the oil of a burning lamp.
Then the white bird the Gull, which swims on the waves of the water, flew toward the Ocean sea, where he found Venus washing and bathing her self: to whom she declared that her son was burned and in danger of death, and moreover that it was a common dispatch in the mouth of every person (who spake evil of all the family of Venus) that her son doth nothing but haunt the harlots in the mountain, and she her self lasciviously use to riot in the sea: whereby they say that they are now become no more gracious pleasant, nor gentle, but uncivil, monstrous and horrible. Moreover, that marriages are not for any amity, or for love of procreation, but full of envy, discord, and debate. This the curious Gull did clatter in the ears of Venus, reprehending her son. But Venus began to cry and said, "What hath my son gotten any Love? I pray thee gentle bird that doest serve me so faithfully, tell me what she is, and what is her name that hath troubled my son in such sort? whether she be any of the Nymphs, of the number of the Goddesses, of the company of the Muses, or of the mystery of the Graces?" To whom the bird answered, "Madam I know not what she is, but this I know that she is called Psyche." Then Venus with indignation cried out, "What is it she? the usurper of my beauty, the Vicar of my name? What did he think that I was a bawd, by whose shew he fell acquainted with the maid?"
And immediately she departed and went to her chamber, where she found her son wounded as it was told unto her, whom when she beheld she cries out in this sort. "Is this an honest thing, is this honourable to thy parents? is this reason, that thou hast violated and broken the commandment of thy mother and sovereign mistress: and whereas thou shouldst have vexed my enemy with loathsome love, thou hast done otherwise? For being of tender and unripe years, thou hast with too licentious appetite embraced my most mortal Foe, to whom I shall be made a mother, and she a Daughter. Thou presumest and thinkest, thou trifling boy, thou Varlet (ed. rascal), and without all reverence, that thou art most worthy and excellent, and that I am not able by reason of mine age to have another son, which if I should have, thou shouldst well understand that I would bear a more worthier than thou. But to work thee a greater despite, I do determine to adopt one of my servants, and to give him these wings, this fire, this bow, and these Arrows, and all other furniture which I gave to thee, not to this purpose, neither is any thing given thee of thy father for this intent: but first thou hast been evil brought up, and instructed in thy youth thou hast thy hands ready and sharp. Thou hast often offended thy ancestors, and especially me that am thy mother, thou hast pierced me with thy darts, thou contemnest me as a widow, neither dost thou regard thy valiant and invincible father, and to anger me more, thou art amorous of harlots and wenches: but I will cause that thou shalt shortly repent thee, and that this marriage shall be dearly bought. To what point am [I] now driven? What shall I do? Whither shall I go? How shall I repress this beast? Shall I ask aid of mine enemy Sobriety, whom I have often offended to engender thee? Or shall I seek for counsel of every poor rustic woman? No, no, yet I had rather die, howbeit I will not cease my vengeance, to her must I have recourse for help, and to none other (I mean to Sobriety), who may correct thee sharply, take away thy quiver, deprive thee of thy arrows, unbend thy bow, quench thy fire, and thy body with punishment: and when that I have razed and cut off this thy hair, which I have dressed with mine own hands, and made to glitter like gold, and when I have clipped thy wings, which I my self have caused to burgeon, then shall I think to have revenged my self sufficiently upon thee for the injury which thou hast done." When she had spoken these words she departed in a great rage out of her chamber.
Immediately as she was going away came Juno (ed. Íra = Hera; Gr. Ἥρα) and Ceres (ed. Dimítir; Gr. Δημήτηρ), demanding the cause of her anger. Then Venus answered, "Verily you are come to comfort my sorrow, but I pray you with all diligence to seek out one whose name is Psyche, who is a vagabond, and runneth about the Countries, and (as I think) you are not ignorant of the brute of my son Cupid, and of his demeanour, which I am ashamed to declare." Then they understanding the whole matter, endeavoured to mitigate the ire of Venus in this sort: "What is the cause Madam, or how hath your son so offended, that you should so greatly accuse his love, and blame him by reason that he is amorous? and why should you seek the death of her, whom he doth fancy? We most humbly entreat you to pardon his fault, if he have accorded to the mind of any maiden: what do you not know that he is a young man? Or have you forgotten of what years he is? Doth he seem always unto you to be a child? You are his mother, and a kind woman, will you continually search out his dalliance? Will you blame his luxury? Will you bridle his love? and will you reprehend your own art and delights in him? What God or man is he, that can endure that you should sow or disperse your seed of love in every place, and to make restraint thereof within your own doors? certainly you will be the cause of the suppression of the public paces of young Dames." In this sort this Goddess endeavoured to pacify her mind, and to excuse Cupid with all their power (although he were absent) for fear of his darts and shafts of love. But Venus would in no wise assuage her heat, but (thinking that they did rather trifle and taunt at her injuries) she departed from them, and took her voyage towards the sea in all haste.
In the mean season Psyche hurled her self hither and thither, to seek her husband, the rather because she thought that if he would not be appeased with the sweet flattery of his wife, yet he would take mercy on her at her servile and continual prayers. And (espying a temple on the top of a high hill) she said, "What can I tell whether my husband and master be there or no?" wherefore she went thitherward, and with great pain and travail, moved by hope, after that she climbed to the top of the mountain, she espied sheaves of corn lying on a heap, blades woven into garlands, and reeds of barley, moreover she saw hooks, scythes, sickles, and other instruments, to reap, but every thing lay out of order, and as it were cast in by the hands of laborers, which when Psyche saw she gathered up and put every thing in order, thinking that she would not despise or contemn (ed. scorn) the temples of any of the Gods, but rather get the favour and benevolence of them all: by and by Ceres (ed. Dimítir; Gr. Δημήτηρ) came in, and beholding her busy and curious in her
chapel, cried out a far off, and said, "O Psyches needful of mercy, Venus searcheth for thee in every place to revenge her self and to punish thee grievously, but thou hast more mind to be here, and carest for nothing less, then for thy safety." Then Psyche fell on her knees before her, watering her feet with her tears, wiping the ground with her hair, and with great weeping and lamentation desired pardon, saying, "O great and holy Goddess, I pray thee by thy plenteous and liberal right hand, by the joyful ceremonies of thy harvest, by the secrets of thy Sacrifice, by the flying chariots of thy dragons, by the tillage of the ground of Sicily, which thou hast invented, by the marriage of Proserpina (ed. Pærsæphoni; Gr. Περσεφόνη), by the diligent inquisition of thy daughter, and by the other secrets which are within the temple of Eleusis (ed. Ælefsís; Gr. Ἐλευσίς) in the land of Athens, take pity on me thy servant Psyche, and let me hide my self a few days amongst these sheaves of corn, until the ire of so great a Goddess be past, or until that I be refreshed of my great labour and travail." Then answered Ceres, "Verily Psyches, I am greatly moved by thy prayers and tears, and desire with all my heart to aide thee, but if I should suffer thee to be hidden here, I should increase the displeasure of my Cousin, with whom I have made a treaty of peace, and an ancient promise of amity: wherefore I advise thee to depart hence and take it not in evil part in that I will not suffer thee to abide and remain here within my temple."
Then Psyche driven away contrary to her hope, was double afflicted with sorrow, and so she returned back again. And behold she perceived a far off in a valley a Temple standing within a Forest, fair and curiously wrought, and minding to over-passe no place whither better hope did direct her, and to the intent she would desire pardon of every God, she approached nigh unto the sacred door, whereas she saw precious riches and vestments engraved with letters of gold, hanging upon branches of trees, and the posts of the temple testifying the name of the Goddess Juno (ed. Íra = Hera; Gr. Ἥρα) to whom they were dedicated, then she knelt down upon her knees, and embraced the Alter with her hands, and wiping her tears, to pray in this sort: "O dear spouse and sister of the great God Jupiter (ed. Zefs = Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς) which art adored and worshipped amongst the great temples of Samos (ed. Gr. Σάμος), called upon by women with child, worshipped at high Carthage, because thou wast brought from heaven by the lion, the rivers of the flood Inachus (ed. Ínakhos; Gr. Ἴναχος) do celebrate thee: and know that thou art the wife of the great God, and the Goddess of Goddesses; all the east part of the world have thee in veneration, all the world calleth thee Lucina (ed. epithet of Juno, Goddess of childbirth and children): I pray thee to be my advocate in my tribulations, deliver me from the great danger which pursueth me, and save me that am weary with so long labours and sorrow, for I know that it is thou that succourest (ed. gives aid) and helpest such women as are with child and in danger." Then Juno hearing the prayers of Psyche, appeared unto her in all her royalty, saying, "Certainly Psyche I would gladly help thee, but I am ashamed to do any thing contrary to the will of my daughter-in-law Venus, whom always I have loved as mine own child, moreover I shall incur the danger of the law, entitled, De servo corrupto, whereby I am forbidden to retain any servant
fugitive, against the will of his Master."
Then Psyche cast off likewise by Juno, as without all hope of the recovery of her husband, reasoned with her self in this sort: "Now what comfort or remedy is left to my afflictions, when as my prayers will nothing avail with the Goddesses? what shall I do? whither shall I go? In what cave or darkness shall I hide my self, to avoid the furor of Venus? Why do I not take a good heart, and offer my self with humility unto her, whose anger I have wrought? What do I know whether he (whom I seek for) be in his mothers house or no?" Thus being in doubt, poor Psyche prepared her self to her own danger, and devised how she might make her orison and prayer unto Venus.
After that Venus was weary with searching by Sea and Land for Psyche, she returned toward heaven, and commanded that one should prepare her Chariot, which her husband Vulcanus (ed. Íphaistos; Gr. Ἥφαιστος) gave unto her by reason of marriage, so finely wrought that neither gold nor silver could be compared to the brightness thereof. Four white pigeons guided the chariot with great diligence, and when Venus was entered in, a number of sparrows flew chirping about, making sign of joy, and all other kind of birds sang sweetly, foreshewing the coming of the great Goddess: the clouds gave place, the heavens opened, and received her joyfully, the birds that followed nothing feared the Eagle, Hawks, or other ravenous foul of the air. Incontinently she went unto the royal Palace of God Jupiter (ed. Zefs = Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς), and with a proud and bold petition demanded the service of Mercury (ed. Ærmís; Gr. Ἑρμῆς), in certain of her affairs, whereunto Jupiter consented: then with much joy she descended from Heaven with Mercury, and gave him an earnest charge to put in execution her words, saying: "O my Brother, born in Arcadia, thou knowest well, that I (who am thy sister) did never enterprise to do any thing without thy presence, thou knowest also how long I have sought for the girl and cannot find her, wherefore there resteth nothing else save that thou with thy trumpet do pronounce the reward to such as take her: see thou put in execution my commandment, and declare that whatsoever he be that retaineth her wittingly, against my will shall not defend himself by any mean or excusation," which when she had spoken, she delivered unto him a libel (ed. document) wherein was contained the name of Psyche, and the residue of his publication, which done, she departed away to her lodging. By and by, Mercurius (not delaying the matter) proclaimed throughout all the world that whatsoever he were that could tell any tidings of a Kings fugitive Daughter, the servant of Venus, named Psyche, should bring word to Mercury, and for reward of his pains, he should receive seven sweet kisses of Venus. After that Mercury had pronounced these things, every man was enflamed with desire to search out Psyche.
This proclamation was the cause that put all doubt from Psyche, who was scantly come in the sight of the house of Venus, but one of her servants called Custom came out, who espying Psyche, cried out with a loud voice, saying, "O wicked harlot as thou art, now at length thou shalt know that thou hast a mistress above thee. What, dost thou make thy self ignorant, as though thou didst not understand what travail we have taken in searching for thee? I am glad that thou art come into my hands, thou art now in the gulf of hell, and shalt abide the pain and punishment of thy great contumacy (ed. rebelliousness)," and therewithall she took her by the hair, and brought her in, before the presence of the Goddess Venus. When Venus spied her, she began to laugh, and as angry persons are accustomed to do, she shook her head, and scratched her right ear saying, "O Goddess, Goddess, you are now come at length to visit your husband that is in danger of death, by your means: be you assured, I will handle you like a daughter: where be my maidens, Sorrow and Sadness?" To whom (when they came) she delivered Psyche to be cruelly tormented; then they fulfilled the commandment of their Mistress, and after they had piteously scourged her with rods and whips, they presented her again before Venus; then she began to laugh again, saying: "Behold she thinketh (that by reason of her great belly, which she hath gotten by playing the whore) to move me to pity, and to make me a grandmother to her child. Am not I happy, that in the flourishing time of all mine age, shall be called a grandmother, and the son of a vile harlot shall be accounted the grandson of Venus: Howbeit I am a fool to term him by the name of my son, since as the marriage was made between unequal persons, in the field without witnesses, and not by the consent of parents, wherefore the marriage is illegitimate, and the child (that shall be born) a bastard; if we fortune to suffer thee to live so long till thou be delivered." When Venus had spoken these words she leaped upon the face of poor Psyche, and (tearing her apparel) took her by the hair, and
dashed her head upon the ground. Then she took a great quantity of wheat, of barley, poppy seed, peas, lentils and beans, and mingled them altogether on a heap saying: "Thou evil favoured girl, thou seemest unable to get the grace of thy lover, by no other means, but only by diligent and painful service, wherefore I will prove what thou canst do: see that thou separate all these grains one from another disposing them orderly in their quantity, and let it be done before night." When she had appointed this task unto Psyche, she departed to a great banquet that was prepared that day. But Psyche went not about to dissever (ed. separate) the grain, (as being a thing impossible to be brought to pass by reason it lay so confusedly scattered) but being astonished at the cruel commandment of Venus, sat still and said nothing. Then the little pismire (ed. ant) the emote (ed. showed concern), taking pity of her great difficulty and labour, cursing the cruelness of the daughter of Jupiter (ed. Zefs = Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς), and of so evil a mother, ran about, hither and thither, and called to all her friends, "Ye quick sons of the ground, the mother of all things, take mercy on this poor maid, spouse to Cupid, who is in great danger of her person, I pray you help her with all diligence." Incontinently one came after another, dissevering and dividing the grain, and after that they had put each kind of corn in order, they ran away again in all haste. When night came, Venus returned home from the banquet well tippled with wine, smelling of balm, and crowned with garlands of roses, who when she had espied what Psyche had done, did say, "This is not the labour of thy hands, but rather of his that is amorous of thee," then she gave her a morsel of brown bread, and went to sleep.
In the mean season, Cupid was closed fast in the surest chamber of the house, partly because he should not hurt himself with wanton dalliance, and partly because he should not speak with his love: so these two lovers were divided one from another.
When night was passed Venus called Psyche, and said, "Seest thou yonder Forest that extendeth out in length with the river? there be great sheep shining like gold, and kept by no manner of person. I command thee that thou go thither and bring me home some of the wool of their fleeces. Psyche arose willingly not to do her commandment, but to throw her self headlong into the water to end her sorrows. Then a green reed inspired by divine inspiration, with a gracious tune and melody did say, "O Psyche I pray thee not to trouble or pollute my water by the death of thee, and yet beware that thou go not towards the terrible sheep of this coast, until such time as the heat of the sun be past, for when the sun is in his force, then seem they most dreadful and furious, with their sharp horns, their stony foreheads and their gaping throats, wherewith they arm themselves
to the destruction of mankind. But until they have refreshed themselves in the river, thou may hide thy self here by me, under this great plain tree, and as soon as their great fury is past, thou may go among the thickets and bushes under the wood side and gather the locks of their golden Fleeces, which thou shalt find hanging up on the briers." Then spake the gentle and benign reed, showing a mean to Psyche to save her life, which she bore well in memory, and with all diligence went and gathered up such locks as she found, and put them in her apron, and carried them home to Venus. Howbeit the danger of this second labour did not please her, nor give her sufficient witness of the good service of Psyche, but with a sour resemblance of laughter, did say: "Of a certain I know that this is not thy fact, but I will prove if that thou be of so stout, so good a courage, and singular prudency as thou seemest to be." Then Venus spake unto Psyche again saying: "Seest thou the top of yonder great Hill, from whence there runneth down waters of black and deadly colour, which nourisheth the floods of Styx (ed. Στύξ), Cocytus (ed. Kohkytós; Gr. Κωκυτός)? I charge thee to go thither, and bring me a vessel of that water," wherewithal she gave her a bottle of Crystal, menacing and threatening her rigorously. Then poor Psyches went in all haste to the top of the mountain, rather to end her life, then to fetch any water, and when she was come up to the ridge of the hill, she perceived that it was impossible to bring it to pass: for she saw a great rock gushing out most horrible fountains of waters, which ran down and fell by many stops and passages into the valley beneath:
on each side she did see great Dragons, which were stretching out their long and bloody Necks, that did never sleep, but appointed to keep the river there: the waters seemed to themselves likewise saying, "Away, away, what wilt thou do? fly, fly, or else thou wilt be slain." Then Psyche (seeing the impossibility of this affair) stood still as though she were transformed into a stone, and although she was present in body, yet was she absent in spirit and sense, by reason of the great peril which she saw, insomuch that she could not comfort her self with weeping, such was the present danger that she was in. But the royal bird of great Jupiter (ed. Zefs = Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς), the Eagle remembering his old service which he had done, when as by the prick of Cupid he brought up the boy Ganymede (ed. Ganymídis; Gr. Γανυμήδης) to the heavens, to be made butler of Jupiter, and minding to show the like service in the person of the wife of Cupid, came from the high-house of the Skies, and said unto Psyche, "O simple woman without all experience, doest thou think to get or dip up any drop of this dreadful water? No, no, assure thy self thou art never able to come nigh it, for the Gods themselves do greatly fear at the sight thereof. What, have you not heard, that it is a custom among men to swear by the puissance (ed. might) of the Gods, and the Gods do swear by the majesty of the river Styx? But give me thy bottle," and suddenly he took it, and filled it with the water of the river, and taking his flight through those cruel and horrible dragons, brought it unto Psyche: who being very joyful thereof, presented it to Venus, who would not yet be appeased, but menacing more and more said, "What, thou seemest unto me a very witch and enchantress, that bringest these things to pass, howbeit thou shalt do nothing more. Take this box and to Hell to Proserpina (ed. Pærsæphoni; Gr. Περσεφόνη) and desire her to send me a little of her beauty, as much as will serve me the space of one day, and say that such as I had is consumed away since my son fell sick, but return again quickly, for I must dress my self therewithall, and go to the Theatre of the Gods."
Then poor Psyche perceived the end of all fortune, thinking verily that she should never return, and not without cause, when as she was compelled to go to the gulf and furies of Hell. Wherefore without any further delay, she went up to an high tower to throw her self down headlong (thinking that it was the next and readiest way to hell) but the tower (as inspired) spake unto her saying, "O poor miser, why goest thou about to slay thy self? Why dost thou rashly yield unto
thy last peril and danger? know thou that if thy spirit be once separated from thy body, thou shalt surely go to hell, but never to return again, wherefore harken unto me; Lacedemon a City in Greece is not far hence: go thou thither and enquire for the hill Taenarus (ed. Tainaros; Gr. Ταίναρος), whereas thou shalt find a hold leading to hell, even to the Palace of Pluto (ed. Ploutohn; Gr. Πλούτων), but take heed thou go not with empty hands to that place of darkness: but carry two sops sodden in the flour of barley and Honey in thy hands, and two halfpence in thy mouth. And when thou hast passed a good part of that way, thou shalt see a lame Asse carrying of wood, and a lame fellow driving him, who will desire thee to give him up the sticks that fall down, but pass thou on and do nothing; by and by thou shalt come unto a river of hell, whereas Charon (Khárohn; Gr. Χάρων) is ferryman, who will first have his fare paid him, before he will carry the souls over the river in his boat, whereby you may see that avarice reigneth amongst the dead, neither Charon nor Pluto will do any thing for nought: for if it be a poor man that would pass over and lacketh money, he shall be compelled to die in his journey before they will show him any relief, wherefore deliver to carraine Charon one of the halfpence (which thou bearest for thy passage) and let him receive it out of thy mouth. And it shall come to pass as thou sittest in the boat thou shalt see an old man swimming on the top of the river, holding up his deadly hands, and desiring thee to receive him into the bark, but have no regard to his piteous cry: when thou art passed over the flood, thou shalt espy old women spinning, who will desire thee to help them, but beware thou do not consent unto them in any case, for these and like baits and traps will Venus set to make thee let fall one of thy sops, and think not that the keeping of thy sops is a light matter, for if thou lose one of them thou shalt be assured never to return again to this world. Then shalt thou see a great and marvelous dog, with three heads, barking continually at the souls of such as enter in, but he can do them no other harm, he lieth day and night before the gate of Proserpina (ed. Pærsæphoni; Gr. Περσεφόνη) and keepeth the house of Pluto with great diligence, to whom if thou cast one of thy sops, thou mayst have access to Proserpina without all danger: she will make thee good cheer, and entertain thee with delicate meat and drink, but sit thou upon the ground, and desire brown bread, and then declare thy message unto her, and when thou hast received such beauty as she giveth, in thy return appease the rage of the dog with thy other sop, and give thy other half penny to covetous Charon, and come the same way again into the world as thou wentest: but above all things have a regard that thou look not in the box, neither be not too curious about the treasure of the divine beauty." In this manner the tower spake unto Psyche, and advertised her what she should do: and immediately she took two half pence, two sops, and all things necessary, and went to the mountain Taenarus to go towards hell. After that Psyche had passed by the lame Asse, paid her half penny for passage, neglected the old man in the river, denied to help the women spinning, and filled the ravenous mouth of the dog with a sop, she came to the chamber of Proserpina (ed. Pærsæphoni; Gr. Περσεφόνη), only contented with course bread, declared her message, and after she received a mystical secret in a box, she departed, and stopped the mouth of the dog with the other sop, and paid the boat-man the other half penny.
When Psyche was returned from hell, to the light of the world, she was ravished with great desire, saying, "Am not I a fool, that knowing that I carry here the divine beauty, will not take a little thereof to garnish my face, to please my love withal?" And by and by she opened the box where she could perceive no beauty nor any thing else, save only an infernal and deadly sleep, which immediately invaded all her members as soon as the box was uncovered, in such sort that she fell down upon the ground, and lay there as a sleeping corpse. But Cupid being now healed of his wound and Malady, not able to endure the absence of Psyche, got him secretly out at a window of the chamber where he was enclosed, and (receiving his wings,) took his flight towards his loving wife, whom when he had found, he wiped away the sleep from her face, and put it again into the box, and awakened her with the tip of one of his arrows, saying: "O wretched Caitife, behold thou wert well-nigh perished again, with the overmuch curiosity: well, go thou, and do thy message to my Mother, and in the mean season, I will provide for all things accordingly: wherewithal he took his flight into the air, and Psyche brought her present to Venus.
Cupid being more and more in love with Psyche, and fearing the displeasure of his Mother, did pierce into the heavens, and arrived before Jupiter (ed. Zefs = Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς) to declare his cause: then Jupiter after that he had eftsoone (ed. soon-after) embraced him, to say in this manner: "O my well beloved son, although thou hast not given due reverence and honour unto me as thou oughtest to do, but hast rather spoiled and wounded this my breast (whereby the laws and order of the Elements and Planets be disposed) with continual assaults, of Terrene (ed. earthly) luxury and against all laws, and the discipline Julian (referring to the Augustine laws against adultery), and the utility of the public weal, in transforming my divine beauty into serpents, fire, savage beasts, birds, and into Bulls: Howbeit remembering my modesty, and that I have nourished thee with mine own proper hands, I will do and accomplish all thy desire, so that thou canst beware of spiteful and envious persons. And if there be any excellent Maiden of comely beauty in the world, remember yet the benefit which I shall show unto thee by recompense of her love towards me again."
When he had spoken these words he commanded Mercury (ed. Ærmís = Hermes; Gr. Ἑρμῆς) to call all the Gods to counsel and if any of the celestial powers did fail of appearance he would be condemned in ten thousand pounds: which sentence was such a terror to all the Goddesses, that the high Theatre was replenished, and Jupiter (ed. Zefs = Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς) began to speak in this sort: "O ye Gods, registered in the books of the Muses (ed. Mousai; Gr. Μοῦσαι), you all know this young man Cupid whom I have nourished with mine own hands, whose raging flames of his first youth, I thought best to bridle and restrain. It sufficeth that he is defamed in every place for his adulterous living, wherefore all occasion ought to be taken away by means of marriage: he hath chosen a maiden that fancieth him well, and hath bereaved her of her virginity, let him have her still, and possess her according to his own pleasure." Then he returned to Venus, and said, "And you my daughter, take you no care, neither fear the dishonour of your progeny and estate, neither have regard in that it is a mortal marriage, for it seemeth unto me just, lawful, and legitimate by the law civil." Incontinently after, Jupiter commanded Mercury to bring up Psyche, the spouse of Cupid, into the Palace of Heaven. And then he took a pot of immortality, and said, "Hold Psyche, and drink, to the end thou mayst be immortal, and that Cupid may be thine everlasting husband." By and by the great banquet and marriage feast was sumptuously prepared, Cupid sat down with his dear spouse between his arms: Juno (ed. Íra = Hera; Gr. Ἥρα) likewise with Jupiter (ed. Zefs = Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς) and all the other Gods in order, Ganymede (ed. Ganymídis; Gr. Γανυμήδης) filled the pot of Jupiter, and Bacchus (ed. Vákkhos = Diόnysos; Gr. Βάκχος) served the rest. Their drink was Nectar (ed. Nǽktar; Gr. Νέκταρ), the wine of the Gods, Vulcanus (ed. Íphaistos; Gr. Ἥφαιστος) prepared supper, the Howers (ed. Όrai = Horai = The Hours; Gr. Ὧραι) decked up the house with roses and other sweet smells, the Graces (ed. Kháritæs = Charites; Gr. Χάριτες) threw about blame, the Muses (ed. Mousai; Gr. Μοῦσαι) sang with sweet harmony, Apollo (ed. Apόllohn; Gr. Ἀπόλλων) tuned pleasantly to the Harp, Venus danced finely: Satyrus (ed. Sátyros; Gr. Σάτυρος) and Pan (ed. Gr. Πᾶν) played on their pipes; and thus Psyche was married to Cupid, and after she was delivered of a child whom we call Pleasure. This the trifling old woman declared unto the captive maiden: but I poor Asse, not standing far of, was not a little sorry in that I lacked pen and ink to write so worthy a tale.
A Neo-Platonic Interpretation of the Fable of Cupid and Psyche by Thomas Taylor, 1795
The following well-known fable is extracted from the Metamorphoses of Apuleius, a work replete with elegance and erudition, in which the marvellous and mystic are happily combined with historical precision, and the whole of which is composed in a style inimitably glowing and diffuse.
Its author was by birth an African, and, by profession, a Platonic philosopher. From the account which he gives of himself, it appears most probable that he lived in the times of Antoninus Pius, and his illustrious brothers. He seems to have been very much addicted to the study of magic, but has very ably cleared himself from the accusation of practising it, which was brought against him, in an Oration, the whole of which is still extant (ed. Apology). However, though he was a man of extraordinary abilities, and held a distinguished place among the Platonic philosophers of that period, yet he was inferior to any one of that golden race of philosophers, of which the great Plotinus stands at the head. Of the truth of this observation few indeed of the present age are likely to be convinced, from that base prejudice which has taken such deep root in the minds of men of every description, through the declamations of those literary bullies, the verbal critics, on the one hand, and the fraudulent harangues of sophistical priests on the other. Posterity, however, will warmly patronise my assertion, and vindicate the honours of those venerable heroes, the latter Platonists, when such critics and such priests are covered with the shades of eternal oblivion.
The following beautiful fable, which was designed to represent the lapse of the human soul from the intelligible world to the earth, was certainly not invented by Apuleius; for, as will appear in the course of the Introduction, it is evidently alluded to by Synesius, in his book On Dreams, and obscurely by Plato and Plotinus. It is clear, therefore, that Plato could not derive his allusion from Apuleius; and as to Plotinus and Synesius, those who are at all acquainted with the writings of the Greek philosophers, well know that they never borrowed from Latin authors, from a just conviction that they had the sources of perfection among themselves.
I have said that this fable represented the lapse of the human soul; of the truth of this the philosophical reader will be convinced by the following observations: In the first place, the Gods, as I have elsewhere shown, are super-essential natures, from their profound union with the first cause, who is super-essential without any addition. But though the Gods, through their summits or unities, transcend essence, yet their unities are participated either by intellect alone, or by intellect and soul, or by intellect, soul, and body; from which participation the various orders of the Gods are deduced. When, therefore, intellect, soul, and body are in conjunction suspended from this super-essential unity, which is the center flower or blossom of a divine nature, then the God from whom they are suspended is called a mundane God. In the next place, the common parents of the human soul are the intellect and soul of the world; but its proximate parents are the intellect and soul of the particular star about which it was originally distributed, and from which it first descends. In the third place, those powers of every mundane God, which are participated by the body suspended from his nature, are called mundane; but those which are participated by his intellect, are called super-mundane; and the soul, while subsisting in union with these super-mundane powers, is said to be in the intelligible world; but when she wholly directs her attention to the .mundane powers of her God, she is said to descend from the intelligible world, even while subsisting in the Heavens.
Thus much being premised, let us proceed to the explanation of the fable; Psyche, then, or soul, is described as transcendantly beautiful; and this indeed is true of every human soul, before it profoundly merges itself in the defiling folds of dark matter. In the next place, when Psyche is represented as descending from the summit of a lofty mountain into a beautiful valley, this signifies the decent of the soul from the intelligible world into a mundane condition of being, but yet without abandoning its establishment in the Heavens. Hence the palace which Psyche beholds in the valley is, with great propriety, said to be of a royal house, which was not raised by human, but by divine, hands and art. The gems, too, on which Psyche is said to have trod in every part of this palace, are evidently symbolical of the stars. Of this mundane, yet celestial, condition of being, the incorporeal voices which attend upon Psyche are likewise symbolical: for outward discourse is the last image of intellectual energy, according to which the soul alone operates in the intelligible world. As voices, therefore, they signify an establishment subordinate to that which is intelligible, but so far as denudated of body, they also signify a condition of being superior to a terrene allotment.
Psyche, in this delightful situation is married to an invisible being, whom she alone recognises by her ears and hands. This, invisible husband proves afterwards to be Love; that is to say, the soul, while established in the Heavens, is united with pure desire, (for Love is the same with desire) or, in other words, is not fascinated with outward form. But in this beautiful palace she is attacked by the machinations of her two sisters, who endeavour to persuade her to explore the form of her unknown husband. The sisters, therefore, signify imagination and nature; just in the same manner as reason is signified by Psyche. Their stratagems at length take effect, and Psyche beholds and falls in love with Love; that is to say, the rational part, through the incentives of fantasy and the vegetable power, becomes united with impure or terrene desire; for vision is symbolical of union between the perceiver and thing perceived. In consequence of this illicit perception, Cupid, or pure desire, flies away, and Psyche, or soul, is precipitated to earth. It is remarkable that Psyche, after falling to the ground, is represented as having "a stumbling and often reeling gait" for Plato, in the Phaedo, says, that the soul is drawn into body with a staggering motion.
After this commence the wanderings of Psyche, or soul, in search of Love, or pure desire, from whose embraces she is unhappily torn away. In the course of her journey she arrives at the temples of Ceres and Juno, whose aid she suppliantly implores. Her conduct, indeed, in this respect is highly becoming; for Ceres comprehends in her essence Juno, who is the fountain of souls; and the safety of the soul arises from converting herself to the divine sources of her being.
In the next place Venus is represented desiring Mercury to proclaim Psyche through all lands, as one of her female slaves that has fled from her service. It is likewise said that she gave him a small volume, in which the name of Psyche was written, and every other particular respecting her. Now I think it cannot be doubted but that Synesius alludes to this part of the fable in the following passage from his admirable book On Dreams: "When the soul descends spontaneously to its former life, with mercenary views, it receives servitude as the reward of its mercenary labours. But this is the design of descent, that the soul may accomplish a certain servitude to the nature of the universe, prescribed by the laws of Adrastia, or inevitable fate. Hence when the soul is fascinated with material endowments, she is similarly affected to those who, though free born, are, for a certain time, hired by wages to employments, and in this condition captivated with the beauty of some female servant, determine to act in a menial capacity under the master of their beloved object. Thus, in a similar manner, when we are profoundly delighted with external and corporeal goods, we confess that the nature of matter is beautiful, who marks our assent in her secret book; and if, considering ourselves as free, we at any time determine to depart, she proclaims us deserters, endeavours to bring us back, and openly presenting her mystic volume to the view, apprehends us as fugitives from our mistress. Then, indeed, the soul particularly requires fortitude and divine assistance, as it is no trifling contest to abrogate the confession and compact which she made. Besides, in this case force will be employed ; for the material inflicters of punishments will then be roused to revenge by the decrees of fate against the rebels to her laws."
Venus, however, must not be considered here as the nature of matter; for though she is not the celestial Venus, but the offspring of Dione, yet she is that divine power which governs all the co-ordinations in the celestial world and the earth, binds them to each other, and perfects their generative progressions through a kindred conjunction. As the celestial Venus, therefore, separates the pure soul from generation, so she that proceeds from Dione binds the impure soul, as her legitimate slave, to a corporeal life.
After this follows an account of the difficult tasks which Psyche is obliged to execute by the commands of Venus; all which are images of the mighty toils and anxious cares which the soul must necessarily endure after her lapse, in order to atone for her guilt, and recover her ancient residence in the intelligible world. In accomplishing the last of these labours, she is represented as forced to descend even to the dark regions of Hades; by which it is evident that Psyche is the image of a soul that descends to the very extremity of things, or that makes the most extended progression before it returns. But Psyche, in returning from Hades, is oppressed with a profound sleep, through indiscreetly opening the box given her by Proserpine, in which she expected to find a portion of divine beauty, but met with nothing but an infernal Stygian sleep. This obscurely signifies that the soul, by considering a corporeal life as truly beautiful, passes into a profoundly dormant state: and it appears to me that both Plato and Plotinus allude to this part of our fable in the following passages, for the originals of which I refer the reader to my Dissertation on the Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries, p. 10. In the first place, then, Plato, in the seventh book of his Republic, observes, that "He who is not able, by the exercise of his reason, to define the idea of the good separating it from all other objects, and piercing, as in a battle, through every kind of argument: endeavouring to confute, not according to opinion, but according to essence, and proceeding through all the dialectical energies with an unshaken reason, is in the present life sunk in sleep, and conversant with the delusions of dreams; and that before he is roused to a vigilant state, he will descend to Hades, and be overwhelmed with a sleep perfectly profound." And Plotinus, in Ennead I. lib. 8, p. 80, says, "The death of the soul is, while merged, or baptised, as it were, in the present body, to descend into matter, and be filled with its impurity, and after departing from this body, to lie absorbed in its filth till it returns to a superior condition, and elevates its eye from the overwhelming mire. For to be plunged into matter is to descend to Hades, and fall asleep."
Cupid, however, or pure desire, at length recovering his pristine vigour, rouses Psyche, or soul, from her deadly lethargy. In consequence of this, having accomplished her destined toils, she ascends to her native heaven, becomes lawfully united with Cupid, (for while descending her union might be called illegitimate) lives the life of the immortals; and the natural result of this union with pure desire is pleasure or delight. And thus much for an explanation of the fable of Cupid and Psyche. For farther particulars respecting the lapse of the soul, see my Introduction to, and Translation of Plotinus on the Decent of the Soul, and my Dissertation on the Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries.
I only add, that the Paraphrase on the Speech of Diotima, the Hymns, some of which are illustrative of the Speech, and the other pieces of poetry, are added at the request of a gentleman, whose thirst after knowledge, endeavours to promote it, elegant taste, and friendship for the author, demand a panegyric executed in a more masterly manner at least, though not with greater sincerity, than by the following lines :
While some, the vilest of a puffing age,
With fulsome adulation stain the page,
And time’s irrevocable moments waste
In base compliance with degenerate taste,
Rise honest muse; and to thy lib’ral lyre
Symphonious sing what friendship shall inspire.
Say, shall the wretch, to gain devoted, claim
A place conspicuous ’midst the sons of fame;
For ill-got wealth with dying accents giv’n,
To bribe the vengeance of impartial Heav’n?
And shall not be who, ’midst the din of trade,
Has homage at the Muse’s altars paid;
Astonish’d view’d the depth of Plato’s thought,
And strove to spread the truths sublime he taught—
Attention gain, and gratitude inspire,
And with his worth excite the poet’s fire?
Yes, Phronimus, my muse, in lib’ral lays,
This friendly tribute to thy merit pays;
And ardent hopes that ages yet unborn
May see well pleas’d thy name her works adorn!
The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology.
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.
Introduction to the Thæí (the Gods): The Nature of the Gods.
How do we know there are Gods? Experiencing Gods.
The logo to the left is the principal symbol of this website. It is called the CESS logo, i.e. the Children of the Earth and the Starry Sky. The Pætilía (Petelia, Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase (Γῆς παῖς εἰμί καὶ Οὐρανοῦ ἀστερόεντος) are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kozmogonic substances. The twelve stars represent the Natural Laws, the dominions of the Olympian Gods. In front of these symbols is the seven-stringed kithára (cithara, κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllohn (Apollo, Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus, Ὀρφεύς).
PLEASE NOTE: Throughout the pages of this website, you will find fascinating stories about our Gods. These narratives are known as mythology, the traditional stories of the Gods and Heroes. While these tales are great mystical vehicles containing transcendent truth, they are symbolic and should not be taken literally. A literal reading will frequently yield an erroneous result. The meaning of the myths is concealed in code. To understand them requires a key. For instance, when a God kills someone, this usually means a transformation of the soul to a higher level. Similarly, sexual union with a God is a transformation.
The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology.
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.
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