A Book of Myths

Page: 26

“They spoke truth!” said the lad to himself. “Not even my mother is as fair as this princess.”

For a moment her eyelids quivered, and then dropped. Her long dark lashes fell on her cheeks that were pink as the hearts of the fragile shells that the waves toss up on western beaches, her red mouth, curved like the bow of Eros, smiled happily, and Psyche slept again. With heart that beat as it had never beaten before, Eros gazed upon her perfect loveliness. With gentle, pitying finger he wiped away the red drop where his arrow had wounded her, and then stooped and touched her lips with his own, so lightly that Psyche in her dreams thought that they had been brushed by a butterfly’s wings. Yet in her sleep she moved, and Eros, starting back, pricked himself with one of his arrows. And with that prick, for Eros there passed away all the careless ease of the heart of a boy, and he knew that he loved Psyche with the unquenchable love of a deathless god. Now, with bitter regret, all his desire was to undo the wrong he had done to the one that he loved. Speedily he sprinkled her with the sweet water that brings joy, and when Psyche rose from her couch she was radiant with the beauty that comes from a new, undreamed-of happiness.

“From place to place Love followed her that day
And ever fairer to his eyes she grew,
So that at last when from her bower he flew,
And underneath his feet the moonlit sea
Went shepherding his waves disorderly,
[Pg 49] He swore that of all gods and men, no one
Should hold her in his arms but he alone;
That she should dwell with him in glorious wise
Like to a goddess in some paradise;
Yea, he would get from Father Jove this grace
That she should never die, but her sweet face
And wonderful fair body should endure
Till the foundations of the mountains sure
Were molten in the sea; so utterly
Did he forget his mother’s cruelty.”

William Morris.

Meantime it came to be known all over that land, and in other lands to which the fame of the fair Psyche had spread, that the mighty goddess Aphrodite had declared herself the enemy of the princess. Therefore none dared seek her in marriage, and although many a noble youth sighed away his heart for love of her, she remained in her father’s palace like an exquisite rose whose thorns make those who fain would have it for their own, fear to pluck it from the parent stem. Her sisters married, and her father marvelled why so strange a thing should come about and why the most beautiful by far of his three daughters should remain unwed.

At length, laden with royal gifts, an embassy was sent by the king to the oracle of Apollo to inquire what might be the will of the dwellers on Olympus concerning his fairest daughter. In a horror of anxiety the king and his queen and Psyche awaited the return of the ambassadors. And when they returned, before ever a word was spoken, they knew that the oracle had spoken Psyche’s doom.