A Book of Myths

Page: 30

As a martyr walks to death, so did she walk. And when the yellow light fell upon the form of him who lay there, still she gazed steadily.

And, lo, before her she saw the form of him who had ever been the ideal of her dreams. Love himself, incarnate Love, perfect in beauty and in all else was he whom her sisters had told her was a monster—he, of whom the oracle had said that neither gods nor men could resist him. For a moment of perfect happiness she gazed upon his beauty. Then he turned in his [Pg 58] sleep, and smiled, and stretched out his arms to find the one of his love. And Psyche started, and, starting, shook the lamp; and from it fell a drop of burning oil on the white shoulder of Eros. At once he awoke, and with piteous, pitying eyes looked in those of Psyche. And when he spoke, his words were like daggers that pierced deep into her soul. He told her all that had been, all that might have been. Had she only had faith and patience to wait, an immortal life should have been hers.

“Farewell! though I, a god, can never know
How thou canst lose thy pain, yet time will go
Over thine head, and thou mayst mingle yet
The bitter and the sweet, nor quite forget,
Nor quite remember, till these things shall seem
The wavering memory of a lovely dream.”

William Morris.

He left her alone then, with her despair, and as the slow hours dragged by, Psyche, as she awaited the dawn, felt that in her heart no sun could ever rise again. When day came at last, she felt she could no longer endure to stay in the palace where everything spoke to her of the infinite tenderness of a lost love. Through the night a storm had raged, and even with the day there came no calm. And Psyche, weary and chill, wandered away from the place of her happiness, onward and ever on, until she stood on the bank of a swift-flowing river. For a little she stayed her steps and listened to the sound of its wash against the rocks and tree roots as it hurried past, and to her as she waited came the thought that here had she found a means by which to end her woe.

[Pg 59] “I have lost my Love,” she moaned. “What is Life to me any longer! Come to me then, O Death!”

So then she sprang into the wan water, hoping that very swiftly it might bear her grief-worn soul down to the shades. But the river bore her up and carried her to its shallows in a fair meadow where Pan himself sat on the bank and merrily dabbled his feet in the flowing water. And when Psyche, shamed and wet, looked at him with sad eyes, the god spoke to her gently and chid her for her folly. She was too young and much too fair to try to end her life so rudely, he said. The river gods would never be so unkind as to drive so beautiful a maiden in rough haste down to the Cocytus valley.