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Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 59

In works of art Psyche is represented as a maiden with the wings of a butterfly, alone or with Cupid, in the different situations described in the allegory.

Milton alludes to the story of Cupid and Psyche in the conclusion of his Comus:—

  "Celestial Cupid, her famed son, advanced,
  Holds his dear Psyche sweet entranced,
  After her wandering labors long,
  Till free consent the gods among
  Make her his eternal bride;
 And from her fair unspotted side
  T wo blissful twins are to be born,
  Youth and Joy; so Jove hath sworn."

The allegory of the story of Cupid and Psyche is well presented in the beautiful lines of T. K. Hervey:—

  "They wove bright fables in the days of old
  When reason borrowed fancy's painted wings;
  When truth's clear river flowed o'er sands of gold,
  And told in song its high and mystic things!
  And such the sweet and solemn tale of her
  The pilgrim-heart, to whom a dream was given.
  That led her through the world, Love's worshipper,
  To seek on earth for him whose home was heaven!

  "In the full city, by the haunted fount,
  Through the dim grotto's tracery of spars,
  'Mid the pine temples, on the moonlit mount,
  Where silence sits to listen to the stars;
  In the deep glade where dwells the brooding dove,
  The painted valley, and the scented air,
  She heard far echoes of the voice of Love,
  And found his footsteps' traces everywhere.

  "But never more they met! Since doubts and fears,
  Those phantom-shapes that haunt and blight the earth,
  Had come 'twixt her, a child of sin and tears,
  And that bright spirit of immortal birth;
  Until her pining soul and weeping eyes
  Had learned to seek him only in the skies;
  Till wings unto the weary heart were given,
  And she became Love's angel bride in heaven!"

The story of Cupid and Psyche first appears in the works of Apuleius, a writer of the second century of our era. It is therefore of much more recent date than most of the legends of the Age of Fable. It is this that Keats alludes to in his Ode to Psyche.

  "O latest born and loveliest vision far
  Of all Olympus' faded hierarchy!
  Fairer than Phoebe's sapphire-regioned star
  Or Vesper, amorous glow-worm of the sky;
  Fairer than these, though temple thou hast none,
  Nor altar heaped with flowers;
  Nor virgin-choir to make delicious moan
  Upon the midnight hours;
  No voice, no lute, no pipe, no incense sweet,
  From chain-swung censer teeming;
  No shrine, no grove, no oracle, no heat
  Of Pale-mouthed prophet dreaming."

In Moore's Summer Fete, a fancy ball is described, in which one of the characters personated is Psyche.

    "not in dark disguise to-night
  Hath our young heroine veiled her light;
  For see, she walks the earth, Love's own.
  His wedded bride, by holiest vow
  Pledged in Olympus, and made known
  To mortals by the type which now
  Hangs glittering on her snowy brow,
  That butterfly, mysterious trinket,
  Which means the soul (though few would think it),
  And sparkling thus on brow so white,
  Tells us we've Psyche here to-night."


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