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Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome

Page: 78

Psyche herself, filled with a restless yearning for her lost love, wandered all over the world in search of him. At length she appealed to Aphrodite to take compassion on her; but the goddess of Beauty, still jealous of her charms, imposed upon her the hardest tasks, the accomplishment of which often appeared impossible. In these Eros

Psyche had to undergo a long and severe penance before she became worthy to regain the happiness, which she had so foolishly trifled away. At last Aphrodite commanded her to descend into the under world, and obtain from Persephone a box containing all the charms of beauty. Psyche's courage now failed her, for she concluded that death must of necessity precede her entrance into the realm of shades. About to abandon herself to despair, she heard a voice which warned her of every danger to be avoided on her perilous journey, and instructed her with regard to certain precautions to be observed. These were as follows:—not to omit to provide herself with the ferryman's toll for Charon, and the cake to pacify Cerberus, also to refrain from taking any part in the banquets of Aïdes and Persephone, and, above all things, to bring the box of beauty charms unopened to Aphrodite. In conclusion, the voice assured her, that compliance with the above conditions would insure for her a safe return to the realms of light. But, alas, Psyche, who had implicitly followed all injunctions, could not withstand the temptation of the last condition; and, hardly had she quitted the lower world, when, unable to resist the curiosity which devoured her, she raised the lid of the box with eager expectation. But, instead of the wondrous charms of beauty which she expected to behold, there issued from the casket a dense black vapour, which had the effect of throwing her into a death-like sleep, out of which Eros, who had long hovered round her unseen, at length awoke her with the point of one of his golden arrows. He gently reproached her with this second proof of her curiosity and folly, and then, having persuaded Aphrodite to be reconciled to his beloved, he induced Zeus to admit her among the immortal gods.

Their reunion was celebrated amidst the rejoicings of all the Olympian deities. The Graces shed perfume on [154]their path, the Hours sprinkled roses over the sky, Apollo added the music of his lyre, and the Muses united their voices in a glad chorus of delight.

This myth would appear to be an allegory, which signifies that the soul, before it can be reunited to its original divine essence, must be purified by the chastening sorrows and sufferings of its earthly career.[51]

Eros is represented as a lovely boy, with rounded limbs, and a merry, roguish expression. He has golden wings, and a quiver slung over his shoulder, which contained his magical and unerring arrows; in one hand he bears his golden bow, and in the other a torch.


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