Myths of Greece and Rome Narrated with Special Reference to Literature and Art

Page: 55

Now, the elder sisters had always been jealous of Psyche’s superior beauty; and when they saw her luxurious surroundings, and heard her raptures about her lover, they were envious, and resolved to mar the happiness which they could not enjoy. They therefore did all in their power to convince poor Psyche that her lover must be some monster, so hideous that he dare not brave the broad light of day, lest he should make her loathe him, and further added, that, if she were not very careful, he would probably end by devouring her.

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They thereupon advised poor troubled Psyche to conceal a lamp and dagger in her lover’s apartment, and to gaze upon him in secret, when his eyes were closed in sleep. If the light of the lamp revealed, as they felt sure it would, the hideous [126] countenance and distorted form of a monster, they bade her use the dagger to kill him. Then, satisfied with their work, the sisters departed, leaving Psyche alone to carry out their evil suggestions.

When safe at home once more, the sisters constantly brooded over the tale Psyche had poured into their ears, and, hoping to secure as luxurious a home and as fascinating a lover, they each hurried off in secret to the mountain gorge, cast themselves over the precipice, and—perished.

Night having come, bringing the usually so welcome Cupid, Psyche, tortured with doubt, could with difficulty conceal her agitation. After repeated efforts to charm her from her silent mood, Cupid fell asleep; and, as soon as his regular breathing proclaimed him lost in slumber, Psyche noiselessly lighted her lamp, seized her dagger, and, approaching the couch with great caution, bent over her sleeping lover. The lamp, which she held high above her head, cast its light full upon the face and form of a handsome youth.

“Now trembling, now distracted; bold,
And now irresolute she seems;
The blue lamp glimmers in her hold,
And in her hand the dagger gleams.
Prepared to strike, she verges near,
Then, the blue light glimmering from above,
The hideous sight expects with fear—
And gazes on the god of Love.”

Psyche’s heart beat loudly with joy and pride as she beheld, instead of the monster, this graceful youth; and as she hung over him, enraptured, she forgot all caution. An inadvertent motion tipped her lamp, and one drop of burning oil, running over the narrow brim, fell upon Cupid’s naked shoulder.

The sudden pain made him open his eyes with a start. The lighted lamp, the glittering dagger, the trembling Psyche, told the whole story. Cupid sprang from the couch, seized his bow [127] and arrows, and, with a last sorrowful, reproachful glance at Psyche, flew away through the open window, exclaiming,—

“‘Farewell! There is no Love except with Faith,
And thine is dead! Farewell! I come no more!’”
Lewis Morris.