Cupid And Psyche
There was once a king of a certain city who had three daughters. All of them were very beautiful, but Psyche, the youngest, was lovelier even than Venus. The people worshipped her as she walked the streets, and strewed her path with flowers. Strangers from all parts of the world thronged to see her and to adore her. The temples of Venus were deserted, and no garlands were laid at her shrines. Thereupon, the goddess of love and beauty grew angry. She tossed her head with a cry of rage, and called to her son, Cupid, and showed him Psyche walking the streets of the city.
'Avenge me!' she said. 'Fill this maiden with burning love for the ugliest, wretchedest creature that lives on earth.'
The king was thereupon commanded by an oracle to array his daughter in bridal robes, and set her upon a high mountain, so that she might be wedded to a horrible monster. All the city was filled with grief and lamentation when Psyche was led out to her doom, and placed upon the lonely peak. Then a mighty wind arose, and carried the maiden to an enchanted palace, where she was waited on by unseen spirits who played sweet music for her delight, and fed her with delicious food. But in the darkness of night someone came to her couch and wooed her tenderly, and she fell in love with him and became his wife. And he said: 'Psyche, you may do what you will in the palace I have built for you. But one thing you must not do--you must not attempt to see my face.'
Her husband was very sweet and kind, but he came only in the night time; and in the daytime Psyche felt very lonesome. So she begged her husband to let her sisters come and stay with her, and her husband had them brought on a mighty wind. When they saw how delightfully Psyche lived in the enchanted palace they grew jealous of her strange happiness.
'Yes, this is a very pleasant place,' they exclaimed, 'but you know what the oracle said, Psyche. You are married to a monster! That is the reason why he will not let you see his face.'
In the night, when they had departed, Psyche lighted a lamp and looked at her bedfellow. Oh, joy! It was Cupid, the radiant young god of love, reposing in his beauty. In her excitement Psyche let a drop of burning oil fall from the lamp upon his right shoulder. The god leaped up and spread out his wings, and flew away, saying:
'Instead of marrying you to a monster, in obedience to my mother's commands, I wedded you myself. And this is how you serve me! Farewell, Psyche! Farewell!'
But Psyche set out to follow him, and after a long and toilsome journey she reached the court of Venus, where Cupid was now imprisoned. Venus seized her and beat her, and then set her on dangerous tasks, and tried to bring about her death. But Psyche was so lovely and gentle that every living creature wished to help her and save her. Then Venus, fearing that Cupid would escape and rescue his wife, said:
'Psyche, take this casket to Proserpine, in the Kingdom of the Dead, and ask her to fill it with beauty.'
Psyche was in despair. No mortal had ever returned from the Kingdom of the Dead. She climbed a high tower, and prepared to throw herself down, and die. But the very stones took pity upon her.
'Go to Taenarus,' they said, 'and there you will find a way to the Underworld. Take two copper coins in your mouth, and two honey-cakes in your hands.'
Psyche travelled to Taenarus, near Lacedaemon, and there she found a hole leading to the Underworld. A ghostly ferryman rowed her over the River of Death, and took one of her copper coins. Then a monstrous dog with three heads sprang out, but Psyche fed him with one of her honey-cakes, and entered the hall of Proserpine, the queen of the dead. Proserpine filled the casket, and by means of the last honey-cake and the last copper coin, Psyche returned to the green, bright earth.
But, alas! she was over-curious, and opened the casket to see the divine beauty it contained. A deadly vapour came out and overpowered her, and she fell to the ground. But Cupid, who had now escaped from his prison, found her lying on the grass, and wiped the vapour from her face. Taking her in his arms, he spread out his wings, and carried her to Olympus; and there they live together in unending bliss, with their little child, whose name is Joy.
End of Cupid And Psyche by Apuleius