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Cupid Rebuked

Part VI.

Psyche had scantly finished her tale, but her sister, pierced with the prick of carnal desire and wicked envy, ran home, and, feigning to her husband that she had heard of the death of her parents, took shipping and came to the mountain. And although there blew a contrary wind, yet being brought in a vain hope she cried: "O Cupid, take me, a more worthy wife, and thou Zephyrus bear down thy mistress!" and so she cast herself down headlong from the mountain; but she fell not into the valley neither alive nor dead, for all the members and parts of her body were torn amongst the rocks, whereby she was made a prey to the birds and wild beasts, as she worthily deserved.

Neither was the vengeance of the other delayed; for Psyche travelling in that country fortuned to come to another city, where her other sister did dwell, to whom when she had declared all such things as she told to her first sister, she ran likewise unto the rock and was slain in like sort. Then Psyche travelled about in the country to seek her husband Cupid, but he was gotten into his mother's chamber, and there bewailed the sorrowful wound, which he caught by the oil of the burning lamp.

Then the white bird the Gull, which swimmeth on the waves of the water, flew towards the ocean sea, where she found Venus washing and bathing herself: to whom she declared that her son was burned and in danger of death; and moreover that it was a common bruit in the mouth of every person who spake evil of all the family of Venus, that her son doth nothing but haunt harlots in the mountain, and she herself lasciviously used to riot in the sea; whereby they say, that they are now become no more gracious, no more pleasant, no more gentle, but incivil, monstrous and horrible: moreover the marriages are not for any amity, or for love of procreation, but full of envy, discord and debate. This the curious Gull did clatter in the ears of Venus, reprehending her son. But Venus began to cry, and said: "What, hath my son gotten any love? I pray thee, gentle bird, that dost serve me so faithfully, tell me what she is and what is her name, that hath troubled my son in such sort? whether she be any of the Nymphs, of the number of the Goddesses, of the company of the Muses, or of the mistery of my Graces?" To whom the bird answered: "Madame, I know not what she is, but this I know, that she is called Psyche." Then Venus with indignation cried out: "What, is it she? the usurper of my beauty, the vicar of my name? What, will he think that I was a bawd, by whose show he fell acquainted with the maid?" And immediately she departed, and went to her chamber, where she found her son wounded as it was told unto her, whom when she beheld she cried out in this sort.

"Is this an honest thing? is this honourable to thy parents? is this reason that thou hast violated and broken the commandment of thy mother and sovereign mistress? And whereas thou shouldst have vexed my enemy with loathsome love, thou hast done contrary? For being but of tender and unripe years, thou hast with too licentious appetite embraced my most mortal foe, to whom I shall be made a mother, and she a daughter. Thou presumest and thinkest, thou trifling boy, thou varlet, and without all reverence, that thou art most worthy and excellent, and that I am not able by reason of mine age to have another son, which if I might have, thou shouldst well understand that I would bear a more worthier than thou. But to work thee a greater despite, I do determine to adopt one of my servants, and to give him these wings, this fire, this bow and these arrows, and all other furniture which I gave to thee, not for this purpose, neither is anything given to thee of thy father for this intent: but first thou hast been evil brought up and instructed in thy youth: thou hast thy hands ready and sharp: thou hast often offended thy ancients, and especially me that am thy mother, thou hast pierced me with thy darts, thou contemnest me as a widow, neither dost thou regard thy valiant and invincible father: and to anger me more, thou art amorous of wenches and harlots. But I will cause that thou shalt shortly repent thee, and that this marriage shall be dearly bought. To what a point am I now driven: what shall I do? Whither shall I go? how shall I repress this beast? Shall I ask aid of mine enemy Sobriety, whom I have often offended to engender thee? or shall I seek for counsel of every poor and rustic woman? No, no, yet had I rather die; howbeit I will not cease my vengeance; to her must I have recourse for help, and to none other, I mean to Sobriety, who may correct thee sharply, take away thy quiver, deprive thee of thy arrows, unbend thy bow, quench thy fire, and, which is more, subdue thy body with punishment; and when that I have rased and cut off this thy hair, which I have dressed with mine own hands, and made to glitter like gold, and when I have clipped thy wings which I myself have caused to burgen, then shall I think to have sufficiently revenged myself upon thee, for the injury which thou hast done." When she had spoken these words she departed in a great rage out of her chamber.

Immediately as she was going away, came Juno and Ceres demanding the cause of her anger. Then Venus made answer: "Verily you are come to comfort my sorrow, but I pray you with all diligence to seek out one whose name is Psyche, who is a vagabond and runneth about the countries, and as I think, you are not ignorant of the bruit of my son Cupid, and of his demeanour, which I am ashamed to declare." Then they understanding and knowing the whole matter, endeavoured to mitigate the ire of Venus in this sort.

"What is the cause, madame, or how hath your son so offended, that you should so greatly accuse his love, and blame him by reason that he is amorous? and why should you seek the death of her, whom he doth fancy? We most humbly entreat you to pardon his fault, if he have accorded to the mind of any maiden. What, do not you know that he is a young man? or have you forgotten of what years he is? doth he seem always to you to be a child? You are his mother, and a kind woman, will you continually search out his dalliance? Will you blame his luxury? Will you bridle his love, and will you reprehend your own art and delights in him? What God or man is he, that can endure that you should sow or disperse your seed of love in every place, and to make a restraint thereof within your own doors? Certes, you will be the cause of the suppression of the public places of young dames."

In this sort these Goddesses endeavoured to pacify her mind, and to excuse Cupid with all their power, although he were absent, for fear of his darts and shafts of love. But Venus would in no wise assuage her heat; but thinking that they did but trifle and taunt at her injuries, she departed from them, and took her voyage towards the sea in all haste.

In the mean season Psyche hurled herself hither and thither, to seek for her husband; the rather because she thought, that if he would not be appeased with the sweet flattery of his wife, yet he would take mercy upon her at her servile and continual prayers. And, espying a church on the top of a high hill, she said: "What can I tell whether my husband and master be there or no?" Wherefore she went thitherward, and with great pain and travail, moved by hope, after that she climbed to the top of the mountain, she came to the temple and went in: whereas, behold, she espied sheafs of corn lying on a heap, blades wreathed like garlands, and reeds of barley; moreover she saw hooks, scythes, sickles and other instruments to reap, but everything lay out of order, and as it were cast in by the hands of labourers; which when Psyche saw, she gathered up and put everything duly in order, thinking that she would not despise or contemn the Temples of any of the Gods, but rather get the favour and benevolence of them all. By and by Ceres came in and beholding her busy and curious in her chapel, cried out afar off, and said: "O Psyche, needful of mercy, Venus searcheth for thee in every place to revenge herself and to punish thee grievously, but thou hast more mind to be here, and carest for nothing less than for thy safety." Then Psyche fell on her knees before her, watering her feet with her tears, wiping the ground with her hair, and with great weeping and lamentation desired pardon, saying: "O great and holy Goddess, I pray thee by thy plenteous and liberal right hand, by thy joyful ceremonies of harvest, by the secrets of thy sacrifice, by the flying chariots of thy Dragons, by the tillage of the ground of Sicily which thou hast invented, by the marriage of Proserpina, by the diligent inquisition of thy daughter, and by the other secrets which are within the temple of Eleusis in the land of Athens: take pity on me thy servant Psyche, and let me hide myself a few days amongst these sheafs of corn, until the ire of so. great a goddess be past, or until that I be refreshed of my great labour and travail." Then answered Ceres: "Verily, Psyche, I am greatly moved by thy prayers and tears, and desire with all my heart to aid thee; but if I should suffer thee to be hidden here, I should incur the displeasure of my cousin, with whom I have made a treaty of peace, and an ancient promise of amity: wherefore I advise thee to depart hence, and take it not in evil part in that I will not suffer thee to abide and remain within my temple."

Then Psyche driven away contrary to her hope, was double afflicted with sorrow, and so she returned back again. And behold, she perceived afar off in a valley a temple standing within a forest, fair and curiously wrought; and minding to overpass no place, whither better hope did direct her, and to the intent she would desire the pardon of every God, she approached nigh to the sacred doors, whereas she saw precious riches and vestments engraven with letters of gold, hanging upon branches of trees, and the posts of the temple, testifying the name of the Goddess Juno to whom they were dedicated. Then she kneeled down upon her knees, and embracing the altar with her hands, and wiping her tears, gan pray in this sort. "O dear spouse and sister of the great God Jupiter, which art adored and worshipped among the great temples of Samos, called upon by women with child, worshipped at high Carthage, because thou werest brought from heaven by the Lion, the rivers of the flood Inachus do celebrate thee, and know that thou art the wife of the great God and the Goddess of Goddesses. All the East part of the world hath thee in veneration, all the world calleth thee Lucina: I pray thee to be mine advocate in my tribulations, deliver me from the great danger which pursueth me, and save me that am wearied with so long labours and sorrow, for I know that it is thou that succourest and helpest such women as are with child and in danger." Then Juno, hearing the prayers of Psyche, appeared unto her in all her royalty, saying: "Certes, Psyche, I would gladly help thee, but I am ashamed to do anything contrary to the will of my daughter-in-law Venus, whom always I have loved as mine own child; moreover I shall incur the danger of the law intituled De servo corrupto, whereby I am forbidden to retain any servant fugitive against the will of his master."

Then Psyche, cast off likewise by Juno, as without all hope of the recovery of her husband, reasoned with herself in this sort: "Now what comfort or remedy is left to my afflictions, whenas my prayers will nothing avail with the Goddesses? What shall I do? Whither shall I go? In what cave or darkness shall I hide myself to avoid, the furor of Venus? Why do I not take a good heart and offer myself with humility unto her whose anger I have wrought? what do I know whether he, whom I seek for, be in the house of his mother or no?" Thus being in doubt, poor Psyche prepared herself to her own danger, and devised how she might make her orison and prayer unto Venus.

After that Venus was weary with searching by sea and land for Psyche, she returned toward heaven, and commanded that one should prepare her chariot, which her husband Vulcan gave unto her by reason of marriage, so finely wrought that neither gold nor silver could be compared to the brightness thereof. Four white pigeons guided the chariot with great diligence, and when Venus was entered in, a number of sparrows flew chirping about, making sign of joy, and all other kind of birds sang sweetly for showing the coming of the great Goddess: the clouds gave place, the heavens opened and received her joyfully, the birds that followed nothing feared the eagles, hawks and other ravenous fowl in the air. Incontinently she went into the royal palace of the God Jupiter, and with proud and bold petition, demanded the service of Mercury in certain of her affairs, whereunto Jupiter consented. Then with much joy she descended from Heaven with Mercury, and gave him an earnest charge to put in execution his words, saying: "O my brother, born in Arcadia, thou knowest well that I (who am thy sister) did never enterprise to do anything without thy presence, thou knowest also how long I have sought for a girl and cannot find her, wherefore there resteth nothing else save that thou with thy trumpet do pronounce the reward to such as take her. See thou put in execution my commandment, and declare, that whatsoever he be that retaineth her wittingly against my will shall not defend himself by any mean or excusation." Which when she had spoken, she delivered unto him a label wherein was contained the name of Psyche and the residue of his publication, which done she departed away to her lodging. By and by Mercury (not delaying the matter) proclaimed throughout all the world, that whatsoever he were that could tell any tidings of a King's fugitive daughter, the servant of Venus, named Psyche, should bring word to Mercury, and for reward of his pains he should receive seven sweet crosses of Venus. After that Mercury had pronounced these things, every man was inflamed with desire to search out Psyche.

This proclamation was the cause that put away all doubt from Psyche, who was scantly come in sight of the house of Venus, but one of her servants called Custom came out, who espying Psyche cried with a loud voice: "O wicked harlot as thou art, now at length thou shalt know that thou hast a mistress above thee. What, dost thou make thyself ignorant as thou didst not understand what travel we have taken in searching for thee? I am glad that thou art come into my hands; thou art now in the gulf of Hell, and shalt abide the pain and punishment of thy great contumacy." And therewithal she took her by the hair, and brought her before the presence of the goddess Venus.

When Venus espied her she began to laugh, and as angry persons accustom to do, she shaked her head and scratched her right ear, saying: "O Goddess, Goddess, you are now come at length to visit your mother, or else to see your husband that is in danger of death by your means, be you assured I will handle you like a daughter; where be my maidens Sorrow and Sadness?" To whom, when they came, she delivered Psyche to be cruelly tormented; then they fulfilled the commandment of their mistress, and after they had piteously scourged her with whips and rods, they presented her again before Venus. Then she began to laugh again, saying: "Behold she thinketh that by reason of her great belly, which she hath gotten by playing the whore, to move me to pity, and to make me a grandmother to her child. Am not I happy, that in the flourishing time of all mine age shall be called a grandmother, and the son of a vile harlot shall be accounted the nephew of Venus? Howbeit I am a fool to term him by the name of son, since as the marriage was made between unequal persons, in the fields without witnesses, and not by the consent of their parents, wherefore the marriage is illegitimate, and the child, that shall be born, a bastard, if we fortune to suffer thee to live till thou be delivered."

When Venus had spoken these words she leaped upon the face of poor Psyche, and, tearing her apparel, took her violently by the hair, and dashed her head upon the ground. Then she took a great quantity of wheat, barley meal, poppy seed, peas, lentils and beans, and mingled them all together on a heap, saying: "Thou evil-favoured girl, thou seemest unable to get the grace of thy lover by no other means but only by diligent and painful service, wherefore I will prove what thou canst do; see that thou separate all these grains one from another, disposing them orderly in their quality, and let it be done before night." When she had appointed this task unto Psyche, she departed to a great banquet that was prepared that day.

But Psyche went not about to dissever the grain, as being a thing impossible to be brought to pass, by reason it lay so confusedly scattered; but being astonished at the cruel commandment of Venus, sat still and said nothing. Then the little pismere the Emmot, taking pity of her great difficulty and labour, cursing the cruelness of the wife of Jupiter and of so evil a mother, ran about hither and thither, and called to her all the ants of the country, saying: "I pray you, my friends, ye quick sons of the ground, the mother of all things, take mercy on this poor maid espoused to Cupid, who is in great danger of her person. I pray you help her with all diligence." Incontinently one came after another dissevering and dividing the grain, and after that they had put each kind of corn in order they ran away again in all haste.

When night came, Venus returned home from the banquet well tippled with wine, smelling of balm, and crowned with garlands of roses, who when she espied what Psyche had done, gan say: "This is not the labour of thy hands, but rather of his that is amorous of thee." Then she gave her a morsel of brown bread, and went to sleep.

In the mean season Cupid was closed fast in the most surest chamber of the house, partly because he should not hurt himself with wanton dalliance, and partly because he should not speak with his love: so these two lovers were divided one from another.

When night was passed, Venus called Psyche and said: "Seest thou yonder forest that extendeth out in length with the river? There be great sheep shining like gold, and kept by no manner of person: I command thee that thou go thither and bring me home some of the wool of their fleeces." Psyche arose willingly, not to do her commandment, but to throw herself headlong into the water to end her sorrow. Then a green reed, inspired by divine inspiration with a gracious tune and melody, gan say: "O Psyche, I pray thee not to trouble or pollute my water by the death of thee, and yet beware that thou go not towards the terrible sheep of this coast, until such time as the heat of the sun be past; for when the sun is in his force, then seem they most dreadful, and furious with their sharp horns, their stony foreheads, and their gaping throats wherewith they arm themselves to the danger of mankind: but until the midday is past and the heat assuaged, and until they have refreshed themselves in the river, thou mayst hide thyself here by me under this great plane-tree; and as soon as their great fury is past, thou mayst go among the thickets and bushes under the woodside and gather the locks of 'their golden fleeces, which thou shalt find hanging upon the briars." Thus spake the gentle and benign reed, showing a mean to Psyche to save her life, which she bare well in memory, and with all diligence went and gathered up such locks as she found, and put them in her apron and carried them home to Venus: howbeit the danger of this second labour did not please her, nor give her sufficient witness of the good service of Psyche, but with a sour resemblance of laughter, she said: "Of certainty' I know that this is not thy fact, but I will prove if thou be of so stout a courage and singular prudence as thou seemst."

Then Venus spake unto Psyche again, saying: "Seest thou the top of yonder great hill, from whence there runneth down water of black and deadly colour, which nourisheth the floods of Styx and Cocytus? I charge thee to go thither and bring me a vessel of that water." Wherewithal she gave her a bottle of crystal, menacing and threatening her rigorously.

Then poor Psyche went in all haste to the top of the mountain, rather to end her life than to fetch any water; and when she was come up to the ridge of the hill, she perceived that it was impossible to bring it to pass, for she saw a great rock gushing out most horrible fountains of waters, which ran down and fell by many stops and passages into the valley beneath. On each side she saw great dragons, stretching out their long and bloody necks, that never slept, but appointed to keep the river there: the waters seemed to themselves likewise saying: "Away, away, what wilt thou do? Fly, fly or else thou wilt be slain." Then Psyche, seeing the impossibility of this affair, stood still as though she were transformed into stone; and although she was present in body, yet was she absent in spirit and sense, by reason of the great peril which she saw; in so much that she could not comfort herself with weeping, such was the present danger she was in.

But the royal bird of great Jupiter, the Eagle, remembering 'his old service, which he had done, whenas by the prick of Cupid he brought up the boy Ganymede to the heavens, to be made the butler of Jupiter, and minding to show the like service in the person of the wife of Cupid, came from the high house of the skies, and said unto Psyche: "O simple woman, without all experience, dost thou think to get or dip up any drop of this dreadful water? No, no, assure thyself thou art never able to come nigh it, for the Gods themselves do greatly fear at the sight thereof. What! have you not heard that it is a custom among men to swear by the puissance of the Gods: And the Gods do swear by the majesty of the river Styx? But give me thy bottle"; and suddenly he took it, and filled it with the water of the river, and taking his flight through those cruel and horrible dragons, brought it unto Psyche: who being very joyful thereof, presented it to Venus, who would not be appeased, but menacing more and more, said: "What! thou seemest unto me a very Witch and Enchantress, that bringest these things to pass; howbeit thou shalt do one thing more. Take this box and go to Hell to Proserpina, and desire her to send me a little of her beauty, as much as will serve me the space of one day, and say that such as I had is consumed away since my son fell sick; but return again quickly, for I must dress myself therewithal, and go to the theatre of the Gods." Then poor Psyche perceived the end of all her fortune, thinking verily that she should never return, and not without cause, as she was compelled to go to the gulf and furies of Hell. Wherefore without any further delay, she went up to a high tower to throw herself down headlong, thinking that it was the next and readiest way to Hell, but the Tower, as inspired, spake unto her, saying: "O poor miser, why goest, thou about to slay thyself? why dost thou rashly yield unto thy last peril and danger? know thou that if thy spirit be once separate from thy body, thou shalt surely go to Hell, but never to return again; wherefore hearken to me. Lacedaemon, a city of Greece, is not far hence. Go thou thither and inquire for the hill Taenarus, whereas thou shalt find a hole leading to Hell, even to the palace of Pluto: but take heed that thou go not with empty hands to that place of darkness; but carry two sops sodden in the flour of barley and honey in thy hands, and two halfpence in thy mouth; and when thou hast passed a good part of that way, thou shalt see a lame Ass carrying of wood, and a lame fellow driving him, who will desire thee to give him up the sticks that fall down, but pass thou on and do nothing; by and by thou shalt come unto the river of Hell whereas Charon is ferryman, who will first have his fare paid him, before he will carry the souls over the river in his boat. Whereby you may see that avarice reigneth amongst the dead; neither Charon nor Pluto will do anything for nought. For if it be a poor man that would pass over, and lacketh money, he shall be compelled to die in his journey before they will show him any relief. Wherefore deliver to carrion Charon one of the halfpence, which thou bearest for thy passage, and let him receive it out of thy mouth. And it shall come to pass as thou sittest in the boat, thou shalt see an old man swimming on the top of the river holding up his deadly hands, and desiring thee to receive him into the bark, but have no regard to his piteous cry. When thou art passed over the flood, thou shalt espy old women spinning who will desire thee to help them, but beware thou do not consent unto them in any case, for these and like baits and traps will Venus set to make thee let fall one of thy sops: and think not that the keeping of thy sops is a light matter, for if thou lose one of them thou shalt be assured never to return again to this world. Then thou shalt see a great and marvellous dog with three heads, barking continually at the souls of such as enter in; by reason he can do them no other harm, he lieth day and night before the gate of Proserpina, and keepeth the house of Pluto with great diligence, to whom if thou cast one of thy sops, thou mayst have access to Proserpina without all danger. She will make thee good cheer, and entertain thee with delicate meat and drink, but sit thou upon the ground and desire brown bread, and then declare thy message unto her; and when thou hast received such beauty as she giveth, in thy return appease the rage of the dog with thy other sop, and give thy other halfpenny to covetous Charon, and come the same way again into the world as thou wentest. But above all things have a regard that thou look not in the box, neither be not too curious about the treasure of the divine beauty."

In this manner the Tower spake unto Psyche, and advertised her what she should do: and immediately she took two halfpence, two sops, and all things necessary, and went to the mountain Taenarus to go towards Hell.

After that Psyche had passed by the lame Ass, paid her halfpenny for passage, neglected the old man in the river, denied to help the women spinning, and filled the ravenous mouth of the dog with a sop, she came to the chamber of Proserpina. There Psyche would not sit in any royal seat, nor eat any delicate meats, but kneeling at the feet of Proserpina, only contented with coarse bread, declared her message, and after she had received a mystical secret in the box she departed, and stopped the mouth of the dog with the other sop, and paid the boatman the other halfpenny.

When Psyche was returned from Hell to the light of the world, she was ravished with great desire, saying: "Am not I a fool that knowing that I carry here the divine beauty, will not take a little thereof to garnish my face, to please my lover withal?" And by and by she opened the box, where she could perceive no beauty nor anything else, save only an infernal and deadly sleep, which immediately invaded all her members as soon as the box was uncovered, in such sort that she fell down on the ground, and lay there as a sleeping corpse.

Next: Part VII