Apuleius: Her Dream

The young woman explains to the old woman that the robbers kidnapped her on her wedding day. Even worse, she has a dream about the kidnapping which has made her even more upset than she was to begin with. It is at this moment that the old woman decides to tell the story of "Cupid and Psyche" to cheer the poor girl up. So, as you are reading the story of Psyche, remember the girl who is the audience for the story.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Cupid and Psyche unit. Story source: Apuleius's Golden Ass, as translated into English by Tony Kline (2013).

Her Dream

Terrified at her words, the girl kissed the old woman’s hands and cried: ‘Mother, forgive me, and in my harsh misfortune, show a little human kindness. The experiences of a long life have not, I think, exhausted the springs of pity in that revered grey head of yours. Just gaze on this calamitous scene. There’s a young man, my cousin, the foremost of his peers, three years older than I, whom the whole city look on like a son. We were raised together from earliest childhood, inseparable playmates in our little house, even sharing room and bed. With the affections of a sacred love, he was pledged to me, and I to him, engaged by contract with promises of marriage, registered formally with our parents’ consent. On the eve of our wedding he sacrificed at shrines, at public temples, accompanied by a crowd of both our kin. Our whole house was decked with laurel, lit by torches, and echoing with the wedding hymn. There was my poor mother clasping me to her, and pinning on the prettiest marriage finery, pressing sweet kisses on my lips and uttering anxious prayers that grandchildren might appear, when suddenly a warlike gang of men with swords burst in, brandishing their hostile naked blades. They turned their attention not to murder or plunder, but marching in a tight-packed close formation through our room snatched me, ill and fainting from the cruellest fears, out of my mother’s trembling arms without a single person fighting back, or offering the slightest resistance. So my lover’s wedding was prevented, as Cybele thwarted Attis; and married life denied him, as war denied Protesilaus. And a moment ago a cruel dream renewed, or rather crowned, my troubles. I saw myself, after being dragged violently from the house, my bridal suite, my room, almost my very bed, crying my unfortunate lover’s name through the pathless wilds, while he, denied my embrace, drenched with perfume still and garlanded with flowers, followed the trail of alien feet. Then in my dream, as he lamented his lovely young bride’s kidnap with pitiful cries, and called to passers-by for aid, one of the thieves infuriated by his relentless pursuit, snatched up a huge stone at his feet, and striking my unfortunate lover, killed him. That dreadful vision was what terrified me, and shook me out of my dark sleep.’

Heaving a sigh, the old woman spoke again: ‘Be of good heart, young mistress; don’t let a dream’s vain fantasy disturb you. In the first place dreams that come in daytime are always said to prove untrue, and secondly a nightmare often signifies the opposite. For example, being beaten, weeping, someone slicing at your throat, will announce a large and profitable deal; while laughter, stuffing sweet pastries, or love-making, foretell sad spirits, bodily weakness, and every sort of loss. Come let me divert you with an old wives’ tale, one that makes a pretty story.’ And she began.

(500 words)

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