Apuleius: Psyche's Husband Revealed

You will see a reference here to ambrosia, the food and drink of the gods in Greek mythology. The word itself means un-dying (am-brosia). You can read more about the specific references to ambrosia in Greek mythology at Wikipedia. Because of its lovely fragrance, ambrosia could be thought of as a perfume rather than as food or drink, as you will see below.

[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).

Psyche's Husband Revealed

Then Psyche, though lacking strength and courage, was empowered by cruel fate and, unveiling the lamp, seized the razor, acting a man’s part in her boldness. Yet, as the light shone clear and the bed’s mysteries were revealed, she found her savage beast was the gentlest and sweetest creature of all, that handsome god Cupid, handsome now in sleep.

At the sight, even the lamp’s flame quickened in joy, and the razor regretted its sacrilegious stroke. But Psyche, terrified at the marvellous vision, beside herself with fear and overcome with sudden weariness, sank pale, faint and trembling to her knees. She tried to conceal the weapon in her own breast! She would indeed have done so if the gleaming blade had not flown from her reckless hands, in horror at her dreadful intent. Exhausted now by the sense of release, she gazed again and again at the beauty of that celestial face, and her spirits revived.

She saw the glorious tresses, drenched with ambrosia, on his golden brow, the neatly tied locks straying over his rosy cheeks and milk-white neck, some hanging delicately in front others behind, and the splendour of their shining brilliance made the lamplight dim. Over the winged god’s shoulders white plumage glimmered like petals in the morning dew, and though his wings were at rest, soft little feathers at their edges trembled restlessly in wanton play. The rest of his body was smooth and gleaming, such that Venus had no regrets at having borne such a child. At the foot of the bed lay his bow, and his quiver full of arrows, the graceful weapons of the powerful god.

With insatiable curiosity Psyche examined, touched, wondered at her husband’s weapons. She drew an arrow from the quiver, testing the point against her thumb-tip, but her hand was still trembling and pressing too hard she pricked the surface, so that tiny drops of crimson blood moistened the skin. Thus, without knowing it, Psyche fell further in love with Love himself, so that now inflamed with desire for Desire, she leaned over Cupid, desperate for him. She covered him eagerly with passionate impetuous kisses till she feared she might wake him.

Then as her wounded heart beat with the tremor of such bliss, the lamp, in wicked treachery, or malicious jealousy, or simply longing to touch and kiss in some fashion that wondrous body, shed a drop of hot oil from the depths of its flame on to the god’s right shoulder. O bold and careless lamp, a poor servant to Love, scorching the god of flame himself, though a lover it was who first invented you so as to enjoy, even at night, an endless sight of his beloved! Scalded like this, the god leapt up and, realising his secret had been betrayed, flew swiftly and silently from his unhappy wife’s kisses and embrace.

Yet, as he rose, Psyche clasped his right leg with both hands, a piteous impediment to his soaring flight, a trailing appendage, a dangling companion amongst the cloudy regions. At last she fell to the ground, exhausted.

As she lay there, her divine lover chose not to desert her but flew to a nearby cypress tree, from whose heights he spoke to her in her distress: “Poor innocent Psyche,” he cried, “Venus commanded me, though I have disobeyed my mother’s orders, to fill you with passion for some vile wretch and sentence you to the meanest kind of marriage, but I flew to you as your lover instead. It was a foolish thing to do, I see that, and illustrious archer though I am, I shot myself with my own arrow and made you my wife, only for you to think me some savage monster and sever my head with a sword, a head that bears the very eyes that love you. I told you time and again to beware of this, I warned you over and over for your own good. As for those precious advisors of yours, I’ll soon take my revenge for their pernicious machinations; you I punish merely by my flight.”

With this he took wing and soared into the air.

(700 words)