Apuleius: The Wedding Feast

Now that the story of Cupid and Psyche ends happily-ever-after, you will return to the frametale: remember the old woman who was telling this story to the bride who had been kidnapped by robbers? A story overheard by Lucius, the man who has been turned by magic into a donkey? Those are the characters you will meet up with again here after Cupid and Psyche's story comes to an end.

[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).

The Wedding Feast

So saying, he ordered Mercury to call an impromptu gathering of the gods, with a fine of a hundred pieces of gold for failing to attend the heavenly assembly, which threat guaranteed the celestial theatre was filled. Almighty Jupiter, from his high throne, gave the following address: “O deities, inscribed in the roll-call of the Muses, you all know it to be true that I raised this lad with my own hands. I’ve decided the impulses of his hot youth need curbing in some manner. We must take away the opportunity: restrain his childish indulgence with the bonds of matrimony. He’s found a girl; he’s taken her virginity. Let him have her, hold her, and in Psyche’s arms indulge his passions forever.”

Then he turned to Venus saying: “Now my daughter, don’t be despondent. Don’t fear for your lineage or status, because of his wedding a mortal. I’ll make it a marriage of equals, legitimate, in accord with civil law.” And he ordered Mercury to bring Psyche to heaven at once.

Once there he handed her a cup of ambrosia, saying: “Drink this, Psyche, and be immortal. Cupid will never renege on the bond, and the marriage will last forever.”

Presently a rich wedding feast appeared. The bridegroom reclined at the head, clasping Psyche in his arms. Jupiter and Juno sat beside them, and all the deities in order. Ganymede, the cup-bearing shepherd lad, served Jupiter his nectar, that wine of the gods, and Bacchus-Liber served all the rest, while Vulcan cooked the meal. Now the Hours adorned everyone with roses and hosts of other flowers; the Graces scattered balsam; the choir of the Muses sounded; Apollo sang to the lyre, and Venus danced charmingly to that outpouring of sweet music, arranging the scene so the Muses chimed together, with a Satyr fluting away, and a woodland creature of Pan’s piping his reeds.  

So Psyche was given in marriage to Cupid according to the rite, and when her term was due a daughter was born to them both, whom we call Pleasure.’

Lucius and the Robbers

This was the tale the drunken, half-demented old woman told her girl-prisoner, while I stood there regretting, by Hercules, that I’d no stylus and pad to record so fine a story.

Now the robbers returned, loaded with loot, though after a serious skirmish, and some of them, the more enterprising, were keen, so I heard, to leave the injured there to recover from their wounds and head back for the rest of the sacks that they’d hidden in a cave. Quickly swallowing a meal, they prodded the horse and me along the road, as their future bearers of goods, beating us with their sticks.

At last, towards evening, when we were weary from many a hill and dale, they led us to the cave, burdened us with piles of their pickings, and not even allowing a moment’s respite for us to regain our strength, started back again at the trot. They were in haste and so agitated the relentless beating and prodding made me tumble over a stone at the edge of the road. I lay there under a hail of blows, till they forced me to rise, though I found it hard, with a lame right leg, and a bruised left hoof.

‘How long are we going to waste good fodder on this worn-out beast?’ said one. ‘Now he’s lame as well.’

‘Yes,’ another cried, ‘we’ve had no luck since he came. We’ve barely made a decent profit, most of us wounded and the bravest lost.’

‘As soon as we’ve unloaded these sacks he’s borne so unwillingly, I say we toss him over the cliff,’ said a third, ‘as food for the vultures.’

While these kind souls were debating my death, we’d already reached home, fear turning my hooves to wings. They quickly unloaded the spoils, and, with no concern for us, nor for that matter with my execution, they called to the injured friends they’d left behind and returned to fetch the rest of the booty themselves, impatient, as they said, with our tardiness.

Next: The Escape

(700 words)