Group 2: Apuleius Metamorphoses


Metamorphoses V

11-24

Apuleius

A Level Latin Group 2 text 2020-2022

Translation by J. Arthur Hanson

11

Latin

English

“This wicked plan seemed a good idea to the two wicked women. They hid all their costly gifts; then, tearing their hair and scratching their cheeks — precisely as they deserved — began renewing their mock lamentations. Thus they quickly frightened their parents by reopening the wound of their grief too. Then, swollen with madness, they hastened to their own homes to plot some heinous crime — even murder — against their innocent sister.

“Meanwhile Psyche was again being warned by her unknown husband in his nightly talks with her. ‘Do you see how much danger you are in?’ he asked. ‘Fortune is now firing at long range, and unless you take very strong precautionary measures, she will soon attack at close quarters. Those deceitful bitches are making great efforts to execute a villainous plot against you, the gist of which is to persuade you to examine my face. As I have often told you before, if you see it, you will never see it again. Therefore, if those horrible harpies armed with their pernicious thoughts come again — and they will come, I know — you must not talk to them at all. And if you cannot bear that because of your simple innocence and tenderheartedness, then at least, if they talk about your husband, neither listen nor answer. You see, we are now about to increase our family, and your womb, still a child’s, bears another child for us, who will be a god if you guard our secret in silence, but a mortal if you profane it.’

12

Latin

English

“Psyche blossomed with happiness at the news, hailed the comfort of a divine child, exulted in the glory of the baby to be born and rejoiced in the honour of the name of mother. She anxiously counted the growing days and the departing months, and, being a new recruit who knew naught of the pack she bore, she was amazed at such a pretty swelling of her fertile womb from just a tiny pinprick.

“But already those pests and foulest of Furies had set sail, breathing viperous poison and hastening with impious speed. Then for a second time her transient husband warned his Psyche. ‘The critical day,’ he said, ‘the ultimate peril, the malice of your sex, and your blood in hatred have now taken arms against you: they have struck camp, are arrayed for battle, and have sounded the charge. Now your wicked sisters have drawn the sword and are attacking your throat. O my sweetest Psyche, what disasters are upon us! Have mercy on yourself and me. By resolute self-restraint free your home, your husband, yourself, and our little one from the catastrophe of ruin which threatens. Those vile women — you cannot call them sisters after their murderous hatred and their trampling on the ties of blood — do not look at them or listen to them when they lean out over the cliff like Sirens and make the rocks resound with their fatal songs.’

13

Latin

English

“Psyche answered, making her words indistinct through her tearful sobbing. ‘Some time ago, I think, you assayed proofs of my loyalty and discretion; now too you will no less approve the resolution of my mind. Just give your servant Zephyr his orders again. Let him perform his duty. To compensate for forbidding me a sight of your holy face, at least grant me a look at my sisters. I beg you, by those cinnamon-scented curls hanging around your head, by those soft round cheeks so like my own, by your breast so wonderfully aflame with heat: please, as I hope to know your looks at least in my unborn babe’s, be conquered by the loving prayers of an anxious suppliant and grant me the enjoyment of a sisterly embrace. Revive with joy the soul of your devout and dedicated Psyche. I shall ask no further about your appearance. Not even the night’s darkness hurts me now, because I have you in my arms, my light.’ Bewitched by her words and soft caresses, her husband dried her tears with his hair and promised assent; and then instantly departed ahead of the light of the new-born day.

14

Latin

English

“Yoked in a conspiratorial faction, the two sisters never stopped to visit their parents but headed straight from the ships to the cliff at breakneck speed. Nor did they await the arrival of a carrying wind, but with unbridled recklessness leapt out into the chasm. Zephyr, mindful of the royal edict, caught them, albeit with reluctance, in the bosom of his airy breeze and deposited them on the ground. With no hesitation they instantly penetrated the house side by side and embraced their prey, falsely calling themselves sisters. Masking the storehouse of their deeply hidden treachery behind cheerful faces, they began to flatter her. ‘O Psyche,’ they said, ‘you are not the tiny little Psyche you used to be, but you are now yourself a mother! Think what a good thing for us you are carrying in your purse! With what pleasure you will gladden our whole house! O how lucky we are! How much joy we will have bringing up that golden baby! If he resembles his parents — as he ought to — in beauty, he will be born an absolute Cupid!’

15

Latin

English

“Thus with their pretended affection they gradually invaded their sister’s heart. As soon as they had been relieved of their travel-weariness by resting and refreshed by the steamy waters of the baths, she feasted them most beautifully in her dining room with those marvellous rich foods and sausages. She commanded a lyre to speak and there was strumming; flutes to perform and there was piping; choirs to sing and there was singing. All those sounds with no one present caressed the listeners’ spirits with the most delightful melodies. But the wickedness of the accursed women was not mollified even by the mellifluous sweetness of the music. They turned the conversation to the deceitful trap they had plotted, and casually began to enquire about her husband: what sort of man he was, what his origins were, what sort of background he came from. In her excessive simplicity Psyche forgot her earlier story and invented a different fiction. She said that her husband came from the next province, was a merchant dealing in large sums, and was now middle-aged with a sprinkling of grey in his hair. Without lingering a moment longer in the conversation, she loaded them down once more with lavish gifts and sent them back by their aerial conveyance.

16

Latin

English

“While they were returning home, raised aloft on Zephyr’s gentle breath, they angrily discussed the situation. ‘Well, sister, what do we say about that silly girl’s monstrous lie? First he was a young man just growing a beard of soft down; next he is middle-aged, distinguished by silvery white hair. Who can he be who is suddenly transformed by such a short space of time into an old man? The only answer, my sister, is that the wicked woman is either telling us a string of lies or she does not know what her husband looks like. Whichever is the case, she must be dislodged as quickly as possible from her riches. If she is ignorant of her husband’s appearance, then surely she must have married a god, and is carrying a god for us in that pregnancy of hers. Well, if — god forbid — she becomes known as the mother of a divine child, I shall immediately knot a noose and hang myself. In the meantime, then, let us go back to our parents and weave a woof of guile to match the colour of our discussion’s warp.’

17

Latin

English

“Enflamed as they were, they greeted their parents haughtily and spent a disturbed and wakeful night. Early in the morning those damned women flew to the cliff, and thence with the wind’s customary help swooped violently downward. Having pressed their eyelids to force tears, they greeted the girl with their display of guile: ‘Here you sit, happy and fortunate in your very ignorance of your great misfortune. You are not even curious about the danger you are in, while we have been awake all night in sleepless concern over your situation, pitifully tortured by your calamities. We now know the truth, you see, and since of course we share your pain and plight, we cannot conceal it from you. It is a monstrous snake gliding with many-knotted coils, its bloody neck oozing noxious poison and its deep maw gaping wide, that sleeps beside you hidden in the night. Remember now Apollo’s oracle, which proclaimed that you were destined to marry a savage beast. Moreover, several farmers and people who hunt hereabouts and many residents of the neighbourhood have seen him coming home from feeding in the evening, and swimming in the shallows of the river nearby.

18

Latin

English

They all say that he will not long continue to fatten you with the charming indulgences of nourishment, but as soon as a full womb brings your pregnancy to completion and endowed you with more luscious fruit, he will eat you up. Given these facts, it is now your decision. Are you willing to listen to your sisters in their concern for your dear safety and avoid death and live with us free from peril? Or do you prefer to be buried in the bowels of a ferocious beast? If you really enjoy the voiceful loneliness of this country place, or the stinking and perilous copulations of furtive love and the embraces of a poisonous snake—at least we will have done our duty as loving sisters.’

“Then poor little Psyche, artless and tenderhearted as she was, was seized with terror at their grim words. Driven beyond the limits of her own mind, she completely shed the memory of all her husband’s warnings and her own promises, and hurled herself headlong into an abyss of disaster. Trembling, pallid, the blood drained from her face, barely able to stammer her words through half-open lips, she answered them as follows.

19

Latin

English

“‘You, my dearest sisters, as was only right, are being true and firm in your family loyalty. And I do not think that the people who told you these stories are telling a lie. In fact I have never seen my husband’s face, and I have no knowledge at all where he comes from. I only barely hear his talking at night, and I must endure a husband of unknown standing who totally shuns the light. You must be right when you say he is some beast, I agree. He is always intimidating me from looking at him, and threatening some great punishment for any curiosity about his features. If now you can bring some salvation to your sister in her danger, help me right now. Otherwise, your subsequent neglect will undo all the benefits of your concern thus far.’

“The gates were open now, and those vicious women, having reached their sister’s defenceless mind, quit the concealment of their covered artillery, unsheathed the swords of their deception, and assaulted the timorous thoughts of the guileless girl.

20

Latin

English

“One of them said, ‘Since the bond of our common origin compels us to disregard all possible danger when your life is at stake, we shall show you the only way which promises a path to salvation, which we have been planning for a long, long time. Take a very sharp razor, whet it with the application of your soft stroking palm, and secretly conceal it on that side of the bed where you usually lie. Then get a lamp, trimmed and filled with oil and burning with a clear light, and hide it beneath the cover of a little pot. Dissemble all this preparation very carefully; and then, after he has drawn along his furrowing gait and mounted the bed as usual, when he is stretched out entangled in the first threads of oppressing sleep and begins to breathe deep slumber, slip off the couch, and, with bare feet lessening little by little your airy tread, free the lamp from the prison of its blind darkness. From the light’s good counsel borrow the occasion for a glorious deed of your own: boldly grasping your double-edged weapon, first raise your right hand high; then, with as strong a stroke as you can, sever the knot that joins the poisonous serpent’s neck and head. We shall not fail to support you, but as soon as you have won safety by his death we shall be anxiously waiting to fly to your side; and after bringing back along with you all this treasure, we will make a desirable marriage for you, human to human.’

21

Latin

English

“With this blaze of words they inflamed their sister’s burning heart, for in truth it was already on fire, and then straightway left her, for they were greatly afraid even to be in the neighbourhood of such an evil deed. As usual they were carried to the top of the cliff by the wafting of the winged breeze and rushed away at once in rapid retreat; they boarded their ships at once and were gone.

“Psyche was left alone, except that a woman driven by hostile furies is not alone. In her grief she ebbed and flowed like the billows of the sea. Although she had determined her plan and her mind was made up, nevertheless, as she turned her hands toward the act itself, she still wavered irresolutely, torn apart by the many emotions raised by her dilemma. She felt haste and procrastination, daring and fear, despair and anger; and worst of all, in the same body she loathed the beast but loved the husband. But as evening began to bring on the night, she prepared the apparatus for her abominable crime with frantic haste. Night came, and her husband came, and after skirmishing in love’s warfare he dropped into a deep sleep.

22

Latin

English

“Then Psyche, though naturally weak in both body and spirit, was fed with strength by the cruelty of Fate. She brought out the lamp, seized the razor, and in her boldness changed her sex.

But as soon as the bed’s mysteries were illumined as the lamp was brought near, she beheld that wild creature who is the gentlest and sweetest beast of all, Cupid himself, the beautiful god beautifully sleeping. At the sight of him even the light of the lamp quickened in joy, and the razor repented its sacrilegious sharpness. But Psyche was terrified at this marvellous sight and put out of her mind; overcome with the pallor of exhaustion she sank faint and trembling to her knees. She tried to hide the weapon—in her own heart. And she would certainly have done so, had not the blade slipped out and flown away from her reckless hands in its horror of so atrocious a deed. She was now weary and overcome by the sense of being safe, but as she gazed repeatedly at the beauty of that divine countenance her spirit began to revive. On his golden head she saw the glorious hair drenched with ambrosia: wandering over his milky neck and rosy cheeks were the neatly shackled ringlets of his locks, some prettily hanging in front, others behind; the lightning of their great brilliance made even the lamp’s light flicker. Along the shoulders of the winged god white feathers glistened like flowers in the morning dew; and although his wings were at rest, soft and delicate little plumes along their edges quivered restlessly in wanton play. The rest of his body was hairless and resplendent, such as to cause Venus no regrets for having borne this child. By the feet of the bed lay a bow and quiver and arrows, gracious weapons of the mighty god.

23

Latin

English

“Insatiably, and with some curiosity, Psyche scrutinised and handled and marvelled at her husband’s arms. She drew one of the arrows from the quiver and tested the point against the tip of her thumb; but her hand was still trembling and she pushed a little too hard and pricked too deep, so that tiny drops of rose-red blood moistened the surface of her skin. Thus without knowing it Psyche of her own accord fell in love with Love. Then more and more enflamed with desire for Cupid she leaned over him, panting desperately for him. She eagerly covered him with impassioned and impetuous kisses till she feared about the depth of his slumber. But while her wounded heart was swirling under the excitement of so much bliss, the lamp — either from wicked treachery or malicious jealousy or simply because it too longed to touch and, in its way, kiss such a beautiful body — sputtered forth from the top of its flame a drop of boiling oil on to the god’s right shoulder. O bold and reckless lamp, worthless servant of Love, to scorch the very god of all fire, when it must have been some lover who first invented you that even by night he might the longer enjoy the object of his desire! Thus burnt the god jumped up, and seeing the ruin of betrayed trust, straightway flew up from the kisses and embraces of his poor unhappy wife without a word.

24

Latin

English

“But as he rose Psyche quickly grasped his right leg with both hands, forming a pitiable appendage to his soaring flight and a trailing attachment in dangling companionship through the cloudy regions. At last, exhausted, she fell to the ground. Her divine lover did not desert her as she lay on the ground, but flew to a cypress nearby, from whose high summit he spoke to her in deep distress.

“‘My poor naive Psyche!’ he said. ‘I in fact disobeyed the orders of my mother Venus, who had commanded me to chain you with passion for some wretched and worthless man and sentence you to the lowest sort of marriage. Instead I flew to you myself as your lover. But that was a frivolous thing to do, I know. Illustrious archer that I am, I shot myself with my own weapon and made you my wife, for the pleasure, it seems, of having you think me a wild beast and cut off my head with a sword, the head that holds these eyes which are your lovers! I told you time and time again that you must always be on your guard against this, and I kept warning you about it for your own good. As for those excellent advisers of yours, I shall soon be revenged on them for their disastrous instructions. But I shall punish you merely by leaving.’