Apuleius: Metamorphoses V
placet pro bono duabus malis malum consilium, totisque illis tam pretiosis muneribus absconditis, comam trahentes et proinde ut merebantur ora lacerantes simulatos redintegrant fletus. ac sic parentes quoque redulcerato prorsum dolore raptim deserentes, vesania turgidae domus suas contendunt dolum scelestum, immo vero parricidium struentes contra sororem insontem.
interea Psychen maritus ille quem nescit rursum suis illis nocturnis sermonibus sic commonet: ‘videsne quantum tibi periculum? velitatur Fortuna eminus ac, nisi longe firmiter praecaves, mox comminus congredietur. perfidae lupulae magnis conatibus nefarias insidias tibi comparant, quarum summa est, ut te suadeant meos explorare vultus, quos, ut tibi saepe praedixi, non videbis si videris. ergo igitur si posthac pessimae illae lamiae noxiis animis armatae venerint — venient autem, scio — neque omnino sermonem conferas et, si id tolerare pro genuina simplicitate proque animi tui teneritudine non potueris, certe de marito nil quicquam vel audias vel respondeas: nam et familiam nostram iam propagabimus et hic adhuc infantilis uterus gestat nobis infantem alium, si texeris nostra secreta silentio, divinum, si profanaveris, mortalem.’
“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.’
nuntio Psyche laeta florebat et divinae subolis solacio plaudebat et futuri pignoris gloria gestiebat et materni nominis dignitate gaudebat: crescentes dies et menses exeuntes anxia numerat, et sarcinae nesciae rudimento miratur de brevi punctulo tantum incrementulum locupletis uteri.
sed iam pestes illae taeterrimaeque Furiae anhelantes vipereum virus et festinantes impia celeritate navigabant. tunc sic iterum momentarius maritus suam Psychen admonet: ‘dies ultima et casus extremus: et sexus infestus et sanguis inimicus iam sumpsit arma et castra commovit et aciem direxit et classicum personavit; iam mucrone destricta iugulum tuum nefariae tuae sorores petunt. heu quantis urguemur cladibus, Psyche dulcissima! tui nostrique miserere, religiosaque continentia domum, maritum, teque et istum parvulum nostrum imminentis ruinae infortunio libera, nec illas scelestas feminas, quas tibi post internecivum odium et calcata sanguinis foedera sorores appellare non licet, vel videas vel audias, cum in morem Sirenum scopulo prominentes funestis vocibus saxa personabunt.’
“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.’
suscipit Psyche singultu lacrimoso sermonem incertans: ‘iamdudum, quod sciam, fidei atque parciloquio meo perpendisti documenta, nec eo setius approbabitur tibi nunc etiam firmitas animi mei. tu modo Zephyro nostro rursum praecipe fungatur obsequio, et in vicem denegatae sacrosanctae imaginis tuae redde saltem conspectum sororum. per istos cinnameos et undique pendulos crines tuos, per teneras et teretes et mei similes genas, per pectus nescio quo calore fervidum, sic in hoc saltem parvulo cognoscam faciem tuam: supplicis anxiae piis precibus erogatus germani complexus indulge fructum et tibi devotae dicataeque Psychae animam gaudio recrea. nec quicquam amplius in tuo vultu requiro, iam nil officiunt mihi nec ipsae nocturnae tenebrae: teneo te meum lumen.’ his verbis et amplexibus mollibus decantatus maritus, lacrimasque eius suis crinibus detergens, se facturum spopondit et praevertit statim lumen nascentis diei.
“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.
iugum sororium consponsae factionis, ne parentibus quidem visis, recta de navibus scopulum petunt illum praecipiti cum velocitate, nec venti ferentis oppertae praesentiam, licentiosa cum temeritate prosiliunt in altum. nec immemor Zephyrus regalis edicti, quamvis invitus, susceptas eas gremio spirantis aurae solo reddidit. at illae incunctatae statim conferto vestigio domum penetrant, complexaeque praedam suam sororis nomen ementientes thesaurumque penitus abditae fraudis vultu laeto tegentes sic adulant: ‘Psyche, non ita ut pridem parvula, et ipsa iam mater es. quantum, putas, boni nobis in ista geris perula, quantis gaudiis totam domum nostram hilarabis! o nos beatas quas infantis aurei nutrimenta laetabunt! qui si parentum, ut oportet, pulchritudini responderit, prorsus Cupido nascetur.’
“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!’
sic affectione simulata paulatim sororis invadunt animum; statimque eas a lassitudine viae sedilibus refotas et balnearum vaporosis fontibus curatas pulcherrime, triclinio mirisque illis et beatis edulibus atque tuccetis oblectat. iubet citharam loqui, psallitur; tibias agere, sonatur; choros canere, cantatur: quae cuncta nullo praesente dulcissimis modulis animos audientium remulcebant. nec tamen scelestarum feminarum nequitia vel ipsa mellita cantus dulcedine mollita conquievit, sed ad destinatam fraudium pedicam sermonem conferentes dissimulanter occipiunt sciscitari qualis ei maritus et unde natalium, secta cuia proveniret. tunc illa simplicitate nimia pristini sermonis oblita, novum commentum instruit aitque maritum suum de provincia proxima magnis pecuniis negotiantem iam medium cursum aetatis agere, interspersum rara canitie. nec in sermone isto tantillum morata rursum opiparis muneribus eas onustas ventoso vehiculo reddidit.
“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.
sed dum Zephyri tranquillo spiritu sublimatae domum redeunt, sic secum altercantes: ‘quid, soror, dicimus de tam monstruoso fatuae illius mendacio? tunc adolescens modo florenti lanugine barbam instruens, nunc aetate media candenti canitie lucidus: quis ille quem temporis modici spatium repentina senecta reformavit? nil aliud repperies, mi soror quam vel mendacia istam pessimam feminam confingere vel formam mariti sui nescire; quorum utrum verum est, opibus istis quam primum exterminanda est. quodsi viri sui faciem ignorat, deo profecto denupsit et deum nobis praegnatione ista gerit. certe si divini puelli — quod absit — haec mater audierit, statim me laqueo nexili suspendam. ergo interim ad parentes nostros redeamus, et exordio sermonis huius quam concolores fallacias adtexamus.’
“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.’
sic inflammatae, parentibus fastidienter appellatis et nocte turbatis, vigiliis perditae matutino scopulum pervolant et inde solito venti praesidio vehementer devolant, lacrimisque pressura palpebrarum coactis, hoc astu puellam appellant: ‘tu quidem felix et ipsa tanti mali ignorantia beata, sedes incuriosa periculi tui; nos autem, quae pervigili cura rebus tuis excubamus, cladibus tuis misere cruciamur. pro vero namque comperimus nec te, sociae scilicet doloris casusque tui, celare possumus immanem colubrum multinodis voluminibus serpentem, veneno noxio colla sanguinantem hiantemque ingluvie profunda, tecum noctibus latenter acquiescere. nunc recordare sortis Pythicae, quae te trucis bestiae nuptiis destinatam esse clamavit: et multi coloni, quique circumsecus venantur, et accolae plurimi viderunt eum vespera redeuntem e pastu proximique fluminis vadis innatantem.
“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.