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The Tale of Cupid and Psyche

Psyche is rescued by Zephyrus

Psyche, abandoned to her fate on the mountain top, is rescued and carried away by Zephyrus, the West Wind. From A note by William Morris on his aims in founding the Kelmscott Press, Kelmscott Press, 1898
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Psyche's quest to win back Cupid's love when it is lost to her first appears in The Golden Ass of Lucius Apuleius in the 2nd century AD. Psyche is a princess so beautiful that the goddess Venus becomes jealous. In revenge, she instructs her son Cupid to make her fall in love with a hideous monster; but instead he falls in love with her himself. He becomes her unseen husband, visiting her only at night. Psyche disobeys his orders not to attempt to look at him, and in doing so she loses him. In her search for him she undertakes a series of cruel and difficult tasks set by Venus in the hope of winning him back. Cupid can eventually no longer bear to witness her suffering or to be apart from her and pleads their cause to the gods. Psyche becomes an immortal and the lovers are married in heaven.

The origins of the story are obscure. It could have been adapted from a folk-tale or have its roots in ancient myth. It is a story of great charm, a fact which has been reflected in the numerous re-tellings since Apuleius's time. Many writers have interpreted it as an allegory, with Cupid representing Love and Psyche the Soul. It was particularly popular with Renaissance audiences, when poetical, dramatic and musical versions proliferated alongside the many visual representations of the tale. In the 19th century, it notably inspired an ode by John Keats, a prose version by Walter Pater and a long poetical work by William Morris, illustrated by Sir Edward Burne-Jones. Today, Cupid and Psyche still symbolise everlasting love - as can be seen by the numerous images of them that appear on Valentine's cards.

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