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THE PSYCHE

 

IN the fresh morning dawn there gleams in the rosy air a great Starthe brightest Star of the morningHis rays tremble on the white wallas if he wished to write down on it what he can tellwhat he has seen there and elsewhere during thousands of years of our rolling worldLet us hear one of his stories

"A short time ago"the Star's"short time ago"is called among men "centuries ago""my rays followed a young artistIt was in the city of the Popesin the worldcity RomeMuch has been changed there in the course of timebut the changes have not come so quickly as the change from youth to old ageThen already the palace of the Caesars was a ruinas it is nowfig trees and laurels grew among the fallen marble columnsand in the desolate bathing-hallswhere the gilding still clings to the wallthe Coliseum was a ruinthe church bells soundedthe in- cense sent up its fragrant cloudand through the streets marched processions with flaming tapers and glowing canopiesHoly Church was thereand art was held as a high and holy thingIn Rome lived the greatest painter in the worldRaphaelthere also dwelt the first of sculptors Micheal AngeloEven the Pope paid homage to thesetwoand honoured them with a visitart was recognizedand honouredand was rewarded alsoButfor all thateverything great and splendid was not seen and known

"In a narrow lane stood an old houseOnce it hadbeen a templea young sculptor now dwelt thereHe wasyoung and quite unknownHe certainly had friendsyoung artistslike himselfyoung in spirityoung in hopes and thoughtsthey told him he was rich in talentand an artistbut that he was foolish for having no faithin his own powerfor he always broke what he had fash-ioned out of clayand never completed anythingand awork must be completed if it is to be seen and to bringmoney

"'You are a dreamer'they went on to say to him'and that's your misfortuneBut the reason of this isthat you have never livedyou have never tasted lifeyouhave never enjoyed it in great wholesome draughtsas itought to be enjoyedIn youth one must mingle one's ownpersonality with lifethat they may become oneLook atthe great master Raphealwhom the Pope honours and the world admireshe's no despiser of wine and bread'

"'And he even appreciates the baker's daughterthe pretty Fornarina'added Angeloone of the merriestof the young friends

"Yesthey said a good many things of the kindac-cording to their age and intelligenceThey wanted to drawthe young artist out with them into the merry wild lifethe mad life as it might be calledand at certain times he feltan inclination for itHe had warm blooda strong imagi-nationand could take part in the merry chatand laughaloud with the restbut what they called'Rapheal'smerry life'disappeared before him like a vapour when hesaw the divine radiance that beamed forth from the pic-tures of the great masterand when he stood in the Vati-canbefore the forms of beauty which the masters hadhewn out of marblethousands of years sincehis breastswelledand he felt within himself something highsome-thing holysomething elevatinggreatand goodand hewished that he could produce similar forms from the blocksof marbleHe wished to make a picture of that which waswithin himstirring upward from his beart to the realms of the infinitebut howand in what fromThe soft clay was fashioned under his fingers into forms of beautybut thenext day he broke what he had fashionedaccording to hiswont

"One day he walked past one of those rich palaces ofwhich Rome has many to showHe stopped before the greatopen portaland beheld a garden surrounded by cloisteredwalksThe garden bloomed with a goodly show of the fairest rosesGreat white lilies with green juicy leaves shotupward from the marble basin in which the clear water wassplashingand a form glided pasta young girlthedaughter of the princely housegracefuldelicateandwonderfully fairSuch a form of female loveliness he hadnever before beheld-yetstayhe had seen it painted byRaphaelpainted as a Psychein one of the Roman palacesYesthere she was paintedbut here walkedalive

"The remembrance lived in his thoughtsin his heartHe went home to his humble roomand modelled a Psyche of clayIt was the rich yong Roman girlthe no-ble maidenand for the first time he looked at his workwith satisfactionIt had a meaning for himfor it was sheAnd the friends who saw his work shouted sloud for joythey declared that this word was a manifestation of hisartistic powerof which they had long been awareand thatnow the world should be made aware of it too

"The clay figure was lifelike and beautifulbut it hadnot the whiteness or the durability of marbleSo they de-clared that the Psyche must henceforth live in marbleHealready possessed a costly block of that stoneIt had beenlying for yearsthe property of his parentsin the court-yardFragments of glassand remainsof arti-chokes had gathered about it and sullied its puritybut un-der the surface the block was as white as the mountainsnowand from this block the Psyche was to arise"

Nowit happened one mornig-the bright Star tellsnothing about thisbut we know it occurred-that a nobleRoman company came into the narrow laneThe carriagestopped a little way offthe company came to inspect theyoung sculptor's workfor they had heard it spoken of bychanceAnd who were these distinguished guestsPooryoung manOr fortunate young man he might be calledThe younp girl stood in the room and smiled radiantlywhen her father said to her"It is your living image"That smile could not be copiedany more that the lookcould be reproducedthe wonderful look which she castupon the young artistIt was a look that seemed at onceto elevate and to crush him

"The Psyche must be executed in marble"said thewealthy patricianAnd those were words of life for thedead clay and the heavy block of marbleand words oflife likewise for the deeply-moved artist"When the workis finished I will purchase it"continued the rich noble

A new era seemed to have arisen in the poor studioLife and cheerfulness gleamed thereand busy industryplied its workThe beaming Morning Star beheld how thework progressdThe clay itself seemed inspired sinceshe had been thereand moulded itselfin heightenedheautyto a likeness of the well-know features

"Now I know what life is"cried the artist rejoic-ingly"it is LoveIt is the lofty abandonment of self forthe dawning of the beautiful in the soulWhat my friendscall life and enjoyment is a passing shadowit is likebubbles among seething dregsnot the pure heavenly winethat consecrates us to life"

The marble block was reared in its placeThe chiselstruck great fragments from itthe measurements weretakenpoints and lines were madethe mechanical partwas executedtill gradually the stone assumed a humanfemale forma shape of beautyand became convertedinto the Psychefair and glorious-a divine being in hu-man shapeThe heavy stone appeared as a glidingdanc-ingairy Psychewith the heavenly innocent smile-thesimile that had mirrored itself in the soul of the youngartist

The Star of the roseate dawn beheld and understoodwhat was stirring within the young manand could read themeaning of the changing colour of his cheekof tha lightthat flashed from his eyeas he stood busily workingre-producing what had been put into his soul from above

"Thou are a master like those masters among the an-cient Greeks"exclaimed his delighted friends"soon shallthe whole world admire thy Psyche"

"My Psyche"he repeated"YesmineShe mustbe mineItooam an artistlike those great men whoare goneProvidence has granted me the boonand hasmade me the equal of that lady of noble birth"

And he knelt down and breathed a prayer of thankful-ness to Heavenand then he forgot Heaven for her sake-for the sake of her picture in stone-for the Psyche whichstood there as if formed of snowblushing in the morningdawn

He was to see her in realitythe living graceful Psy-chewhose words sounded like music in his earsHe couldnow carry the news into the rich palace that the marblePsyche was finishedHe betook himself thitherstrodethrough the open courtyard where the waters ran splashingfrom the dolphins jaws into the marble basinwhere thesnowy lilies and the fresh roses bloomed in abundanceHestepped into the great lofty hallwhose walls and ceilingsshone with gilding and bright colours and heraldic devicesGaily dressed serving-menadorned with trappings likesleigh horese walked to and froand some reclined attheir ease upon the carved oak seatsas if they were themasters of the houseHe told them his errandand wasconducted up the shining marble staircasecovered withsoft carpets and adorned with many a statue Then he wenton through richly furnished chambersover mosaic floorsamid grogeous picturesAll this pomp and luxury seemedto weary himbut soon he felt relievedfor the princelyold master of the house received him most graciously al-most heartilyand when he took his leave he was requestedto step into the Signora's apartmentfor shetoowishedto see himThe servants led him through more luxurioushalls and chambers into her roomwhere she appeared thechief and leading ornament

She spoke to himNo hymn of supplicationno holychant could melt his soul like the sound of her voiceHetook her hand and lifted it to his lipsno rose was softerbut a fire thrilled through him from tiis rose-a feeling ofpower came upon himand words poured from his tongue-he knew not what he saidDoes the crater of thevolcano know that glowing lava is pouring from itHeconfessed what he felt for herShe stood before him as-tonishedoffendedproudwith contempt in her faceanexpression as if she had suddenly touched a wetclammyfrogher cheeks reddenedher lips grew whiteana hereyes flashed firethough they were dark as the blacknessof night

"Madman"she cried"awaybegone"And she turned her back upon himHer beautiful face wore an expression like that of the stony countenancewith the snaky ocks

Like a strickenfainting manhe tottered down thestair and out into the streetLike a man walking in hissleephe found his way back to his dwellingThen hewoke up to madness and agonyand seized his hammerswung it high in the airand rushed forward to shatter thebeautiful marble imageButin his painhe had not no-ticed that his friend Angelo stood beside himand Angeloheld back his arm with a strong graspcrying "Are you madWhat are you about"

They struggled togetherAngelo was the strongerand with a deep sigh of exhaustionthe young artist threwhimself into a chair

"What has happened"asked Angelo"Command yourselfSpeak"

But what could he sayHow could he explainAnd as Angelo could make no sense of his friend's incoherentwordshe forbore to question him furtherand merelysaid "Your blood grows thick from your eternal dreamingBe a manas all others areand don't gn on living inideals for that is what drives men crazyA jovial feastwill make you sleep quietly and happilyBelieve methetime will come when you will be oldand your sinews will shrinkand thenon some fine sunshiny daywhen every-thing is laughing and rejoicingyou will lie there a faded plantthat will grow moreI do not live in dreamsbut in realityCome with mebe a man"

And he drew the artist away with himAt this mo- ment he was able to do sofor a fire ran in the blood of the young sculptora cbange had taken place in his soulhe felt a longing to tear himself away from the oldthe accus- tomed-to forgetif possiblehis own individualityand therefore it was that he followed Angelo

In an out-of-the-way suburb of Rome lay a tavern much visited by artistsIt was built on the ruins of some ancient bathsThe great yellow citrons hung down among the dark shining leaves and covered a part of the old red- dish-yellow wallsThe tavern consisted of a vaulted cham- beralmost like a cavernin the ruinsA lamp burned there before the picture of the MadonnaA great fire gleamed on the hearthand roasting and boliing was going on therewithoutunder the citron trees and laurelsstood a few covered tables

The two artists were received by their friends with shouts of welcomeLittle was eatenbut much was drunk and the spirits of the company rose Songs were sung and ditties were played on the guitarpresently the Saltarello soundedand the merry dance beganTwo young Romangirlswho sat as models to the artiststook part in thedance and in the festivityTwo charming Bacchantes weretheycertainly not Psyches-not delicate beautiful rosesbut freshheartyglowing carnations

How hot it was on that dayEven after sundown itwas hotthere was fire in the bloodfire in every glancefire everywhereThe air gleamed with gold and rosesandlife seemed like gold and roses

"At last you have joined usfor once"said hisfriends"Now let yourself be carried by the awves withinand around you

"Never yet have I felt so wellso merry"cried theyoung artist"You are rightyou are all of you rightIwas a foola dreamer-man belongs to realityand not tofancy

With song and with sounding guitars the young peo-ple returned that evening from the tavernthrough thenarrow streetsthe two glowing carnationsdaughters ofthe Campagnawent with them

In Angelo's room among a litter of coloured sketch-esstudies and glowing plcturesthe voices soundedmellower but not less merrilyOn the ground lay many a sketch that resembled the daughters of the Campagnaintheir fresh comelinessbut the two originals were farhandsomer than their portraitsAll the burners of the six-armed lamp flared and flamedand the human flamed upfrom withinand appeared in the glare as if it weredivine

"ApolloJupiterI feel myself sed to your heav-ento your gloryI feel as if the blossom of life were un-folding itself in my veins at this moment

Yesthe blossom unfolded itselfand then burst andfelland an evil vapour arose from itblinding the sightleading astray the fancythe firework of the senses wentoutand it became dark

He was again in his own roomthere he sat down onhis bed and collected his thoughts

"Fie on thee"these were the words that soundedout of his mouth from the depths of his heart"Wretchedmangobegone"And a deep painful sigh burst from hisbosom

"Awaybegone"Theseher wordsthe words of theliving Psycheechoed through his heartescaped from hislipsHe buried his bead in the pillowshis thoughts grewconfusedand he fell asleep

In the morning dawn he started upand collected histhoughts anewWhat had happenedHad all the past beena dreamThe visit to herthe feast at the taverntheevening with the purple carnations of the CampagnaNoitwas all real-a reality he had never before experienced

Ih the purple air gleamed the bright Starand itsbeams fell upon him and upon the marble PsycheHetrembled as he looked at the picture of immortalityand hisglance seemed impure to himHe threw the cloth over thestatueand then touched it once more to unveil the form-but he was not able to look again at his own work

Gloomyquietabsorbed in his own thoughtshe satthere through the long dayhe heard nothing of what wasgoing on around himand no man guessed what was pass-ing in this human soul

And days and weeks went bybut the nights passedmore slowly than the daysThe flashing Star beheld himone morning as he rosepale and trembling with feverfrom his sad couchthen he stepped towards the statuethrew back the coveringtook one long sorrowful gaze athis workand thenalmost sinking beneath the burdenhedragged the statue out into the gardenIn that place was anold dry wellnow nothing but a holeinto this he cast thePsychethrew earth in above herand covered up the spotwith twigs and nettles

"Awaybegone"Such was the short epitaph hespoke

The Star beheld all this from the pink morning skyand its beam trembled upon two great tears on the palefeverish cheeks of the young manand soon it was said thathe was sick unto deathand he lay stretched upon a bed ofpain

The monk Ignatius visited him sa a physician and a friendand brought him words of comfortof religionandspoke to him of the peace and happiness of the Churchof the sinfulness of manof rest and mercy to be found inheaven

And the words fell like warm sunbeams upon a teeming soilThe soil smoked and sent up clouds of mistfantastic picturespictures in which there was realityand from these floating islands he looked across at humanlifeHe found it vanity and delusion-and vanity anddelusion it had been to himThey told him that art was asorcererbetraying us to vanity and to earthly luststhatwe are false to ourselvesunfaithful to our friendsun-faithful towards Heavenand that the serpent was alwaysrepeating within us"Eatand thou shalt become as God"

And it appeared to him as if nowfor the first timehe knew himselfand had found the way that leads to truth and to peaceIn the Church was the light and thebrightness of God-in the monk's cell he should find therest through which the tree of human life might grow oninto eternity

Brother Ignatius strengthened his longingsand thedetermination became firm within himA child of theworld became a servant of the Church-the young artist renounced the worldand retired into the cloister

The brothers came forward affectionately to welcomehimand his inauguration as a Sunday feastHeaven seemed to him to dwell in the sunshine of the churchandto beam upon him from the holy pictures and from the crossAnd whenin the eveningat the sunset hourhestood in his little cellandopening the windowlookedout upon old Rome upon the desolated templesand thegreat dead Coliseum-when he saw all this in its springgarbwhen the acacias bloomedand the ivy was freshand roses burst forth everywhereand the citron and or-ange were in the height of their beautyand the palmtrees waved their branches-then he felt a deeper emotionthan had ever yet thrilled through himThe quiet openCampagna spread itself forth towards the blue snow-cov-ered mountainswhich seemed to be painted in the airall the outlines melting into each otherbreathing peaceand beautyfloatingdreaming-and all appearing like adream

Yesthis world was a dreamand the dream lasts forhoureand may return for hoursbut convent life is a lifeof years-long yearsand many years

From within comes much that renders men impureHe felt the truth of thisWhat flames arose in him attimesWhat a source of evilof that which he would notwelled up continuallyHe mortified his bodybut the evilcame from within

One dayafter the lapse of many years he met An-gelowho recognized him

"Man"exclaimed Angelo"Yesit is thou Artthou happy nowThou hast sinned against Godand castaway His boon from thee-hast neglected thy mission inthis worldRead the parable of the talentsThe MASTERwho spoke that parablespoke truthWhat hast thougainedWhat hast thou foundDost thou not fashion forthyseif a religion and a dreamy life after thine own ideaasalmost all doSuppose all this is a dreama fair delu-sion"

"Get thee away from meSatan"said the monkandhe quitted Angelo

"There is a devila personal devilThis day I haveseen him"said the monk to himself"Once I extended afinger to himand he took my whole handBut no"hesighed"The evil is within meand it is in yonder manbut it does not bow him downhe goes aboard with headerectand enjoys his comfortand I grasped at comfort in theconsolations of religionIf it were nothing but a consolationSupposing everything here werelike the world I have quittedonly a beautiful fancy a delusion like the beauty of the evening cloudslike the misty blue of the distant hills!—when you spproach themthey are very differ- entO eternityThou actest like the great calm ocean that beckons usand fills us with expectationand when we embark upon theewe sinkdisappearand cease to beDelusionaway with itBegone"

And tearlessbut sunk in bitter reflectionhe sat upon his hard couchand then knelt down-before whomBefore the stone cross fastened to the wall?— Noit was only habit that made him take this position

The more deeply he looked into his own heart the blacker did the darkness seem"Nothing withinnothing without-this life squandered and cast away"And this thought rolled and grew like a snowballuntil it seemed to crush him

"I can confide my griefs to noneI may speak to none of the gnawing worm withinMy secret is my prison- erif I let the captive escapeI shall be his" And the godlike power that dwelt within him suffered and strove

"O Lordmy Lord"he cried in his desper"be mercifuland grant me faithI threw away the gift thou hadst vouchsafed to meI left my mission unfulfilledI lacked strengthand strength strength thou didst not give meIm-mortality-the Psyche in my breast-the Psyche in my breast-away with it!—itshall be buried like that Psychethe best gleam of my lifenever will it arise out of its grave"

The Star glowed in the roseate airthe Star that shall surely be extinguished and pass away while the soul still lives onits trembling beam fell upon the white wall but it wrote nothing there upon being made perfect in Godnothing of the hope of mercyof the reliance on the divine love that thrills through the heart of the believer

"The Psyche within can never dieShall it live in consciousnessCan the incomprehensible happenYes yesMy being is incomprehensibleThou art unfath- omableO LordThy whole world is incomprehensible-a wonder-work of powerof gloryand fo love"

His eyes gleamedand then closed in deathThe tolling of the church bell was the last sound that echoedabove himabove the dead manand they buried him covering him with earth that had been brought from Jerusalemand in which was mingled the dust of many ofthe pious dead When years has gone by his skeleton was dug upasthe skeletons of the monks who had died before him hadbeenit was clad in a brown frocka rosary was put intothe bony handand the form was placed among the ranks ofother skeletons in the cloisters of the conventAnd the sunshone withoutwhile within the censers were waved and theMass was celebrated

And years rolled by

The bones fell asunder ans became ningled with oth-ersSkulls were piled up till they formed an outer wallaround the churchand there lay also his head in the burning sunfor many dead were thereand no one knewtheir namesand his name was forgotten alsoAnd seesomething was moving in the sunshinein the sightlesscavernous eyesWhat might that beA sparkling lizardmoved about in the skullgliding in and out through thesightless holesThe lizard now represented all the life leftin that headin whichoncegreat thoughtsbright dreamsthe love of art and of the glorious had arisenwhence hot tears had rolled downwhere hope and immor-tality had had their beingThe lizard sprang away and dis-appearedand the skull itself crumbled to pieces and be-came dust among dustCenturies passed awayThe brightStar gleamed unalteredradiant and largeas it had gleamed for thousands of yearsand the air glowed red withtints fresh as rosescrimson like blood

Therewhere once had stood the narrow lane contain-ing the ruins of the templea nunnery was now builtagrave was being dug in the convent gardenfor a youngnun had diedand was to be laid in the earth this morn-ingThe spade struck against a stone that shone dazzlingwhiteA block of marble soon appeareda rounded shoul-der was laid hareand now the spade was plied with a more careful handand presently a female head was seenand butterflies'wingsOut of the grave in which theyoung nun was to be laid they liftedin the rosy morninga wonderful statue of a Psyche carved in white marble

"How beautifulhow perfect it is"cried the spec-tators"A relic of the best period of art"

And who could the sculptor have been No one knewno one remembered himexcept the bright Starthat had gleamed for thousands of yearsThe Star hadseen the course of that life on earthand knew of theman's trialsof his weakness-in factthat he had beenbut humanThe man's life had passed awayhis dusthad been scattered abroad as dust is destined to bebutthe result of his noblest strivingthe glorious work thatgave token of the divine element within him-the Psychethat never diesthat live beyond posterity-the bright-ness even of this earthly Psyche remained here after himand was seen and acknowledged and appreciated

The bright Morning Star in the roseate air threw itsglancing ray downward upon the Psycheand upon the ra-diant countenances of the admiring spectatorswho herebeheld the image of the soul portrayed in marble

What is earthly will pass away and be forgottenandthe Star in the vast firmament knows itWhat is heavenlywill shine brightly through posterityand when the ages ofposterity are pastthe Psyche-the soul-will still liveon

 


 

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