Gods and Heroes or The Kingdom of Jupiter - R. E. Francillon
The fact was, that Jupiter himself had fallen in love with the beautiful new goddess. But she would have nothing to say to him: and so, just out of anger and revenge, he ordered her to marry Vulcan, because he was ugly, deformed, and always black with working at his forges.
Altogether it was an unlucky day when Venus came into the sky. Her beauty turned the heads of the gods, and filled the goddesses with envy and jealousy. But all that mattered nothing to her, for she had a magic zone, or girdle, called "Cestus" in Latin: and whenever she put it on she became so irresistibly charming that everybody forgave her everything. Not only the gods, but men also, became her lovers, her own favorite among them all being Mars, the god of War—a cruel and savage god, very unlike the rest, delighting in battle and slaughter. Then, on earth, she tried her best to make a very handsome young prince named Adonis fall in love with her. But he—strange to say—cared nothing for her. The only thing he cared for in the world was hunting: he scorned everything else, Venus included. Still, in spite of his scorn for her, she mourned for him miserably when he was killed by a wild boar. She changed him into the flower called Anemone, so that she might still find him upon earth: though some people say her grief was such that Death took pity on her, and allowed him to come to life again for six months at a time every year. This might mean that Adonis is only another name for the beauty of the earth, which comes to life for the six months of spring and summer, and dies for the six months of autumn and winter. For most of these stories have some sort of meaning.
Venus had a child, named Cupid, which means love. You must often have seen pictures and statues of him—a very beautiful boy, with wings, carrying a bow and arrows. They were magic arrows. For if any man was pricked by one of their points, he fell in love with the first woman he saw: or a woman, in like manner, with the first man. And as Cupid was exceedingly mischievous, and fond of aiming his arrows at people for his own amusement, the wrong women were always falling in love with the wrong men, and the wrong men with the wrong women: and so a great deal of fresh trouble came into the world, as if there had not been enough before, without the mischievous tricks of Cupid. Sometimes he went about blindfolded, shooting his arrows about at random: and then, of course, the confusion was worse than ever. It has been said that the bandage over his eyes means that love is blind to faults. But he does not always wear the bandage: and when he does, I believe it is only when he does not choose to see.
Now in a certain city there lived a king and queen, who had three beautiful daughters. The name of the youngest was Psyche, and she was the most beautiful of all. So beautiful and so charming was she that the people worshiped her as a goddess, instead of Venus. This made Venus very angry indeed, that a mortal girl should receive the honor and worship due to the goddess of Beauty. So, in her jealous wrath, she said to Cupid:—
"Do you see that girl yonder? I order you, as your mother, to make her fall in love with the very meanest of mankind—one so degraded that he cannot find his equal in wretchedness throughout the whole wide world."
Psyche's elder sisters were both married to kings; but she herself was so marvelously beautiful that no mere mortal dared to ask for her in marriage. This distressed the king, her father, greatly: for it was thought dishonorable for a princess not to marry. So he consulted the oracle of Apollo—an "oracle" being a place where a god's voice answered questions. And the voice answered him thus:—
"On a cliff the maiden place:
Deck her as you deck the dead
None that is of mortal race
Shall so fair a maiden wed.
But a being dread and dire,
Feared by earth, by heaven abhorred,
Breathing venom, sword, and fire—
He shall be the lady's lord."
This answer made the king more unhappy than ever at the thought of having to give his favorite daughter to be devoured by some terrible monster. However, the oracle had to be obeyed, and the whole city gave itself up to mourning for many days. Then at last a funeral procession set out to conduct the poor princess to her doom. Her father and mother were distracted with grief, and Psyche alone showed cheerfulness and courage, doing all she could to comfort them, and to make then resigned to the will of heaven.
When the procession reached the highest peak of a neighboring mountain, it returned to the city, and Psyche was left there all alone. There her courage left her, and she threw herself upon the rock all trembling and weeping. But suddenly, in the midst of her distress, she was gently lifted up by the wind, and as gently let down upon the soft turf of a secret valley in the very heart of the hill.
It was a very delightful place, and Psyche fell pleasantly asleep. When she woke she saw a grove, with a fountain of water as clear as crystal, and near the fountain was a splendid palace, built of gold, cedar, and ivory, and paved with precious stones. Psyche approached it timidly, and presently found courage to enter. The beauty of the chambers lured her on and on, until at last she was fairly bewildered with admiration. All the wealth and beauty of the world seemed collected in this wonderful palace, and all without a lock or a chain to guard them.
Suddenly, in the midst of her wonder, she heard a musical voice, saying:—
"Lady, wonder not nor fear;
All is thine thou findest here.
On yon couch let slumber bless thee,
hands unseen shall bathe and dress thee,
Bring thee meat and pour thee wine—
Thine are we, and all is thine."
She looked round, but saw nobody. However, she saw the couch, and, being very tired with wandering about the palace and seeing so many wonders, lay down upon it and soon fell asleep. When quite rested, she rose and took a bath, being waited upon by invisible hands. Then she saw dishes of all sorts of dainties, and cups of wine, carried apparently without hands to a table, at which, being by this time exceedingly hungry, she sat down and made a delicious meal, attended by voices for servants. When she had finished eating, another voice sang to an invisible harp, and this performance was followed by a full chorus of such music as is only heard in heaven. And so at last the darkness of night came on.
Then she heard a voice, different from all the rest, whisper close in her ear:—
"I am your husband, Psyche, of whom the oracle foretold. This my palace, with all its delight, is yours, and I shall make you very happy. But you must obey me in two things. You must never see your father or your mother or your sisters again, and you must never seek to see me at all. If you promise this, I swear to you that no harm shall befall your kindred, and that you shall be happy forever."
The whisper was strangely sweet and gentle for a terrible monster's. Indeed, it was so loving and so tender that she forgot even to tremble. It went to her heart, and she could only whisper back:—
"I promise you."
Thenceforth Psyche lived in the palace, every day bringing her fresh surprises and pleasures, the voices keeping her company, and delighting her with their marvelous music. And as soon as it became too dark for her to see him, the lord of the palace, her husband, came to her and stayed with her till nearly daybreak, until at last she forgot everything except how good he was to her, and how much she had learned to love him. It did not even trouble her that she had never seen him, for she thought of nothing but pleasing him and obeying his commands.
But one day Psyche's sisters, having heard of her fate, and having come all the way from their husbands' kingdoms to learn all about it, climbed together to the top of the mountain-peak to see if they could find any traces of her. Finding none, they wept and beat their breasts till the rocks resounded with their cries. Nay, their lamentations reached the palace itself; and Psyche, who loved her sisters, ran, forgetful of her promise, to the foot of the mountain, whence she saw them above mourning for her in an agony of woe.
The sight of their grief was too much for Psyche: it seemed so cruel that her sisters should mourn for her as dead while all the while she was alive and happy. Surely the husband who loved her so much did not mean the promise to prevent her from putting their hearts at ease. So she gave a command, and forthwith the invisible hands lifted her sisters, and carried them down safely into the secret valley.
Imagine their surprise! But imagine it still more when their lost sister, after embracing them, led them into her palace, showed them her treasures, entertained them with invisible concerts, and feasted them sumptuously.
"And the lord, your husband," asked the eldest sister at last, "what manner of man may he be? And does he use you well and make you happy?"
The sudden question took Psyche aback. It seemed so strange to have to answer that she had never seen the face of her husband—that she no more knew what he was like than they. So, to avert their curiosity, she said:—
"He is an excellent husband and makes me very happy indeed—a handsome young man, who has not yet grown a beard: he spends his days in hunting among the mountains, or no doubt you would have seen him. . . . But it is time for us to part, my sisters, or it will be dark before you get home."
So, loading them with jewels and golden ornaments, she embraced them, and, calling the invisible hands, had them conveyed safely back to the top of the mountain.
Whether the sisters had been honest in their mourning for Psyche I cannot tell: though I think they made more noise about it than people make who really and truly grieve. Anyhow, they were now filled with envy of Psyche's wealth and happiness.
"To think of my being married to a bald, miserly old man," said the eldest sister on their way home, "while that minx has a handsome young husband who squanders untold wealth upon her! And how proud she has grown! Why, she spoke to us as if we were her slaves."
"And to think," said the second sister, "of my being married to a gouty cripple! You may take things patiently, sister, and put up with her airs: but not I. I propose that we hit on some plan to take down her pride."
So they hid the presents that Psyche had given them, redoubled their cries and groans, told their father and mother that Psyche had certainly been devoured, and returned to their own kingdoms for a while. But only for a while. Having arranged a plan, they returned to the top of the mountain: and in such a hurry were they to revisit Psyche that they leapt into the valley and would have come down with broken necks had not a passing breeze, who recognized them as Psyche's sisters, caught them and made their fall easy. Psyche could not help being glad to see them again, for she loved them very dearly, and, in spite of her happiness, hungered for news from home.
After she had entertained them as before:—
"By the way," asked the eldest sister, "the lord, your husband—what manner of man is he? You told us; but I have forgotten."
And so had poor Psyche forgotten what she had told them. So she said, this time:—
"He is a middle-aged man, with a big beard, and a few gray hairs sprinkled here and there. He is a merchant, and travels into distant countries, or no doubt he would have been here to give you welcome."
"Oh, you poor innocent!" said the sister. "As if he could be young and middle-aged, bearded and beardless, a merchant and a hunter! It's plain you've never seen that husband of yours, and no wonder he wouldn't let you. For we have—we, who spend our lives in watching over your interests," she went on, squeezing out a hypocritical tear. "Your husband is an enormous dragon, with many folds and coils, a neck swollen with poison, and huge gaping jaws. Think of the oracle, you poor, dear, deluded girl. He is only feeding you up with delicacies in order to eat you. Well—if you like the prospect, we have done our duty. And when you are eaten up, you won't be able to say we didn't tell you so."
Psyche was aghast with dismay. She trusted her sisters: there was the oracle: and it was certainly mysterious that her husband had never allowed her to look upon him.
"Oh! what shall I do?" she cried.
"Do? Why, there's only one thing to do. We have thought it all out for you. Here is a lamp. Light it and hide it under a piece of tapestry. When the monster sleeps, uncover the lamp, and throw the light full upon him. Then take this knife, which has been well sharpened, and sever his head from his body. Thus the world will be freed from a curse, and you will be saved."
Thereupon they left her. And how shall Psyche's feelings be described? Was it possible she was the wife of a horrible dragon? Promise or no promise, that she must know. So she hid the lighted lamp, as directed. The night came and her husband with it. When he had fallen into a deep sleep, Psyche, with naked feet, crept noiselessly across the floor, drew off the tapestry, and flooded the room with light, and she saw—
A dragon? No—Cupid himself, asleep in all his beauty, with folded wings, and his bow and arrows by his side.
She hung over him in love and wonder. Alas! a drop of oil from the lamp fell upon him, and scalded his shoulder. He woke, cast a look of reproach and sorrow upon poor faithless Psyche, seized his bow and arrows, spread his wings, and flew. She, overwhelmed with penitence for her disobedience and distrust, and desperate at the thought of losing him, clung with both hands to one of his feet, and was thus carried through the window and far away through the night till her strength failed her and she fell fainting to the ground.
When she came to her senses, she found herself on the bank of a river, and, in her despair, threw herself into the stream. But the river took pity on her, and carried her into a bed of reeds, to whom the god Pan was giving a music-lesson. Pan told her how foolish she was to think she could mend matters by killing herself, and advised patience, which was none the worse counsel for being easy to preach and difficult to follow. However, he was very kind, so she thanked him, and wandered out into the world, hoping that she might meet Cupid some day, and beg him to forgive her.
Meanwhile Cupid lay tossing and groaning in his bed in his mother's palace, for his scalded shoulder gave him great pain. Venus wondered what could possibly have happened, for all her questioning could get nothing from him but moans. And maybe she would never have known, had not a sea-gull come to her with a whole budget of scandal: among the rest, how Cupid was carrying on a love affair with a mortal. And when the gull told her that the girl's name was said to be Psyche, the rage of the goddess knew no bounds. She hurried to Cupid's bedside, and gave him such a scolding that he must have forgotten the pain of the scald. Then she went, still storming, to Juno, and demanded the instant arrest and punishment of Psyche. From Juno she went to Jupiter himself, who put Mercury at her service. Mercury received from her a little book in which was written the name and description of Psyche, and with this he went about the world, proclaiming that whoever should seize a certain princess of that name, an escaped handmaid of Venus, should receive seven kisses from the goddess herself for a reward.
Knowing nothing of all this, Psyche wandered on and on till she saw a temple on the top of a mountain. She thought it might be the dwelling of Cupid, so she climbed up to it and found it littered with sheaves of corn, bound and unbound, scythes, sickles, and such things, all lying about in confusion. Shocked at finding a temple in such a state, she set to work to put everything in order. She was in the middle of her work, when a beautiful lady appeared before her, crowned with a wreath of wheat ears, whom she knew to be Ceres, the goddess of harvest.
"Who are you?" said the goddess graciously, "who work so hard to put the floor of my house in order?"
"Psyche," said she; "and I implore you, great goddess, to grant me shelter for a few days. I will serve you faithfully and well."
But when the goddess heard the name of Psyche, her face changed. "Willingly would I shelter you," said she. "But I dare not shelter one whom the wrath of Venus is following through earth and air. Begone! and be thankful that I do not keep you as a prisoner. Not even I dare offend Venus. My poor girl! I am sorry for you. But begone!"
Turned away by the kindest of all the goddesses, Psyche wandered on and on till she came to another temple in a gloomy valley, which proved to be the temple of Juno, to whom Psyche, falling on her knees before the alter, prayed for succour. But Juno, appearing to her, said:—
"Willingly would I help you; but though I am the Queen of Heaven, I must obey the law. Venus claims you as her handmaid, and nobody may give protection to a fugitive slave. Be thankful that I do not deliver you to your mistress. I pity you; but begone!"
So not even the greatest of all the goddesses could help her against the vengeance of Venus. Again she wandered on and on, helpless and despairing, till one of the servants of Venus met her and knew her. Seizing Psyche by the hair, she dragged her into the presence of the terribly beautiful goddess, who broke into a laugh of cruel triumph when she found her rival in her power. Venus delivered her over to her torturers, Anguish and Sorrow. They, having scourged and tormented her, brought her again before Venus, who flew at her like a fury, as if she would tear her limb from limb.
"You ugly slave!" said Venus, as soon as she recovered breath; "you want a lover, do you? Well, perhaps you may get one if you know how to drudge; you certainly won't any other way. I'll give you a trial."
So she took wheat, barley, millet, poppy seed, vetches, lentils, and beans, mixed them up together, and said:—
"Sort out every seed into its proper heap before evening. If you can do that, you shall not be scourged again."
Psyche sat down before her task in silent despair, crushed in heart, and aching in every limb. She could only pray that death would come to her before nightfall; for she could not bear the thought of those cruel scourges. And so she sat motionless until a little white ant, taking more pity on her than Ceres or Juno, called together his whole tribe, who sorted out the heap, grain by grain, into proper parcels, in no time, and then ran away.
Judge of the surprise of Venus when she found the work done. "Somebody has helped you!" said she. But she could not order her to be scourged, the work being done; so she threw her a piece of coarse bread for supper, and had her shut up in a wretched shed till day.
In the morning Venus came to her again. "Do you see yonder sheep, with golden fleeces, wandering without a shepherd? Go and bring me a piece of their wool, that you may escape another scourging."
Psyche set out, not to get the wool, but to drown herself in the river that ran along the meadow where the sheep were feeding. She was about to leap into the water, when one of the reeds spoke to her, and said, murmuring:—
"Pollute not these pure waters by thy death, nor yet venture to approach yonder sheep during the heat of the sun; for they are fierce and savage, and they will slay thee with their horns. But when they are resting towards evening, creep into the meadow, and collect the wool that has clung to the bushes."
Thus Psyche brought to Venus a whole lapful of golden wool. "Somebody has helped you!" again said the goddess, angrily. But she had to keep her word.
Still she could not bring herself to believe that Psyche could have performed these tasks unaided. She strongly suspected Cupid, though she kept him closely shut up in his chamber, making believe that his scalded shoulder still wanted careful nursing, for fear lest he might come across Psyche. She was quite sure he had never left his chamber for a moment. Nevertheless she resolved to send Psyche next time where not Love himself could follow or help her.
"Do you see yonder mountain-peak?" she said to her next morning. "From that peak falls a black fountain, as cold as ice. Take this urn, fill it with the cold back water, and bring it to me."
Psyche started off at once for the mountain-peak, meaning to throw herself from it, and so bring her miseries to an end. But it was not so easy to reach the top as she had hoped. The black fountain fell headlong from the middle of a terrible rock into a still more dark and terrible ravine, from which fierce and horrible dragons stretched up their long necks to guard the waters; and the roar of the water as it fell was this—"Begone, or perish!"
In the midst of her terror, an eagle came flying overhead, and called out to her:—
"Do not touch the water: this is the spring of the Styx, that sacred and dreadful river by whom the gods swear. Give me your urn."
So, swooping down, he took the urn in his talons, and flew with it through the gaping jaws of the dragons so swiftly that they had not time to close upon him, or to pierce him with their fiery tongues. Thus he reached the water, filled the urn, and flew back with it to Psyche, who brought it to Venus just as she had been bidden.
Venus was more enraged than ever; but this time she hid her anger with a smile. "I see there is nothing too hard for you," she said—"nothing. So do no one little service before we make friends. Nobody else could do it; but then one who is clever enough to steal the waters of the Styx can do everything. You see I have grown pale and thin with anxiety about my poor boy. Go as quickly as you can to the palace of King Pluto, and ask to see the Lady Proserpine. When you see her, say to her, 'Madam, Venus requests you to lend her a little of your beauty till to-morrow morning.' Here is a casket to bring it in; and be quick with your errand."
Then indeed did Psyche give herself up for lost. For she knew what you have read in the story of the Gods and the Giants—that Pluto was the King of Hades, that underground world of ghosts and spirits where men and women go when they die. And of this world of Hades the Lady Proserpine was queen.
Thinking that the shortest way to the world below was the best, she went to the top of a high tower, meaning to hurl herself out of life headlong. But the tower said:—
"Pause! for know that from the world where you are going none ever return. There is only one path by which you can reach Pluto's palace and come back again: and that path I will tell you. Listen carefully to all I say. Near to the city of Lacedæmon is a hill called Tænarus. In the hill is hidden a cavern which you must find; and from this cavern a path, which no mortal has yet trodden, runs straight into the hill. Take the path, but provide yourself first with these things: two pieces of barley-bread sopped in honey—one in each hand—and two pieces of money in your mouth. If anybody accosts you on the way, pass him by in silence. Give nothing to anybody with your hand. Show no pity. Help nobody. Taste nothing but dry bread, and open not the box you carry; for Venus knows you to be pitiful and helpful, and a little inquisitive as well, and will set traps for you to fall into. Therefore, be wise, and trust to nothing you see in the world of dreams and shadows. If you follow my directions, you may go and return in safety; if you fail in the least of them, you are a lost soul."
Psyche set off at once to the city of Lacedæmon, and, with a honey-sop in each hand and two silver coins in her mouth, sought for the cavern in the hill. She found it at last, and started along the path, blacker than night, which wound downwards into the heart of the earth. After she had traveled many hours, the path became illuminated with a pale twilight, by which she could just manage to see—a strange sort of half-light, such as one never sees above ground. It seemed to Psyche as if the path would never end. At last she saw figures approaching her in the distance; and these, as they approached, proved to be a lame man driving a lame ass laden with wood, which was slipping from its cords.
"Lady," said the lame man, "you see I am weak and helpless; help me to tie up my wood again so that it may not fall."
Psyche was just about to lay down her honey-sops and help him, when she remembered the tower's warning, and passed him by without a word.
On she went until she came to the bank of a broad river with water as black as ink; and just where the path ran down to the water was a ferry-boat, in which sat a very old man naked to the waist, and holding an oar. Psyche stepped into the boat, and the old man, in dead silence, pushed off, and began to row heavily across the black and sluggish stream. When the boat reached the middle, she looked down, and saw a skinny hand raise itself slowly out of the water. Then she perceived that the hand belonged to a corpse-like form floating half under the black ooze, which, in a hollow voice, thus besought her:—
"Lady, for pity's sake take me into your boat, that I may reach the other side. Else must I float here between life and death forever."
Psyche was about to bid the ferryman take the poor, half-dead creature into the boat, when she remembered the tower's warning against pity, and let the body drift by.
Arrived at the other side, the ferryman held out his hand for his fee. Psyche was about to take one of the coins from her mouth, when she suddenly remembered the tower's warning to give nothing to anybody with her hand. So, bringing one of the coins between her teeth, she dropped it into the open palm of the ferryman, and went her way.
A little farther on she came upon some old women weaving.
"Lady," said the eldest, "we are old, and it is dark, and our eyes are dim, and we have much to do before nightfall. Help us with our web, we pray you."
Psyche was about to comply, when she remembered the tower's warning against giving help, and passed on.
Still on and on she went until she reached a huge palace built of black marble, which she knew at once to be the abode of Pluto and Proserpine. But how was she to enter? For on the threshold stood a monstrous dog, with three heads and six flaming eyes, barking thunderously, and with horrible yawning jaws. This was the dog Cerberus, who never sleeps, and guards the palace of Pluto night and day. There was only one chance of passing him, and Psyche took it. She threw him one of her honey-sops, and ran past him while he was swallowing it down.
In the hall beyond the threshold sat Proserpine, Queen of Hades, and goddess of the Underworld, dark and beautiful, and crowned with white poppies and stars, with a two-pronged scepter in her hand. She received Psyche kindly, made her sit down on a cushion beside her, and bade the attendants bring meat, fruit, and wine. Psyche, hungry and thirsty after her long journey, was about to eat, when she remembered the tower's warning, and refreshed herself with a little dry bread only. Then rising, she said to Proserpine:—
"Madam, Venus requests you to lend her a little of your beauty till to-morrow morning, and here is a casket for me to carry it in."
"With pleasure," said Proserpine, taking the casket, opening it, breathing into it, closing it again, and returning it is Psyche, who, having performed her errand, departed reverently.
She got past Cerberus by throwing him her other sop, and gave the ferryman her other piece of money to row her back across the river. And so, without further peril or adventure, she reached the cavern in the hill, and the sunshine, and the broad light of day, with the casketful of beauty safe in her hand.
Then a great curiosity came upon her to know what this beauty of the Underworld might be—beauty so great that even Venus desired it to add to her charms. At last Psyche's curiosity grew so strong that she could withstand it no longer, and the tower's last warning was forgotten. What harm could a single glimpse do? So, first timidly, then more boldly, she raised the lid of the casket. And from the casket into which Proserpine had breathed there came forth a deep sleep, which fell over Psyche, so that first she felt faint, then her blood turned dull and cold, and the color left her cheeks, then her heart stopped, and then her breath,—for the Sleep of Death had come upon her, and she lay in the sunshine, pale and cold. For Death is the beauty of Proserpine.
Cupid, wearied out of patience by being kept prisoner in his chamber on account of a trifling hurt that no longer pained him, and loving his lost Psyche as much as ever, thought and thought how he might escape from the tiresome watchfulness of his mother. And it happened at last that the nurse on duty threw open the window for a moment to let in a breath of air. That moment was enough for Cupid: spreading his wings, he was through the window and away before the nurse could tell him from a bird. His wings had grown the stronger from their long rest, and he reveled in the freedom of the sunshine and the open air. Never had life felt so full of joy. Ah, if he could only find Psyche, not his mother herself should part them any more! And surely he would find her, for what cannot Love find or do?
He fled fast to the palace in the secret valley, but she was not there. There was scarce a corner of the world where he did not fly, in less time than it would take the very swiftest of birds. And at last—
He found her; and his wings lost their strength, and his heart melted for sorrow when he saw her stretched in the Sleep of Death upon the hillside—beautiful still, but with the beauty of Proserpine. The fatal casket lay open beside her, so he knew what had befallen. "Alas!" he thought, "if I had not flown from her in my anger she would not have died." He clasped her in his arms; he kissed her lips with enough love to wake the dead, if such a thing could be.
And such a thing could be—such a thing was! For at the kiss of Love the Sleep of Death began to slowly pass away. Back came the color to her lips and cheeks; her heart fluttered and beat; she breathed; she opened her eyes. And then she woke in his arms, glad and alive.
This is the story of Cupid and Psyche, of which there is nothing more to tell except that Psyche's troubles had a very happy and glorious ending indeed. For Jupiter, to make her a fitting wife for Cupid, received her into heaven, and on her arrival gave her with his own hands a goblet of nectar to drink—the wine of the gods, which makes all who taste of it immortal. Even Venus became reconciled to her, and the wedding-feast of Cupid and Psyche is one of the most famous festivals in the whole history of the skies.
I said a little way back that most of these stories have some sort of meaning, and people have found more meaning in the story of Psyche than in most of them. "Psyche" is the Greek for "soul," and I have already told you that "Cupid" means "love." So the story may show how the soul of man is loved by heaven; but how it has to pass through many sufferings and trials, and at last through death, before it reaches immortal happiness.
"Psyche" also means "butterfly," and Psyche herself, after she was received into heaven, always appears in pictures with a butterfly's wings. It seems curious at first that the same word means "soul" and "butterfly"; but it is not so curious when one thinks a little of the story. Just as the caterpillar that crawls on the earth seems to die when it becomes a chrysalis and then rises again as a winged butterfly, so man, bound down to earth like a caterpillar, seems to die, and then lives again, only changed.
In some very old pictures you may see a butterfly flying out from between a man's lips. That means that he is dying, and that his "Psyche," his "soul" or "butterfly," is leaving him.