The beautiful story of Cupid and Psyche has been represented in every possible form by poets, prosers, painters, 129sculptors, and opera dancers. Calderon has converted it into an Auto Sacramental, and it is amusing to see how easily it is allegorized to his purpose.
Old World has three daughters, of whom Idolatry, the eldest, is married to Gentile, emperor of the east; Synagogue, the second, is the wife of Jew, the emigrant; and Faith, the youngest and most beautiful, is still a virgin, and courted by Apostacy, king of the north. Old World favours his suit, but she has given her affections to Cupid, the sacramented god. One day when Apostacy is running after her and her servant Free Will to detain them, Cupid, with a white veil over his face, enters and protects them. Apostacy struggles with him, and is immediately tormented with an inward fire. His cries alarm the family, and when they come in, Cupid avows himself to be God, the maker of the world. Old World will not believe that God made him, and advances to pull off his veil and see his face, but 130he is stopt by some unseen power. Idolatry and the emperor Gentile say it is true that the world was made by a God, but that if it was made by him, he must be one of their deities; upon which they get a little nearer than old World, and then are stopt in like manner. Jew, the emigrant, and Synagogue, his wife, say there is but one God the Creator, and they advance beyond Idolatry and Gentile; but denying that Cupid is God, they can get no farther. Apostacy confesses one God incarnate, and precedes them all; he then asserts that God cannot be in body and spirit behind the white veil,.. and with that, his power ceases also. As they cannot get at Cupid, they vent their anger upon Faith, his mistress, force her into a ship with them, and expose her and her servant Free Will upon a desert shore: then the tale of Apuleius fits in.
A mountain opens and discovers the palace of the new Jerusalem, where Faith, 131the Psyche of this Cupid, is welcomed with hymns as mistress. No person is to be seen there; she gives Free Will a candle to look about for somebody; Cupid blows it out, and tells her that she shall yet enjoy that palace and his company; that all the nations of the earth, yea, Jew, Gentile, and her sisters, shall one day serve her, and that she shall have bread and wine for food, if she will only love him, and never seek to see him, for he will not be seen. She asks if she may see her father and sisters; he tells her that he will send doctors and saints and preachers to invite them.
The ship is wrecked; old World and his family escape by swimming and come to the palace. The sisters see Faith, hear of her happiness, envy her, and endeavour to ensnare her. They tell her that her lord and love is a serpent; Synagogue reminds her of the tricks which the Serpent played in Paradise; Apostacy tempts her to see if he be a serpent or 132not; she yields, and promises if Cupid is not God, that she will be his: Free Will brings the candle,.. the fatal light of enquiry; Cupid awakes in anger, the palace is destroyed, and Faith left to her punishment; but she repents and confesses, and Cupid returns with the pix and chalice,.. the precious gift of his body and blood.
Calderon has another Auto upon the same subject; the characters differently named, but with little variation of story. He says in his preface to these Autos (72 in number) that they have all but one subject and one set of characters; the greater, therefore, must his merit be, if he resembles nature, who makes so many faces with nothing but eyes, nose, and mouth, and yet no two alike.