I've told you before that Paris was hard for me. Don't get me wrong. I am glad I went and immensely grateful to have had the opportunity to be there. If I were to go back again knowing what I know now - and especially if I were to find myself there alone again - my strong temptation would be to get inside the Louvre and leave it only to eat and sleep. From beginning to end - with a bizarre constellation of exceptions I'll tell you about later - the Louvre was a profound delight.
The audio tour of the Louvre is delivered on a Nintendo DS, for some reason - a little handheld device with a touch screen and a headphone jack. One of its features was a grid of tiny pictures of some of the museum's most famous pieces, and one of those tiny thumbnail images caught my attention from the first moment I saw it. I didn't recognize it, mind; I couldn't have told you the name of the piece or the name of its sculptor. I just knew I had to find it. I actually walked right past it at first, trying to follow the bizarre, incomprehensible walking directions on the little screen; making my way to the opposite end of that particular gallery before turning around and finding myself face-to-face with the very thing I had been looking for: Antonio Canova's Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss.
I think I stood there with my mouth and eyes wide open for... I don't even know how long. I was transfixed. Undone. One look and suddenly I was drowning in this glorious ache; a longing so deep and fierce that once I had filled my eyes with Canova's piece, I had to empty a full cup of coffee and fill an empty page of journal before I could move on.
That day, and in the days that followed, I found that Psyche Revived had torn me open - and I started to bleed sonnets.
I have transcribed the first one below.
To read the Louvre's synopsis of the story of Cupid and Psyche, click here.
The original story (if I understand correctly) is found in a book by Apuleius called The Golden Ass (I am not making this up.)
C. S. Lewis's brilliant retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth is called Til We Have Faces, and I recommend it highly.
Here's the sonnet.
Cupid & Psyche I
The red twin bows that are the love-god's lips
Have loosed at her this final, parting shot
He hovers, tense through legs and chest and hips
Awaiting whether parting is his lot.
He found her supine, stretched upon a rock
The flask of death drunk deep in beauty's haste
And he too late the fatal fumes to block
The love of Love himself by death laid waste.
But see! She stirs, and once again Love breathes
To see breath fill her lungs, and blood her cheek
She reaches for his face and his chest heaves
With joy - though death has made her passing weak.
Her eyes gape wide with wonder; his show soft
Regarding gently what Love almost lost.