Amore e Psiche by Antonio Canova (1788-1793)
“Ode to Psyche” is a poem written by John Keats in 1819. The poem is the first of his 1819 odes, which include “Ode to a Grecian Urn” and “Ode to a Nightingale”.
“Ode to Psyche” is an experiment in the ode genre, and Keats’s attempt at an expanded version of the sonnet format that describes a dramatic scene. The poem serves as an important departure from Keats’s early poems, which frequently describe an escape into the pleasant realms of one’s imagination. Keats uses the imagination to show the narrator’s intent to resurrect Psyche and reincarnate himself into Eros. Keats attempts this by dedicating an “untrodden region” of his mind to the worship of the neglected goddess.
The poem does not describe the plot of the original Cupid and Psyche myth: according to Harold Bloom, the poem “has little to do with the accepted myth”. In the original myth, Aphrodite punishes Psyche, a well admired girl, by having Cupid use his power to make her fall in love. Cupid, instead, falls in love with her, but he could only be with her in the cover of darkness in order to disguise his identity. Curious, she uses a light to reveal Cupid’s identity, but he flees from her presence. Psyche begins to search after Cupid, and Aphrodite forces her to perform various tasks before she could be united with her love. After nearly dying from one of the tasks, Cupid asks Zeus to transform Psyche into a goddess so the two can be together.
The action of “Ode to Psyche” begins with a narrator witnessing two individuals embracing. The narrator immediately recognizes Cupid and is astonished when he recognizes Psyche. The third stanza describes how Psyche, though a newer Goddess, is better than the other deities. However, she is neglected while the others were worshipped. The narrator, inspired by young goddess, becomes her priest. His imagination allows him to join with both the natural and supernatural elements of Psyche, and his form of worship is within himself while “Ode to Psyche” the poem serves as a song in praise of the goddess. The narrator becomes the prophet for Psyche. In the conclusion of the poem, the narrator metaphorically says that he will expand his consciousness, which would allow him to better understand both the good and the bad of the world. This will allow the narrator to attain a new sense of inspiration while providing Psyche with a sanctuary.