14 February 2005

Pyramus and Thisbe

[Photo from Art History at Loggia]

Pyramus and Thisbe is a greek love story. Or should I say, a Greek tragedy. And is one of the love stories that struck me as sweet as it is sad in my high school years. It also explains why the mulberries, which were once snowy-white, became red as blood.

Pyramus was a handsome boy, and Thisbe a fair maiden in the olden days of Babylonia. They were neighbors, and as such they made their acquaintance and eventually fell in love. But their parents forbid their seeing each other, much less get married, for their clans have been "at war" for the longest time.

But their love cannot be dissuaded. Their houses had a common wall between them, and interestingly, they discovered a crack here. Love finds a way! They cannot meet, but that crevice provided them a channel to communicate their heart's desires.

And thus they grew tired and weary of their imprisoned emotions. Til one day they talked through the wall and planned of their departure from their homes. They talked at great length, with only the wall as their testament to their secret.

They impatiently waited for dusk to arrive, and when her family has slept, she covered her head with a scarf and stole away to their rendezvous point outside the town proper, beside a monument, near a bush loaded with white mulberries.

She arrived first. While waiting anxiously, she saw movement nearby, and was seized with terror. For bathed under the moonlight was a lioness fresh from the kill, with blood still dripping from her mouth, and crossing her way to a water fountain. She fled and hid among the rocks not far away.

The lioness made no pursuit, as she was still contented with her recent exploit, but proceeded to play with Thisbe's shoal. It was torn to pieces, with the blood staining it everywhere. Then she left to find water.

Pyramus shortly arrived, panting for breath. His eyes widened at the sight of the lion's footprints. He rushed to their intended meeting place and saw the scarf, all torn and bloodied on the ground. He was filled with anguish and blamed himself for his loved one's death. He carried the scarf near the mulberry bush, hugged and kissed the scarf, and in his anguish took out his knife and stabbed his heart. His blood stained the scarf and the mulberries, coloring these red. And his blood soaked the soil and reached the roots of the mulberry plant.

Thisbe, who as still in hiding at this time, was fearful of the lioness, but she was even more fearful of not seeing her loved one. So she bravely went back to the monument. She was perplexed at first, and feigned she might be lost, seeing that the mulberries were no longer white, but a deep red. Then she suddenly saw Pyramus struggling in agony underneath the bush. She cried and wrapped him in her arms. She saw her torn scarf, and the knife to his heart. She realized what had happened. She called his name; Pyramus opened his eyes briefly, then slowly closed it forever.

Thisbe pledged their love and though they were forced apart by their parents, she wished that they be buried in one tomb, and asked the gods that the mulberry tree retain her new color as testament to their love. Then she took the knife and plunged it into her heart.

They were thus buried in the same tomb, and the gods bowed to their wishes. The mulberries retain the same color to this day.

A meaningful Valentine's Day to you all.
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