ADAPTED BY ALICE ZIMMERN
In Babylon, the great and wonderful city on the Euphrates, there lived in two adjoining houses a youth and a maiden named Pyramus and Thisbe. Hardly a day passed without their meeting, and at last they came to know and love one another. But when Pyramus sought Thisbe in marriage, the parents would not hear of it, and even forbade the lovers to meet or speak to each other any more. But though they could no longer be openly together, they saw each other at a distance and sent messages by signs and tokens.
One day to their great delight they discovered a tiny crack in the wall between the two houses, through which they could hear each other speak. But a few words whispered through a chink in the wall could not satisfy two ardent lovers, and they tried to arrange a meeting. They would slip away one night unnoticed and meet somewhere outside the city. A spot near the tomb of Ninus was chosen, where a mulberry tree grew near a pleasant spring of water.
At nightfall Thisbe put on a thick veil, slipped out of the house unobserved and made her way in haste to the city gates. She was first at the trysting-place and sat down under the tree to wait for her lover. A strange noise made her look up, and she saw by the clear moonlight a lioness with bloody jaws coming to drink at the spring. Thisbe sprang up, and dropping her cloak in her haste ran to hide herself in a neighboring cave. The lioness, who had already eaten, did not care to pursue her, but finding the cloak lying on the ground, pulled it to bits and left the marks of blood on the torn mantle. Now Pyramus in his turn came to the place and found no Thisbe, but only her torn and bloodstained cloak. “Surely,” he thought, “some beast must have devoured her, for here lies her cloak, all mangled and bloodstained. Alas, that I came too late! Her love for me led Thisbe to brave the perils of night and danger, and I was not here to protect and save her. She dies a victim to her love, but she shall not perish alone. One same night will see the end of both lovers. Come, ye lions, and devour me too, ’tis my one prayer. Yet ’tis a coward’s part to pray for death when his own hands can give it.”
With these words he drew Thisbe’s cloak towards him, and covered it with kisses. “My blood too shall stain you,” he cried, and plunged his sword with true aim in his breast. The blood spouted forth as from a fountain and stained the white fruit of the mulberry overhead.