Psyche and the Candle Se'ara hart

Psyche and the Candle

By: Archibald MacLeish

Love which is the most difficult mystery

Asking from every young one answers

And most from those most eager and most beautiful

Love is a bird in a fist:

To hold it ides it, to look at it lets it go

It will twist loose if you lift so much as a finger.

It will stay if you cover it-stay but unknown and invisible.

Either you keep it forever with fist closed

Or let it fling

Singing in fervor and sun and in song vanish.

There is no answer other to this mystery.


Psyche with the Candle is a poem written by Archibald MacLeish. The tone is mysterious, meaningful, simple, & curious because it makes you think about how it relates to your love life or others’. Two main literary devices are used in this meaningful poem. The “riddle” of love is being described throughout the poem by using imagery. “Love is a bird in a fist:” (MacLeish). The quote from the poem supports my claim because it makes us imagine that we can feel the bird clenched in our hand. The quote also is figurative language. It is a form of a metaphor because it’s indicating that the fist is the force of the how you hold the bird and how the bird stands for love. The imagery & metaphor helps make the tone portray as curious & meaningful because it gets right to the point of the message, it also makes you wonder if love is controlling or if there’s no love if it’s not controlling.

"Love is a bird in a fist:"

Diction and syntax are closely related. Diction is used in the 3rd line of the poem and is also another literary device when it states, “And most from those most eager and most beautiful” (MacLeish). It is a literary device because it repeats “most 3 times. Next, for syntax, there are many short sentences with periods. These both help create the tone because the short sentences display simplicity by getting to the point and not using long detailed sentences. It also supports the tone because the repeated word makes you curious on why “most” was used three times in one line.


Psyche was a princess with outstanding beauty. Venus (Aphrodite), the goddess of love and beauty, became jealous of Psyche and commanded Eros (Cupid), god of love, to sprinkle a potion onto Psyche that will make men avert her when marriage approached. He pierced himself & Psyche accidentally with one of his arrows with made them fall in love with each other. A prophecy soon said that even though no man would marry her, a monster on the peak of a mountain would. Later on, when Psyche moved into a new home on the mountain, her sisters visited her. They told were jealous her & told her that her husband was a monster and that she should put a lantern and a knife beside her bed so that she can see his face.

Mountain Peak

When Eros visited one night, Psyche raised a lantern to his found and saw that it was Eros. Shocked, he flew away and she woke up the next morning at her old home. She went to Venus and prayed for help. Venus answered her prayers by giving her impossible tasks. She was given 4 tasks: sort a pile of mixed grains into divided piles, get a piece of golden fleece from a unique herd of sheep, get a cup of water from the river Styx, and to go to into the underworld to request, wife of Hades, for a “box of magic makeup.” She was given help to complete these tasks without Venus knowing. Soon after she completed the tasks, Eros went to Zeus to negotiate. Zeus gave the “drink of immortality” to Psyche.


Cinderella alludes to Psyche with the Candle because both of the two sisters in the stories envy what the most beautiful sister has (husband/boyfriend). It also alludes to Psyche because both of the Cinderella & Psyche became married to a man of a higher social class.

Cinderella's stepmother & stepsisters.

Beauty and the Beast alludes to Psyche with the Candle because Belle can't see the beast's pure appearance and Psyche isn't allowed to see Cupid's face. The story also alludes to the poem because eventually Psyche & Belle can see their lover's face.

Lessons/ Values

There are a few important values/ lessons that are in the poem that also connect allusions. Pure beauty is in the inside and not always about appearance. Psyche fell in love with Cupid, even when she couldn't see his face and after she looked at his "ugly" face, she still loved him. This is also shown in allusion Beauty and the Beast because the beast shown as an scary monster, but after awhile of Belle getting to know him, she also fell in love with him.

Beauty is found on the inside.

Another lesson or value from Psyche with the Candle is that love is fragile. You have two options with love: 1. You keep in a fist and don't observe it or 2. You can open the fist and risk letting all of it go. Psyche chose to open the fist because her sisters made her even more curious to know what her husband looked like. Psyche risked losing Cupid, but with the help of others, she was able to accomplish impossible task to get him back.

Connection of Texts

The connections of all texts are the tone & message of the poem. The poem sheds off a mysterious, meaningful, and curious tone. For the analysis, the metaphor & imagery helps create the tone because it makes you wonder if love is controlling or if there's no love if it's not controlling. Next, the research gives a better understanding of the background of the poem. It tells the message of how the bird reacts when opening the fist. Sometimes people get lucky and get back the love with hard work and dedication.


Finally, the Allusions/ Lessons of the poem supports the tone and message because they are put into children's movies that make it simple to understand & connect with each other. Then, the allusions give examples of what Psyche & Cupid went through with their love. This makes the audience sense the tone because it's related to love, marriage, and other character's opinions of the couples. Finally, the Lessons make the message of the poem easier to understand by explaining it in smaller parts. Overall, the message & tone of the story are well explained through a close reading of the poem, background information, allusions, and lessons.


Created with images by pixelcreatures - "heart castle love" • gabrielaraujo_ferraz0 - "love boyfriends women's day" • Riedelmeier - "castles fence love" • BAD MOUTH - "A Fist-Full of Little Bird" • Windgeist - "Candle" • Mark Kao - "IMG_13717_Hehuanshan" • denisema4 - "cupid" • Hans - "candles lights serenade lights" • Pexels - "architecture castle cinderella castle"

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