Biography of Thisbe

Thisbe a character that appears in the work Metamorphoses by the Roman poet Ovid. She lived in Babylon, and was the lover of Pyramus, both living in connected houses, but being forbidden to marry by their parents, who were rivals. However, the two lovers were able to express their feelings to each other through a crack in a wall, and decided to meet near the tomb of Ninus under a mulberry tree. Thisbe arrived first, but saw a lioness that had blood all over the mouth because of hunting; Thisbe, frightened, fled losing her veil in the process. When Pyramus arrived, he saw the veil, and horrified thinking that Thisbe was dead, fell on his sword and died. His blood fell on the white mulberry fruit, staining them. Thisbe returned shortly afterwards only to find Pyramus' body on the ground. She mourned and after a bit, she took the sword and killed herself with it. In the end, the gods, touched by Thisbe's mourning, decided to permanently turn the colour of the mulberry fruit to dark, reminding the relationship of the two young lovers.

1909. John William Waterhouse (age 59). "Thisbe".

Metamorphoses Book 4 Pyramus and Thisbe Lines 55-80. When Pyramus and Thisbe, who were known the one most handsome of all youthful men, the other loveliest of all eastern girls,-lived in adjoining houses, near the walls that Queen Semiramis had built of brick around her famous city, they grew fond, and loved each other-meeting often there-and as the days went by their love increased. They wished to join in marriage, but that joy their fathers had forbidden them to hope; and yet the passion that with equal strength inflamed their minds no parents could forbid. No relatives had guessed their secret love, for all their converse was by nods and signs; and as a smoldering fire may gather heat, the more 'tis smothered, so their love increased. Now, it so happened, a partition built between their houses, many years ago, was made defective with a little chink; a small defect observed by none, although for ages there; but what is hid from love? Our lovers found the secret opening, and used its passage to convey the sounds of gentle, murmured words, whose tuneful note passed oft in safety through that hidden way. There, many a time, they stood on either side, Thisbe on one and Pyramus the other, and when their warm breath touched from lip to lip, their sighs were such as this: "Thou envious wall why art thou standing in the way of those who die for love? What harm could happen thee shouldst thou permit us to enjoy our love? But if we ask too much, let us persuade that thou wilt open while we kiss but once: for, we are not ungrateful; unto thee we own our debt; here thou hast left a way that breathed words may enter loving ears.," so vainly whispered they, and when the night began to darken they exchanged farewells; made presence that they kissed a fond farewell vain kisses that to love might none avail.

Metamorphoses Book 4 Pyramus and Thisbe Lines 93 to 104. Quickly, the clever Thisbe having first deceived her parents, opened the closed door. She flitted in the silent night away; and, having veiled her face, reached the great tomb, and sat beneath the tree; love made her bold. There, as she waited, a great lioness approached the nearby spring to quench her thirst: her frothing jaws incarnadined with blood of slaughtered oxen. As the moon was bright, Thisbe could see her, and affrighted fled with trembling footstep to a gloomy cave; and as she ran she slipped and dropped her veil, which fluttered to the ground. She did not dare to save it. Wherefore, when the savage beast had taken a great draft and slaked her thirst, and thence had turned to seek her forest lair, she found it on her way, and full of rage, tore it and stained it with her bloody jaws: but Thisbe, fortunate, escaped unseen.

Metamorphoses Book 4 Pyramus and Thisbe Lines 105 127. Now Pyramus had not gone out so soon as Thisbe to the tryst; and, when he saw the certain traces of that savage beast, imprinted in the yielding dust, his face went white with fear; but when he found the veil covered with blood, he cried; "Alas, one night has caused the ruin of two lovers! Thou wert most deserving of completed days, but as for me, my heart is guilty! I destroyed thee! O my love! I bade thee come out in the dark night to a lonely haunt, and failed to go before. Oh! whatever lurks beneath this rock, though ravenous lion, tear my guilty flesh, and with most cruel jaws devour my cursed entrails! What? Not so; it is a craven's part to wish for death!" So he stopped briefly; and took up the veil; went straightway to the shadow of the tree; and as his tears bedewed the well-known veil, he kissed it oft and sighing said, "Kisses and tears are thine, receive my blood as well." And he imbrued the steel, girt at his side, deep in his bowels; and plucked it from the wound, a-faint with death. As he fell back to earth, his spurting blood shot upward in the air; so, when decay has rift a leaden pipe a hissing jet of water spurts on high.-By that dark tide the berries on the tree assumed a deeper tint, for as the roots soaked up the blood the pendent mulberries were dyed a purple tint.

Metamorphoses Book 4 Pyramus and Thisbe Lines 128 146. Thisbe returned, though trembling still with fright, for now she thought her lover must await her at the tree, and she should haste before he feared for her. Longing to tell him of her great escape she sadly looked for him with faithful eyes; but when she saw the spot and the changed tree, she doubted could they be the same, for so the colour of the hanging fruit deceived. While doubt dismayed her, on the ground she saw the wounded body covered with its blood;-she started backward, and her face grew pale and ashen; and she shuddered like the sea, which trembles when its face is lightly skimmed by the chill breezes;-and she paused a space;-but when she knew it was the one she loved, she struck her tender breast and tore her hair. Then wreathing in her arms his loved form, she bathed the wound with tears, mingling her grief in his unquenched blood; and as she kissed his death-cold features wailed; "Ah Pyramus, what cruel fate has taken thy life away? Pyramus! Pyramus! awake! awake! It is thy dearest Thisbe calls thee! Lift thy drooping head! Alas,"-At Thisbe's name he raised his eyes, though languorous in death, and darkness gathered round him as he gazed.