Narcisso, Michelango Caravaggio. 16th c. AD. Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica
Publius Ovidius Naso
8 CE (over 2,000 years ago)
Latin (Augustan Age)
Ille per Aonias fama celeberrimus urbes irreprenhensa dabat populo responsa petenti;
(Here was that famous man, most celebrated by the people throughout the Aonian cities, who used to give blameless replies to any girl seeking;)
prima fide vocisque ratae temptamina sumpsit caerula Liriope, quam quondam flumine curvo implicuit clausaeque suis Cephisos in undis vim tulit;
(In her first hope, blue-colored Liriope began to tempt him with a reasonable voice, whom soon Cephisos bent around in a curved stream and carried her stream into his own waves;)
enixa est utero pulcherrima pleno infantem nymphe, iam tunc qui posset amari, Narcissumque vocat;
(The voluptuous nymph carried forth a child in her full womb, who then already could have been loved, and she called him Narcissus;)
de quo consultus, an esset tempora maturae visurus longa senectae, fatidicus vates 'si se non noverit' inquit.
(He was warned about this matter, so he could survive for a long time in mature old age, and the a prophetic soothsayer declared to him, "If he forgets himself...")
vana diu visa est vox auguris, exitus illam resque probat letique genus novitasque furoris.
(For a long time, the augur's word seemed to be worthless, and destruction and the matter and type of death and the strangeness of punishment deceives her;)
namque ter ad quinos unum Cephisius annum addiderat poteratque puer iuvenisque videri: multi illum iuvenes, multae cupiere puellae;
(For the son of Cephisos added a year to his fifteen, and he could seem both boy and young man: many boys longed for him, many girls longed for him;)
sed (fuit in tenera tam dura superbia forma) nulli illum iuvenes, nullae tetigere puellae.
(But [since there was a stern pride in his tender beauty] no youths could touch him, no girls could touch him;)
adspicit hunc trepidos agitantem in retia cervos vocalis nymphe, quae nec reticere loquenti nec prius ipsa loqui didicit, resonabilis Echo.
(A nymph, who knew not how to be silent to someone speaking nor to speak before someone spoke, Echo of the echoing voice, spotted him, stirring the shaking deer in the thicket;)
corpus adhuc Echo, non vox erat;
(Although Echo had a voice, there was no voice inside;)
et tamen usum garrula non alium, quam nunc habet, oris habebat, reddere de multis ut verba novissima posset.
(And yet there was no other usefulness in her words, as whatever she has, it was already spoken from others' mouths, such that she could only repeat the most recent words from these many;)
fecerat hoc Iuno, quia, cum deprendere posset sub Iove saepe suo nymphas in monte iacentes, illa deum longo prudens sermone tenebat, dum fugerent nymphae.
(Juno had performed this, for the reason that, since she had often been able to spot the nymphs lying under Jove on their mountain, she, a chaste goddess, used to lambast the god with a long rant, while the nymphs would flee away;)
postquam hoc Saturnia sensit, 'huius' ait 'linguae, qua sum delusa, potestas parva tibi dabitur vocisque brevissimus usus', reque minas firmat;
(Afterward, Saturn's daughter noticed this, and she spoke: "Of this tongue, by which I have been deceived, little power and only the use of scantest speech will be given to you," and she fastened her threats to her power;)
tamen haec in fine loquendi ingeminat voces auditaque verba reportat.
(Now, she groans over her utterings, in the verge of speaking, and she repeats the words that she hears;)
ergo ubi Narcissum per devia rura vagantem vidit et incaluit, sequitur vestigia furtim, quoque magis sequitur, flamma propiore calescit, non aliter, quam cum summis circumlita taedis admotas rapiunt vivacia sulphura flammas.
(So, when she saw Narcissus wandering through the out-of-the-way countryside and began to grow hot inside, she secretly followed his path, and the more she followed, the more she grow hot by a more intense flame, not different than when the lively sulphurs, surrounded by the peaks of the firebrands, seize the fires moving upon them;)
o quotiens voluit blandis accedere dictis et molles adhibere preces!
(O so many times did she wish to approach with charming words and to hold up to him sweet prayers!)
natura repugnat nec sinit, incipiat;
(Her nature fights back and does not allow her to begin;)
sed, quod sinit, illa parata est exspectare sonos, ad quos sua verba remittat.
(But whatever is allowed, she was prepared to await his utterances, so that she could send back his own words to him;)
forte puer comitum seductus ab agmine fido dixerat 'ecquis adest?', et 'adest' responderat Echo.
(By chance, the boy, lead away from his trusted flock of comrades, had said, "And who is it here?", and Echo responded, "Who is it here.")
hic stupet, utque aciem partes dimittit in omnes, voce 'veni' magna clamat: vocat illa vocantem.
(He is dumbfounded, and when he searched his sight upon all the surroundings, he shouts in a loud voice, "Come here": the girl calls the caller;)
respicit et rursus nullo veniente 'quid' inquit 'me fugis?' et totidem, quot dixit, verba recepit.
(He looks behind him and says, when no one comes, "Why do you flee me?", and at the same time, as many times as he has spoken, he receives the same words;)
perstat et alternae deceptus imagine vocis 'huc coeamus' ait, nullique libentius umquam responsura sono 'coeamus' rettulit Echo, et verbis favet ipsa suis egressaque silva ibat, ut iniceret sperato bracchia collo;
(He stands there the whole time and, deceived by the appearance of another's voice, he says, "Let's meet together here", and Echo carried back a response, no more happily than any other sound, "Let's meet", and the girl rejoices in her own words and begins to leave from the forest, so that she could throw her arms around the neck she so hoped for;)
ille fugit fugiensque 'manus complexibus aufer! ante,' ait, 'emoriar, quam sit tibi copia nostri.'
(He flees, and while fleeing, he says, "Take your hands off me in your embrace, let me be destroyed completely, rather than my body be a source of delight for you;)
spreta latet silvis pudibundaque frondibus ora protegit et solis ex illo vivit in antris;
(Separated from him, she hides in the forest, and she covers her shame-filled face with leaves, and she lives away from him in lonely caverns;)
sed tamen haeret amor crescitque dolore repulsae: et tenuant vigiles corpus miserabile curae, adducitque cutem macies, et in aera sucus corporis omnis abit;
(But the love still clings to her and grows in the grief of the rejected girl: and constant worries thin away her miserable body, and guantness attacks her skin, and the whole of the body disappears, drained into the air;)
vox tantum atque ossa supersunt: vox manet;
(So only her voice and bones remain: her voice lingers;)
inde latet silvis nulloque in monte videtur, omnibus auditur: sonus est, qui vivit in illa.
(From there, she hides in the forests and never seen on the mountain, but she is heard by all: it is sound that survives in her.)Sic hanc, sic alias undis aut montibus ortas luserat hic nymphas, sic coetus ante viriles;
(So he had toyed with her, and likewise the other nymphs either raised in the waters or the mountains, besides his manly companions;)
inde manus aliquis despectus ad aethera tollens 'sic amet ipse licet, sic non potiatur amato!' dixerat: adsensit precibus Rhamnusia iustis.
(Then, one rejected boy, lifting his hands to the skies, he had said, ‘So he does not allow to love, so let him not be able to be love!’: Rhamnusia heard his righteous prayers;)
fons erat inlimis, nitidis argenteus undis, quem neque pastores neque pastae monte capellae contigerant aliudve pecus, quem nulla volucris nec fera turbarat nec lapsus ab arbore ramus; (There was a pure fountain, silvery with its shining waves, which neither the shepherds nor the pastured she-goats or any other flock from the mountain had touched, which no bird or wild beast or branch, fallen from the tree, disturbed;)
gramen erat circa, quod proximus umor alebat, silvaque sole locum passura tepescere nullo.
(There was grass around it, which the nearby moisture nourished, and a place in the forest never allowed to grow warm by the sunlight;)
hic puer et studio venandi lassus et aestu procubuit faciemque loci fontemque secutus, dumque sitim sedare cupit, sitis altera crevit, dumque bibit, visae correptus imagine formae spem sine corpore amat: corpus putat esse, quod unda est.
(Here the boy, weary from the zeal of his admirer, he lay down in the heat, and following the fountain spring of the place, while he desired to quenched his thirst, another thirst grew, and while he drinks, he, seized by the image of his face, begins to love this concept of beauty with a body: he thinks it is a body, that thing this in the wave;)
adstupet ipse sibi vultuque inmotus eodem haeret, ut e Pario formatum marmore signum;
(The boy wonders at himself and stays, unmoving, with the same face, as though a statue sculptured from Parian marble;)
spectat humi positus geminum, sua lumina, sidus et dignos Baccho, dignos et Apolline crines inpubesque genas et eburnea colla decusque oris et in niveo mixtum candore ruborem, cunctaque miratur, quibus est mirabilis ipse:
(Seated on the ground, he gazes at his twin, his own eyes, and the stars worthy of Bacchus, and the hair worthy of Apollo, and the young knees and the ivory-colored neck, and he wonder the worthiness of his face and the blush mixed in his snowy whiteness and all his qualities, for which the boy was remarkable:)
se cupit inprudens et, qui probat, ipse probatur, dumque petit, petitur, pariterque accendit et ardet.
(The foolish boy begins to desire him, and as he approves, the other is approved, and while he seeks, he is sought, and likewise he is enflamed and burns;)
inrita fallaci quotiens dedit oscula fonti, in mediis quotiens visum captantia collum bracchia mersit aquis nec se deprendit in illis!
(So many times did he gave unfulfilled kisses to the deceptive pool; so many times did he plunge his arms in the middle of the waters, seizing the neck he saw, yet he could not snatch himself from them!)
quid videat, nescit; sed quod videt, uritur illo, atque oculos idem, qui decipit, incitat error.
(Whatever he sees, he does not recognize; but he sees it; he burns for him and his eyes too; as the man stares down, his blunder stirs up;)
credule, quid frustra simulacra fugacia captas? quod petis, est nusquam; quod amas, avertere, perdes! ista repercussae, quam cernis, imaginis umbra est:
(Gullible boy, why do you seize fleeing reflections for nothing? What you desire is no one at all; turn away from that thing you yearn for: you shall die! It is the shade of a reverberating image that you perceive:)
nil habet ista sui; tecum venitque manetque; tecum discedet, si tu discedere possis!
(This has nothing in itself; it both come with you and stays with you; it will leave with you, if you yourself could leave!)
Non illum Cereris, non illum cura quietis abstrahere inde potest, sed opaca fusus in herba spectat inexpleto mendacem lumine formam perque oculos perit ipse suos;
(He can neither drag himself from that spot for the care of Food or rest, but spread out on the dark grass, he watches the lying beauty in light cast down, and the boy perishes in the sight of his own eyes;)
paulumque levatus ad circumstantes tendens sua bracchia silvas 'ecquis, io silvae, crudelius' inquit 'amavit?
(And raised a little and stretching his own arms to the forests surrounding him, he says, ‘But who, o boy of the forest, has loved a crueler one than you?’)
scitis enim et multis latebra opportuna fuistis. ecquem, cum vestrae tot agantur saecula vitae, qui sic tabuerit, longo meministis in aevo?
(For you know, and you have been an fortunate catch for many; but whom, since so many centuries may have been rounded in your life, have you recalled in your long life, who has wasted away so?)
et placet et video; sed quod videoque placetque, non tamen invenio' – tantus tenet error amantem – 'quoque magis doleam, nec nos mare separat ingens nec via nec montes nec clausis moenia portis; exigua prohibemur aqua!
(It is so pleasing to look; but what please me to look upon, still I do not find’--such a great misunderstanding took the lover—‘and I grieve all the more, and the wide sea neither separates us, nor the road, not mountains, nor the walls with closed doors;)
exigua prohibemur aqua! cupit ipse teneri: nam quotiens liquidis porreximus oscula lymphis, hic totiens ad me resupino nititur ore.
(I shall be refused by empty* water! He desires to be held: for so many times have I pressed my kisses to the clear waters, then so many times does he smile at me with his upturned face;)
posse putes tangi: minimum est, quod amantibus obstat. quisquis es, huc exi! quid me, puer unice, fallis quove petitus abis?
(May you consider that you can be touched! It is the smallest thing that stands between lovers; whoever you are, spring out here! Why, lonely boy, do you deceive me, and to where will you depart, though you are desired for?)
certe nec forma nec aetas est mea, quam fugias, et amarunt me quoque nymphae!
(Nor is my youth, which you flee, not beautiful for certain, and even the nymphs have fallen in love with me!)
spem mihi nescio quam vultu promittis amico, cumque ego porrexi tibi bracchia, porrigis ultro, cum risi, adrides;
(You promise a kind of hope of friendship for me with your face, and when I stretched my arms to you, you stretch from the other side; when I began to laugh, you laughed too;)
lacrimas quoque saepe notavi me lacrimante tuas; nutu quoque signa remittis et, quantum motu formosi suspicor oris, verba refers aures non pervenientia nostras!
(Often, I have even noticed your own tears, when I cry; you also send your signals back with a nod and, however much I can decipher the motion of your handsome face, you speak words that do not reach my own ears!)
iste ego sum: sensi, nec me mea fallit imago; uror amore mei: flammas moveoque feroque.
(I am he: I have realized, and my own reflection does not deceive me; I yearn for my own love: I stir flames in the wounded boy;)
quid faciam? roger anne rogem? quid deinde rogabo? quod cupio mecum est: inopem me copia fecit. o utinam a nostro secedere corpore possem!
(What shall I do? Shall I asked or be asked? Then why shall I ask? I desire what is mine: abundance has made me an unfortunate one; o would that I could detach from my own body!)
votum in amante novum, vellem, quod amamus, abesset. iamque dolor vires adimit, nec tempora vitae longa meae superant, primoque exstinguor in aevo.
(My latest offer to the lover, whom I desire, whom we both love, failed; and now grief takes my strength away, nor do the long seasons of my own life prevail, when now I begin to waste away in existence;)
nec mihi mors gravis est posituro morte dolores, hic, qui diligitur, vellem diuturnior esset; nunc duo concordes anima moriemur in una.'
(And impending death is not important to me, since death will remove my grievances, now, he begins to take delight; I should wish to last longer; now let’s die, two lovers in heart, one in spirit’)
Dixit et ad faciem rediit male sanus eandem et lacrimis turbavit aquas, obscuraque moto reddita forma lacu est; quam cum vidisset abire, 'quo refugis? remane nec me, crudelis, amantem desere!' clamavit;
(He stopped speaking and he, malnourished, returned to that same reflection, and he disturbed the waters with his tears, and though the lake was moved, his beauty was restored; when he began to see it flee away, he shouted: ‘Where do you flee to? Stay, don’t desert your lover, you cruel boy!)
'liceat, quod tangere non est, adspicere et misero praebere alimenta furori!'
(Let me gaze at what I cannot touch and have nourishment for my pitiable madness!’)
dumque dolet, summa vestem deduxit ab ora nudaque marmoreis percussit pectora palmis.
(And while he grieves, he took off his cap from his face and beat his bare breasts with marble palms;)
pectora traxerunt roseum percussa ruborem, non aliter quam poma solent, quae candida parte, parte rubent, aut ut variis solet uva racemis ducere purpureum nondum matura colorem.
(His beaten chest bore a rosy blush, not unlike apples are accustomed to be, which are white in one part, but redden in another, or as the grape, ripe on its numerous vines, is accustomed to draw out a color not yet purple;)
quae simul adspexit liquefacta rursus in unda, non tulit ulterius, sed ut intabescere flavae igne levi cerae matutinaeque pruinae sole tepente solent, sic attenuatus amore liquitur et tecto paulatim carpitur igni;
(Likewise, he gazed down upon the watery wave, nor did he go anywhere else, but just as glowing wax from a thin flame and the morning dew from tepid sunlight are accustomed to melt away, so did he, emaciated from his love, melt and little by little, he is plucked away, covered in flame;)
et neque iam color est mixto candore rubori, nec vigor et vires et quae modo visa placebant, nec corpus remanet, quondam quod amaverat Echo.
(And no longer is there red color mixed in his whiteness or energy or strength or those features that were just now pleasing, and his body does not remain, which Echo had once loved;)
quae tamen ut vidit, quamvis irata memorque, indoluit, quotiensque puer miserabilis 'eheu' dixerat, haec resonis iterabat vocibus 'eheu';
(And when she still beheld this, despite her anger and memory, she began to grieve inside, and however many times that pitiable boy uttered, ‘alas’, she repeated with resounding echoes ‘alas’;)
cumque suos manibus percusserat ille lacertos, haec quoque reddebat sonitum plangoris eundem.
(And when he had thrashed his own arms with his hands, she too returned the same sound of the thrashing;)
ultima vox solitam fuit haec spectantis in undam: 'heu frustra dilecte puer!' totidemque remisit verba locus, dictoque vale 'vale' inquit et Echo.
(This was the last utterance of that boy gazing upon the lonely pool: ‘Alas, for nothing, my chosen lad!’ And so many times did the place send his words back and forth, and in a spoken farewell, he and Echo said, ‘farewell’)
ille caput viridi fessum submisit in herba, lumina mors clausit domini mirantia formam:
(He dropped his weary hand on the green grass; death closed his eyes, which yet behold the beauty of his conqueror;)
tum quoque se, postquam est inferna sede receptus, in Stygia spectabat aqua.
(Then, after he had been received into the Underworld, he even began to gaze into the Stygian pool;)
planxere sorores naides et sectos fratri posuere capillos, planxerunt dryades;
(His Naead sisters began to lament, and his brothers combed his parted hair; the Dryads began to grieve;)
iamque rogum quassasque faces feretrumque parabant: nusquam corpus erat; croceum pro corpore florem inveniunt foliis medium cingentibus albis.
(And now they began to prepare his funeral pyre, shimmering torches, and coffin; there was no longer a body; they find a saffron flower with white petals, instead of his body.)
Image: POUSSIN, Nicolas. Echo and Narcissus. 1628-30Oil on canvas, 74 x 100 cmMusée du Louvre, Paris