“The Story of Narcissus” – Ovid

by richibi


Narcissus, c.1599 - Caravaggio

          Narcissus” (c.1599)







               Thus did the nymphs in vain caress the boy,


the boy, Narcissus


in vain , Narcissus‘ pride, you’ll remember,

was such that love-sick maid[s] uselessly

[their] flame confess’d, Narcissus was

oblivious to their advances

He still was lovely, but he still was coy;
               When one fair virgin of the slighted train


slighted train, row of followers, love-sick

maid[s] who’d been spurned by Narcissus

               Thus pray’d the Gods, provok’d by his disdain,


provok’d by his disdain, angered by his


               “Oh may he love like me, and love like me in vain!”


beseeches the one fair virgin

               Rhamnusia pity’d the neglected fair,


Rhamnusia, goddess of Retribution,

also known as Nemesis

               And with just vengeance answer’d to her pray’r.


just vengeance, justified retribution


               There stands a fountain in a darksom wood,
               Nor stain’d with falling leaves nor rising mud;
               Untroubled by the breath of winds it rests,
               Unsully’d by the touch of men or beasts;
               High bow’rs of shady trees above it grow,
               And rising grass and chearful greens below.


bow’rs, enclosures among trees


greens, lawns, grasslands

               Pleas’d with the form and coolness of the place,
               And over-heated by the morning chace,
               Narcissus on the grassie verdure lyes:


verdure, greenness

               But whilst within the chrystal fount he tries
               To quench his heat, he feels new heats arise.


chrystal fount, glistening fountain,

or spring

               For as his own bright image he survey’d,
               He fell in love with the fantastick shade;


shade, apparition, illusion

               And o’er the fair resemblance hung unmov’d,


see above

               Nor knew, fond youth! it was himself he lov’d.
               The well-turn’d neck and shoulders he descries,


descries, espies, catches sight of

               The spacious forehead, and the sparkling eyes;
               The hands that Bacchus might not scorn to show,


Bacchus, god of Wine and Revelry, also

known as Dionysus

And hair that round Apollo’s head might flow;


Apollo, god of the Sun

               With all the purple youthfulness of face,
               That gently blushes in the wat’ry glass.


wat’ry glass, the chrystal fount

               By his own flames consum’d the lover lyes,
               And gives himself the wound by which he dies.


the wound, the sight of himself


dies, succumbs, is undone

               To the cold water oft he joins his lips,
               Oft catching at the beauteous shade he dips

               His arms,


shade, see above


                     as often from himself he slips.


slips, becomes abstracted, bewildered

               Nor knows he who it is his arms pursue
               With eager clasps, but loves he knows not who.


he cannot give substance to this illusion

What could, fond youth, this helpless passion move?

               What kindled in thee this unpity’d love?

 move, excite, indeed kindle[]

               Thy own warm blush within the water glows,


the poet, here, note, interjects, speaks

directly to Narcissus

               With thee the colour’d shadow comes and goes,


colour’d, because of the water, an exact

replication, even chromatically, but

shimmering, com[ing] and go[ing]


shadow, shade, see above, reflection

               Its empty being on thy self relies;


empty being, fabrication, imagined



on thy self relies, you are yourself

the source of your illusion

               Step thou aside, and the frail charmer dies.


frail charmer, shimmering, insubstantial



stay tuned



R ! chard