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Echo and Narcissus

from Ovid, Metamorphoses 3

Read and translated by George Sharpley

Recordings © the LATIN QVARTER, 2015

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Like all other young women and young men, the nymph Echo is infatuated with the lovely Narcissus. One day she sees him wandering in the

forest, but when she finds the confidence to come forward he hurries away from her.

Metamorphoses 3.379-392

forte puer comitum seductus ab agmine fido
dixerat: 'ecquis adest?' et 'adest' responderat Echo.
hic stupet, utque aciem partes dimittit in omnis,
voce 'veni!' magna clamat: vocat illa vocantem.
respicit et rursus nullo veniente 'quid' inquit
'me fugis?' et totidem, quot dixit, verba recepit.
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;
ille fugit fugiensque 'manus conplexibus aufer!
ante' ait 'emoriar, quam sit tibi copia nostri';
rettulit illa nihil nisi 'sit tibi copia nostri!'

The boy had happened to be separated from his trusty band of companions, and had said: 'Is there anyone here?' And Echo replied 'Here!' In amazement he scans all around. 'Come!' he calls in a loud voice: and her call answers his. He looks behind him and when again no one comes 'Why do you flee from me?' he asks; however often he spoke, each time he heard back his words. He stands still, taken in by the appearance of another's voice. 'Here let us come together,' he says, and never to reply more gladly to any sound 'Let us come together!' answered Echo. She herself makes good her words: she came out of the wood and approached him to throw her arms around the neck she longs for. He flees and as he escapes 'Remove your hands from these embraces! I'll die,' he says, 'before you may have power over me!' She replied nothing but 'You may have power over me!'

Narcissus, who was conceived when his mother Liriope was caught in a river and ravished by the river-god, is himself trapped by water. He is

infatuated with his own reflection and grows weaker and weaker, unable to leave the side of the pond. Slowly he realises that the object of his

love is himself.

Metamorphoses 3.454-473

'quisquis es, huc exi! quid me, puer unice, fallis
quove petitus abis? certe nec forma nec aetas
est mea, quam fugias, et amarunt me quoque

spem mihi nescio quam vultu promittis amico,
cumque ego porrexi tibi bracchia, porrigis ultro,
cum risi, adrides; lacrimas quoque saepe notavi
me lacrimante tuas; nutu quoque signa remittis
et, quantum motu formosi suspicor oris,
verba refers aures non pervenientia nostras!
iste ego sum: sensi, nec me mea fallit imago;
uror amore mei: flammas moveoque feroque.
quid faciam? roger anne rogem? quid deinde

quod cupio mecum est: inopem me copia fecit.
o utinam a nostro secedere corpore possem!
votum in amante novum, vellem, quod amamus,

iamque dolor vires adimit, nec tempora vitae
longa meae superant, primoque exstinguor in aevo.
nec mihi mors gravis est posituro morte dolores,
hic, qui diligitur, vellem diuturnior esset;
nunc duo concordes anima moriemur in una.'

'Whoever you are, come out here! Why do you cheat me, you extraordinary boy? Where do you go when I try to reach you? Surely my looks and age do not deserve your flight; nymphs too have loved me! You offer me some hope with your friendly face, and when I have reached out my arms to you, you stretch yours as well. When I have laughed, so do you; and I've often noticed your tears when I'm crying. To my nodding too your expression responds; and as I suspect from the movement of your lovely lips you answer my words, but it won't reach my ears.

     I am he. I have realised it, and my reflection does not deceive me. I burn with desire for myself: I light the flames and feel their heat. What shall I do? Shall I be wooed or shall I woo? Then why shall I woo? What I desire is part of me: my having it makes me have nothing. Oh, if only I could part from my body! What a strange prayer for a lover, to want what I love to be parted from me.

     And now grief is stealing my strength. There is no long life before me, I die in my prime. But death is nothing to me, for in dying I shall put aside these pains. I would want my beloved to survive a while longer; but now the two of us will die together in one breath.'

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