437-453: Narcissus laments the pain of unrequited love (I)

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Nōn illum Cereris, nōn illum cūra quiētis

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abstrahere inde potest, sed opācā fūsus in herbā

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spectat inexplētō mendācem lūmine fōrmam

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perque oculōs perit ipse suōs; paulumque levātus,    440

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ad circumstantēs tendēns sua bracchia silvās

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‘ecquis, iō silvae, crūdēlius’ inquit ‘amāvit?

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scītis enim et multīs latebra opportūna fuistis.

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ecquem, cum vestrae tot agantur saecula vītae,

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quī sīc tābuerit, longō meministis in aevō?               445

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et placet et videō, sed quod videōque placetque

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nōn tamen inveniō’  (tantus tenet error amantem!)

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‘quōque magis doleam, nec nōs mare sēparat ingēns

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nec via nec montēs nec clausīs moenia portīs;

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exiguā prohibēmur aquā. cupit ipse tenērī;               450

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nam quotiēns liquidīs porrēximus ōscula lymphīs,

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hic totiēns ad mē resupīnō nītitur ōre.

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posse putēs tangī; minimum est, quod amantibus obstat.

437-453: After falling in love with his own reflection, Narcissus has tried to embrace his would-be lover but found he cannot. Now, he is distraught, unable to eat or sleep. He complains to the woods about his misfortunes, claiming the woods have never seen a lover as miserable as he is. Narcissus also laments that despite his many attempts, he and his would-be lover can never seem to touch each other, for he still does not understand that he is trying to kiss a reflection.


437 Cereris: metonymy for wheat, or food in general. Narcissus refuses all physical food, instead nourishing himself with his own reflection: looking at his would-be lover is all the sustenance he needs.

Non illum...non illum: repetition of non with illum specifically emphasizes Narcissus’ desperation and his inability to possess himself

440 per oculos perit ipse suos: Narcissus is literally perishing out through his eyes, or by means of his eyes, but not because of his eyes.

442 ecquis: more intense than a simple quis

442-445: Narcissus addresses the woods directly as if they were friendly bystanders, but he does not address Echo, who is actually capable of listening to him.

443 scitis enim et multis latebra opportuna fuistis: reminds readers that Narcissus is in a locus amoenus, a landscape particularly conducive to secret affairs and, in the Met., to rape. By addressing the woods themselves, Narcissus seems to call to mind the many rapes and near misses of the Met. committed in the woods, and the objects of desire who have become part of the silvae to which he speaks. Is he bemoaning his impotency, his inability to rape in this line? Or is his entire address to the trees foreshadowing for his own fate as a flower?

444 agantur: subjunctive in a causal cum clause

445 tabuerit: perfect subjunctive in a relative clause of characteristic

446: Ovid plays up the irony of Narcissus’ situation through the duality and reversal of video and placet.

447 tantus tenet error amantem: widely considered to be an interjection by the narrator, not a part of Narcissus’ speech. By inserting himself into the middle of his speech, just as it’s reaching its peak, Ovid undercuts the gravity of Narcissus’ complaint.

Error: the word used by the narrator to absolve Actaeon of any guilt earlier in Book 3, at 142. By reusing error, Ovid draws attention to the fact that it is an unintentional error that dooms both Actaeon and Narcissus: in Actaeon’s case, he accidentally stumbles upon Diana naked, and in Narcissus’ case, he does not know that the man he’s falling in love with is his own reflection.

448 quoque: introduces a relative clause of purpose

449 via...montes...moenia: subjects of separat along with mare

450 aqua exigua: either heightens the drama because Narcissus is so close to being with his would-be lover and yet cannot reach him, or undermines Narcissus’ lament by drawing attention to how ridiculous his situation is.

453 putes: potential subjunctive introducing an indirect statement, “you might think that…”

Cerēs Cereris f.: wheat; Ceres

quiēs quiētis f.: quiet, calm, rest, peace; sleep

abstrahō –trahere –trāxī –tractum: to drag away

opācus –a –um: shady; obscure, dark; subst., opaca, orum, n., partitive; opaca viarum, dark pathways, roads

herba herbae f.: grass, herb

inexplētus –a –um: unsatisfied, insatiate

mendāx –ācis: given to lying; false, deceitful (> mentior)

paulum: a little (> paulus, small)

levō levāre levāvī levātus: to lift/raise/hold up; support; erect, set up; lift off, remove (load); comfort; undo, take off; release, rid; free from (worry/expense); refresh/restore; lighten, lessen, relieve; reduce in force/potency; bring down (cost/prices); alleviate

circumstō circumstāre circumstetī: to stand round, surround

brachium brachī(ī) n.: arm

ecquis: whether any

: hurrah! oh!

crūdēlis crūdēle: cruel, hardhearted, unmerciful, severe, bloodthirsty, savage, inhuman; harsh, bitter

latebra –ae f.: hiding place, concealment

opportūnus –a –um: suitable; advantageous; useful, fit, favorable/opportune, ready; liable/exposed

tābescō –bescere –bui: to waste away

sēparō sēparāre sēparāvī sēparātum: to sever, separate

exiguus –a –um: small, little

liquidus –a –um: clear, liquid, melodious

porrigō porrigere porrēxī porrēctum: to stretch forth, hold forth, lift; (pass.), to be stretched out, extend (> pro and rego)

ōsculum –ī n.: kiss

lympha –ae f.: clear spring water; water

totiēns: so often, so many times

resupīnus –a –um: bent back; lying extended on the back; supine, thrown backwards; stretched out

nītor nītī nīxus sum: to press/lean upon; struggle; advance; depend on (with abl.); strive, labor

minimus –a –um: least, smallest, very small, minute, trifling, insignificant

obstō obstāre obstitī obstātum: to stand in the way; hinder, block

Source: https://iris.haverford.edu/echo/437-453-narcissus-laments-the-pain-of-unrequited-love-i/