The Beauty Of The Fountain Essay

The Beauty Of The Fountain Essay

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Here the boy lay down, weary both from his zealous hunting and because of the heat, drawn to the beauty of the place and the fountain. While he was eager to slake his thirst, another thirst grew, and while he drank, he was seized by the image of a figure he saw, and he loved a discarnate dream. He thought that which is a shadow is a body. He was enthralled with himself, and, with his face still, he stared at that same face, just like a statue made of Parian marble. Seated on the ground he observed his eyes, twin stars, and his hair worthy of both Bacchus and Apollo, his youthful cheeks and ivory neck, the beauty of his face and its blushing mixed with snowy whiteness, and he marveled at everything for which he himself is remarkable: unsuspecting, he desired himself, and he who admired, he himself was admired, and while he desired, he was desired, and he equally ignited and burned with fire. How often he gave useless kisses to the deceitful fountain, how often he plunged his arms in the middle of the water, trying to capture the neck that he had seen, and didn’t catch himself in these! He didn’t know what he might be seeing; but what he did see, he burned for, and that same uncertainty that deceived his eyes excited them.
While “hic” could be translated as a demonstrative adjective, in this case it makes sense to translate it adverbially as “here,” emphasizing Narcissus’ location near the fountain. Alliteration links the aspects of the place that Narcissus is drawn to and adumbrates the link between beautiful appearances and the water where Narcissus will see a beautiful face reflected.
Present active indicative, translated here (like other verbs in the present active indicative in this passage) as the historical present. The repet...


... middle of paper ...


... that it was himself that he saw there.
Here “in illis” is translated as “in these,” taking “bracchia” as the antecedent of “illis.” “In illis” could, however, also be translated as “in these waters,” with “aquis” as the antecedent of “illis.” The first possibility emphasizes Narcissus’ efforts—and failure—to make physical contact.
The polyptoton in this line (“videat” and “videt”) underlines again the theme of vision in the passage. The use of the indicative to describe vision that fuels Narcissus’ desire (“videt, uritur”), but the subjunctive to describe what he knows about what he sees (“videat, nescit”), highlights the paradox of vision leading to desire but not necessarily to knowledge.
The word order of the final phrase of the passage, which begins with “oculos” and concludes with “error,” reflects once more the theme of vision giving way to misunderstandings.

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