After tonight, I have six more harrowing fourteen-hour days. Woo hoo! I’m going to be inundated with papers soon, but no matter… I have a mere three weeks until I can rest… unless, that is, Mary goes into labor that day, which she probably will… no rest, eh? No rest.
I’ve decided to save Gravity’s Rainbow for another day–I’m just too involved right now, and the book doesn’t break down well like, say, Ovid does. So I’m reading Ovid again, one episode at a time. The poetic insight of the man is phenomenal–I’d always heard about his influence on later poetry, but his own play with the concepts of identity, form, deity, humanity, and such are wonderful. I’ll probably be commenting on Ovid for the next few posts as I did on Malory a while back.
One episode that deserves comment today is that of Echo and Narcissus. I’d always heard the story in outline, and I’d encountered it in Apuleius (I think it’s in there, anyway), but Ovid’s commentary on the love of self is just great:
He wants himself; he praises, but his praise
Is for himself; he is the seeker and
The sought, the longed-for and the one who longs;
He is the arsonist–and is the scorched.
How many futile kisses did he waste
On the deceptive pool! How often had
He clasped the neck he saw but could not grasp
Within the water, where his arms plunged deep!
He knows not what he sees, but what he sees
Invites him. Even as teh pool deceives
His eyes, it tempts them with delights. But why,
O foolish boy, do you persist? Why try
To grip an image? He does not exist–
The one you love and long for. If you turn
Away, he’ll fade; the face you discern
Is but a shadow, your own reflected form.
The shape has nothing of its own: it comes
With you, with you it stays; it will retreat
When you have gone–if you can ever leave!
If there’s ever been poetry that begged for Christian allegory, this has to be it. The potential commentary on our own self-fashioned gods is tremendous. And it’s got to be an influence on Milton when he narrates Satan’s incestuous desire for his daughter Sin–if I remember right, Milton even points out that Satan only loves himself in her.
BTW, this is all from Allen Mandelbaum’s translation.