Dying of unrequited love, an Eastern queen condemns Narcissus to the same cruel fate (from Orlando Innamorato 2.17.53-55)
(“Acting Medieval Literature,” Prof. Evelyn Birge Vitz, New York University, spring 2015;
performed at the Italian Academy, Columbia University, October 1, 2015)
2.17.53 Her wish was granted, for Narcissus came suddenly upon the fountain I’ve mentioned, one day while he hunted, after he’d chased a hart for long.
He stooped to drink and saw the self that he had never seen before, and, looking, he made this mistake: he fell in love with his own face.
1.17.54 Who ever heard a thing so strange? Behold how Cupid’s justice strikes! He sighed along the fountain’s brink. He craved what he could never take. That soul, who was so inhumane, whom damsels on their knees adored— worshipped! as if he were a god— loved just himself, and so he perished.
1.17.55 The boy, transfixed by his own face— its beauty was unparallelled— wasted away, infatuated; and like a lily or cut rose
that young knight dwindled and declined until his fair face, red and white, his handsome looks and his dark eyes consumed him, who’d consumed all others.
Orlando in Love, trans. Charles S. Ross (West Lafayette, IN: Parlor Press, 2004).