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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Divine Narcissus

By Sister Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651–1695)

  • A Sacramental Play
  • [NOTE.—The action begins with a Loa or prologue in which the Western World and America appear as persons habited in the dress of Indians. They are about to offer sacrifice to the god of seed-time, when Zeal, a Spanish soldier, interrupts them, and with his armed companions endeavors to compel them to desist. He is prevented and rebuked by Religion in the person of a virgin, who invites the attention of all to the story of the passion of the Divine Narcissus.
  • The persons of the play then take the place of those of the Loa. The Hebrew and the Gentile as Synagogue and Gentility, in the guise of nymphs accompanied by an unseen chorus, alternate in songs of praise,—the first to the Divine Narcissus, the Son of God, the second to the spirit of fountains and flowers. Human Nature, another nymph, asks them to reconcile their songs, and declares the divinity of Narcissus and her love for him. Grace, Echo as Angelic Nature, Pride, Self-Love, and other nymphs, together with a band of shepherds and the chorus, take part with Human Nature and her loving Narcissus in acting a beautiful allegory in which the heathen myth is wedded to Christ’s passion. Echo, as Angelic Nature, sues in vain for the love of Narcissus, and Human Nature comes to the grove to seek him. On her coming she gives voice to the lament in the following.]

  • Enter Human Nature
    HUMAN NATURE—Ah, weary me! my perilous quest

    I follow still with faith untired.

    My wandering steps may have no rest

    Until I find my well-desired,

    My loved Narcissus, whom in vain

    I seek through shady grove and sunny plain.

    Hope leads me to this pleasant glade,

    With promise of my lost one’s sight.

    If I may trust her gentle aid,

    His presence caused the sweet delight

    Which beams in every fragrant flower,

    And sets a-tremble all this leafy bower.

    How many days, alas! have I

    The woodland, flower by flower, searched

    With many a heart-consuming sigh,

    By thorns empierced, by slime besmirched;

    Each woe to new hope giving birth!

    Ages my days, my pilgrimage the earth!

    My past declares our sacred troth;

    The paths I’ve trod with ceaseless pain,

    My sighs and groans commingling both

    With tears that wet my cheeks like rain!

    Nay, slavery and prison oft

    My unforgetting fealty madly scoffed!

    Once was I from his city driven,

    E’en by the servants of his power,—

    My mantle torn, my sceptre riven.

    The watchers of his warden tower

    My shoulders scourged with whips of flame,

    And thrust me forth with Sin and Evil Fame.

    O nymphs, who grace this fair retreat!

    Your sympathy I pray impart:

    Should you my soul’s Beloved meet,

    Tell him the longings of my heart;

    The patience of my passion tell,

    My tortured spirit and my anguish fell.

    If sign you need my Loved to know,

    His brow is fair as rosy morn,

    His bosom whiter than the snow,

    With light like that by jasper borne.

    His eyes are limpid as the dove’s,

    And all their deep, unfathomed gleams are Love’s.

    His breath is like the fragrance thrown

    From rarest incense; and his hand

    Is jeweled with the jacynth stone,

    The badge of Glory’s knightly band,

    The jewel of the sigh and tear,—

    The crest of all who triumph over fear.

    He stands as stately as the shaft

    That lifts the temple dome on high;

    His graceful gestures gently waft

    A spell o’er every gazer’s eye.

    O maids! perfections all combine

    To mark the person of my Love divine!—

    Among the myriads you will know him

    O’er all the better or the worse;

    His god-like form will ever show him

    The flower of the universe.

    No other shepherd is there, here

    Or elsewhere, equal to this Shepherd dear!

    Then tell me where my soul’s adored

    His swift and busy footsteps turns!

    What shady bower he fleeth toward

    When high the midday sunlight burns!

    For sad and weary is my heart

    With wandering through the forest’s every part.

    [The action passes naturally to a culmination in the following scene of the resurrection of Narcissus after his supposed death in the fountain.]

    Enter about the Fountain, Human Nature with all the nymphs and shepherds.They bewail the death of Narcissus.Grace enters, and addressing Human Nature, says:
    Grace—Why weep you thus so grievously, fair nymph?

    What seek you, and what is your cause of woe?

    Human Nature—The Master of my love in vain I seek.

    I know not where the jealous Fates have hid

    Him from my eager sight.
    Grace—Lament not! weep not!

    Nor seek among the dead the Eternal One.

    Narcissus, thy Beloved, lives.

    Narcissus, brilliantly dressed and crowned as from the Resurrection, enters, accompanied by a troop of rejoicing shepherds.Human Nature turns and sees him.
    Narcissus—Fair maid,

    Thy pearly tears are precious to my sight,

    And melt my heart to pity! Why does grief

    Thus flood thy gentle eyes?
    Human Nature—I weep, my lord,

    For my Narcissus. Oh, could you but tell

    Me where to seek for my lost love!
    Narcissus—Dear spouse,

    Has heaven’s glory shining on my brow

    So masked me that you know me not?

    Human Nature—O spouse adorable! My joy! My heart

    Bows to the earth with its great happiness!

    I kiss thy feet.
    Narcissus—No, dear one, thou must not!

    A little longer must thou wait, for I

    Go now to join my Father on his throne.

    Human Nature—Thou wilt leave me here alone? Dear Lord, I faint

    To think without thine arm to shelter me

    My enemy the serpent may destroy me.

    Enter Echo, Pride, and Self-Love
    Echo—True that! for he has laid in wait for her

    With wary cunning for these many years.

    [Narcissus rebukes the envious nymphs, and calls on Grace to declare the will of God.]
    Narcissus—Then to thy greater pain, since thou canst wish

    Such evil to another, know my plan

    Of safeguard for my chosen spouse. Speak, Grace,

    The meaning of this parable which we

    So far have acted. Tell my message.

    Ye all! The master I obey.

    My woe grows heavier at thy words of dole.

    Grace—So shall the beauty of Narcissus bloom

    In sovereign state while he enjoys the bliss

    Eternally prepared for him, the king

    Of happiness, dispenser of all joys,

    Perfection’s treasurer and crownèd cause

    Of wonder-making miracles. The orbs

    Whose crystal radiance lights the firmament

    Shall be his lofty glory’s witnesses;

    Their circled courses, as with pens of fire,

    Shall write his deeds upon the vast of space;

    The splendor of the morning stars, the flame

    Of purifying fires, the storm-tossed plumes

    Of ocean, the uplifted crags of earth,

    And the unceasing music of the winds,

    Shall praise him, and from him the myriad suns

    And brilliant stars shall proudly borrow light.

    The sapphire of the deep and placid lakes,

    The pearly radiance of the flying mists,

    Shall be the mirrors of his smile; the fields

    Shall clothe themselves with flowers, and the peaks

    With snow, to imitate his glory.

    The wild things of the forest and the air

    From den and eyrie shall adore his name.

    The silent caverns of the deep shall teem

    With servants of his word. The sea itself

    Shall pile its jeweled waves aloft to make

    The thunderous altars of the choir of storms.

    All growing things—the lofty pine, the moss

    That clings about the desert rock—shall teach

    His worship; him the boundless main declares,

    Receiving all the waters of the earth

    To give them back in helpful rain as he

    Receives in adoration and gives back

    In bliss.
    And this has ever been since time

    And movement of created things began.

    For all things hold their being from his care.

    Should he not care, chaos would mar the world.

    This is the happy year that sways the flowers,

    The fear that tells the lily to grow pale

    And brings a blush upon the rose.
    He came

    To see in man, creation’s prince, the best

    Reflection of himself. God-Man, he saw,

    And loved the Godlike image of himself.

    Godlike to God the only worth can be.