Upon what meat have you fed
that you can…
The curser, not the cursed
Sleep, Perchance” (“Chicago Journal,” October/03),
Sharla Stewart refers to “Ondine’s Curse” of central
hypoventilation as a curse placed on Ondine to “stay awake
in order to breathe.”
The reference is inaccurate—Ondine, the
sea-nymph daughter of Neptune, had a mortal lover who became unfaithful
and was the actual recipient of the curse. The romance and its curse
were dramatized by the French playwright Jean Giraudaux, who gave
Hans von Witterstien, Ondine’s lover, the following (translated)
mellifluous lines: “Since you left me, Ondine, all of the
things my body once did by itself, it now does only by special order....
‘He died,’ they will say, ‘because it was a nuisance
Sadly, Hans’s fate will probably befall
the patient discussed in the U of C’s sleep lab—a patient
well diagnosed but whose classical reference was incorrectly attributed.
Richard Woellner, AB’51, SB’53, MD’55
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