ECHO & NARCISSUS
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ECHO & NARCISSUS
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ECHO & NARCISSUS PAGE THREE
AS TOLD BY THOMAS BULLFINCH
continued from page two
Echo was a beautiful nymph, fond of the woods and hills, where
she devoted herself to woodland sports. She was a favourite of
Diana, and attended her in the chase. But Echo had one failing;
she was fond of talking, and whether in chat or argument, would
have the last word.
One day Juno was seeking her husband, who, she had reason to
fear, was amusing himself among the nymphs. Echo by her talk
contrived to detain the goddess till the nymphs made their
escape. When Juno discovered it, she passed sentence upon Echo
in these words: "You shall forfeit the use of that tongue with
which you have cheated me, except for that one purpose you are
so fond of - reply. You shall still have the last word, but no
power to speak first."
This nymph saw Narcissus, a beautiful youth, as he pursued the
chase upon the mountains. She loved him and followed his
footsteps. O how she longed to address him in the softest
accents, and win him to converse! but it was not in her power.
She waited with impatience for him to speak first, and had her
One day the youth, being separated from his companions, shouted
aloud, "Who's here?" Echo replied, "Here." Narcissus looked
around, but seeing no one, called out, "Come." Echo answered,
"Come." As no one came, Narcissus called again, "Why do you shun
me?" Echo asked the same question. "Let us join one another,"
said the youth. The maid answered with all her heart in the same
words, and hastened to the spot, ready to throw her arms about
He started back, exclaiming, "Hands off! I would rather die than
you should have me!"
"Have me," said she; but it was all in vain. He left her, and
she went to hide her blushes in the recesses of the woods. From
that time forth she lived in caves and among mountain cliffs.
Her form faded with grief, till at last all her flesh shrank
away. Her bones were changed into rocks and there was nothing
left of her but her voice. With that she is still ready to reply
to any one who calls her, and keeps up her old habit of having
the last word.
Narcissus's cruelty in this case was not the only instance. He
shunned all the rest of the nymphs, as he had done poor Echo.
One day a maiden who had in vain endeavored to attract him
uttered a prayer that he might some time or other feel what it
was to love and meet no return of affection.
The avenging goddess heard and granted the prayer. There was a
clear fountain, with water like silver, to which the shepherds
never drove their flocks, nor the mountain goats resorted, nor
any of the beasts of the forests; neither was it defaced with
fallen leaves or branches; but the grass grew fresh around it,
and the rocks sheltered it from the sun.
Hither came one day the youth, fatigued with hunting, heated and
thirsty. He stooped down to drink, and saw his own image in the
water; he thought it was some beautiful water-spirit living in
the fountain. He stood gazing with admiration at those bright
eyes, those locks curled like the locks of Bacchus or Apollo,
the rounded cheeks, the ivory neck, the parted lips, and the
glow of health and exercise over all.
He fell in love with himself. He brought his lips near to take a
kiss; he plunged his arms in to embrace the beloved object. It
fled at the touch, but returned again after a moment and renewed
the fascination. He could not tear himself away; he lost all
thought of food or rest. while he hovered over the brink of the
fountain gazing upon his own image.
He talked with the supposed spirit: "Why, beautiful being, do
you shun me? Surely my face is not one to repel you. The nymphs
love me, and you yourself look not indifferent upon me. When I
stretch forth my arms you do the same; and you smile upon me and
answer my beckonings with the like."
His tears fell into the water and disturbed the image. As he saw
it depart, he exclaimed, "Stay, I entreat you! Let me at least
gaze upon you, if I may not touch you." With this, and much more
of the same kind, he cherished the flame that consumed him, so
that by degrees be lost his colour, his vigour, and the beauty
which formerly had so charmed the nymph Echo.
She kept near him, however, and when he exclaimed, "Alas! alas!"
she answered him with the same words. He pined away and died;
and when his shade passed the Stygian river, it leaned over the
boat to catch a look of itself in the waters.
The nymphs mourned for him, especially the water-nymphs; and
when they smote their breasts Echo smote hers also. They
prepared a funeral pile and would have burned the body, but it
was nowhere to be found; but in its place a flower, purple
within, and surrounded with white leaves, which bears the name
and preserves the memory of Narcissus.
WRITTEN BY THOMAS BULLFINCH
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