Echo and Narcissus
Long ago there lived a nymph called Liriope who gave birth to a beautiful boy called Narcissus. An oracle foretold that he would have a long and happy life as long as he never saw himself. Narcissus grew to be a handsome youth. Lots of women fell in love with him but he disdained all of them. He was indifferent to everyone and neither loved nor hated.
In the forest where Narcissus lived there was a nymph called Echo. Echo was beautiful but had a harsh tongue and often told lies and said unkind things. She was punished by Juno who cursed her by taking away her speech and only allowing her to say what she had last heard. On day, Narcissus was wandering in the forest and Echo saw him and fell in love instantly. However, she couldn’t tell Narcissus how she felt. She followed behind him, hoping he would see her. Narcissus heard the crackling of leaves behind him and shouted out. “Is anyone here?” Echo replied, “Here, here.” She rushed towards him with outstretched arms but Narcissus fled from her shouting, “I will die before I love you.” As he ran off, he heard Echo saying, “I love you, I love you.” Echo was left alone to cry. She cried and cried and wasted away until there was nothing left but her voice.
As Narcissus was running away from Echo, he came across a glittering spring. The water was clear and pure. Narcissus leaned down to drink and as he did so he saw reflected in the water a beautiful youth.
Narcissus fell in love with the youth, not realising it was his own reflection. He had never before seen what he looked like because of what the oracle had foretold. He leaned forward to kiss the beautiful face but the image fled from him. He reached in and tried to grasp the beautiful face but again the image fled. “Why, oh thing of beauty, do you run from me?” he cried but the image did not reply.
He sat by the spring staring into his own face for days and nights on end. He did not drink and did not eat for fear that he might miss his beloved rising from the water. He stayed so long that he became weak and knew his death was near. “Farewell, beloved youth,” he said as he laid his head on the bank of the stream. He died gazing at his own beautiful face.
The water nymphs mourned his death, their mourning repeated by Echo, but when they went to find his body it had disappeared and in its place was a single flower with silver leaves and a golden heart and so was born to the woodland the flower called Narcissus.