March 22, 2021

#08-061: Echo and Narcissus

a semi-nude woman gazes longingly at a beautiful young man, who is himself gazing at his own reflection as he lies looking into a pond
Echo gazes longingly at Narcissus as Narcissus gazes longingly at Narcissus.

Note: Narcissus is doomed to love only himself, and Echo to love only him, and to repeat the words of others. Read sad their story.

Get Ready: Do you know anyone who is a "narcissist," able to think only of him- or herself and not others?

Ovid, in his Metamorphoses (which means "transformations," a constant theme in mythology) tells us of a handsome hunter named Narcissus, who rejects the advances of all suitors, until at last he falls deeply in love with himself. (We get the word "narcissism" from this fault of his.)

Into his story comes a young mountain nymph named Echo. 

She had aided Jupiter in pursuing his extramarital conquests, which offended the supreme goddess Juno, Jupiter's wife. So Juno curses the nymph: she can only complete sentences that she never starts, and can produce no words of her own--lending her name to the familiar phenomenon heard in empty rooms and on the edges of canyons.

She, alas, falls in love with the beautiful Narcissus. One day, the young man becomes lost in the woods while hunting deer with his friends. She follows him surreptitiously, but when he calls out, "Is anyone here?" she must, as a result of her curse, reply, "Here!"

Thinking he has been found, Narcissus calls out, "Come," to which Echo replies, "Come." The youth assumes that someone is playing a sort of hide-and-seek game with him. Intrigued, he calls out, "This way, we must come together!" Poor Echo, thinking this means her love is reciprocated, calls out ecstatically, "Come together!"

She rushes to Narcissus and embraces him. But the lad disgustedly pushes her away, saying, "Hands off! May I die before you enjoy my body!" Humiliated, Echo repeats the shameful words, "Enjoy my body!" and runs away.

From that day forward, she lives alone, hiding in the forest, until at last her body wastes away, leaving only her voice, which we can still hear if we call out in lonely places.

In the meantime, Venus, the goddess of love (in her form "Nemesis" or Revenge), taking pity on poor Echo, decides to punish the vain youth. Thirsty from hunting, Narcissus stops beside a still pool and leans over the water to drink. Venus causes him to fall in love with his own reflection (perhaps not realizing it is himself). So enraptured is he that he remains rooted to the spot, and as time passes, is transformed into the beautiful flower which today bears his name, and can sometimes still be seen drooping over a pond as though gazing at its reflection.

The daffodil is perhaps the most
familiar variety of narcissus flower.


Read more:

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. disgustedly
  2. drooping
  3. ecstatically
  4. embraces
  5. enraptured
  6. extramarital
  7. gazing
  8. nymph
  9. reciprocated
  10. surreptitiously

  1. with overpowering emotion
  2. hugs
  3. staring
  4. outside of marriage
  5. with strong distaste
  6. feeling great joy or delight
  7. given in return; exchanged
  8. secretly
  9. a lesser goddess of nature
  10. hanging down

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for March 22, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. e; 2. j; 3. a; 4. b; 5. f; 6. d; 7. c; 8. i; 9. g; 10. h