The Story of Narcissus

Fathered by the river god Cephissus and the lovely nymph Liriope, the boy Narcissus was born. Narcissus grew healthy and strong and more beautiful than any other boy in the land. Many were those who fell in love with the beautiful lad. None, he felt, were good enough for him.

Echo was a mountain nymph who was cursed by Hera. Angered by Echo’s tricks, Hera commanded, “Henceforth that evil tongue of yours will be silent. Except when spoken to, you shall not speak at all and but only to repeat what was spoken to you.”

And so when Echo came upon Narcissus one morning, she could only gaze and not speak. She was taken by his beauty. Hot desire coursed through her veins. She longed to seduce the handsome youth with honeyed words, but she moved her lips in vain.

Narcissus sensed her eyes upon him. “Who is there” he called out. “There,” answered Echo. “Let me see you,” said the boy. “See you” said Echo. Momentarily intrigued, Narcissus then shouted “what are you called?” “You called?”, the nymph replied. Then, unable to contain her ardor, she burst from her cover and threw herself, hot and panting, upon the beautiful youth. Narcissus quickly freed himself from her embrace and fled into the forest. Rejected, Echo dwindled down to nothing the eye can see, and still, Echo can be heard in the woods and mountains looking for the boy Narcissus.

One day, the older, handsome Armeinius could stand it no longer, and told Narcissus how much he longed for him, and asked him to be his lover. Narcissus said nothing, but merely sent a servant to deliver a dagger in response. Armeinius understood the meaning of the “gift” and with that dagger took his own life, calling down the wrath of the gods upon Narcissus, and cursing him to never find a worthy lover.

One afternoon in a secluded woods, Narcissus fell to his knees, exhausted from hunting and being hunted. In front of him was a deep, clear pool, the glassy surface was a perfect mirror. Narcissus peered into the pool. He was startled by the image of unsurpassed beauty peering back at him. No face he had ever seen was like the one he now studied. For the first time in his life he fell in love. He brought his face down closer to kiss the youth and reached into the pool to embrace him. His lips and arms found only water. The image broken by the ripples in the water, Narcissus began to weep, “Do not leave me, oh handsome friend, stay, my love.” Unable to move himself from the reflection, time passed and his beauty waned. “I love you I love you!” he shouted a thousand times into the pool. Narcissus at length died there. His body vanished and where it lay, a flower bloomed with gold petals tinged in white.