Sep 18, 2015


[Narcissus] was out hunting one day, driving deer 
into the nets, when a nymph named Echo saw him,
a nymph whose way of talking was peculiar
in that she could not start a conversation
nor fail to answer other people talking.
Up to this time Echo still had a body,
she was not merely voice. She liked to chatter, 
but had no power of speech except the power
To answer in the words she had last heard...

She saw Narcissus roaming through the country, 
saw him, and burned, and followed him in secret,
burning the more she followed, as when sulphur
smeared on the rim of torches, catches fire
when other fire comes near it. Oh, how often
she wanted to come near with coaxing speeches,
make soft entreaties to him! But her nature
sternly forbids; the one thing not forbidden 
is to make answers. She is more than ready
for words she can give back. By chance Narcissus
lost track of his companions, started calling 
"Is anybody here?" and "Here!" said Echo.
He looked around in wonderment, called louder
"Come to me!" "Come to me!" came back the answer.
He looked behind him, and saw no one coming; 
"Why do you run from me?" and heard his question
repeated in the woods. "Let us get together!"
There was nothing Echo would ever say more glady,

"Let us get together!" And, to help her words, 
Out of the woods she came, with arms all ready 
to fling around his neck. But he retreated: 
"Keep your hands off," he cried, "and do not touch me!
I would die before I give you a chance at me."
"I give you a chance at me," and that was all

she ever said thereafter, spurned and hiding, 
ashamed, in the leafy forests, in lonely caverns...
Her body dries and shrivels till voice only
and bones remain, and then she is voice only
for the bones are turned to stone. She hides in woods
and no one sees her now along the mountains,
but all may hear her, for her voice is living.

Ovid, Metamorphoses (Translated by Rolfe Humphries)


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