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Echo And Narcissus
by [?]

In the solitudes of the hills we find her, and yet we may come on her unawares in the din of a noisy city. She will answer us where the waves are lashing themselves against the rugged cliffs of our own British coast, or we may find her where the great yellow pillars of fallen temples lie hot in the sun close to the vivid blue water of the African sea. At nightfall, on the lonely northern moors, she mimics the cry of a wailing bird that calls for its mate, but it is she who prolongs the roll of the great organ in a vast cathedral, she who repeats the rattle and crack and boom of the guns, no matter in what land the war may be raging. In the desolate Australian bush she makes the crash of the falling limb of a dead gum tree go on and on, and tortures the human being who is lost, hopelessly lost, and facing a cruel death, by repeating his despairing calls for help. Through the night, in old country-houses, she sports at will and gives new life to sad old tales of the restless dead who restlessly walk. But she echoes the children’s voices as they play by the seashore or pick primroses in the woods in spring, and when they greet her with laughter, she laughs in merry response. They may fear her when the sun has gone down, and when they are left all alone they begin to dread her mockery. Yet the nymph who sought for love and failed to gain what she sought must surely find some comfort on those bright days of summer and of spring when she gives the little children happiness and they give her their love.

When all the world was young, and nymphs and fauns and dryads dwelt in the forests, there was no nymph more lovely and more gay than she whose name was Echo. Diana would smile on her for her fleetness of foot when she followed her in the chase, and those whom she met in the leafy pathways of the dim, green woods, would pass on smiling at the remembrance of her merry chatter and her tricksy humour.

It was an evil day for Echo when she crossed the path of Hera, queen of the gods. The jealous goddess sought her errant husband, who was amusing himself with some nymphs, and Echo, full of mischievous glee, kept her in talk until the nymphs had fled to safety. Hera was furious indeed when she found out that a frolicsome nymph had dared to play on her such a trick, and ruthlessly she spoke fair Echo’s doom.

“Henceforth,” she said, “the tongue with which thou hast cheated me shall be in bonds. No longer wilt thou have the power to speak in greeting. To the tongues of others shall thy tongue be slave, and from this day until time shall cease thou shalt speak only to repeat the last words that have fallen on thine ears.”

A maimed nymph indeed was Echo then, yet whole in all that matters most, in that her merry heart was still her own. But only for a little while did this endure.

Narcissus, the beautiful son of a nymph and a river god, was hunting in a lonely forest one day when Echo saw him pass. To her he seemed more fair than god or man, and once she had seen him she knew that she must gain his love or die. From that day on, she haunted him like his shadow, gliding from tree to tree, nestling down amongst thick fern and undergrowth, motionless as one who stalks a wild thing, watching him afar off while he rested, gladdening her eyes with his beauty. So did she feed her hungering heart, and sought to find contentment by looking on his face each day.