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Myths of Greece and Rome Narrated with Special Reference to Literature and Art

Page: 52

The agitated waters soon resumed their mirrorlike smoothness; and Narcissus, approaching noiselessly on tiptoe, and cautiously peeping into the pool, became aware first of curly, tumbled locks, and then of a pair of beautiful, watchful, anxious eyes. Evidently the nymph had just concluded to emerge from her hiding place to reconnoiter.

[120] More prudent this time, the youth gradually bent further over the pool; and, reassured by his kindly glances, the nymph’s whole head appeared. In gentle tones the youth now addressed her; and her ruby lips parted and moved as if she were answering, though not a sound came to his ear. In his excitement he began to gesticulate, whereupon two snowy arms repeated his every gesture; but when, encouraged by her loving glances and actions, he tried once more to clasp her in his arms, she vanished as rapidly as the first time.

Time and again the same pantomime was enacted, and time and again the nymph eluded his touch; but the enamored youth could not tear himself away from the spot haunted by this sweet image, whose sensitive face reflected his every emotion, and who grew as pale and wan as he,—evidently, like him, a victim to love and despair.

Even the shades of night could not drive Narcissus away from his post, and, when the pale moonbeams illumined his retreat, he bent over the pool to ascertain whether she too were anxious and sleepless, and saw her gazing longingly up at him.

There Narcissus lingered day and night, without eating or drinking, until he died, little suspecting that the fancied nymph was but his own image reflected in the clear waters. Echo was avenged; but the gods of Olympus gazed compassionately down upon the beautiful corpse, and changed it into a flower bearing the youth’s name, which has ever since flourished beside quiet pools, wherein its pale image is clearly reflected.


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