Friday, July 8, 2011

Narcissus and Echo

The Metamorphosis of Narcissus (M├ętamorphose de Narcisse), Oil on Canvas,1937, Salvador Dali, Tate Modern Museum, London

Narcissus ...

Narcissus, who was never very wise,
Observed a water-spirit in a pond
And grew enamored of the comely blonde
Who matched his gaze and filled his shallow eyes.

Through all the dawns, it never dawned on him
Why such a face would shatter at a tear
And flee his touch or why the pond's veneer
Would duplicate an overhanging limb.

The spirits featured in the face of waves,
The lips of fountains or the fountainhead
Are images of us in nature's stead,
Reflecting on the way the world behaves,

And as the spring of youth matures tomorrow
To Old Man Winter and old age, we look
And look and ask the figure in the brook,
As long ago Narcissus did, "Who are you?"

... And Echo

Echo, who tricked a Queen with her replies,
Received a sentence only to respond
And gradually became a vagabond,
A voice, unable to extemporize.

Seeing Narcissus at the water's brim,
She fell in love, but when he said, "Come here,"
The timbre of the forest said, "Come, hear,"
And she became the selfless eponym

For words we put into the mouths of caves,
The teeth of canyons and the woodenhead
Ravines.  Though nature's ministries seem led
By honest voices in the open naves,

Divine and inspirational and true,
The words resounding from an overlook
Are only ours, as once beside a brook,
Narcissus heard from Echo, "Who are you?"

Greg Williamson

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