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Narcissus and Echo

The vocal nymph this lovely huntsman view'd,
As he into the toils his prey pursu'd,
Though of the power of speaking first debarr'd,
She could not hold from answering what she heard.
The jealous Juno by her wiles betray'd,
Took this revenge on the deceitful maid,
For when she might have seiz'd her faithless Jove,
Often in am'rous thefts of lawless love;
Her tedious talk would make the goddess stay,
And give her rivals time to run away:
Which when she found, she cried, "For such a wrong,
Small be the power of that deluding tongue."
Immediately the deed confirm'd the threats,
For Echo only what she hears repeats.
Now at the sight of the fair youth she glows,
And follows silently where'er he goes.
The nearer she pursu'd, the more she mov'd
Thro' the dear track he trode, the more she lov'd.
Still her approach inflamed her fierce desire,
As sulph'rous torches catch the neighb'ring fire.
How often would she strive, but strove in vain,
To tell the passion and confess her pain?
A thousand tender things her thoughts suggest,
With which she would have woo'd; but they suppress'd
For want of speech, lay buried in her breast.
Begin she could not, but she staid to wait
Till he should speak, and she his speech repeat.
Now several ways his young companions gone,
And for some time Narcissus left alone;
Where are you all?" at last she hears him call;
And she straight answers him, "Where are you all?"
Around he lets his wandering eye-sight roam,
But sees no creature whence the voice should come.
"Speak yet again," he cries, "is any nigh?"
Again the mournful Echo answers, "I."
"Why come not you!" says he, "appear in view:"
She hastily returns, " Why come not you ?"
Once more the voice th' astonish'd huntsman tried,
Louder he called, and louder she replied.
Then let us join," at last Narcissus said;
"Then let us join," replied the ravish'd maid.
Scarce had she spoke, when from the woods she sprung,
And on his neck with close embraces hung.
But he with all his strength unlocks her fold,
And breaks unkindly from her feeble hold:
Then proudly cries, "Life shall this breast forsake
Ere you, loose nymph, on me your pleasure take."
"On me your pleasure take," the nymph replies,
While from her the disdainful huntsman flies.
Repuls'd, with speed she seeks the gloomiest groves,
And pines to think on her rejected loves.
Alone laments her ill-requited flame,
And in the closest thickets shrouds her shame.
Her rage to be refus'd yields no relief,
But her fond passion is encreas'd by grief.
The thoughts of such a slight all sleep suppress'd,
And kept her languishing for want of rest:
Now pines she quite away with anxious care,
Her skin contracts, her blood dissolves to air,
Nothing but voice and bones she now retains,
These turn to stones, but still the voice remains:
In woods, caves, hills, for ever hid she lies,
Heard by all ears, but never seen by eyes.
Thus her and other nymphs his proud disdain
With an unheard of cruelty had slain;
Many on mountains and in rivers born,
Thus perish'd underneath his haughty scorn;
When one who in their suffrings bore a share,
With suppliant hands address'd this humble pray'r,
Thus may he love himself, and thus despair!"
Nor were her pray'rs at an ill hour preferr'd;
Rhamnusia, the revengeful goddess, heard.
Nature had plac'd a crystal fountain near,
The water deep, but to the bottom clear;
Whose silver spring ascended gently up,
And bubbled softly to the silent top.
The surface smooth as icy lakes appear'd,
Unknown by herdsman, undisturb'd by herd.
No bending tree above its surface grows,
Or scatters thence its leaves or broken boughs;
Yet at a just convenient distance stood,
All round the peaceful spring, a stately wood,
Thro' whose thick tops no sun could shoot his beams,
Nor view his image in the silver streams.
Thither from hunting, and the scorching heat,
The wearied youth was one day led by fate:
Down on his face to drink the spring he lies,
But as his image in that glass he spies,
He drinks in passion deeper at his eyes.
His own reflection works his wild desire,
And he himself sets his own self on fire:
Fix'd as some statue, he preserves his place,
Intent his looks, and motionless his face;
Deep thro' the spring his eye-balls dart their beams,
Like midnight stars that twinkle in the streams.
His iv'ry neck the crystal mirrow shows,
His waving hair above the surface flows,
His cheeks reflect the lily and the rose.
His own perfection all his passions mov'd,
He loves himself who for himself was lov'd;
Who seeks, is sought; who kindles the desires,
Is scorch'd himself; who is admir'd, admires.
Oft would he the deceitful spring embrace,
And seek to fasten on that lovely face
Oft with his down-thrust arms he thought to fold
About that neck that still deludes his hold,
He gets no kisses from those coz'n'ng lips;
His arms grasp nothing; from himself he slips;
He knows not what he views, and yet pursues
His desp'rate love, and burns for what he views.
"Catch not so fondly at a fleeting shade,
And be no longer by yourself betray'd;
It borrows all it has from you alone,
And it can boast of nothing of its own:
With you it comes, with you it stays, and so
Would go away, had you the power to go."
Neither for sleep nor hunger would he move,
But gazing still augments his hopeless love;
Still o'er the spring lie keeps his bending head,
Still with that flatt'ring form his eyes lie fed,
And silently surveys the treacherous shade.
To the deaf woods at length his grief he vents,
And in these words the wretched youth laments:
Tell me, ye hills, and dales, and neighboring groves,
You that are conscious of so many loves;
Say, have you ever seen a lover pine
Like me, or ever knew a love like mine ?
I know not whence this sudden flame should come,
I like and see, but see I know not whom;
What grieves me more, no rocks, nor rolling seas,
Nor strong-wall'd cities, nor untrodden ways,
Only a slender silver stream destroys,
And casts the bar between our sundred joys;
E'en he too seems to feel an equal flame,
The same his passion, his desires the same;
As oft as I my longing lips incline
To join with his, his mouth to meet with mine.
So near our faces and our mouths approach,
That almost to ourselves we seem to touch.
Come forth, whoe'er thou art, and do not fly
From one so passionately fond as I;
I've nothing to deserve your just disdain,
But have been lov'd, as I love you, in vain.
Yet all the signs of mutual love you give,
And my poor hopes in all your actions live;
When in the stream our hands I strive to join,
Yours straight ascend, and half way grasp at mine.
You smile my smiles; when I a tear let fall,
You shed another, and consent in all;
And when I speak, your lovely lips appear
To utter something which I cannot hear.
Alas! 'tis I myself; too late I see,
My own deceitful shade has ruin'd me;
With a mad passion for myself I'm curs'd,
And bear about those flames I kindled first.
In so perplex'd a case, what can I do ?
Ask, or be ask'd? shall I be woo'd, or woo?
All that I wish, I have ; what would I more?
Ah ! 'tis my too great plenty makes me poor.
Divide me from myself, ye powers divine,
Nor let his being intermix with mine!
All that I love and wish for, now retake;
A strange request for one in love to make!
I feel my strength decay with inward grief,
And hope to lose my sorrows with my life;
Nor would I mourn my own untimely fate,
Were he I love allow'd a longer date:
This makes me at my cruel stars repine,
That his much dearer life must end with mine.'
This said, again he turns his wat'ry face,
And gazes wildly in the crystal glass,
While streaming tears from his full eye-lids fell,
And drop by drop rais'd circles in the well;
The several rings larger and larger spread,
And by degrees dispers'd the fleeting shade,
Which when perceiv'd, "Oh, whither would you go?
(He cries,) ah! whither, whither fly you now?
Stay, lovely shade, do not so cruel prove,
In leaving me, who to distraction love;
Let me still see what ne'er can be possess'd,
And with the sight alone my phrensy feast."
Now frantic with his grief, his robe he tears,
And tokens of his rage his bosom bears;
The cruel wounds on his pure body show,
Like crimson mingling with the whitest snow;
Like apples with vermilion-circle's stripe,
Or a fair bunch of grapes not fully ripe.
But when he looks and sees the wounds he made,
Writ on the bosom of the charming shade,
His sorrows would admit of no relief,
But all his sense was swallow'd in his grief.
As wax, near any kindled fuel plac'd,
Melts, and is sensibly perceiv'd to waste;
As morning frosts are found to thaw away,
When once the sun begins to warm the day;
So the fond youth dissolves in hopeless fires,
And by degrees consumes in vain desires.
His lovely cheeks now lost their white and red,
Diminish'd was his strength, his beauty fled;
His body from its just proportions fell,
Which the scorn'd Echo lately lov'd so well
Yet though her first resentments she retaind,
And still remember'd how she was disdain'd,
She sigh'd, and when the wretched lover cried,
"Alas! alas!" the woful nymph replied.
Then when, with cruel blows his hands would wound
His tender breast, she still restor'd the sound.
Now hanging o'er the spring his drooping head,
With a sad sigh these lying words lie said:
"Ah! boy, belov'd in vain!" through all the plain
Echo resounds, " Ah! boy, belov'd in vain!"
"Farewell," he cries, and with that word he died;
"Farewell!" the miserable nymph replied.
Now pale and breathless on the grass he lies,
For death had shut his self-admiring eyes;
Now wafted over to the Stygian coast,
The waters there reflect his wandering ghost;
In loud laments his weeping sisters mourn,
Which Echo makes the neighb'ring hills return.
All signs of desp'rate grief the nymphs express,
Great is the moan, yet is not Echo's less.

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