Echo was an Oread, a mountain nymph. She had a reputation for talking rather a lot and used this skill to distract Hera from searching for her husband Zeus who is conducting numerous affairs. As a punishment, Hera takes away Echo’s voice so that she is only able to repeat whatever she hears, a voice becomes an echo. She is silenced and loses her own authority. Wandering one day she catches sight of Narcissus and falls madly, maybe obsessively in love with him. He catches sight of her but spurns her telling her he would rather die than be with her. And from then on she can only echo his voice and watch as he falls in love with his own reflection in the water. He too becomes obsessed, with himself, and eventually dies as Echo watches on. His body by the pool becomes the Narcissus flower. Echo wastes away with only the Echo of her voice remaining. A tale of obsession? narcissism or the search for the Beloved? Certainly one of loss and grief.
ECHO’S LAMENT FOR NARCISSUS by Ben Jonson(1572-1632)
Slow, slow, fresh fount, keep time with my salt tears;
Yet slower, yet, O faintly, gentle springs:
List to the heavy part the music bears,
Woe weeps out her division, when she sings.
Droop, herbs and flowers,
Fall grief in showers;
Our beauties are not ours:
O, I could still,
Like melting snow upon some craggy hill,
Drop, drop, drop, drop,
Since nature’s pride is, now, a withered daffodil.