ECHO ET NARCISSUS
Ovid, Metamorphoses III, 356~510 abridged
Ovid, Metamorphoses III: lines 356-361, 370-401, 413-431, 486-510.
About the author
To find out about Ovid's life and works, click here
Listen to the Poem
A Latin recital of the poem, using the edited text of the Anthology.
Many wall-paintings of Narcissus have been discovered at Pompeii. The myth was evidently a popular one at the time of the city's destruction by Vesuvius in 79 AD.
This version depicts Echo pining away on the left, ignored by Narcissus who loves his own reflection egged on by a cheeky Cupid. From the tablinum of House VI.7.20; now in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples.
Wall-painting still in situ
on a bedroom wall at the House of Marcus Lucretius Fronto in Pompeii.
of Narcissus' head, somewhat colour-enhanced...but still beautiful.
Version still in situ in the House of Octavius Quarto (also known as "House of Loreius Tiburtinus") in Pompeii.
In addition to the Classical images of Echo and Narcissus, there are numerous visual works of art featuring one or both of the mythical pair.
Renaissance representations usually show Narcissus as a teenaged, sometimes cherubic, youth staring longingly into water. He is often seen in these works at the moment when he has discovered his reflection. Late Baroque and Rococo depictions often place Narcissus in Arcadia and tend to emphasize the idealism of classical culture rather than the myth itself. More modern representations are narrative and illustrate the temptation of youthful beauty.
Illustration from a manuscript of the medieval French poem on chivalry and courtly love "Roman de la Rose" or the "Story of the Rose". This was the most extensively illuminated and popular vernacular poem of the period, begun by Guillaume de Lorris in the 1220's and finished by Jean de Meung around 1300.
This illustration is from a copy of c.1380 and is in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.
Am I not just goooorrrgeeeous? One of the most famous sculptures of Narcissus. Made in 1548 by Benvenuto Cellini, now in the Bargello Museum in Florence, Italy.
Painted in 1598 by the great Italian artist Carravaggio.
In the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome.
Painted 1628-30 by the famous French artist Nicolas Poussin.
In the Louvre, Paris.
Another version by Nicolas Poussin.
In the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden, Germany.
Victorian, neo-classical marble sculpture, 1848, of the boy gazing into the pool, by William Theed. At Anglesey Abbey, England.
Beautiful - and perhaps the most famous - version, painted in 1903 by the Victorian artist J.W.Waterhouse. Click on the thumbnail to view full screen. The yellow flowers in the foreground are the daffodil-type blooms that grew where Narcissus wasted away with unrequited love and thus bore his name.
In the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, UK.
"Metamorphosis of Narcissus", 1907, by Salvador Dali.
Dali shows this metamorphosis by doubling a crouching figure by the lake with a hand clutching an egg, from which the narcissus flower sprouts.
In the Tate Modern, London
scroll to find our duo painted by American artist Bryce Cameron Liston...(you'll see some wonderful other versions on the way as well!)
Painted between 1996-2000, this is a more traditional representation of Echo & Narcissus. The girl next to grieving Echo, can be identified, by her water jug (hydria), as a water nymph, the spirit of the pool into which Narcissus gazes.
In a private collection.
Scroll down the page to see a stark and haunting version, by the active Australian artist, Richard Baxter. 1998.Private collection.
Fabulous photo-montage by artist Susie Green.
Echo & Narcissus in Classical Literature
The link takes you to Book III of Ovid's Metamorphoses; scroll down to line 356 for where the Anthology extract starts: "aspicit hunc trepidos...".
A variant Greek legend, excludes Echo, and culminates in Narcissus' suicide. This tale, authored around 50 BC, perhaps by Parthenius of Nicaea (who was Virgil's tutor) is written on a recently translated papyrus
discovered at Oxyrhynchus in Egypt.
The same bloody, pre-Ovidian account of Narcissus is given by Conon (late 1st century BC), an obscure Greek mythographer who in his "Narratives" (Diegeseis), tells of Narcissus and his rejected lover Ameinias:
Ameinias was very adamant and needy. Since he was not desired in return he took a sword and killed himself before the doors of Narcissus, praying earnestly for the god to avenge him. Accordingly, Narcissus when he saw his appearance and beauty in a stream fell adamantly in love with himself. Finally being at a loss and believing that he had suffered justly in return for how he had humiliated him [Ameinias], he killed himself.
Another alternative, as related by the 2nd-century-AD travel-writer, Pausanias (Book IX, 31.6-9):
There is another story about Narcissus, less popular indeed than the other, but not without some support. It is said that Narcissus had a twin sister; they were exactly alike in appearance, their hair was the same, they wore similar clothes, and went hunting together. The story goes on that Narcissus fell in love with his sister, and when the girl died, would go to the spring, knowing that it was his reflection that he saw, but in spite of this knowledge finding some relief for his love in imagining that he saw, not his own reflection, but the likeness of his sister.
Echo had a life in literature way before Ovid, apparently for the first time, made her famous through pairing her with Narcissus.
is written in a poetic form or "meter" known as dactylic hexameter
Find out more about the forms of Roman poetry in the section LATIN POETRY: Meters, Rhythms & Scansion
on the Verse Authors
Narcissus in English Literature
Shakespeare, deeply influenced by Ovid, references Narcissus in his 1593 poem Venus and Adonis:
"Narcissus so himself himself forsook,
And died to kiss his shadow in the brook."
The English poet, John Milton, alludes to Narcissus falling in love with his reflection when in Book IV of his epic poem Paradise Lost, Eve first sees her reflection in a pool.
Scroll down to lines 460ff.
Keats, the famous English Romantic poet whose work encompasses elaborate use of words and a sensual imagination, references the myth in lines 163-180 of his poem "I Stood tip-toe upon a little hill".
Allusions to the myth in his poem Narcissus. DHL was an English novelist, storywriter, critic, poet and painter: one of the greatest figures in 20th-century English literature.
A well-known prose translation, published by Penguin, which because it was widely available, became a standard crib text for students of Latin over the last 50 years. Teachers advise(d) students not to use it as a basis for translations because at times it doesn't follow the Latin closely; indeed, many of the standard conventions of Latin poetry are stripped out.
Scroll down the blog until you reach the heading "Narcissus" .
The English poet Ted Hughes (1930-1998) published a collection of reworkings of Ovid's Metamorphoses under the title Tales from Ovid. It quickly became a best-seller. Here is an extract of Hughes' subtly muscular version of Ovid's Narcissus being read aloud.
Good prose translation, available only online, that sticks faithfully to Ovid's Latin.
If you need help in translating the Latin, this is the version to use.
Unfortunately, there's no online version, but we list this here as a fantastic verse translation.
The lines stay as close to the Latin as one can hope for in verse, and Ovid's hexameters are reflected in the "six-beats to a line" rhythm that runs through the translation. In fact, be careful where you read this... because you can't help but read it out aloud!
Great, user-friendly introduction and there's a helpful sneak-peek of the tales at the start of each chapter/book.
Short but at times rather complex analysis of the tale in the light of modern psychoanalysis by Dr Jeremy Holmes.