Narcissus was cruel not in the case of Echo alone. He shunned all the rest of the nymphs as he had done poor Echo. One day a maiden, who had in vain endeavored to attract him, uttered a prayer that he might some time or other feel what it was to love and meet no return of affection. The avenging goddess heard and granted the
There was a clear fountain, with water like silver, to which the shepherds never drove their flocks. Nor did the mountain goats resort to it, nor any of the beasts of the forest; neither was it defaced with fallen leaves or branches; but the grass grew fresh around it, and the rocks sheltered it from the sun. Hither came one day the youth fatigued with hunting, heated and thirsty. He stooped down to drink, and saw his own image in the water; he thought it was some beautiful water spirit living in the fountain. He stood gazing with admiration at those bright eyes, those locks curled like the locks of Bacchus or Apollo, the
rounded cheeks, the ivory neck, the parted lips, and the glow of health and exercise over all. He fell in love with himself. He brought his lips near to take a kiss; he plunged his arms in to embrace the beloved object. It fled at the touch, but returned again after a moment and renewed the fascination. He could not tear himself away; he lost all thought of food or rest, while he hovered over the brink of the fountain gazing upon his own image.
He talked with the supposed spirit: "Why, beautiful being, do you shun me? Surely my face is not one to repel you. The nymphs love me, and you yourself look not indifferent upon me. When I stretch forth my arms you do the same; and you smile upon me and answer my beckonings with the like." His tears fell into the water and disturbed the image. As he saw it depart, he exclaimed, "Stay, I entreat you! Let me at least gaze upon you, if I may not touch you." With this, and much more of the same kind, he cherished the flame that consumed him, so that by degrees he lost his color, his vigor, and the beauty which formerly had so charmed the nymph Echo. She kept near him, however, and when he exclaimed, "Alas! Alas!" she answered him with the same words. He pined away and died; and when his shade
passed the Stygian river, it leaned over the boat to catch a look of itself in the waters. The nymphs mourned for him, especially the water-nymphs; and when they smote their breasts, Echo smote hers also. They prepared a funeral pile, and would have burned the body, but it was nowhere to be found; but in its place a flower, purple within, and surrounded with white leaves, which bears the name and preserves the memory of Narcissus.(paraphrased from Ovid's Metamorphoses, Book III, Narcissus and Echo, lines 477-745)
Vanity and the need for outward beauty must have always been an issue in the lives of men and women for this story of Narcissus to ring true even today. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines beauty as, "The quality that gives pleasure to the mind or senses and is associated with such properties as harmony of form or color, excellence of artistry, truthfulness, and originality." Interesting definition in light of what men and women strive for in what they believe to be beautiful. The internet, magazines, television and the movies tell us what we should look like and what we should be striving for.
What all the hysteria toward perfection has meant is billions of dollars spent with in the world of plastic surgery. A person that is dissatisfied with their outward appearance can easily have any part operated on, or filled with fat, or injected with silicon or collagen and viola, perfection! Well not exactly, in fact most people that have plastic surgery want more. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, "43% of...