“I used to live in a room full of mirrors
All I could see was me
Then I take my spirit and I smash my mirrors
And now the whole world is here for me to see”
It seems that we have always lived in a room full of mirrors. Our fascination with our own reflection has never diminished and seems to burn brighter by the day.
We gaze Narcissus like into our Iphones pouting, posing and taking selfies of ourselves, and if we don’t like the reality, then we can always change it by airbrushing our image, de wrinkling, whitening our teeth etc or even magically transforming ourselves into little fluffy pink rabbits with floppy ears and pink twitching noses if we so wish.
Are we in danger of the ‘myth’ of Narcissus becoming our reality? Or we all just destined to fade to grey, never to become one of those shining golden daffoldils?
Narcissus, the Greek hunter, reknown for his beauty, unfortunately he only had eyes for himself. One day Echo, a young nymph, pursued him through the woods. Realising he was being followed, Narcissus called out “who is there?” But the nymph just echoed his question back. When she eventually made herself known, Narcissus snubbed her. Poor Echo spent the rest of her life heartbroken, fading to only an echo.
Nemesis, the Goddess of revenge wasn’t very happy with Narcissus’s treatment of Echo, so she lured him to a pool where he fell deeply in love with his own reflection (I dont think that he took much persuasion). Alas, such was his passion for himself, he eventually burnt himself out, dying of unrequited love until at last, he too faded away – this time into a flower. A pretty flower of course.
There are variations of this myth. Pre Raphaelite John William Waterhouse (1847-1917) painted a lot of paintings with classical themes – ‘Echo and Narcissus’ being an especially wonderful example.
Out flew the web and floated wide –
The mirror crack’d from side to side;
“The curse is come upon me,”
cried the Lady of Shalott
The lady in question, confined to her room by a curse, was not allowed outside and could only view the world through a mirror. Yearning for love, through her mirror she caught sight of of the knight Lancelot. She took three steps towards the window – the mirror cracked. Realising the curse had befallen her, she sailed away to Camelot and lonely death singing a lamentable lament.
And down the river’s dim expanse
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance
With glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shallot.
The Lady of Shallot poem here
The Lady of Shallot painting here