This white-leaved flower with heart of gold1
Delighted Homer long ago ;2
Yet Nature thinks it not so old3
But that it still with grace may grow.4
Why, if the flower may bloom anew,5
May not the flower’s old legend too ?6
There was a fountain, and around7
Flowers and grass made happy ground ;8
And tall trees kept it cool and clear,9
No cruel beast or bird came near ;10
And never leaf or blossom fell11
To mar that wonderful bright well.12
Here many a slumbrous summer-day13
Narcissus came, and as he lay14
Among the flowers and cool green grass,15
He gazed and saw, as in a glass,16
A beautiful gold-clustered head,17
A bright young face of white and red,18
Which, when he smiled, smiled back, and when19
He fell a-weeping, wept again.20
Often he leaned and sought to kiss21
The sweet mouth lifted up to his ;22
And often tried to clasp and draw23
Within his arms the shape he saw.24
Here grieving many a summer-day,25
He drooped and slowly pined away ;26
Then died of love. When he was dead,27
His self-love killed him,” people said ;28
That pretty face of his, ’tis plain,29
Brought him but little good or gain ! ”30
Alas ! how easily both good31
And evil are misunderstood !32
That which is best in us men blame ;33
They praise—and flush our cheeks with shame !34
In that clear spring among the trees35
’Tis not himself Narcissus sees.36
Ah, no ; self-worship ne’er could show37
Such ecstasy of joy and woe.38
Who is it, then, he bends above39
With tears so wild, such yearning love ?40
Whom does he strive to clasp and kiss ?41
Whose red mouth trembles up to his ?42
That darling face, that gold-curled head,43
Are not the living but the dead.44
The lad’s fair image is a maid45
His sweet twin-sister, who was laid46
Last year beneath the ilex shade.47
The white snow fell, the cold wind blew,48
The flowers died and she died too.49
From babyhood they less had been50
Like twins than like one doubly seen51
They were so favoured and so fair52
That song and echo never were,53
Nor morning star and evening star,54
More magically similar.55
And so, unhappy and belied,56
Narcissus pined and drooped and died ;57
Yet died not wholly—he became58
The golden flower which bears his name.59
And surely never flower grew60
From heart more tender or more true,61
Nor blossomed one from human mould,62
More like to have a heart of gold.63
O world, let love so‘slandered teach64
Thy babbling tongue more kindly speech !65