Of this flower there are two kinds, the one called the Poet's, the other the False Narcissus. The latter is a native of our own fields, but it is cultivated with great care in Holland, and sent back to us under the name of Phoenix, or soleil d'or; and it is not until much care has been expended on its cultivation that we discover its false nature. Well, therefore, has it been made emblematic of "delusive hope." The Poet's Narcissus is the symbol of egotism. Its petals are pure white, with a golden crown in the centre. The cup is frequently edged with a circle of bright purple, sometimes of crimson, and its perfume is agreeable.
The youth whose name it bears is described by Ovid as being exceedingly handsome, and beloved by a thousand nymphs. He seems, however, to have been not only fastidious but eccentric in his taste, as he turned a deaf ear to all his admirers, and became enamoured of his own image while viewing himself in a crystal fountain. Ovid writes thus
" Narcissus on the grassy verdure lies; But whilst within the crystal font he tries To quench his heat, he feels new heats arise. For, as his own bright image he surveyed, He fell In love with the fantastic shade, And o'er the fair resemblance hung unmoved, Nor knew, fond youth ! it was himself he loved."
Owing to this error, he slighted the love of Echo, who witnessed his fruitless vows to the deceitful image :—
" She answered sadly to the lover's moan, Sighed back his sighs, and groaned to every groan. 4 Ah, youth I beloved in vain,' Narcissus cries— *Ah, youth! beloved in vain,' the nymph replies
Farewell,' says he; the parting sound scarce fell From his faint lips, but she replied, Farewell.' Then on the wholesome earth he gasping lies, Till death shuts up those self-admiring eyes
For him the Naiads and the Dryads mourn. Whom the sad Echo answers in her turn. And now the sister-nymphs prepare his urn, When, looking for his corpse, they only found A rising stalk with yellow blossoms crowned."