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With the word Narcissism much spoken recently, I thought I'd go back to the story – the real one, I was going to say, but the 'real' story is, well, as of course we all know, not true: it's really (!) no more than a story...

This all gets a bit complicated – not least the story itself, along with the concept of reflection, giving as it does a true version of that which is reflected, yet not 'true', for the very act of reflection reverses – and so alters.

(I'm especially aware of this, my wife being a printmaker – that which she carves in the wood when printed looks quite different, even though it's a direct print from the block).

Be all that as it may, the Narcissus story is much deeper than the superficiality of the reflection, whatever it shows.

So much so, that it's given its name to a psychoanalytic concept of great depth and complexity, as demonstrated by my friend Jeremy Holmes' masterly monograph on Narcissism*. He makes the point that the term can be used in a number of distinct ways, describing a lay, sociological and psychoanalytic sense which he then further subdivides.

Fascinating (and useful) as I find these discussions, I've returned to the image – the picture of the beautiful youth enraptured and fatally captured by his own beauty.



Suddenly glimpsed

who can this beauty be?

He stared and he stared

as his eyes opened wider

the moment prolonged

as his eyes opened wider

he stared and he stared

who can this beauty be?

Suddenly glimpsed


Love sprang like a fountain

he tried to draw nearer

but could not approach

the moment prolonged

present slipped past

the moment prolonged

but could not approach.

He tried to draw nearer

love sprang like a fountain.


Her words rang back again

calling his name

but she was no longer.

Gradually pining

he became rooted

gradually pining

but she was no longer

calling his name

her words rang back again


Unheard by a flower.

The water runs still

voices have faded

youth’s wasted away

though beauty remains.

Youth’s wasted away

voices have faded

the water runs still

unheard by a flower.




*Narcissism Jeremy Holmes Icon Books 2001

ISBN 1 84046 245 0



  1. Thank you - very elegant!

  2. Beautifully balanced palindrome poem Richard. Lovely mirroring.


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