"Narcissus and Echo," (Fred Chappell)

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Pages 3 (753 words)
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The Greek Myth of Echo and Narcissus is well known. 1/.Narcissus, beautiful and vain, falls for his own reflection in a pool of water and drowns trying to become one with it. Echo, the nymph who loves him, searches for him in vain, and shouts his name until she pines away to nothing but an echoing audio reflection.


Fred Chappell blends the story of Echo with the formal 'Echo Poem' style associated for example, with 4/.Edward de Vere, (1550-1604), which uses a repeat of the last word, or last few words of the line preceding it, but in a slightly new context to add a haunting lyrical edge to what has gone before. Chappell's echo effects whisper to us of impending death. . 5/."Shall the water not rremember (Echo) Ember" as in funeral embers, and 6/."teasing playfully the one being (Echo) Unbeing."
The echoes skillfully reflect Echo's despair in her deliberately detached and distanced voice. Sound & emotional pitch become all important in the poem. In performance it would be best to have the echo lines whispered by a second voice, rather than have both the main poem, and the echo being voiced by the same 7/.performer, as in the poor version at www.odeo.com/channel/35272/view
Selfish, rather than hard-hearted, Narcissus has failed to notice Echo completely, though she dedicated her whole wasted life to him. Only on the brink of her final disappearance does Echo face a crisis of faith, and accuse him of being stone-hearted. Even the punctuation is carefully set up for this. The question mark on the end of the word 'stone' is crucial. The echoes from Echo are fragmented to remain on the edges of Narcissus's lines; the effect becomes subtle and subliminal.
Sound and timing are crucial to Chappell's message of ...
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