This presentation analyzes the poem “Narcissus” by D.H. Lawrence, exploring its relation to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, its symbolism, and its essential message. In Metamorphoses, Narcissus falls in love with his own image and wastes away. Lawrence’s poem has many parallels to the myth in its characters and setting, yet suggests a break from the snare of being self-centered that Narcissus is caught in. Both the title of “Narcissus” and its placement in the collection of poetry invoke many questions about the poem and its subtext. One wonders just how it is related to the myth and why Lawrence wrote it in the middle of poems about war. Through this poem, Lawrence expresses his ideas on the many layers of consciousness and their acquisition through sex. The underlying symbolism of Lawrence’s poem elucidates the connections he draws between women, sex and knowledge. Though trying to escape the egotism that Narcissus is famous for, the narrator endeavors to gain knowledge by using the woman in “Narcissus” for the advancement of self, merely a different form of self-centeredness. Lawrence once wrote: “It seems to me that no poetry, not even the best, should be judged as if it existed in the absolute” (Complete Poems 1:xxxvii). This poem is no exception.
Abigail Ozanne, ’05 Falcon Heights, MN
Major: Elementary Education
Sponsor: John Gruber-Miller