In the eyes of early Western civilizations, daffodils symbolized vanity and self-worship as suggested by the botanic name for the flower, narcissus.
In our era of omnipresent mirrors and plate-glass windows, we dont appreciate how startling it was in ancient times to encounter your reflection and how tempting it was to study it. But those who dared to admire themselves for too long in the still, mirroring waters of pond or lake risked attracting the lurking water nymphs who would consider such vanity an invitation to steal the persons image and, with it, his soul.
Such was the fate of Narcissus. He was among the handsomest of young men of those times when there were many gods, along with assorted nymphs and their attendants waiting around every corner.
Narcissus, it is said, was inflicted with a serious case of vanity. Upon passing a pond one day, he paused to admire his reflection in the calm waters. Immediately his soul was snatched by water nymphs, who wanted him as their plaything, leaving behind only a stunningly beautiful flower nodding at the waters edge.
In late winter, we gladly admire without consequence that flower, a welcome sight emerging from the chill, wet earth, arising even before the swallows of spring begin to sing, offering a silent, golden song of itself.