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A Book of Myths

Page: 102

Thus Pan grew up, the earthly equal of the Olympians, and, as he grew, he took to himself the lordship of woods and of solitary places. He was king of huntsmen and of fishermen, lord of flocks and herds and of all the wild creatures of the forest. All living, soulless things owned him their master; even the wild bees claimed him as their overlord. He was ever merry, and when a riot of music and of laughter slew the stillness of the shadowy woods, it was Pan who led the dancing throng of white-limbed nymphs and gambolling satyrs, for [Pg 212] whom he made melody from the pipes for whose creation a maid had perished.

Round his horns and thick curls he presently came to wear a crown of sharp pine-leaves, remembrance of another fair nymph whose destruction he had brought about.

Pitys listened to the music of Pan, and followed him even as the children followed the Pied Piper of later story. And ever his playing lured her further on and into more dangerous and desolate places, until at length she stood on the edge of a high cliff whose pitiless front rushed sheer down to cruel rocks far below. There Pan’s music ceased, and Pitys knew all the joy and the sorrow of the world as the god held out his arms to embrace her. But neither Pan nor Pitys had remembrance of Boreas, the merciless north wind, whose love the nymph had flouted.

Ere Pan could touch her, a blast, fierce and strong as death, had seized the nymph’s fragile body, and as a wind of March tears from the tree the first white blossom that has dared to brave the ruthless gales, and casts it, torn and dying, to the earth, so did Boreas grip the slender Pitys and dash her life out on the rocks far down below. From her body sprang the pine tree, slender, erect, clinging for dear life to the sides of precipices, and by the prickly wreath he always wore, Pan showed that he held her in fond remembrance.

Joy, and youth, and force, and spring, was Pan to all the creatures whose overlord he was. Pan meant the richness of the sap in the trees, the lushness of grass and of the green stems of the blue hyacinths and the [Pg 213] golden daffodils; the throbbing of growth in the woodland and in the meadows; the trilling of birds that seek for their mates and find them; the coo of the doves on their nests of young; the arrogant virility of bulls and of stags whose lowing and belling wake the silence of the hills; the lightness of heart that made the nymphs dance and sing, the fauns leap high, and shout aloud for very joy of living. All of these things was Pan to those of his own kingdom.

Yet to the human men and women who had also listened to his playing, Pan did not mean only joyousness. He was to them a force that many times became a terror because of its sheer irresistibleness.


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