Myths of Greece and Rome Narrated with Special Reference to Literature and Art
Page: 137One of Dryope’s last requests had been that her child might often play beneath her shady branches; and when the passing [Pg 300] winds rustled through her leaves, the ancients said it was “Dryope’s lone lulling of her child.”
The male divinities of the woods, which were also very numerous, were mostly Satyrs,—curious beings with a man’s body and a goat’s legs, hair, and horns. They were all passionately fond of music and revelry, and were wont to indulge in dancing at all times and in all places. The most famous among all the Satyrs was Silenus, Bacchus’ tutor; and Pan, or Consentes, god of the shepherds, and the personification of nature. The latter was the reputed son of Mercury and a charming young nymph named Penelope; and we are told, that, when his mother first beheld him, she was aghast, for he was the most homely as well as the most extraordinary little creature she had ever seen. His body was all covered with goat’s hair, and his feet and ears were also those of a goat.
Amused at the sight of this grotesque little divinity, Mercury carried him off to Olympus, where all the gods turned him into ridicule. Pan was widely worshiped in olden times, however; and the ancients not only decked his altars with flowers, but sang his praises, and celebrated festivals in his honor.
He is ever good, and must
Be honored. Daffodillies,
Roses, pinks, and loved lilies,
Let us fling, while we sing,
Ever Holy! Ever Holy!
Ever honored! Ever young!
The great Pan is ever sung!”
Beaumont and Fletcher.
Pan was equally devoted to music, the dance, and pretty nymphs. He saw one of the nymphs, Syrinx, whom he immediately loved; but unfortunately for him, she, frightened at his appearance, fled. Exasperated by her persistent avoidance of him, Pan once pursued and was about to overtake her, when she paused, and implored Gæa to protect her. [Pg 301] The prayer was scarcely ended, when she found herself changed into a clump of reeds, which the panting lover embraced, thinking he had caught the maiden, who had stood in that very spot a few moments before.
His deception and disappointment were so severe, that they wrung from him a prolonged sigh, which, passing through the rustling reeds, produced plaintive tones. Pan, seeing Syrinx had gone forever, took seven pieces of the reed, of unequal lengths, bound them together, and fashioned from them a musical instrument, which was called by the name of the fair nymph.
Pan was supposed to delight in slyly overtaking belated travelers and inspiring them with sudden and unfounded fears,—from him called “panic.” He is generally represented with a syrinx and shepherd’s crook, and a pine garland around his misshapen head.