A Book of Myths

Page: 70

“Who speaks of Apollo and his lyre? Some of the gods may be well pleased with his music, and mayhap a bloodless man or two. But my music strikes to the heart of the earth itself. It stirs with rapture the very sap of the trees, and awakes to life and joy the innermost soul of all things mortal.”

Apollo heard his boast, and heard it angrily.

“Oh, thou whose soul is the soul of the untilled ground!” he said, “wouldst thou place thy music, that is like the wind in the reeds, beside my music, which is as the music of the spheres?”

And Pan, splashing with his goat’s feet amongst the water-lilies of the stream on the bank of which he sat, laughed loudly and cried:

“Yea, would I, Apollo! Willingly would I play thee a match—thou on thy golden lyre—I on my reeds from the river.”

Thus did it come to pass that Apollo and Pan matched against each other their music, and King Midas was one of the judges.

[Pg 140] First of all Pan took his fragile reeds, and as he played, the leaves on the trees shivered, and the sleeping lilies raised their heads, and the birds ceased their song to listen and then flew straight to their mates. And all the beauty of the world grew more beautiful, and all its terror grew yet more grim, and still Pan piped on, and laughed to see the nymphs and the fauns first dance in joyousness and then tremble in fear, and the buds to blossom, and the stags to bellow in their lordship of the hills. When he ceased, it was as though a tensely-drawn string had broken, and all the earth lay breathless and mute. And Pan turned proudly to the golden-haired god who had listened as he had spoken through the hearts of reeds to the hearts of men.

“Canst, then, make music like unto my music, Apollo?” he said.

Then Apollo, his purple robes barely hiding the perfection of his limbs, a wreath of laurel crowning his yellow curls, looked down at Pan from his godlike height and smiled in silence. For a moment his hand silently played over the golden strings of his lyre, and then his finger-tips gently touched them. And every creature there who had a soul, felt that that soul had wings, and the wings sped them straight to Olympus. Far away from all earth-bound creatures they flew, and dwelt in magnificent serenity amongst the Immortals. No longer was there strife, or any dispeace. No more was there fierce warring between the actual and the unknown. The green fields and thick woods had [Pg 141] faded into nothingness, and their creatures, and the fair nymphs and dryads, and the wild fauns and centaurs longed and fought no more, and man had ceased to desire the impossible. Throbbing nature and passionately desiring life faded into dust before the melody that Apollo called forth, and when his strings had ceased to quiver and only the faintly remembered echo of his music remained, it was as though the earth had passed away and all things had become new.