A Book of Myths

Page: 97

With an exultant shout, Pan grasped her as she fell. And lo, in his arms he held no exquisite body with fiercely beating heart, but a clump of slender reeds. Baffled he stood for a little space, and, as he stood, the savagery of the beast faded from his eyes that were fathomless as dark mountain tarns where the sun-rays seldom come, and there came into them a man’s unutterable woe. At the reeds by the river he gazed, [Pg 201] and sighed a great sigh, the sigh that comes from the heart of a god who thinks of the pain of the world. Like a gentle zephyr the sigh breathed through the reeds, and from the reeds there came a sound as of the sobbing sorrow of the world’s desire. Then Pan drew his sharp knife, and with it he cut seven of the reeds that grew by the murmuring river.

“Thus shalt thou still be mine, my Syrinx,” he said.

Deftly he bound them together, cut them into unequal lengths, and fashioned for himself an instrument, that to this day is called the Syrinx, or Pan’s Pipes.

So did the god make music.

And all that night he sat by the swift-flowing river, and the music from his pipe of reeds was so sweet and yet so passing sad, that it seemed as though the very heart of the earth itself were telling of its sadness. Thus Syrinx still lives—still dies:

“A note of music by its own breath slain,
Blown tenderly from the frail heart of a reed,”

and as the evening light comes down on silent places and the trembling shadows fall on the water, we can hear her mournful whisper through the swaying reeds, brown and silvery-golden, that grow by lonely lochan and lake and river.

[Pg 202]


“The fairest youth that ever maiden’s dream conceived.”

Lewis Morris.

The ideally beautiful woman, a subject throughout the centuries for all the greatest powers of sculptor’s and painter’s art, is Venus, or Aphrodite, goddess of beauty and of love. And he who shares with her an unending supremacy of perfection of form is not one of the gods, her equals, but a mortal lad, who was the son of a king.