Poetry Inspired by Pan and the Panflute
compiled by Douglas Bishop
Forest Music

Silent stand the forest and the wooded height,
Silent are the streamlets dripping down the rock,
Hushed are the busy murmur of the noonday bright,
Hushed the mingled bleating of the wandering flock.
Pan himself makes music on the pipe he loves,
See his soft lips gliding o'er the close-ranked reeds!
Nymphs that range the mountains,
Nymphs that haunt the groves,
Weave the dance around him in the grassy meads.

-attributed to Plato (4th century B.C.E.)
Hymn of Pan

From the forests and highlands
We come, we come;
From the river-girt islands,
Where loud waves are dumb,
Listening to my sweet pipings.
The wind in the reeds and the rushes,
The bees on the bells of thyme,
The birds on the myrtle bushes,
The cicale above in the lime,
And the lizards below in the grass,
Were as silent as ever old Tmolus was,
Listening to my sweet pipings.

Liquid Peneus was flowing,
And all dark Tempe lay
In Pelion's shadow, outgrowing
The light of the dying day,
Speeded by my sweet pipings.
The Sileni and Sylvans and Fauns,
And the Nymphs of the woods and the waves,
To the edge of the moist river-lawns,
And the brink of the dewy caves,
And all that did then attend and follow,
Were silent with love, as you know, Apollo,
With envy of my sweet pipings.

I sang of the dancing stars,
I sang of the dædal earth,
And of heaven, and the giant wars,
And love, and death, and birth.
And then I changed my pipings-
Singing how down the vale of Mænalus
I pursued a maiden, and clasp'd a reed:
Gods and men, we are all deluded thus;
It breaks in our bosom, and then we bleed.
All wept - as I think both ye now would,
If envy or age had not frozen your blood-
At the sorrow of my sweet pipings.

-Percy Bysshe Shelly (1792-1822)
Pan - Double Villanelle

I

O goat-foot God of Arcady!
This modern world is grey and old,
And what remains to us of thee?

No more the shepherd lads in glee
Throw apples at thy wattled fold,
O goat-foot God of Arcady!

Nor through the laurels can one see
Thy soft brown limbs, thy beard of gold,
And what remains to us of thee?

And dull and dead our Thames would be,
For here the winds are chill and cold,
O goat-foot God of Arcady!

Then keep the tomb of Helice,
Thine olive-woods, thy vine-clad wold,
And what remains to us of thee?

Though many an unsung elegy
Sleeps in the reeds our rivers hold,
O goat-foot God of Arcady!
Ah, what remains to us of thee?

II

Ah, leave the hills of Arcady,
Thy satyrs and their wanton play,
This modern world hath need of thee.

No nymph or Faun indeed have we,
For Faun and nymph are old and grey,
Ah, leave the hills of Arcady!

This is the land where liberty
Lit grave-browed Milton on his way,
This modern world hath need of thee!

A land of ancient chivalry
Where gentle Sidney saw the day,
Ah, leave the hills of Arcady!

This fierce sea-lion of the sea,
This England lacks some stronger lay,
This modern world hath need of thee!

Then blow some trumpet loud and free,
And give thine oaten pipe away,
Ah, leave the hills of Arcady!
This modern world hath need of thee!

-Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
Pan's Piping

Hush now, O wooded hill of the Dryads!
Hush your leaping Down from the rocks,
ye fountains! Hush, myriad-bleating ewes!
For along his reeden pipe
now Pan Himself is sweeping His supple lip
to waken the sweet cry of the Muse;
And with feet untired for dancing,
about him gathered gleam
The Dryads from the forest,
the Naiads from the stream.

-Plato (c. 428 B.C.E - c. 348 B.C.E.)
Great God Pan

Sing his praises that doth keep
Our flocks from harm,
Pan, the father of our sheep;
And arm in arm
Tread we softly in a round,
Whilst the hollow neighbouring ground
Fills the music with her sound.

Pan, oh, great god Pan, to thee
Thus do we sing!
Thou that keep'st us chaste and free
As the young spring;
Ever be thy honour spoke,
From that place the morn is broke,
To that place day doth unyoke!

-John Fletcher (1579 - 1625)
from The Faithful Shepherdess (1609 - 1610)

Pan, God of Arcady

Pan, old Silvanus, and the sister-nymphs!
May trust the tale, Pan, God of Arcady,
in silvan strains will learn to rival Pan
Pan first with wax taught reed with reed to join;
for sheep alike and shepherd Pan hath care.

-Virgil, in Georgics and Eclogues
A Musical Instrument

What was he doing, the great god Pan,
Down in the reeds by the river?
Spreading ruin and scattering ban,
Splashing and paddling with hoofs of a goat,
And breaking the golden lilies afloat
With the dragon-fly on the river.

He tore out a reed, the great god Pan,
From the deep cool bed of the river:
The limpid water turbidly ran,
And the broken lilies a-dying lay,
And the dragon-fly had fled away,
Ere he brought it out of the river.

High on the shore sat the great god Pan,
While turbidly flowed the river;
And hacked and hewed as a great god can,
With his hard bleak steel at the patient reed,
Till there was not a sign of the leaf indeed
To prove it fresh from the river.

He cut it short, did the great god Pan,
(How tall it stood in the river!)
Then drew the pith, like the heart of a man,
Steadily from the outside ring,
And notched the poor dry empty thing
In holes, as he sat by the river.

"This is the way," laughed the great god Pan,
(Laughed while he sat by the river)
"The only way, since gods began
To make sweet music, they could succeed."
Then, dropping his mouth to a hole in the reed,
He blew in power by the river.

Sweet, sweet, sweet, O Pan!
Piercing sweet by the river!
Blinding sweet, O great god Pan!
The sun on the hill forgot to die,
And the lilies revived, and the dragon-fly
Came back to dream on the river.

Yet half a beast is the great god Pan,
To laugh as he sits by the river,
Making a poet out of a man:
The true gods sigh for the cost and pain -
For the reed which grows nevermore again
As a reed with the reeds in the river.

-Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)
A Pipe of Oaten Straw

When south winds smelt of earth and brooks ran clear,
I made a little pipe of oaten straw,
From which of old the shepherd lads could draw --
Each on the greensward laid, his love a-near --
Such strains as voiced the blithe, young-hearted year,
Till down the greenwood aisles the piper saw,
Small, shy wood-creatures, hushed of wing and paw,
All rapt and still to give his piping ear.

Perchance he heard Pan pipe the reeds among,
Or his blown breath along the fluted pines,
Or lilting choruses by gleaners sung,
Wine-red and merry in the Tuscan vines,
Or Satyr's lyre that charmed a shy wood-maid,
And mixed their music with the airs he played.

Perchance no loftier themes the shepherd knew,
Than pewits calling the young world awake,
Or tranquil music such as hylæ make.
When jewel-weeds drip all with starry dew,
Or cry of weanling lamb and travailing eye,
Or rattling reeds that in the wind do quake,
Or wild untutored melodies that break,
Across the piper's fancy while he blew.

But thin as summer rill the music flowed,
Not over-loud, and sweet, and crystal clear,
And all his thought unto his true love showed, --
Ah! if a listening heart down bent to hear,
Such skill were mine, compelling notes to draw,
From this my little pipe of oaten straw.

-Mary Austin (1868–1934)
Pan with Us

Pan came out of the woods one day,--
His skin and his hair and his eyes were gray,
The gray of the moss of walls were they,--
And stood in the sun and looked his fill
At wooded valley and wooded hill.

He stood in the zephyr, pipes in hand,
On a height of naked pasture land;
In all the country he did command
He saw no smoke and he saw no roof.
That was well! and he stamped a hoof.

His heart knew peace, for none came here
To this lean feeding save once a year
Someone to salt the half-wild steer,
Or homespun children with clicking pails
Who see so little they tell no tales.

He tossed his pipes, too hard to teach
A new-world song, far out of reach,
For sylvan sign that the blue jay's screech
And the whimper of hawks beside the sun
Were music enough for him, for one.

Times were changed from what they were:
Such pipes kept less of power to stir
The fruited bough of the juniper
And the fragile bluets clustered there
Than the merest aimless breath of air.

They were pipes of pagan mirth,
And the world had found new terms of worth.
He laid him down on the sun-burned earth
And raveled a flower and looked away--
Play? Play?--What should he play?

-Robert Frost (1874-1963)
Pipes of Pan

Tones of souls

Simple and pure. Piping of Pan.
Gently searching calls
Nightingale's wind

It is nothing
Gossamer angels shimmering
In golden haze. Singing softly, songs
To the heart.

It is nothing
Curious melodies. In a voice so strong
It carries the thoughts of heaven
In its breast.

It is the empty space within the atom.
The distant light-years between galaxies
Sweeping Vast governed trails
In what seems to us to be - "Outer Space."

It is Home to Planets, and to the Planet Earth.
Herself home to hills and forest trees
Rivers, lakes, and seas.
Pan. And you and me.

There is nothing but wind, a pond.
Tall reeds, a breath of air. The voice of a soul.
A forest glen. The pipes of Pan.

And a dear soul's song

-Philip Markstrom (December 23rd, 2005)