The Pipes of Pan

Charles G.D. Roberts

Ringed with the flocking of hills, within shepherding watch of Olympus,
Tempe, vale of the gods, lies in green quiet withdrawn;
Tempe, vale of the gods, deep-couched amid woodland and woodland,
Threaded with amber of brooks, mirrored in azure of pools,
All day drowsed with the sun, charm-drunken with moonlight at midnight,
Walled from the world forever under a vapor of dreams,—
Hid by the shadows of dreams, not found by the curious footstep,
Sacred and secret forever, Tempe, vale of the gods.
How, through the cleft of its bosom, goes sweetly the water PenŽus!
How by PenŽus the sward breaks into saffron and blue!
How the long slope-floored beech-glades mount to the wind-wakened uplands,
Where, through flame-berried ash, troop the hoofed Centaurs at morn!
Nowhere greens a copse but the eye-beams of Artemis pierce it.
Breathes no laurel her balm but Phoebus' fingers caress.
Springs no bed of wild blossom but limbs of dryad have pressed it.
Sparkle the nymphs, and the brooks chime with shy laughter and calls.

Here is a nook. Two rivulets fall to mix with PenŽus,
Loiter a space, and sleep, checked and choked by the reeds.
Long grass waves in the windless water, strown with the lote-leaf;
Twist thro' dripping soil great alder roots, and the air
Glooms with the dripping tangle of leaf-thick branches, and stillness
Keeps in the strange-coiled stems, ferns, and wet-loving weeds.
Hither comes Pan, to this pregnant earthy spot, when his piping
Flags; and his pipes outworn breaking and casting away,
Fits new reeds to his mouth with the weird earth-melody in them,
Piercing, alive with a life able to mix with the god's.
Then, as he blows, and the searching sequence delights him, the goat-feet
Furtive withdraw; and a bird stirs and flutes in the gloom
Answering. Float with the stream the outworn pipes, with a whisper,—
"What the god breathes on, the god never can wholly evade!"
God-breath lurks in each fragment forever. Dispersed by PenŽus
Wandering, caught in the ripples, wind-blown hither and there,
Over the whole green earth and globe of sea they are scattered,
Coming to secret spots, where in a visible form
Comes not the god; though he come declared in his workings. And mortals
Straying in cool of morn, or bodeful hasting at eve,
Or in the depths of noonday plunged to shadiest coverts,
Spy them, and set to their lips; blow, and fling them away!

Ay, they fling them away,—but never wholly! Thereafter
Creeps strange fire in their veins, murmur strange tongues in their brain,
Sweetly evasive; a secret madness takes them,—a charm-struck
Passion for woods and wild life, the solitude of the hills.
Therefore they fly the heedless throngs and traffic of cities,
Haunt mossed caverns, and wells bubbling ice-cool; and their souls
Gather a magical gleam of the secret of life, and the god's voice
Calls to them, not from afar, teaching them wonderful things.

From In Divers Tones.

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Added 22 November 2008.
Updated 22 November 2008.