News for The Delphic Oracle

Pan Pipes, Fred Holland Day, 1897

 

“There all the golden codgers lay,
There the silver dew,
And the great water sighed for love,
And the wind sighed too.
Man-picker Niamh leant and sighed
By Oisin on the grass;
There sighed amid his choir of love
Tall pythagoras.
plotinus came and looked about,
The salt-flakes on his breast,
And having stretched and yawned awhile
Lay sighing like the rest.
Straddling each a dolphin’s back
And steadied by a fin,
Those Innocents re-live their death,
Their wounds open again.
The ecstatic waters laugh because
Their cries are sweet and strange,
Through their ancestral patterns dance,
And the brute dolphins plunge
Until, in some cliff-sheltered bay
Where wades the choir of love
Proffering its sacred laurel crowns,
They pitch their burdens off.”

William Butler Yeats

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Hymn of Pan

In the Glade, Fred Holland Day, 1905

The nude model is shown with a statue of Pan, a symbol of Nature. Day placed a statue of Pan in a glade at his property in Maine. He photographed many of his models with the statue, and it became a symbol for the community of friends that Day had built up at his Maine home.

 

“From the forests and highlands
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 now, Apollo,
With envy of my sweet pipings.
I sang of the dancing stars,
I sang of the daedal Earth,
And of Heaven, and the giant wars,
And Love, and Death, and Birth—
And then I chang’d my pipings,
Singing how down the vale of Maenalus
I pursu’d 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 Shelley

 

*NOTES:

Tmolus: King of Lydia and husband to Omphale. He is the eponymous namesake of Mount Tmolus, which lies in Lydia.
Peneus: In Greek mythology, Peneus was a Thessalian river god, one of the three thousand Rivers (Potamoi), a child of Oceanus and Tethys.
Pelion: In Greek mythology, Mount Pelion (which took its name from the mythical king Peleus, father of Achilles) was the homeland of Chiron the Centaur, tutor of many ancient Greek heroes, such as Jason, Achilles, Theseus and Heracles.

Pan With Us

Walter R. Roehmer as Pan, George Platt Lynes, circa 1939

 

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 no little they tell no tales.

He tossed his pipes, too hard to teach
A new-world song, far out of reach,
For a 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 ravelled a flower and looked away—
Play? Play?—What should he play?

Robert Frost

A Boys’s Will

1915

Pan is Dead

Self-portrait , Robert Mapplethorpe, 1985. In several of his self-portraits Robert referenced himself as faun, satyr, Pan

 
 

GODS of Hellas, gods of Hellas,
Can ye listen in your silence?
Can your mystic voices tell us
Where ye hide? In floating islands,
With a wind that evermore
Keeps you out of sight of shore?
Pan, Pan is dead.

In what revels are ye sunken
In old Æthiopia?
Have the Pygmies made you drunken,
Bathing in mandragora
Your divine pale lips that shiver
Like the lotus in the river?
Pan, Pan is dead.

Do ye sit there still in slumber,
In gigantic Alpine rows?
The black poppies out of number
Nodding, dripping from your brows
To the red lees of your wine,—
And so kept alive and fine?
Pan, Pan is dead.

Or lie crushed your stagnant corses
Where the silver spheres roll on,
Stung to life by centric forces
Thrown like rays out from the sun?
While the smoke of your old altars
Is the shroud that round you welters?
Great Pan is dead.

“Gods of Hellas, gods of Hellas,”
Said the old Hellenic tongue!
Said the hero-oaths, as well as
Poets’ songs the sweetest sung!
Have ye grown deaf in a day?
Can ye speak not yea or nay—
Since Pan is dead?

Do ye leave your rivers flowing
All alone, O Naiades,
While your drenchéd locks dry slow in
This cold feeble sun and breeze?—
Not a word the Naiads say,
Though the rivers run for aye.
For Pan is dead.

From the gloaming of the oak-wood,
O ye Dryads, could ye flee?
At the rushing thunderstroke would
No sob tremble through the tree?—
Not a word the Dryads say,
Though the forests wave for aye.
For Pan is dead.

Have ye left the mountain places,
Oreads wild, for other tryst?
Shall we see no sudden faces
Strike a glory through the mist?
Not a sound the silence thrills
Of the everlasting hills.
Pan, Pan is dead.

O twelve gods of Plato’s vision,
Crowned to starry wanderings,—
With your chariots in procession,
And your silver clash of wings!
Very pale ye seem to rise,
Ghosts of Grecian deities,—
Now Pan is dead!

Jove! that right hand is unloaded,
Whence the thunder did prevail,
While in idiocy of godhead
Thou art staring the stars pale!
And thine eagle, blind and old,
Roughs his feathers in the cold.
Pan, Pan is dead.

Where, O Juno, is the glory
Of thy regal look and tread?
Will they lay, for evermore, thee,
On thy dim, straight, golden bed?
Will thy queendom all lie hid
Meekly under either lid?
Pan, Pan is dead.

Ha, Apollo! Floats his golden
Hair all mist-like where he stands,
While the Muses hang enfolding
Knee and foot with faint wild hands?
’Neath the clanging of thy bow,
Niobe looked lost as thou!
Pan, Pan is dead.

Shall the casque with its brown iron
Pallas’ broad blue eyes eclipse,
And no hero take inspiring
From the God-Greek of her lips?
’Neath her olive dost thou sit,
Mars the mighty, cursing it?
Pan, Pan is dead.

Bacchus, Bacchus! on the panther
He swoons,—bound with his own vines!
And his Mænads slowly saunter,
Head aside, among the pines,
While they murmur dreamingly,—
“Evohe—ah—evohe—!
Ah, Pan is dead.

Neptune lies beside the trident,
Dull and senseless as a stone;
And old Pluto deaf and silent
Is cast out into the sun:
Ceres smileth stern thereat,—
“We all now are desolate—
Now Pan is dead.”

Aphrodite! dead and driven
As thy native foam, thou art;
With the cestus long done heaving
On the white calm of thy heart!
Ai Adonis! At that shriek,
Not a tear runs down her cheek—
Pan, Pan is dead.

And the Loves, we used to know from
One another,—huddled lie,
Frore as taken in a snow-storm,
Close beside her tenderly,—
As if each had weakly tried
Once to kiss her as he died.
Pan, Pan is dead.

What, and Hermes? Time enthralleth
All thy cunning, Hermes, thus,—
And the ivy blindly crawleth
Round thy brave caduceus?
Hast thou no new message for us,
Full of thunder and Jove-glories?
Nay! Pan is dead.

Crownéd Cybele’s great turret
Rocks and crumbles on her head:
Roar the lions of her chariot
Toward the wilderness, unfed;
Scornful children are not mute,—
“Mother, mother, walk afoot—
Since Pan is dead.”

In the fiery-hearted centre
Of the solemn universe,
Ancient Vesta,—who could enter
To consume thee with this curse?
Drop thy gray chin on thy knee,
O thou palsied Mystery!
For Pan is dead.

Gods! we vainly do adjure you,—
Ye return nor voice nor sign!
Not a votary could secure you
Even a grave for your Divine!
Not a grave, to show thereby,
Here these gray old gods do lie.
Pan, Pan is dead.

Even that Greece who took your wages,
Calls the obolus outworn;
And the hoarse deep-throated ages
Laugh your godships unto scorn—
And the poets do disclaim you,
Or grow colder if they name you—
And Pan is dead.

Gods bereavéd, gods belated,
With your purples rent asunder!
Gods discrowned and desecrated,
Disinherited of thunder!
Now, the goats may climb and crop
The soft grass on Ida’s top—
Now, Pan is dead.

Calm, of old, the bark went onward,
When a cry more loud than wind,
Rose up, deepened, and swept sunward,
From the piléd Dark behind; 165
And the sun shrank and grew pale,
Breathed against by the great wail,—
“Pan, Pan is dead.”

And the rowers from the benches
Fell,—each shuddering on his face,—
While departing influences
Struck a cold back through the place;
And the shadow of the ship
Reeled along the passive deep—
“Pan, Pan is dead.”

And that dismal cry rose slowly,
And sank slowly through the air,
Full of spirit’s melancholy
And eternity’s despair!
And they heard the words it said,—
“Pan is dead,—Great Pan is dead,—
Pan, Pan is dead.”

’T was the hour when One in Sion
Hung for love’s sake on a cross,—
When his brow was chill with dying,
And his soul was faint with loss;
When his priestly blood dropped downward,
And his kingly eyes looked throneward,—
Then, Pan was dead.

By the love he stood alone in,
His sole Godhead stood complete;
And the false gods fell down moaning,
Each from off his golden seat,—
All the false gods with a cry
Rendered up their deity,—
Pan, Pan was dead.

Wailing wide across the islands,
They rent, vest-like, their divine!
And a darkness and a silence
Quenched the light of every shrine;
And Dodona’s oak swang lonely
Henceforth, to the tempest only.
Pan, Pan was dead.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Introductory to Greece

 

Excited by Friedrich Schiller’s Götter Griechenlands, and partly founded on a well-known tradition mentioned in a treatise of Plutarch (De Oraculorum Defectu), according to which, at the hour of the Saviour’s agony, a cry of “Great Pan is dead!” swept across the waves in the hearing of certain mariners, and the oracles ceased.—Mrs. Browning’s Poems.

According to the Greek historian Plutarch The Obsolescence of Oracles, Pan is the only Greek god (other than Asclepius) who actually dies. During the reign of Tiberius (A.D. 14–37), the news of Pan’s death came to one Thamus, a sailor on his way to Italy by way of the island of Paxi. A divine voice hailed him across the salt water, “Thamus, are you there? When you reach Palodes, take care to proclaim that the great god Pan is dead.” Which Thamus did, and the news was greeted from shore with groans and laments.