Myself Afar

Afar, Fred Holland Day, 1907

 

THE DESERTED GARDEN

(Excerpt)

“…My childhood from my life is parted,
My footstep from the moss which drew
Its fairy circle round: anew
The garden is deserted.

Another thrush may there rehearse
The madrigals which sweetest are;
No more for me! myself afar
Do sing a sadder verse.

Ah me, ah me! when erst I lay
In that child’s-nest so greenly wrought,
I laughed unto myself and thought
‘The time will pass away.’

And still I laughed, and did not fear
But that, whene’er was past away
The childish time, some happier play…

I knew the time would pass away,
And yet, beside the rose-tree wall,
Dear God, how seldom, if at all,
Did I look up to pray!

The time is past; and now that grows
The cypress high among the trees,
And I behold white sepulchres
As well as the white rose, —

When graver, meeker thoughts are given,
And I have learnt to lift my face,
Reminded how earth’s greenest place
The color draws from heaven, —

It something saith for earthly pain,
But more for Heavenly promise free,
That I who was, would shrink to be
That happy child again.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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The Great God Pan

The Great God Pan, Frederic Leighton, 1860

 

The Great God Pan is a novella written by Arthur Machen. A version of the story was published in the magazine The Whirlwind in 1890, and Machen revised and extended it for its book publication (together with another story, The Inmost Light) in 1894. On publication it was widely denounced by the press as degenerate and horrific because of its decadent style and sexual content, although it has since garnered a reputation as a classic of horror. Machen’s story was only one of many at the time to focus on the Greek God Pan as a useful symbol for the power of nature and paganism. The title was possibly inspired by the poem A Musical Instrument published in 1862 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, in which the first line of every stanza ends “… the great god Pan.”

 

 

Literary critics such as Wesley D. Sweetser and S. T. Joshi see Machen’s works as a significant part of the late Victorian revival of the gothic novel and the decadent movement of the 1890s, bearing direct comparison to the themes found in contemporary works like Robert Louis Stevenson‘s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Bram Stoker‘s Dracula, and Oscar Wilde‘s The Picture of Dorian Gray. At the time authors like Wilde, William Butler Yeats, and Arthur Conan Doyle were all admirers of Machen’s works.

If You Are Male or Female

“Suddenly, Pan – leaping – its face too beautiful to bear, beautiful Serpent, its coils in rainbow lashings in the sky – into the sure bones of fright-
Don’t walk home at night through the empty country. Don’t go into the forest when the light is too low, even too late in the afternoon- it will get you. Don’t sit by the tree like this, with your cheek against the bark. It is impossible in this morning to see if you are male or female now…”

Thomas Pynchon
Excerpt from Gravity’s Rainbow

 
 

Pan, James Bidgood, 1965

An Unlimited Duality

Pan from Behind, James Bidgood, 1965

 

A MUSICAL INSTRUMENT

I.

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.

II.

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.

III.

High on the shore sate 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 a leaf indeed

To prove it fresh from the river.

IV.

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 sate by the river.

V.

This is the way,’ laughed the great god Pan,

Laughed while he sate 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.

VI.

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.

VII.

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

 

A Musical Instrument was published in 1860 with a collection of works called Poems Before Congress. This is among some of her last published works because she died in 1861. This poem uses the story of Pan, god of shepherds, hunting and rustic music, to emphasize the duality of art. While art is beautiful there can also be destruction as a result of that art. The use of Pan is significant because he is commonly depicted as being a man with horns, legs, a beard, pointed ears and the tail of a goat. He is most commonly associated with other rustic gods and the origins of his name come from an old Arkadian word for “rustic”. In this poem, Pan symbolizes the dual nature of the arts. He is beauty and destruction combined. The fact that he is part god, part human and part animal shows that this duality of art is not limited to anyone or anything.