By Vincent Starrett
First Published in The International – Vol XI, Issue 11
In a dim grotto of the wood, they said,
Great Pan lies dead;
And then they flew
Laughing across the sand, but paused anew,
Clad in white chastity, upon the brink —
Shy fawns at drink,
The murmuring treetops and the water’s sigh —
Viewing the wood with half-alarmed grimace
For a strange face.
The goat-eared Pan,
They said in bravado, is not a man
But a dead god; an antique legend sung
To charm the young.
And then the sea
Robed them in living jewels lavishly;
Clasped his wet arms about them — ah, so slim! —
Drew them to him.
Beware, old sea!
Dost thou not fear Pan’s maddened jealousy?
Dost thou think, too, that Pan is dead and cold,
Deep in the gold
Dead leaves of fall,
Leaving all this to thee as seneschal?
Long since thou heard the cloven hoof resound
Upon the ground;
Since thy pale glass
Gave back his image. Ah, the years may pass
But Pan lives yet, for love is more than death.
Hear’st thou a breath
Hot in the wood,
Where in thy youth the shaggy lover stood.
The rules of the field, the pasture and the prairie, the laws of the deep wood, have been usurped by the civilizing forces of human law. Gentle pastoral moments of reflection, the raw release of energy between predator and prey, the procreative force, all fit poorly in a society organized for commerce and progress. Pan, god of panic, nature unbound, seems to have no place in our new world.
Our visions of life’s potential, filtered through the lens of law, fail to capture the living mythology the surrounds us, the truths that lie undying in the depths of our stories.
There are some, however, who sense the faint stirring of rebirth, a green face in the field, a word in the wind. Divine madness stirs the leaves where it will.
“Hear’st thou a breath hot in the wood….”
*Commentary originally posted in a slightly different form at [ open myth source ]. Special thanks to John G. Bell, Chief Librarian and Curator, of The Hermetic Library at hermetic.com for putting Vince Starrett’s poem up online and drawing attention to it. If you have some time I highly recommend checking out the rest of the wonderful jewels that lie hidden on the site.