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Sunday, 6 August 2017

Paxos, Greece: Dark Was the Night (The Death of Pan); Waller Rodwell Wright, 1809

From my copy of the 1st edition (1809):

"Dark was the night, and stillness reign'd around...
Pan, the great, the pow'rful is no more".

"Notes of sorrow swell;
Wild strains of anguish..."

(inspired by a Christian hymn about the Crucifixion - but it would have served just as well
as an anguished and sorrowful lament, a great cry of lamentation,
 a miroloi, for the death of Pan).

See also, Unearthly Laments, Christopher King, Oxford American, Issue 95, Winter 2016

See also notes to John Milton's Nativity Ode, and Spenser's Shepherds Calendar

Arthur Foss writes, in The Ionian Islands (1969), that, in relation to the death of Pan, "Both Spenser and Milton connected this story with the crucifixion of Christ, which would have been at about this time".

John Milton: from On the Morning of Christ's Nativity
Compos'd 1629

The Shepherds on the Lawn,

Or ere the point of dawn,

Sate simply chatting in a rustick row;

Full little thought they than,

That the mighty Pan

Was kindly com to live with them below;

Perhaps their loves, or els their sheep,

Was all that did their silly thoughts so busie keep.

4th Century AD;.attributed to the Pythia at Delphi
(The Penguin Book of Greek Verse, ed. Constantine Trypanis)

Note by E.K. (Edward Kirk,m editor) on Spenser's The Shepherd's Calendar, May

"Great pan) is Christ, the very God of all the shepheards, which calleth himselfe the greate and good shepherd. The name is most rightly (me thinkes) applyed to him, for Pan signifieth all or omnipotent, which is onely the Lord Iesus. And by that name (as I remember) he is called of Eusebius in his fifte booke de Preparat. Euang; who thereof telleth a proper storye to that purpose. Which story is first recorded of Plutarch, in his booke of the ceasing of oracles, & of Lauetere translated, in his booke of walking sprightes. Who sayth, that about the same time, that our Lord suffered his most bitter passion for the redemtion of man, certein passengers sayling from Italy to Cyprus and passing by certein Iles called Paxae, heard a voyce calling alowde Thamus, Thamus, (now Thamus was the name of an Ægyptian, which was Pilote of the ship,) who giuing eare to the cry, was bidden, when he came to Palodes, to tel, that the great Pan was dead: which he doubting to doe, yet for that he came to Palodes, there sodeinly was such a calm of winde, that the shippe stoode still in the sea vnmoued, he was forced to cry alowd, that Pan was dead: wherewithall there was heard suche piteous outcryes and dreadfull shriking, as hath not bene the like. By whych Pan, though of some be vnderstoode the great Satanas, whose kingdome at that time was by Christ conquered, the gates of hell broken vp, and death by death deliuered to eternall death, (for at that time,as he sayth, all Oracles surceased, and enchaunted spirits, that were wont to delude the people, thenceforth held theyr peace) & also at the demaund of the Emperoure Tiberius, who that Pan should be, answere was made him by the wisest and best learned, that it was the son of Mercurie and Penelope, yet I think it more properly meant of the death of Christ, the onely and very Pan, then suffereing for his flock".

For Plutarch's account, scroll down to Paragraph 17 here


"Suddenly from the island of Paxi was heard the voice of someone loudly calling Thamus, so that all were amazed. Thamus was an Egyptian pilot, not known by name even to many on board. Twice he was called and made no reply, but the third time he answered; and the caller, raising his voice, said, 'When you come opposite to Palodes, announce that Great Pan is dead.' On hearing this, all, said Epitherses, were astounded and reasoned among themselves whether it were better to carry out the order or to refuse to meddle and let the matter go. Under the circumstances Thamus made up his mind that if there should be a breeze, he would sail past and keep quiet, but with no wind and a smooth sea about the place he would announce what he had heard. So, when he came opposite Palodes, and there was neither wind nor wave, Thamus from the stern, looking toward the land, said the words as he had heard them: 'Great Pan is dead.' Even before he had finished there was a great cry of lamentation, not of one person, but of many, mingled with exclamations of amazement. As many persons were on the vessel, the story was soon spread abroad in Rome, and Thamus was sent for by Tiberius Caesar. Tiberius became so convinced of the truth of the story that he caused an inquiry and investigation to be made about Pan; and the scholars, who were numerous at his court, conjectured that he was the son born of Hermes and Penelopê".

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, fromThe Dead Pan


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.


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;
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, A Musical Instrument

WHAT was he doing, the great god Pan,
Down in the reeds by the river? 


'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.


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