Homeric Hymn XIX

Mousa, tell me about Pan, the dear son of Hermes, with his goat’s feet and two horns – a lover of merry noise. Through wooded glades he wanders with dancing Nymphai who foot it on some sheer cliff’s edge, calling upon Pan, the shepherd god (Theos Nomios), long-haired, unkempt. He has every snowy crest and the mountain peaks and rocky crests for his domain; hither and thither he goes through the close thickets, now lured by soft streams, and now he presses on amongst towering crags and climbs up to the highest peak that overlooks the flocks. Often he courses through the glistening high mountains, and often on the shouldering hills he speeds along slaying wild beasts, this keen-eyed god. Only at evening, as he returns from the chase, he sounds his note, playng sweet and low on his pipes of reed: not even she could excel him in melody – that bird who flower-laden spring pouring forth her lament uters honey-voiced song amid the leaves. At that hour the clear-voiced Nymphai are with him and move with nimble feet, singing by some spring of dark water, while Ekho wails about the mountain-top, and the god on this side or on that of the choirs, or at times sidling into the midst, plies it nimbly with his feet. On his back he wears a spotted lynx-pelt, and he delights in high-pitched songs in a soft meadow where crocuses and sweet-smelling hyacinths bloom at random in the grass. They sing of the blessed gods and high Olympos and choose to tell of such a one as luck-brining Hermes above the rest, how he is the swift messenger of all the gods, and how he came to Arkadia, the land of many springs and mother of flocks, there where his sacred place is as god of Kyllene. For there, though a god, he used to tend curly-fleeced sheep in the service of a mortal man, because there fell on him and waxed a strong melting desire to wed the rich-tressed daughter of Dryopos, and there he brought about the merry marriage. And in the house she bare Hermes a dear son who from his birth was marvellouse to look upon, with goat’s feet and two horns – a noisy, merry-laughing child. But when the nurse saw his uncouth face and full beard, she was afraid and sprang up and fled and left the child. Then luck-bringing Hermes received him and took him in his arms: very glad in his heart was the god. And he went quickly to the abodes of the deathless gods, carrying his son wrapped in warm skins of mountain hares, and set him down beside Zeus and showed him to the rest of the gods. Then all the immortals were glad in heart and Bakkheios Dionysos in especial; and they called the boy Pan [derived from pantes meaning ‘all’] because he delighted all their hearts. And so hail to you, lord! I seek your favour with a song.

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