non sibi sed toti

Classics Teaching Resources

Hymn of Pan

by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

              From the forests and highlands
                    We come, we come;
              From the river-girt islands,
                    Where loud waves are dumb
                         Listening 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 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.

1] It and the Hymn of Apollo were written for a scene in Mary Shelley's verse-drama Midas where Apollo and Pan sing competing songs before old Tmolus as judge. Tmolus awards the victory to Apollo, but Midas, who has secretly overheard the competition, prefers Pan.

5, 12] Listening my sweet pipings. Mrs. Shelley's published version inserts "to," but a fair copy among Shelley's MSS. insists on a transitive use of "listening" in both lines.

13-14] Peneus, Tempe, Pelion: a river in Thessaly, a valley through which it flows, and a neighbouring mountain.

18-19] Minor pastoral deities of forest and river.

31] Pan pursued the nymph Syrinx to a river bank, but when he tried to embrace her found himself clasping reeds. From these he made the pipes of Pan. The story is told in Ovid's Metamorphoses.

33] Both ye: Tmolus and Apollo.


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