« PreviousContinue »
or bristles of nature; and there is scarcely anything which is not more or less radiant. This is very plainly seen in the power of vision, and not less so in all kinds of magnetic virtue, and in every, effect which takes place at a distance. For whatever produces an effect at a distance may be truly said to emit rays. But Pan's hair is longest in the beard, because the rays of the celestial bodies operate and penetrate from a greater distance than any other; and we see also that the sun, when the upper part of him is veiled by a cloud and the rays break out below, has the appearance of a face with a beard.
Again, the body of Nature is most truly described as biform; on account of the difference between the bodies of the upper and the lower world. For the upper or heavenly bodies, are for their beauty and the equability and constancy of their motion, as well as for the influence they have upon earth and all that belongs to it, fitly represented under the human figure: but the others, by reason of their perturbations and irregular motions, and because they are under the influence of the celestial bodies, may be content with the figure of a brute. The same description of Nature's body may be referred also to the mixture of one species with another. For there is no nature which can be regarded as simple; every one seeming to participate and be compounded of two. Man has something of the brute; the brute has something of the vegetable; the vegetable something of the inanimate body; and so all things are in truth biformed and made up of a higher species and a lower. There is also a very ingenious allegory involved in that attribute of the goat's feet; which has reference to the motion upwards of terrestrial bodies towards the regions of air and sky: for the goat is a climbing animal, and loves to hang from rocks and cling to the sides of precipices: a tendency which is also exhibited in a wonderful manner by substances that belong properly to the lower world — witness clouds and meteors.
The emblems in Pan's hands are of two kinds — one of harmony, the other of empire. The pipe compact of seven reeds evidently indicates that harmony and concent of things, that concord mixed with discord, which results from the motions of the seven planets. Also the sheep-hook is a noble metaphor, alluding to' the mixture of straight and crooked in the ways of nature. But the staff is curved chiefly towards the top; because all the works of Divine Providence in the world are wrought by winding and roundabout ways — where one thing seems to be doing, and another is doing really — as in the selling of Joseph into Egypt, and the like. So also in all the wiser kinds of human government, they who sit at the helm can Introduce and insinuate what they desire for the good of the people more successfully by pretexts and indirect ways than directly; so that every rod or staff of empire is truly crooked at the top. The scarf or mantle of Pan is very ingeniously feigned to be made of a panther's skin; on account of the spots scattered all over it. For the heavens are spotted with stars, the sea with islands, the earth with flowers; and even particular objects are generally variegated on the surface, which is as it were their mantle or scarf.
Now the office of Pan can in no way be more lively set forth and explained than by calling him god of hunters. For every natural action, every motion and process of nature, is nothing else than a hunt. For the sciences and arts hunt after their works, human counsels hunt after their ends, and all things in nature hunt either after their food, which is like hunting for prey, or after their pleasures, which is like hunting for recreation ; — and that too by methods skilful and sagacious.
After the wolf the lion steals; the wolf the kid doth follow;
Also Pan is the god of country people in general; because they live more according to nature; whereas in courts and cities nature is corrupted by too much culture; till it is true what the poet said of his mistress, — the girl herself is the least part of the matter.
Pan is likewise especially called president of mountains — because it is in mountains and elevated places that the nature of things is most spread abroad, and lies most open to view and study. As for Pan's being, next to Mercury, the messenger of the gods, that is an allegory plainly divine; seeing that next to the Word of God, the image itself of the world is the great proclaimer of the divine wisdom and goodness. So sings the Psalmist: The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth his handiwork.
Again Pan takes delight in the nymphs; that is the souls; for the souls of the living are the delight of the world. And Pan is truly called their commander, since they follow the guidance, each of her several nature; leaping and dancing about it with infinite variety, every one in her country's fashion, and with motion that never ceases. And in their company are ever found the Satyrs and the Sileni; that is old age and youth; for all things have their merry and dancing time, and likewise their heavy and tippling time. And yet to one who truly considers them, the pursuits of either age appear perhaps, as they did to Democritus, ridiculous and defonned, — like to a Satyr or Silenus.
In the Panic terrors there is set forth a very wise doctrine; for by the nature of things all living creatures are endued with a certain fear and dread, the office of which is to preserve their life and essence, and to avoid or repel approaching mischief. But the same nature knows not how to keep just measure — but together with salutary fears ever mingles vain and empty ones; insomuch that all things (if one could see into the heart of them) are quite full of Panic terrors; human things most of all; so infinitely tossed and troubled as they are with superstition (which is in truth nothing but a Panic terror), especially in seasons of hardship, anxiety, and adversity.
With regard to the audacity of Pan in challenging Cupid to fight, it refers to this, — that matter is not without a certain inclination and appetite to dissolve the world and fall back into the ancient chaos; but that the overswaying concord of things (which is represented by Cupid or Love) restrains its will and effort in that direction and reduces it to order. And therefore it is well for man and for the world that in that contest Pan was foiled. The same thing is alluded to in that other circumstance of the catching of Typhon in a net: because however it be that vast and strange swellings (for that is the meaning of Typhon) take place occasionally in nature, — whether of the sea, or the clouds, or the earth, or any other body — nevertheless all such exuberancies and irregularities are by the nature of things caught and confined in an inextricable net, and bound down as with a chain of adamant.
As for the tale that the discovery of Ceres was reserved for this god, and that while he was hunting, and denied to the rest of the gods though diligently and specially engaged in seeking her; it contains a very true and wise admonition — namely that the discovery of things useful to life and the furniture of life, such as corn, is not to be looked for from the abstract philosophies, as it were the greater gods, no not though they devote their whole powers to that special end — but only from Pan; that is from sagacious experience and the universal knowledge of nature, which will often by a kind of accident, and as it were while engaged in hunting, stumble upon such discoveries.
Then again that match in music and the result of it exhibits a wholesome doctrine, fit to restrain and reduce to sobriety the pride and overweening confidence of human reason and judgment. For it seems there are two kinds of harmony and music; one of divine providence, the other of human reason; and to the human judgment, and the ears as it were of mortals, the government of the world and nature, and the more secret judgments of God, sound somewhat harsh and untunable; and though this be ignorance, such as deserves to be distinguished with the ears of an ass, yet those ears are worn secretly and not in the face of the world — for it is not a thing observed or noted as a deformity by the vulgar.