Page images
PDF
EPUB

VI.—PAN, OR NATURE.1

EXPLAINED OF NATURAL PHILOSOPHY. The ancients have, with great exactness, delineated universal nature under the person of Pan. They leave his origin doubtful ; some asserting him the son of Mercury, and others the common offspring of all Penelope's suitors. The latter supposition doubtless occasioned some later rivals to entitle this ancient fable Penelope; a thing frequently practised when the earlier relations are applied to more modern characters and persons, though sometimes with great absurdity and ignorance, as in the present case ; for Pan was one of the ancientest gods, and long before the time of Ulysses; besides, Penelope was venerated by antiquity for her matronal chastity. A third sort will have him the issue of Jupiter and Hybris, that is, Reproach. But whatever his origin was, the Destinies are allowed his sisters.

He is described by antiquity, with pyramidal horns reaching up to heaven, a rough and shaggy body, a very long beard, of a biform figure, human above, half brute below, ending in goat's feet. His arms, or ensigns of power, are, a pipe in his left hand, composed of seven reeds ; in his right a crook; , and he wore for his mantle a leopard's skin.

His attributes and titles were the god of hunters, shepherds, and all the rural inhabitants ; president of the mountains; and, after Mercury, the next messenger of the gods. He was also held the leader and ruler of the Nymphs, who continually danced

[ocr errors]

and frisked about him, attended with the Satyrs and their elders, the Sileni. He had also the power of striking terrors, especially such as were vain and superstitious ; whence they came to be called panic terrors.1

Few actions are recorded of him; only a principal one is, that he challenged Cupid at wrestling, and was worsted. He also catched the giant Typhon in a net, and held him fast. They relate further of him, that when Ceres, growing disconsolate for the rape of Proserpine, hid herself, and all the gods took the utmost pains to find her, by going out different ways for that purpose, Pan only had the good fortune to meet her, as he was hunting, and discovered her to the rest. He likewise had the assurance to rival Apollo in music, and in the judgment of Midas was preferred; but the judge had, though with great privacy and secrecy, a pair of ass's ears fastened on him for his sentence.2

There is very little said of his amours; which may seem strange among such a multitude of gods, so profusely amorous. He is only reported to have been very fond of Echo, who was also esteemed his wife; and one nymph more, called Syrinx, with the love of whom Cupid inflamed bim for his insolent challenge; so he is reported once to have solicited the moon to accompany him apart into the deep woods.

Lastly, Pan had no descendant, which also is a wonder, when the male gods were so extremely prolific; only he was the reputed father of a servant-girl called Iambe, who used to divert strangers with her ridiculous prattling stories.

This fable is perhaps the noblest of all antiquity,

i Cicero, Epistle to Atticus, 5.

2 Ovid, Metamorphoses, b. ii. and pregnant with the mysteries and secrets of nature. Pan, as the name imports, represents the universe, about whose origin there are two opinions, viz: that it either sprung from Mercury, that is, the divine word, according to the Scriptures and philosophical divines, or from the confused seeds of things. For they who allow only one beginning of all things, either ascribe it to God, or, if they suppose a material beginning, acknowledge it to be various in its powers; so that the whole dispute comes to these points, viz: either that nature proceeds from Mercury, or from Penelope and all her suitors.” 1

The third origin of Pan seems borrowed by the Greeks from the Hebrew mysteries, either by means of the Egyptians, or otherwise ; for it relates to the state of the world, not in its first creation, but as made subject to death and corruption after the fall; and in this state it was and remains, the offspring of God and Sin, or Jupiter and Reproach. And therefore these three several accounts of Pan's birth may seem true, if duly distinguished in respect of things and times. For this Pan, or the universal nature of things, which we view and contemplate, had its origin from the divine word and confused matter, first created by God himself, with the subsequent introduction of sin, and, consequently, corruption.

The Destinies, or the natures and fates of things, are justly made Pau's sisters, as the chain of natu

1 This refers to the confused mixture of things, as sung by Virgil:“Namque canebat uti magnum per inane coacta

Semina terrarumque animæque marisque fuissent;
Et liquidi simul ignis; ut his exordia primis
Omnia, et ipse tener mundi concreverit orbis.”Ecl. vi. 31.

ral causes links together the rise, duration, and corruption ; the exaltation, degeneration, and workings; the processes, the effects, and changes, of all that can any way happen to things.

Horns are given him, broad at the roots, but narrow and sharp at the top, because the nature of all things seems pyramidal; for individuals are infinite, but being collected into a variety of species, they rise up into kinds, and these again ascend, and are contracted into generals, till at length nature may seem collected to a point. And no wonder if Pan's horns reach to the heavens, since the sublimities of nature, or abstract ideas, reach in a manner to things divine; for there is a short and ready passage from metaphysics to natural theology.

Pan's body, or the body of nature, is, with great propriety and elegance, painted shaggy and hairy, as representing the rays of things; for rays are as the hair or fleece of nature, and more or less worn by all bodies. This evidently appears in vision, and in all effects and operations at a distance ; for whatever operates thus, may be properly said to emit rays. But particularly the beard of Pan is exceeding long, because the rays of the celestial bodies penetrate, and act to a prodigious distance, and have descended into the interior of the earth, so far as to change its surface; and the sun himself, when clouded on its upper part, appears to the eye bearded.

Again, the body of nature is justly described biform, because of the difference between its superior and inferior parts, as the former, for their beauty, regularity of motion, and influence over the

1 This is always supposed to be the case in vision, the mathematical demonstrations in optics proceeding invariably upon the assumption of this phenomenon.

earth, may be properly represented by the human figure, and the latter, because of their disorder, irregularity, and subjection to the celestial bodies, are by the brutal. This biform figure also represents the participation of one species with another; for there appear to be no simple natures, but all participate or consist of two: thus, man has somewhat of the brute, the brute somewhat of the plant, the plant somewhat of the mineral; so that all natural bodies have really two faces, or consist of a superior and an inferior species.

There lies a curious allegory in the making of Pan goat-footed, on account of the motion of ascent which the terrestrial bodies have towards the air and heavens; for the goat is a clambering creature, that delights in climbing up rocks and precipices; and in the same manner the matters destined to this lower globe strongly affect to rise upwards, as appears from the clouds and meteors.

Pan's arms, or the ensigns he bears in his hands, are of two kinds — the one an emblem of harmony, the other of empire. His pipe, composed of seven reeds, plainly denotes the consent and harmony, or the concords and discords of things, produced by the motion of the seven planets. His crook, also, contains a fine representation of the ways of nature, which are partly straight and partly crooked; thus the staff, having an extraordinary bend towards the top, denotes that the works of Divine Providence are generally brought about by remote means, or in a circuit, as if somewhat else were intended rather than the effect produced, as in the sending of Joseph into Egypt, &c. So likewise in human government, they who sit at the helm, manage and wind the people more successfully by pretext and oblique courses, than they could by such as are direct and

« PreviousContinue »