In the very earliest days of Ancient Greece the twelve gods and goddesses dwelt on snow-capped Mt. Olympus. The hills and woods, olive groves, fields and dells were inhabited by a feast of splendid beings - maenads, dryads, centaurs, fauns and the like. And the nymphs and satyrs gamboled on the green.
The god Pan is a rustic god of nature, who dwells and holds sway in the woods and the bosky fields. He's a lesser god, not one of the twelve, but potent within his realm.
One shining, sun-drenched day Pan was roaming his domain, and stepped from the edge of an olive grove into a meadow. And beheld a nymph dancing in the grass. Her name was Syrinx. And as he beheld her springing and gliding - lithe, lovely, snowy white, and quite naked - his interest was aroused. Now it must be said that it was not difficult to arouse Pan's interest. But Syrinx was special.
Pan behaved badly. As usual. His whole idea of courtship and foreplay was encapsulated in two words. "C'mere," he said as he sprang forth. He spoke in ancient Archaic Mythic Attic Demotic, of course, I translate. "C'mere." Syrinx stopped her dance, and beheld Pan advancing. Now the god Pan is a rough, muscular, hairy fellow. His face, framed around with tight curls and a beard, is - if not handsome - might be considered "interesting". If your
SYRINX or The Pipes of Pan
interest runs to eyes that flash and
dance and seem to shoot fire, and
a generous mouth that looks capable of - anything. But from the waist down - not to put too fine a point on it - he was a goat.
Now Syrinx was a nymph. And she liked being a nymph. But she had personal limits. And when she saw Pan approaching, his interest obviously intense - she ran.
She was no ankle twister. Her long, slim legs were beautifully muscled from her days full of dancing, and she flew across the meadow, Pan in hot pursuit, hooves drumming. She held her own however. She looked back once, and did not like what she saw, and began to widen the gap.
But in her haste she didn't notice the river ahead of her until too late. As
she approached the bank she began
sink further into the muddy bank with every step, at last bogged down to her knees. Trapped!
Pan, seeing her plight, sauntered up to her, eyes and mouth aflame in glee. Syrinx, seeing him approach, recoiled in horror and looked upwards. "Great Zeus," she cried, "Anything but this!"
Now appealing to Zeus, king of the gods, is always a dicey proposition. A lot depends on his mood at the moment. As it happens, the old gentleman had been watching the pursuit - in his VIP box up on Mt. Olympus - with great amusement. He looked at the nymph Syrinx, her slim legs firmly planted in the mud, her white naked body rising above them, and he said, "You are a bunch of reeds on a riverbank." And it was so. Where moments before had been a nymph, there was now a bunch of slender white reeds growing in the mud.
Pan was bitterly disappointed. His interest - if a little hasty - had certainly been sincere. He threw himself down on the bank, and heaved a great sigh. And lo, his breath brought forth some piping sounds from the reeds. He blew on some more reeds, and saw that the shorter the reed was, the higher its sound. He cut reeds of varying length, and created the Pipes of Pan. Which the Greeks call the Syrinx. And the music his mouth brought forth from the reeds is the song of Syrinx in her pleasure.