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Pan (as his name imports) represents and lays open the all of things or nature. Concerning his original there are two only opinions that go for current; for either he came of Mercury, that is, the word of God, which the holy Scriptures without all controversy affirm, and such of the philosophers as had any smack of divinity assented unto, or else from the confused seeds of things. For they that would have one simple beginning refer it unto God; or if a materiate beginning, they would have it various in power. So that we may end the controversy with this distribution, that the world took beginning either from Mercury or from the seeds of all things.
Virg. Eclog. 6.
Namque canebat uti magnum per inane coacta
For rich-vein'd Orpheus sweetly did rehearse
But as touching the third conceit of Pan's original, it seems that the Grecians (either by intercourse with the Egyptians, or one way or other) had heard something of the Hebrew mysteries; for it points to the state of the world, not considered in immediate creation, but after the fall of Adam, exposed and made subject to death and corruption; for in that state it was, and remains to this day, the offspring of God and sin. And therefore all these three narrations concerning the manner of Pan's birth may seem to be true, if it be rightly distinguished between things and times. For this Pan or Nature (which we suspect, contemplate. and reverence more than is fit) took beginning from the word of God by the means of confused matter, and the entrance of prevarication and corruption. The Destinies may well be thought the sisters of Pan or Nature, because the beginnings and continuances, and corruptions, and depressions, and dissolutions, and eminences, and labours, and felicities of things, and all the chances which can happen unto anything are linked with the chain of causes natural.
Horns are attributed unto him because horns are broad at the root and sharp at the ends, the nature of all things being like a pyramis, sharp at the top. For individual or singular things being infinite are first collected into species, which are many also; then from species into generals, and from generals (by ascending) are contracted into things or notions more general, so that at length Nature may seem to be contracted into a unity. Neither is it to be wondered at that Pan toucheth heaven with his horns, seeing the height of nature or universal ideas do in some sort pertain to things divine, and there is a ready and short passage from metaphysic to natural theology.
The body of nature is elegantly and with deep judgment depainted hairy, representing the beams or operations of creatures; for beams are as it were the hairs and bristles of Nature, and every creature is either more or less beamy, which is most apparent in the faculty of seeing, and no less in every virtue and operation that effectuates upon a distant object; for whatsoever works up anything afar off, that may rightly be said to dart forth rays or beams.
Moreover Pan's beard is said to be exceeding long, because the beams or influences of celestial bodies do operate and pierce farthest of all, and the sun (when his higher half is shadowed with a cloud) his beams break out in the lower and looks as if he were bearded.
Nature is also excellently set forth with a biformed body, with respect to the differences between superior and inferior creatures. For the one part, by reason of their pulcritude and equability of motion, and constancy, and dominion over the earth and earthly things, is worthily set out by the shape of man; and the other part in respect of their perturbations and unconstant motions, and therefore needing to be moderated by the celestial, may be well fitted with the figure of a brute beast. This description of his body pertains also to the participation of species, for no natural being seems to be simple, but as it were participating and compounded of two. for example; man hath something of a beast, a beast something of a plant, a plant something of an inanimate body; so that all natural things are in very deed biformed, that is to say, compounded of a superior and inferior species.
It is a witty allegory, that same of the feet of a goat, by reason of the upward tending motion of terrestial bodies towards the air and heaven, for the goat is a climbing creature that loves to be hanging about the rocks and steep mountains. And this is done also in a wonderful manner, even by those things which
are destinated to this inferior globe, as may manifestly appear in clouds and meteors.
The two ensigns which Pan bears in his hands do point, the one at harmony, the other at empiry. For the pipe consisting of seven reeds doth evidently demonstrate the consent and harmony and discordant concord of all inferior creatures, which is caused by the motion of the seven planets; and that of the sheep-hook may be excellently applied to the order of nature, which is partly right, partly crooked; this staff therefore or rod is especially crooked in the upper end, because all the works of divine providence in the world are done in a far fetched and circular manner, so that one thing may seem to be effected and yet indeed a clean contrary brought to pass, as the selling of Joseph into Egypt, and the like. Besides in all wise human government, they that sit at the helm do more happily bring their purposes about, and insinuate more easily into the minds of the people by pretexts and oblique courses than by direct methods; so that all sceptres and maces of authority ought in very deed to be crooked in the upper end.
Pan's cloak or mantle is ingeniously feigned to be the skin of a leopard, because it is full of spots. So the heavens are spotted with stars, the sea with rocks and islands, the land with flowers, and every particular creature also is for the most part garnished with divers colours about the superficies, which is as it were a mantle unto it.
The office of Pan can be by nothing so lively conceived and expressed as by feigning him to be the god of hunters, for every natural action, and so by consequence motion and progression, is nothing else but a hunting. Arts and sciences have their works and human counsels their ends which they earnestly hunt after. All natural things have either their food as a prey, or their pleasure as a recreation which they seek for, and that in most expert and sagacious manner.
.Torva leæna lupum sequitur, lupus ille capellam,
The hungry lioness with sharp desire
To have the trifol juice pass down her throat.
Pan is also said to be the god of the country clowns, because men of this condition lead lives more agreeable unto Nature than those that live in the cities and courts of princes, waere
nature by too much art is corrupted. So as the saying of the
The maid so trick'd herself with art,
He was held to be lord president of the mountains, because in the high mountains and hills nature lays herself most open, and men most apt to view and contemplation.
Whereas Pan is said to be (next unto Mercury) the messenger of the gods, there is in that a divine mystery contained, for next to the word of God the image of the world proclaims the power and wisdom divine, as sings the sacred poet, Ps. xix. 1. "Cœli enarrant gloriam Dei, atque opera manuum ejus indicat firmamentum. The heavens declare the glory of God, and firmament sheweth the works of his hands,"
The Nymphs, that is, the souls of living things, take great delight in Pan. For these souls are the delights or minions of Nature, and the direction or conduct of these Nymphs is with great reason attributed unto Pan, because the souls of all things living do follow their natural dispositions as their guides, and with infinite variety every one of them after his own fashion doth leap and frisk and dance with incessant motion about her. The Satyrs and Sileni also, to wit, youth and old age, are some of Pan's followers; for of all natural things there is a lively, jocund, and (as I may say) a dancing age, and an age again that is dull, bibling, and reeling. The carriages and dispositions of both which ages to some such as Democritus was (that would observe them duly) might peradventure seem as ridicu lous and deformed as the gambols of the Satyrs or the gestures of the Sileni.
Of those fears and terrors which Pan is said to be the author, there may be this wise construction made; namely, that Nature hath bred in every living thing a kind of care and fear, tending to the preservation of its own life and being, and to the repelling and shunning of all things hurtful. And yet Nature knows not how to keep a mean, but always intermixes vain and empty fears with such as are discreet and profitable; so that all things (if their insides might be seen) would appear full of Panic frights. But men, especially in hard, fearful and diverse times, are wonderfully infatuated with supersti tion, which indeed is nothing else but a Panic terror.
Concerning the audacity of Pan in challenging Cupid at
wrestling the meaning of it is, that matter wants no inclination and desire to the relapsing and dissolution of the world into the old Chaos, if her malice and violence were not restrained and kept in order, by the prepotent unity and agreement of things signified by Cupid, or the god of love; and therefore it was a happy turn for men and all things else, that in that conflict Pan was found too weak and overcome.
To the same effect may be interpreted his catching of Typhon in a net: for howsoever there may sometimes happen vast and unwonted tumors (as the name of Typhon imports) either in the sea or in the air, or in the earth, or elsewhere, yet Nature doth intangle it in an intricate toil, and curb and restrain it, as it were with a chain of adamant, the excesses and insolences of these kind of bodies.
But for as much as it was Pan's good fortune to find out Ceres as he was hunting, and thought little of it, which none of the other gods could do, though they did nothing else but seek her, and that very seriously; it gives us this true and grave admonition; that we expect not to receive things necessary for life and manners from philosophical abstractions, as from the greater gods; albeit they applied themselves to no other study, but from Pan; that is, from the discreet observation, and experience, and the universal knowledge of the things of this world; whereby (oftentimes even by chance, and as it were going a hunting) such inventions are lighted upon.
The quarrel he made with Apollo about music, and the event thereof, contains a wholesome instruction, which may serve to restrain men's reasons and judgments with reins of sobriety, from boasting and glorying in their gifts. For there seems to be a twofold harmony, or music; the one of divine providence, and the other of human reason. Now to the ears of mortals, that is to human judgment, the administration of the world and creatures therein, and the most secret judgments of God, sound very hard and harsh; which folly, albeit it be well set out with ass's ears, yet notwithstanding these ears are secret, and do not openly appear, neither is it perceived or noted as a deformity by the vulgar,
Lastly, it is not to be wondered at, that there is nothing attributed unto Pan concerning loves, but only of his marriage with Echo. For the world or nature doth enjoy itself, and in itself all things else. Now he that loves would enjoy something, but where there is enough there is no place left to desire. Therefore there can be no wanton love in Pan or the world, nor desire to obtain anything (seeing he is contented