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    The Rural Pan

    by Kenneth Grahame
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    An April Essay

    Through shady Throgmorton Street and about the vale of Cheapside the
    restless Mercury is flitting, with furtive eye and voice a little
    hoarse from bidding in the market. Further west, down classic
    Piccadilly, moves the young Apollo, the lord of the unerring (satin)
    bow; and nothing meaner than a frock-coat shall in these latter years
    float round his perfect limbs. But remote in other haunts than these
    the rural Pan is hiding, and piping the low, sweet strain that reaches
    only the ears of a chosen few. And now that the year wearily turns and
    stretches herself before the perfect waking, the god emboldened begins
    to blow a clearer note.

    When the waking comes at last, and Summer is abroad, these deities
    will abroad too, each as his several attributes move him. Who is this
    that flieth up the reaches of the Thames in steam-launch hired for the
    day? Mercury is out -- some dozen or fifteen strong. The flower-gemmed
    banks crumble and slide down under the wash of his rampant screw; his
    wake is marked by a line of lobster-claws, gold-necked bottles, and
    fragments of veal-pie. Resplendent in blazer, he may even be seen to
    embrace the slim-waisted nymph, haunter of green (room) shades, in the
    full gaze of the shocked and scandalised sun. Apollo meantime
    reposeth, passively beautiful, on the lawn of the Guards' Club at
    Maidenhead. Here, O Apollo, are haunts meet for thee. A deity
    subjectively inclined, he is neither objective nor, it must be said
    for him, at all objectionable, like them of Mercury.

    Meanwhile, nor launches nor lawns tempt him that pursueth the rural
    Pan. In the hushed recesses of Hurley backwater where the canoe may be
    paddled almost under the tumbling comb of the weir, he is to be looked
    for; there the god pipes with freest abandonment. Or under the great
    shadow of Streatley Hill, ''annihilating all that's made to a green
    thought in a green shade''; or better yet, pushing an explorer's prow
    up the remote untravelled Thame, till Dorchester's stately roof broods
    over the quiet fields. In solitudes such as these Pan sits and
    dabbles, and all the air is full of the music of his piping.
    Southwards, again, on the pleasant Surrey downs there is shouting and
    jostling; dust that is drouthy and language that is sultry. Thither
    comes the young Apollo, calmly confident as ever; and he meeteth
    certain Mercuries of the baser sort, who do him obeisance, call him
    captain and lord, and then proceed to skin him from head to foot as
    thoroughly as the god himself flayed Marsyas in days of yore, at a
    certain Spring Meeting in Phrygia: a good instance of Time's revenges.
    And yet Apollo returns to town and swears he has had a grand day. He
    does so every year. Out of hearing of all the clamour, the rural Pan
    may be found stretched on Ranmore Common, loitering under Abinger
    pines, or prone by the secluded stream of the sinuous Mole, abounding
    in friendly greetings for his foster-brothers the dab-chick and
    water-rat.

    For a holiday, Mercury loveth the Pullman Express, and a short hour
    with a society paper; anon, brown boots on the pier, and the pleasant
    combination of Métropole and Monopole. Apollo for his part will urge
    the horses of the Sun: and, if he leaveth the society weekly to
    Mercury, yet he loveth well the Magazine. From which omphalos or hub
    of the universe he will direct his shining team even to the far
    Hesperides of Richmond or of Windsor. Both iron road and level highway
    are shunned by the rural Pan, who chooses rather to foot it along the
    sheep track on the limitless downs or the thwart-leading footpath
    through copse and spinney, not without pleasant fellowship with
    feather and fir. Nor does it follow from all this that the god is
    unsocial. Albeit shy of the company of his more showy brother-deities,
    he loveth the more unpretentious humankind, especially them that are
    adscripti glebæ, addicted to the kindly soil and to the working
    thereof: perfect in no way, only simple, cheery sinners. For he is
    only half a god after all, and the red earth in him is strong. When
    the pelting storm drives the wayfarers to the sheltering inn, among
    the little group on bench and settle Pan has been known to appear at
    times, in homely guise of hedger-and-ditcher or weather-beaten
    shepherd from the downs. Strange lore and quaint fancy he will then
    impart, in the musical Wessex or Mercian he has learned to speak so
    naturally; though it may not be till many a mile away that you begin
    to suspect that you have unwittingly talked with him who chased the
    flying Syrinx in Arcady and turned the tide of fight at Marathon.

    Yes: to-day the iron horse has searched the country through -- east
    and west, north and south -- bringing with it Commercialism, whose god
    is Jerry, and who studs the hills with stucco and garrotes the streams
    with the girder. Bringing, too, into every nook and corner fashion and
    chatter, the tailor-made gown and the eyeglass. Happily a great part
    is still spared -- how great these others fortunately do not know --
    in which the rural Pan and his following may hide their heads for yet
    a little longer, until the growing tyranny has invaded the last
    common, spinney, and sheep-down, and driven the kindly god, the
    well-wisher to man -- whither?
    If you're writing a The Rural Pan essay and need some advice, post your Kenneth Grahame essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

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