Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Greece and Turkey in Europe: Vol. XIX. 1876–79.

Introductory to Greece

The Dead Pan

By Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861)

  • Excited by Schiller’s “Götter Griechenlands,” and partly founded on a well-known tradition mentioned in a treatise of Plutarch (“De Oraculorum Defectu”), according to which, at the hour of the Saviour’s agony, a cry of “Great Pan is dead!” swept across the waves in the hearing of certain mariners, and the oracles ceased.—Mrs. Browning’s Poems.

  • GODS of Hellas, gods of Hellas,

    Can ye listen in your silence?

    Can your mystic voices tell us

    Where ye hide? In floating islands,

    With a wind that evermore

    Keeps you out of sight of shore?

    Pan, Pan is dead.

    In what revels are ye sunken

    In old Æthiopia?

    Have the Pygmies made you drunken,

    Bathing in mandragora

    Your divine pale lips that shiver

    Like the lotus in the river?

    Pan, Pan is dead.

    Do ye sit there still in slumber,

    In gigantic Alpine rows?

    The black poppies out of number

    Nodding, dripping from your brows

    To the red lees of your wine,—

    And so kept alive and fine?

    Pan, Pan is dead.

    Or lie crushed your stagnant corses

    Where the silver spheres roll on,

    Stung to life by centric forces

    Thrown like rays out from the sun?

    While the smoke of your old altars

    Is the shroud that round you welters?

    Great Pan is dead.

    “Gods of Hellas, gods of Hellas,”

    Said the old Hellenic tongue!

    Said the hero-oaths, as well as

    Poets’ songs the sweetest sung!

    Have ye grown deaf in a day?

    Can ye speak not yea or nay—

    Since Pan is dead?

    Do ye leave your rivers flowing

    All alone, O Naiades,

    While your drenchéd locks dry slow in

    This cold feeble sun and breeze?—

    Not a word the Naiads say,

    Though the rivers run for aye.

    For Pan is dead.

    From the gloaming of the oak-wood,

    O ye Dryads, could ye flee?

    At the rushing thunderstroke would

    No sob tremble through the tree?—

    Not a word the Dryads say,

    Though the forests wave for aye.

    For Pan is dead.

    Have ye left the mountain places,

    Oreads wild, for other tryst?

    Shall we see no sudden faces

    Strike a glory through the mist?

    Not a sound the silence thrills

    Of the everlasting hills.

    Pan, Pan is dead.

    O twelve gods of Plato’s vision,

    Crowned to starry wanderings,—

    With your chariots in procession,

    And your silver clash of wings!

    Very pale ye seem to rise,

    Ghosts of Grecian deities,—

    Now Pan is dead!

    Jove! that right hand is unloaded,

    Whence the thunder did prevail,

    While in idiocy of godhead

    Thou art staring the stars pale!

    And thine eagle, blind and old,

    Roughs his feathers in the cold.

    Pan, Pan is dead.

    Where, O Juno, is the glory

    Of thy regal look and tread?

    Will they lay, for evermore, thee,

    On thy dim, straight, golden bed?

    Will thy queendom all lie hid

    Meekly under either lid?

    Pan, Pan is dead.

    Ha, Apollo! Floats his golden

    Hair all mist-like where he stands,

    While the Muses hang enfolding

    Knee and foot with faint wild hands?

    ’Neath the clanging of thy bow,

    Niobe looked lost as thou!

    Pan, Pan is dead.

    Shall the casque with its brown iron

    Pallas’ broad blue eyes eclipse,

    And no hero take inspiring

    From the God-Greek of her lips?

    ’Neath her olive dost thou sit,

    Mars the mighty, cursing it?

    Pan, Pan is dead.

    Bacchus, Bacchus! on the panther

    He swoons,—bound with his own vines!

    And his Mænads slowly saunter,

    Head aside, among the pines,

    While they murmur dreamingly,—


    Ah, Pan is dead.

    Neptune lies beside the trident,

    Dull and senseless as a stone;

    And old Pluto deaf and silent

    Is cast out into the sun:

    Ceres smileth stern thereat,—

    “We all now are desolate—

    Now Pan is dead.”

    Aphrodite! dead and driven

    As thy native foam, thou art;

    With the cestus long done heaving

    On the white calm of thy heart!

    Ai Adonis! At that shriek,

    Not a tear runs down her cheek—

    Pan, Pan is dead.

    And the Loves, we used to know from

    One another,—huddled lie,

    Frore as taken in a snow-storm,

    Close beside her tenderly,—

    As if each had weakly tried

    Once to kiss her as he died.

    Pan, Pan is dead.

    What, and Hermes? Time enthralleth

    All thy cunning, Hermes, thus,—

    And the ivy blindly crawleth

    Round thy brave caduceus?

    Hast thou no new message for us,

    Full of thunder and Jove-glories?

    Nay! Pan is dead.

    Crownéd Cybele’s great turret

    Rocks and crumbles on her head:

    Roar the lions of her chariot

    Toward the wilderness, unfed;

    Scornful children are not mute,—

    “Mother, mother, walk afoot—

    Since Pan is dead.”

    In the fiery-hearted centre

    Of the solemn universe,

    Ancient Vesta,—who could enter

    To consume thee with this curse?

    Drop thy gray chin on thy knee,

    O thou palsied Mystery!

    For Pan is dead.

    Gods! we vainly do adjure you,—

    Ye return nor voice nor sign!

    Not a votary could secure you

    Even a grave for your Divine!

    Not a grave, to show thereby,

    Here these gray old gods do lie.

    Pan, Pan is dead.

    Even that Greece who took your wages,

    Calls the obolus outworn;

    And the hoarse deep-throated ages

    Laugh your godships unto scorn—

    And the poets do disclaim you,

    Or grow colder if they name you—

    And Pan is dead.

    Gods bereavéd, gods belated,

    With your purples rent asunder!

    Gods discrowned and desecrated,

    Disinherited of thunder!

    Now, the goats may climb and crop

    The soft grass on Ida’s top—

    Now, Pan is dead.

    Calm, of old, the bark went onward,

    When a cry more loud than wind,

    Rose up, deepened, and swept sunward,

    From the piléd Dark behind;

    And the sun shrank and grew pale,

    Breathed against by the great wail,—

    “Pan, Pan is dead.”

    And the rowers from the benches

    Fell,—each shuddering on his face,—

    While departing influences

    Struck a cold back through the place;

    And the shadow of the ship

    Reeled along the passive deep—

    “Pan, Pan is dead.”

    And that dismal cry rose slowly,

    And sank slowly through the air,

    Full of spirit’s melancholy

    And eternity’s despair!

    And they heard the words it said,—

    “Pan is dead,—Great Pan is dead,—

    Pan, Pan is dead.”

    ’T was the hour when One in Sion

    Hung for love’s sake on a cross,—

    When his brow was chill with dying,

    And his soul was faint with loss;

    When his priestly blood dropped downward,

    And his kingly eyes looked throneward,—

    Then, Pan was dead.

    By the love he stood alone in,

    His sole Godhead stood complete;

    And the false gods fell down moaning,

    Each from off his golden seat,—

    All the false gods with a cry

    Rendered up their deity,—

    Pan, Pan was dead.

    Wailing wide across the islands,

    They rent, vest-like, their divine!

    And a darkness and a silence

    Quenched the light of every shrine;

    And Dodona’s oak swang lonely

    Henceforth, to the tempest only.

    Pan, Pan was dead.