Pan, being one of the oldest of the gods, might well, in an age eager for novelty, expect to be the latest fashion; but the revival of his worship is something far more than a mere vogue. It was rumoured, as, of course, we all know, early in the Christian era, that he was dead. The pilot Thomas, ran the legend, as told by Plutarch, sailing near Pascos, with a boatful of merchants, heard in the twilight a mighty voice calling from the land, bidding him proclaim to all the world that Pan was dead. “Pan is dead!”—three times ran the strange shuddering cry through the darkness, as though the very earth itself wailed the passing of the god.
But Pan, of course, could only die with the earth itself, and so long as the lichen and the moss keep quietly at their work on the grey boulder, and the lightning zigzags down through the hemlocks, and the arrowhead guards its waxen blossom in the streams; so long as the earth shakes with the thunder of hoofs, or pours out its heart in the song of the veery-thrush, or bares its bosom in the wild rose, so long will there be little chapels to Pan in the woodland—chapels on the lintels of which you shall read, as Virgil wrote: Happy is he who knows the rural gods, Pan, and old Sylvanus, and the sister nymphs.
It is strange to see how in every country, but more particularly in America and in England, the modern man is finding his religion as it was found by those first worshippers of the beautiful mystery of the visible universe, those who first caught glimpses of
in the coppice, Naiads in the fountain,
Gods on the craggy height and roaring sea.
First thoughts are proverbially the best; at all events, they are the bravest. And man’s first thoughts of the world and the strangely romantic life he is suddenly called up, out of nothingness, to live, unconsulted, uninstructed, left to feel his way in the blinding radiance up into which he has been mysteriously thrust; those first thoughts of his are nowadays being corroborated in every direction by the last thoughts of the latest thinker. Mr. Jack London, one of Nature’s own writers, one of those writers too, through whom the Future speaks, has given a name to this stirring of the human soul—“The Call of the Wild.” Following his lead, others have written of “The Lure,” of this and that in nature, and all mean the same thing: that the salvation of man is to be found on, and by means of, the green earth out of which he was born, and that, as there is no ill of his body which may not be healed by the magic juices of herb and flower, or the stern potency of minerals, so there is no sickness of his soul that may not be cured by the sound of the sea, the rustle of leaves, or the songs of birds.