February 15, 2022

#08-188: The Panpipes

The water nymphs save Syrinx from Pan
(Getty Art Collection)

Note: Panpipes are found the world over, but Greco-Roman mythology gives them a unique origin.

Get Ready: Do you know the sound of panpipes? If not, what do you imagine they would sound like?

You may have seen a curious instrument called the "panpipes," made up of tubes of several lengths, attached to each other side by side. The player blows across the tubes and, by moving them left or right, sounds different notes. The Roman Ovid, author of the Metamorphoses, tells how this instrument came to be invented.

There once was a lovely woodland nymph (a sort of lesser nature goddess) named Syrinx. She worshipped Diana the Huntress, Goddess of the Moon. As Diana herself was sworn to remain a virgin, her followers, too, vowed that they would never give themselves to any man.

When Syrinx wore her hunting dress, you might have sworn that she was Diana herself! The only distinction between her and her goddess was that Syrinx hunted with a bow of horn, and Diana's was made of silver (as we can see in the night sky at certain times of the month).

This Syrinx was a great beauty, and all of the satyrs and male woodland spirits desired her, but she would have none.

Nevertheless, one day she was returning from the hunt when she was met by Pan, who began telling her how beautiful she was, how much she looked like Diana, and more things of this sort.

Pan was not just any satyr. Some considered him to be the personification of Nature itself (his name means "All"). Regardless, Syrinx would not submit to his advances, but, rather, ran away, with the god in hot pursuit.

Just as she came to the bank of a river, he caught up to her! She had just enough time to call out to her friends the water nymphs for help, and they hastily cast a spell. As Pan threw his arms around what he thought was her body, he found that he was embracing only a clump of reeds!

Exhausted from the chase, Pan breathed a sigh, and the air of his breath sounded through the reeds, producing a plaintive melody. Charmed by the sweetness of the music, Pan said, "Well, at least you can be mine in this way." And he took some of the reeds, and placing them together, made the instrument which we call the pan pipes or pan flute, but some call the syrinx, in honor of the nymph.


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pan_flute

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. bow
  2. chase
  3. clump
  4. embracing
  5. exhausted
  6. hastily
  7. personification
  8. plaintive
  9. reeds
  10. satyr

  1. hugging; putting one's arms around
  2. a god with horns and feet like a goat
  3. the act of running after someone
  4. very tired
  5. quickly; in a hurry
  6. tall, sturdy grasses that grow by water
  7. sad-sounding; mournful
  8. a weapon used with arrows
  9. a mass or lump of something
  10. putting an idea into the form of a human or god

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for February 15, 2022

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. h; 2. c; 3. i; 4. a; 5. d; 6. e; 7. j; 8. g; 9. f; 10. b