The rural Pan

Ireland’s interest in Pan and Edwardian paganism, as manifest in works such as The Forgotten Rite, belongs to a wider nineteenth- and early twentieth-century sensibility. A well-known example of this is seen in the section of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows entitled ‘The piper at the gates of dawn’, However, Grahame wrote another tribute to Pan that would have appealed to Ireland.

In 1893 Grahame’s Pagan Papers, a collection of short articles, included ‘The rural Pan, an April essay’. This reflected on the remote haunts in which Pan might lurk, ‘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’.

Grahame’s ‘rural’ Pan is not, however, confined to the countryside, but might appear in suburban gardens, ‘the hushed recesses of Hurley backwater’,  ‘under the great shadow of Streatley Hill’, or even in Ireland’s Chelsea. Grahame also locates Pan firmly in the downs, where he chooses ‘to foot it along the sheep track on the limitless downs or the thwart-leading footpath through copse and spinney’. Ireland may even have encountered Pan in the downs in his guise as shepherd…

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