The legend of Pan tells of a god born with goat legs and feet,
horns, and a furry human upper body. The other gods ridiculed him
because of his appearance, and so Pan left Olympus, and went to
live in Arcadia. There, he spent his time chasing lovely nymphs,
and playing on his pipes. Pan was the god of flocks, forests and
fields, and is often associated with Nature in general. At times,
he would stamp his foot in anger, and cause a "panic" among mortals.
Pan became especially enamoured of a water nymph, or naiad, named
Syrinx. He pursued her, but she escaped him by fleeing to a river,
where she was changed to a stand of reeds. Pan finally took some of
these, and fashioned the instrument known as "Pan's pipes", on which
he played to console himself.
Syrinx comes from a Greek word, meaning "tube". The English word
syringe, shares the same origin. In Romania, where the pan flute is the
national instrument, it is called, "nai". Many artists and poets have
been inspired by this story. Robert Frost wrote a short poem about Pan,
"Pan With Us" and Bliss Carman wrote an entire book, "The Pipes of Pan", as
well as several shorter poems. Canadian writer, Timothy Findlay used a poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, (A Musical Instrument) in his book, "The Piano Man's Daughter". Robert Louis Stevenson wrote an essay,
"Pan's Pipes", in which he examines the meaning of the story.
this meaning is, perhaps, that Pan, hurt and saddened by the loss of
Syrinx, was able to create what would heal him of his sorrow.