A Musical Instrument
WHAT was he doing the great god Pan
Down in the reeds by the river?
Spreading ruin and scattering ban
Splashing and paddling with hoofs of a goat
And breaking the golden lilies afloat 5
With the dragon-fly on the river.
He tore out a reed the great god Pan
From the deep cool bed of the river;
The limpid water turbidly ran
And the broken lilies a-dying lay 10
And the dragon-fly had fled away
Ere he brought it out of the river.
High on the shore sat the great god Pan
While turbidly flow'd the river;
And hack'd and hew'd as a great god can 15
With his hard bleak steel at the patient reed
Till there was not a sign of the leaf indeed
To prove it fresh from the river.
He cut it short did the great god Pan
(How tall it stood in the river!) 20
Then drew the pith like the heart of a man
Steadily from the outside ring
And notch'd the poor dry empty thing
In holes as he sat by the river.
'This is the way ' laugh'd the great god Pan 25
(Laugh'd while he sat by the river)
'The only way since gods began
To make sweet music they could succeed.
Then dropping his mouth to a hole in the reed
He blew in power by the river.
Sweet sweet sweet O Pan!
Piercing sweet by the river!
Blinding sweet O great god Pan!
The sun on the hill forgot to die
And the lilies revived and the dragon-fly 35
Came back to dream on the river.
Yet half a beast is the great god Pan
To laugh as he sits by the river
Making a poet out of a man:
The true gods sigh for the cost and pain¡ª 40
For the reed which grows nevermore again
As a reed with the reeds of the river.
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
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