| Stories from Plato and Other Classic Writers|
|by Mary E. Burt|
|Twenty-seven stories adapted for young children from selections of works of classic writers of the ancient world. The stories were chosen by the author for their inspirational value, either 'because they contained fine moral points, or else because they were poetic statements of natural phenomena which might enhance the study of natural science.' Writers represented in the collection include Plato, Homer, Hesiod, Aristophanes, Pliny, and Ovid. Ages 6-9 |
THE PIPER WHO PIPES ON SEVEN REEDS
 I REMEMBER a little boy who used to make a great many whistles. He did not live in a city where he could
go to a store and buy all the whistles he wanted, as most children can; but that was
 not any matter, for he learned a great many things in making his own whistles, that other
children who buy whistles will never know. This little boy's name was Ned, and he lived
in a country town where there were not many other boys, and he had to amuse himself.
Ned lived on a hill, and there was quite a large pond just down back of the hill, with many
willow trees growing all about. Ned used, to go down to the pond to play, and he often cut
off a willow branch and made whistles from it. This is how he did it. He took the branch
while it was fresh and green, cut it up into short sticks and put them into the pond so that
 they would not dry up. Then he took one of the sticks and knocked it gently on all sides
until the bark was loose and he could slip it off. He cut a, little hole through the bark into
the wood and slipped the bark off, and cut a groove in the wood. Then he slipped the bark
on again without breaking it, and there was a beautiful whistle, as fine as any boy would want.
Sometimes Ned picked pumpkin vines and made whistles of them also, queer whistles that
sounded like deep hollow voices; and he found hollow reeds growing in the pond, from
which he made musical whistles, and he made fiddles from corn-stalks.
 These things country boys can do because they live where things grow, and it makes me
think of a story about some one who was said to be a god of music, the music that comes from
reeds and grasses and pine trees and all those things that grow out of doors.
For my part, I am not sure there ever was any such creature. It might have been a good, smart
boy like Ned, who wore clothes made of the skins of goats and made whistles out of willows
and vines and all sorts of wild things, just a shepherd lad tending his sheep in lonely places
by river sides and lake sides, singing and whistling and dancing to keep up his spirits.
 But people called him god Pan, and they said that he was half goat and half man, that he had
the head and arms of a man, but that the lower half of his body was that of a goat. He wore
the horns of a goat on his head, and he carried a shepherd's staff and invented musical
instruments. When evening came, and the gentle winds made music among the vines and
trees, people said, "God Pan is piping out among the reeds."
And when the beautiful spring came with its pink buds they said, "God Pan is dancing
in the forests like the frisky goat on the mountain," and when the babbling streams ran along, their music
 mingling with the melodies of the breezes among the leaves, the people said, "God Pan and his
companions, the frisky satyrs, are
scaring the water-nymphs, the goddesses who live in the murmuring streams."
It happened that there was a beautiful land where the mountains rose
into the white clouds, the valleys
were garlanded with green, and
dancing rivulets ran singing along
among bushes covered with white
syringa blossoms. Here the wild
stag bounded over the hillside, and
 nymphs bathed in the brooks, the air blew more softly and sweetly in the summer, and
people were happy and worshipped god Pan.
Here the beautiful Hamadryads wandered, the spirits who lived in trees and bushes, living
while they lived, and dying when they died.
Among the Hamadryads, who haunted the syringa bushes on the banks of one of the pretty
streams, lived a water-nymph whose name was Syrinx, and I think the name of the syringa
blossom would have been forgotten long ago if it had not been so much like hers.
Syrinx, or Syringa I will call her, was often frightened by the companions of god Pan, the goat-
 men who danced around on the
hills, frisking about on their goat-legs, and piping merry tunes on
their reed-whistles. They were
naughty fellows, those goat-men,
as naughty as some big boys are
nowadays, who love to chase little
girls and frighten
them, and laugh to see
them run. Nevertheless Syringa dressed
herself up like a huntress, and took a golden bow and went about over the hills hunting
the deer and the rabbit, and when the people saw her they cried, "There is Diana, the
hunter goddess who lives in the country of the quails."
 One day when she was out roaming about the woods and hills, god Pan saw her. He
was coming home from one of his revels, frisking along like a goat, his head all covered
with sharp pine leaves. And when he saw Syringa, he thought he would like to have her
dance at his revels, and frisk about over the hills with him and be his play-fellow. So he
ran after her, calling to her; but she was frightened when she saw the goat-like creature,
and she fled from him over the hills and through the bushes where there were no paths,
until she came to a gentle stream whose banks were covered with reeds and syringa bushes.
 The stream was too broad for her to cross over, so she prayed to the water-nymphs to
change her into some other form that Pan might not catch her.
The nymphs heard her prayer, and turned her into a syringa bush covered with blossoms
whiter than milk.
When god Pan caught her, he found his arms full of great branches of the syringa bush,
with its white flowers glowing like. a beautiful face. And, as he stood there mourning
over his loss, he heard a murmuring noise, a sweet, sad, low tone like one complaining,
coming from the branches of the syringa; for the syringa, like the
 willow, has a hollow tube which is musical.
God Pan was charmed with the sweet voice, and he said, "Syringa, thou hast
escaped me, but thy whispers are sweeter than thyself. Thy soul
doth come to me through this hollow branch. This way of conversing
with thee shall ever remain to me. Oh, the delight of speaking to thee through music."
 Then he took seven branches and bound them together, and made them into a
musical instrument of seven pipes. And he often sat on the banks of the gentle
stream, among the syringa blossoms playing on the pipe of seven reeds. And
when the people heard the music off by the river, they said, "God Pan is piping
down among the rushes. He is holding conversation with the beautiful Syringa."
I love to think of god Pan piping by the river, and I love to think of Ned piping down
by the pond, and I believe that any one who might see a beautiful stream dancing down
the mountain, hiding
 itself among syringa bushes, with frisky goats scampering along its banks, would feel like
telling this story, whether he believed it or not.
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