In Wilde's double villanelle "Pan," a poetic form built from five tercets and a final quatrain, the speaker beseeches the "God of Arcady" from ancient Greek/Roman mythology to return to modern society, a society he scorns for being "grey and old." Wilde writes with a nostalgic tone, yearning for the decadence and luxury represented by Pan, god of the shepherds and the flock but more importantly a symbol of music, erotic lust, and the beauty of nature. In essence, Pan represents the embodiment of aesthetic ideals, and the speaker of Wilde's poem urges the mythological creature to leave the fertile hills of Arcady and venture to "this modern world," a world who requires his presence in a time of growing capitalism and modernity:

Ah, leave the hills of Arcady,
Thy satyrs and their wanton play,
This modern world hath need of thee.

No nymph or Faun indeed have we,
For Faun and nymph are old and grey,
Ah, leave the hills of Arcady!

This is the land where liberty
Lit grave-browed Milton on his way,
This modern world hath need of thee!

The speaker asks that Pan leave Arcady, the home of the satyrs and of playful enjoyment, so that he may come to the modern world and spread his influence over a society, a society that the decadents believed to be corrupt and out of balance. The speaker also references Milton, the famous author of Paradise Lost, a series of poems speaking about Adam and Eve's fall from the Garden of Eden. This allusion reenforces the idea that society, in Wilde's eyes, had fallen from grace. The repetition of the verses "Ah, leave the hills of Arcady" and "This modern world hath need of thee" forces the reader, almost irritatingly, to feel the deep beliefs of the speaker.

Questions

In what ways does a tone of ennui (stemming from French, similar to boredom) appear in this poem?

For what reasons would Wilde capitalize the word Faun and not the word nymph? Is he trying to emphasize a specific point?


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Last modified 28 April 2010