THE JUDGMENT OF MIDAS
: For Classes Iv. And V.
: Children Stories To Tell
The Greek God Pan, the god of the open air, was a great musician. He
played on a pipe of reeds. And the sound of his reed-pipe was so sweet
that he grew proud, and believed himself greater than the chief musician
of the gods, Apollo, the sun-god. So he challenged great Apollo to make
better music than he.
Apollo consented to the test, for he wished to punish Pan's vanity, and
they chose the mountain Tmolu
for judge, since no one is so old and wise
as the hills.
When Pan and Apollo came before Tmolus, to play, their followers came
with them, to hear, and one of those who came with Pan was a mortal named
First Pan played; he blew on his reed-pipe, and out came a tune so wild
and yet so coaxing that the birds hopped from the trees to get near; the
squirrels came running from their holes; and the very trees swayed as if
they wanted to dance. The fauns laughed aloud for joy as the melody
tickled their furry little ears. And Midas thought it the sweetest music
in the world.
Then Apollo rose. His hair shook drops of light from its curls; his robes
were like the edge of the sunset cloud; in his hands he held a golden
lyre. And when he touched the strings of the lyre, such music stole upon
the air as never god nor mortal heard before. The wild creatures of the
wood crouched still as stone; the trees kept every leaf from rustling;
earth and air were silent as a dream. To hear such music cease was like
bidding farewell to father and mother.
When the charm was broken, the hearers fell at Apollo's feet and
proclaimed the victory his. All but Midas. He alone would not admit that
the music was better than Pan's.
"If thine ears are so dull, mortal," said Apollo, "they shall take the
shape that suits them." And he touched the ears of Midas. And straightway
the dull ears grew long, pointed, and furry, and they turned this way and
that. They were the ears of an ass!
For a long time Midas managed to hide the tell-tale ears from everyone;
but at last a servant discovered the secret. He knew he must not tell, yet
he could not bear not to; so one day he went into the meadow, scooped a
little hollow in the turf, and whispered the secret into the earth. Then
he covered it up again, and went away. But, alas, a bed of reeds sprang up
from the spot, and whispered the secret to the grass. The grass told it to
the tree-tops, the tree-tops to the little birds, and they cried it all
And to this day, when the wind sets the reeds nodding together, they
whisper, laughing, "Midas has the ears of an ass! Oh, hush, hush!"