Now ... nestled in between the bit where Badger recruits Ratty and Mole for the recalcitrant Toad's intervention and fails (Toad subsequently getting twenty years for car theft and cheeking the police is an intervention failure by my book), and the bit where Toad chats up the gaoler's daughter (a good hearted and pleasant wench by anyone's book), there lies a chapter in the very centre of The Wind in the Willows called The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Do you remember Ratty and Mole's midsummer epiphany - the bit where they encountered God?
It's a funny thing that whenever I mention The Piper at the Gates of Dawn to folk who have read The Wind in the Willows, they frown and then sort of smile and say. "No, I can't recall reading that bit."
It is the point where Kenneth Grahame diverts from his Toad/Ratty/Mole storytelling and goes completely trippy in the most wonderful fashion. Pink Floyd certainly thought so. I do wonder if Grahame had partaken in nefarious substances whilst writing it, then woken up in the morning to read his previous day's work and thought, "No, that is still good, dammit. I'll stash it somewhere in the middle."
I see the Piper at the Gates of Dawn chapter as a fugue state, as experienced by both Ratty and Mole in the story when they encounter Pan - but also by the reader, who often forgets even being there. The fact that so many readers 'disremember' the night passage upriver on a search for the lost baby otter Portly, to the veiled island, to the irresistible song of Pan - just as Ratty and Mole later forget the whole thing is, well, kind of weird and fascinating to me ...
'Clearer and nearer still,' cried the Rat joyously. 'Now you
must surely hear it! Ah— at last— I see you do!'
Breathless and transfixed the Mole stopped rowing as the liquid
run of that glad piping broke on him like a wave, caught him up,
and possessed him utterly. He saw the tears on his comrade's
cheeks, and bowed his head and understood.
Oxford's psychiatric definition of a fugue state is when a person 'steps off', they lose their identity and the state is "often coupled with a flight from one's usual environment, associated with certain forms of hysteria and epilepsy." People reemerging from fugue states often have no memory of where they have been or who they were.
Wouldn't it be lovely though to enter the fugue without those ailments, or to define the fugue as a geographical and spiritual location, a place both temporal and spatial. I read a spec fiction book years ago that had a Pan or Green Man character in it and he could be visited by entering the Fugue through some kind of portal. I'd like to go there, sometime.
'This is the place of my song-dream, the place the music played
to me,' whispered the Rat, as if in a trance. 'Here, in this
holy place, here if anywhere, surely we shall find Him!'
Then suddenly the Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe
that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head, and rooted his
feet to the ground. It was no panic terror— indeed he felt
wonderfully at peace and happy— but it was an awe that smote and
held him and, without seeing, he knew it could only mean that
some august Presence was very, very near. With difficulty he
turned to look for his friend. and saw him at his side cowed,
stricken, and trembling violently. And still there was utter
silence in the populous bird-haunted branches around them; and
still the light grew and grew.
Perhaps he would never have dared to raise his eyes, but that,
though the piping was now hushed, the call and the summons seemed
still dominant and imperious. He might not refuse, were Death
himself waiting to strike him instantly, once he had looked with
mortal eye on things rightly kept hidden.
Trembling he obeyed,
and raised his humble head; and then, in that utter clearness of
the imminent dawn, while Nature, flushed with fulness of
incredible colour, seemed to hold her breath for the event, he
looked in the very eyes of the Friend and Helper; saw the
backward sweep of the curved horns, gleaming in the growing
daylight; saw the stern, hooked nose between the kindly eyes that
were looking down on them humourously, while the bearded mouth
broke into a half-smile at the corners; saw the rippling muscles
on the arm that lay across the broad chest, the long supple hand
still holding the pan-pipes only just fallen away from the parted
lips; saw the splendid curves of the shaggy limbs disposed in
majestic ease on the sward; saw, last of all, nestling between
his very hooves, sleeping soundly in entire peace and
contentment, the little, round, podgy, childish form of the
All this he saw, for one moment breathless and
intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he
lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered.