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For other English-language translations of this work, see Prometheus Bound.

 

PROMETHEUS BOUND.

 

 

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ.

Prometheus.
Oceanos.
Hephæstos.
Hermes.
Strength and Force.
Io, Daughter of Inachos.
Chorus of Nymphs, Daughters of Oceanos.




[Scene.—Scythia; to the right a rocky promontory of Caucasos, to the left the Euxine. Enter Hephæstos, with hammer and chains; Prometheus is led in by Strength and Force.]

 

 

INTRODUCTION.

The combat between the Titans and the Olympian Gods, issuing in the triumph of the latter, constitutes, as Hegel remarks, the central fact of Hellenic mythology. This hoary legend may be regarded as symbolizing in the physical universe the emergence of order out of chaos, while in the history of religious thought it marks a period of transition, characterized mainly by the metamorphosis of the nature-powers, the objects of men's earlier worship, into the humanized divinities of Hellas, involving the recognized supremacy of the higher over the lower elements of being.

One phase of this struggle is treated by Æschylus in the drama of the Eumenides; there the hoary goddesses, the dark vengeance-powers of the primeval world, are brought into harmonious subordination to Pallas Athena, the impersonation of the wisdom and benignity of Zeus. Another aspect of the conflict formed the subject of the Promethean trilogy, which set forth the relation between the finite and the supreme will, in their antagonism and their reconciliation.

Among the grand ideals bequeathed to the world by Hellenic genius there is none, perhaps, which has more deeply impressed the poetic imagination than the musch-enduring Titan; none, certainly, which has for a longer period coloured the stream of philosophic thought. The Promethean myth, it must be remembered, was not the invention of either Hesiod or Æschylus; its root, as Bunsen remarks, is older than the Hellenes themselves. Even at the present day, the legend, in its rudest form, may be traced among the Iranian tribes of the Caucasus, while in our western world it has inspired the genius of more than one great poet of modern times.

The three dramas of which the trilogy consisted are believed to have been "Prometheus, the Fire-bringer," "Prometheus Bound," and "Prometheus Unbound," of which the second has alone survived.[1] Prometheus there appears as the champion and benefactor of mankind, whose condition, at the close of the Titanic age, is depicted as weak and miserable in the extreme:

"Seeing, they saw in vain;
Hearing, they heard not; but like shapes in dreams,
Through the long time all things at random mixed."

Zeus, it is said, proposed to annihilate these puny ephemerals, and to plant upon the earth a new race in their stead. Prometheus represents himself as having frustrated this design, and as being consequently subjected, for the sake of mortals, to the most agonising pain, inflicted by the remorseless cruelty of Zeus. We have thus the Titan, the symbol of finite reason and free will, depicted as the sublime philanthropist, while Zeus, the supreme deity of Hellas, is portrayed as the cruel and obdurate despot, a character peculiarly revolting to Athenian sentiment.

The attempt to explain this apparent anomaly has given rise to a variety of theories and speculations. It is urged by some that at the time of Æschylus so sharp a line as drawn, in the minds of educated men, between religion and mythology, that the latter was accepted simply as poetical imagery, and was employed by the poet without any definite moral aim. Others imagine, with Welcker, that Æschylus, as a contemporary of Zenophanes, and one initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries, maintained an antagonistic attitude towards the traditional creed, and that in the Promethean trilogy he seized the opportunity to enter his protest against it, by representing the head of the Olympian system under so revolting an aspect. It must be remembered, however, that the Athenian drama formed part of a solemn religious festival, celebrated by the entire population, and that the popular theology was intertwined with the national and political life not only of Athens, but of Hellas. The magnificent statues of Pallas Athena and of Olympian Zeus, executed at enormous cost by Phidias, the contemporary of Æschylus, were doubtless regarded by the multitudes assembled at the national festivals as symbols of divine and very awful realities; and if we turn to the remaining dramas of the poet we find his delineation of these divinities in harmony with this conception. Zeus, more especially, is represented as uniting in himself the sublimest attributes of deity.

The Chorus, in their solemn invocation (Ag. 160), lay peculiar stress upon the name of Zeus, as the supreme deity, the prime source of consolation and of wisdom. He is elsewhere portrayed as the almighty ruler (Sup. 795), who by ancient law directs destiny (Sup. 655), and without whose will nothing is accomplished for mortals (Sup. 804). He is invoked as king of kings, most blest among the blest, of powers on high most perfect power (Sup. 519). He is likewise apostrophised as father, creator, king, supreme artificer, wielding no delegated sway, and whose deed is prompt as his word to execute the designs of his deep-counselling mind (Sup. 587). He is the all-seeing father (Sup. 130); lord of ceaseless ages (Sup. 567); the guardian of the guest (Ag. 353); the punisher of over-weening pride (Per. 822); the upholder of the righteous law of retribution (Ag. 154). Many more passages of a similar character might be adduced, from which it would appear that the poet, though not emancipated from the errors and limitations of Polytheism, had, nevertheless, risen to the sublime ideal of one supreme ruler, whose righteous will was identified with the eternal decrees of destiny. Instead of placing himself in antagonism with the popular religion, he seems rather, as the prophet of Polytheism, to have striven to elevate the popular conception of Zeus, and of the other Hellenic divinities, more especially Apollo and Pallas Athena, who are represented in the Oresteia as the willing but subordinate executors of their father's will. It seems improbable that in the Promethean trilogy alone he should assume an attitude towards the popular religion utterly irreconcilable with the tendencies manifested in his remaining works; the apparent contradiction has doubtless arisen from the loss of the concluding drama. I agree with those critics who think that if we possessed it we should see the majesty of Zeus fully vindicated, and reconciliation established between the contending powers.

As it seems unreasonable to accept, without qualification, the gross picture of Zeus as represented, in the extant drama, by his exasperated adversary, Prometheus, so we must look elsewhere for the true ground of the antagonism subsisting between him and the Olympian divinities, all of whom are arrayed against him. Though the Promethean myth, as related by Plato, in the "Protagoras," differs in many essential features from the version of Æschylus, yet the fundamental thought there embodied is so completely in harmony with the teaching of the prophet-bard, that it may be referred to as, perhaps, throwing light upon the moral significance of the trilogy. In the "Protagoras" a distinction is drawn between the wisdom which ministers to physical well-being, and political wisdom which enables men to live in organized communities. Prometheus is represented as having endowed men with the former, but as unable to invest them with the latter, which involved the exercise of justice, and was under the special guardianship of Zeus. Now it is this quality of justice which was bestowed upon mortals by Zeus that Æschylus extols with peculiar emphasis. "Riches," be says, "afford no bulwark to him who spurns the mighty altar of justice" (Ag. 381); firm based is justice (Cho, 635); "all must perish who withstand her mandates" (Cho. 630). Justice is styled the daughter of Zeus (Cho. 934); reverence for her altar is characterized as the sum of wisdom (Eum. 510).

It was, moreover, an idea familiar to the Æschylean age that all excellence was the gift of the gods, more especially of Zeus, and that it could not be obtained without their intervention. "God alone is good," sang Simonides; "no one wins virtue without the aid of the gods, neither a state nor an individual." "Zeus, the great virtues attend upon mortals from thee," sang Pindar; "and," he adds, "prosperity lives longer with those who revere thee, but with perverse minds it does not equally abide, thriving for all time" (Isthm. Ode iii.) "Through the favour of God man blooms with a wise heart."[2] "An untainted mind," according to Æschylus, is "heaven's first gift." The Chorus remind Prometheus of "the dreamlike feebleness that fetters the blind race of mortals" (Pro. 556); an expression which recalls Pindar's description of men as "the dream of a shadow;" "yet," he adds. "when splendour given by the god comes to them, a brilliant light falls upon men and a sweet life" (Pyth. Ode viii. Epode 5). Not only was Prometheus unable to endow mortals with these higher attributes; by conferring upon them benefits contrary to the will of Zeus, he, in fact, alienated them from the gods, in fellowship with whom, according to the Greek ideal, men found their highest well-being.

He may thus be regarded as personifying that insurgent condition of the will which, blind to the perception of higher truth, is full of arrogant self-confidence and all-defying pride. In many respects he offers a parallel to Milton's Satan, "a creation requiring in its author almost the spiritual energy with which he invests the fallen Seraph." The Titan chained to his solitary rock, and the archangel prone upon the lake of fire, stand alone, the one in ancient, the other in modern literature, as stupendous examples of indomitable will; of both it may be said with truth that, "what chains us, as with a resistless spell, in such a character, is spiritual might made visible by the racking pains which it overpowers."[3]

For the Titan, however, there is deliverance, and the extant fragments of the concluding member of the trilogy enable us to form some idea as to the agency by which it was accomplished. At the opening of the "Prometheus Unbound" the Titan was seen brought once more to light, after the lapse of ages, from the abyss into which he had been hurled at the conclusion of the "Prometheus Bound." He was still chained to the rock, with the additional torment of the eagle. which daily preyed upon his liver. The punishments of the Titans, like the Titanic powers themselves, represent the absence of rule or measure; the restless insatiability of the lower passions and desires when, with self-asserting insolence, they bid defiance to the restraints of law. Under his prolonged torment the spirit of Prometheus is somewhat subdued; this change he himself prophesies in the previous drama (Pro. 520), where he says—

"By myriad pangs and woes
Bowed down, thus shall I 'scape these bonds."

We are here reminded of the poet's utterances respecting the discipline of suffering, which afford a clue to the significance of this feature of the legend—

"To sober thought Zeus paves the way,
And wisdom links with pain.
Against their will
Rebellious men are tutored to be wise."—(Ag. 170.)

"Well-earned is wisdom at the cost of pain."—(Eum. 499.)

The Chorus consisted of the twelve Titans, six male and six female personages, who, redeemed from Tartaros, visibly represent one of the two worlds whose strife and reconciliation formed the subject of the trilogy. The elementary forces of nature, personified as gods, must be defeated in order to assure dominion to a more spiritual order of divinities; but when the triumph of mind has been assured, the once rebellious nature-powers reappear, as beneficent but subordinate agents.[4]

They open the drama with an ode in which they describe the journey they have taken in order to pay Prometheus a visit of sympathy.

In the well-known fragment translated by Cicero, Prometheus, in return, narrates his sufferings, describes the torment he endures from the eagle, and longs for death as the goal of his anguish.

Herakles[5] next appears upon the scene, and in him Prometheus recognizes his heaven-appointed deliverer. Nowhere are the noble and the repulsive features of Hellenic mythology more remarkably associated than in the numerous legends which gather round the person of Herakles. The fundamental idea embodied in this Zeus-born hero is, however, that of irresistible power, "whose action is as beneficent to the children of men as it is fatal to the enemies of light." The heroic deeds of Herakles are glorified by Pindar (Nem. i. 33, 34, 62–72), who also appeals to them as authenticating his divine vocation; while, according to the rhetorician Aristides, he was styled by men their saviour, the averter of evil. Nowhere, however, is he introduced in this character more significantly than as the liberator of Prometheus.

According to Hellenic mythology,[6] Herakles closed the line of heroes, the earth-born sons of Zeus, whose mission it was to ennoble and elevate the human race. He therefore exhibited the highest result of the fellowship of Zeus with mortals, of which Io was one of the first recipients. Hence the significance of her appearance in the "Prometheus Bound." She, like the Titan, resisted the divine will, and, like him, must suffer the penalty of her rebellion; accordingly the account of her sufferings, as, wailing and distraught, she pursues her toilsome wanderings, serves to heighten the impression of the cruel tyranny of Zeus, which it is the object of that drama to produce.

In "The Suppliants," however, Zeus appears in relation to Io, not as the obdurate tyrant, but as the beneficent deity, whose severest judgments issue in blessings to the individual and to mankind. Doubtless, under this aspect he would have been represented in the third member of the Promethean trilogy.

Herakles inquires from Prometheus his way to the gardens of the Hesperides; the Titan, in reply, describes his journey thither, and announces the dangers which he will have to encounter. Forthwith the eagle appears, winging its flight towards Prometheus: Herakles utters the exclamation, "Archer Apollo, surely guide mine arrow," draws his bow, and slays the pest.

In what manner the subsequent liberation of Prometheus was effected we have no means of determining; whether Herakles himself unloosed his chains, or whether this was accomplished through the intervention of Hermes, or some other divinity; whether Herakles prevailed upon Zeus to accept Cheiron as a substitute for Prometheus, and whether Cheiron voluntarily descended into Hades; and, finally, whether the Gods appeared upon the scene, to celebrate, with Prometheus and the Titans, the nuptials of Peleus and Thetis—these are questions to which neither the fragments themselves, nor the testimony of other witnesses, enable us to return a satisfactory answer, and I consequently abstain from entering upon them.

The chief interest, however, centres in the mind of Prometheus, and upon the agency by which the arch-rebel was transformed into the willing subject and minister of Zeus. The spectacle of his brother and sister Titans and Titanesses redeemed from durance would tend to correct the false impression which had possessed his mind respecting the ruthless tyranny of Zeus, and consequently the gnawing desire to witness his humiliation would give place to the unreluctant recognition of his supremacy. He would accordingly no longer refuse to reveal the secret, upon the disclosure of which he, in his blindness, imagined the maintenance of that supremacy to depend.[7] In Hesiod Zeus is represented as allowing himself to be apparently deceived by Prometheus, when he taught men to bring worthless offerings to the Gods; the Titan there appears as the trickster caught at last in his own wiles. That the reign of Zeus, whom the poet elsewhere extols as "The Lord of ceaseless ages," "Most blessed among the blest," should be conceived of by him as contingent upon the word of Prometheus, seems to me incredible. The voluntary revelation of his supposed secret was the token that the all-defying rebel was transformed into the willing subject and minister of Zeus.

It is related[8] that Zeus, when be released Prometheus from his chains, required him, as a slight voluntary punishment, to bind his head with branches of the agnus-castus (λύγος), a plant frequently employed for religious purposes.

The same symbolic signification was, in after times, attached to the ring of Prometheus, referred to by Catullus and Pliny. The former relates that when Prometheus appeared at the marriage festival of Peleus and Thetis, he wore a ring, as a slight token of his ancient punishment:

"Extenuata gerens veteris vestigia pœnæ;[9]
Quam quondam silici restrictus membra catena
Persolvit, pendens e verticibus præruptis."

Not as an ornament, says Pliny (xxxiii. 4), has Prometheus worn the iron ring, but as a chain; and (xxxvii. 1), as a slight token of punishment, a piece of the rock to which he had been fastened was inserted in the ring instead of a gem.

The iron finger-ring is not, like the lugos-crown, expressly referred back to Æschylus; the same signification, however, attaches to both, and it is not probable, as Welcker remarks, that they should not have been associated in the ancient legend.

Thus the dignity of man, of whom Prometheus may be regarded as the representative, is fully vindicated, when, instead of rebelling against the restraints of law, he joyfully accepts them, and finds his true liberty in obedience; thenceforth the crown, the token of submission, is transformed into an honourable adornment, and the iron ring becomes the symbol of a holy consecration.[10]

Thus we may imagine was brought about the reconciliation of the powers whose antagonism formed the subject of the "Prometheus Bound" We cannot but admire the marvellous art with which the poet, while making his personages the representatives of certain abstract principles, at the same time endows them with life and sharply-defined individuality. This impression of reality is heightened in Prometheus by the allusion of the Chorus to his marriage with their sister Hesione. The chorus of colossal Titans, delivered at length from their mighty toils, and assisting at the deliverance of Prometheus, seems to me one of the grandest conceptions that ever entered a poet's mind. It harmonizes with the Æschylean conception of Zeus, as head of the Olympian hierarchy, reigning supreme in the domain of nature and of mind.

In concluding this very inadequate study of a great subject, I will allude, in a few words, to the theory propounded by Professor Kuhn, with reference to the Promethean myth.[11] He considers the name of the Titan to be derived from the Sanscrit word Pramantha, the instrument used for kindling fire. The root mand, or manth, implies rotatory motion, and the word manthami, used to denote the process of fire-kindling, acquired the secondary sense of snatching away; hence we find another word of the same stock, pramatha, signifying theft.

The word manthami passed into the Greek language, and became the verb manthanô, to learn; that is to say to appropriate knowledge; whence prometheia, foreknowledge, forethought. Prometheus, the fire-bringer, is the Pramantha personified, and finds his prototype in the Aryan Matarisvan, a divine or semi-divine personage, closely associated with Agni, the fire-god of the Vedas. We have thus another curious instance of the common elements which may be detected in the Vedic and Hellenic mythology, while the development of the Promethean myth affords an instructive illustration of the mode in which words, originally having reference to natural phenomena, gradually became invested with new and more spiritual significance when transplanted to the soil of Hellas.

 

 

PROMETHEUS BOUND.

Strength.

TO earth's remotest plain we now are come,
To Scythia's confine, an untrodden waste.
Hephæstos! Thou the mandates must observe
Enjoin'd thee by thy sire; this miscreant
'Gainst lofty-beetling rocks to clasp in fetters
Of adamantine bonds, unbreakable.
For that the splendour of all-working fire,
Thy proper flower, he stole, and gave to mortals.
Such crime he to the gods must expiate;
So may he learn the sovereignty of Zeus 10
To bear, and cease from mortal-loving wont.


Hephæstos.

Ho! Strength and Force, for you the word of Zeus
Its goal hath reached, no obstacle remains;
But I of daring lack, a brother god
Fast to this storm-vexed cleft perforce to bind.
Yet so to dare is sheer necessity;
For grievous 'tis the father's words to slight.

[To Prometheus.]

Right-judging Themis' lofty-thoughted son,
Thee 'gainst thy will must I unwilling nail
With stubborn shackles to this desert height, 20
Where neither voice nor form of living man
Shall meet thy ken; but, shrivelled by the blaze
Of the bright sun, thy skin's fair bloom shall wither;
Welcome to thee shall glittering-vestured night
O'erveil the brightness; welcome too the sun
Shall with new beams scatter the morning rime;
Thus evermore shall weight of present ill
Outwear thee: for as yet is no one born
Who may relieve thy pain: such meed hast thou
From mortal-loving wont;—for thou, a god,
Not crouching to the wrath of gods, didst bring
To mortal men high gifts, transgressing right. 30
Hence shalt thou sentinel this joyless rock,
Erect, unsleeping, bending not the knee;
And many a moan shalt pour and many a plaint,
Vainly; for Zeus obdurate is of heart;
And harsh is every one when new of sway.


Strength.

Let be! Why dally and vain pity vent?
This god, to gods most hateful, why not hate,
Who thy prerogative to men betrayed?


Hephæstos.

Awful is kindred blood, and fellowship.


Strength.

True, but the father's word to disobey— 40
How many that be? Fearest not that still more?

 

Hephæstos.

Aye ruthless art thou, full of insolence.


Strength.

Him to bemoan availeth nought;—but thou
Spend not thy strength in toil that profits not.


Hephæstos.

Alas! my much-detested handicraft!


Strength.

Why hate thy craft? for, sooth to say, thine art
Is no way guilty of these present woes.


Hephæstos.

Yet would that it to other hand had fallen.


Strength.

All save o'er gods to rule, vexatious is,
For none is free, save father Zeus alone. 50


Hephæstos.

Too well I know it: answer have I none.


Strength.

Haste then: around the culprit cast these bonds
Lest father Zeus behold thee loitering.


Hephæstos.

Behold the shackles ready here for use.

 

Strength.

Cast them around his hands: with mighty force
Smite with the hammer, nail him to the rocks.


Hephæstos.

The work so far is finished;—not amiss.


Strength.

Strike harder yet: clench fast: be nowhere slack.
His wit will find a way where no way is.


Hephæstos.

This arm, at least, is fast beyond escape. 60


Strength.

This too clamp firmly down; so may he learn,
Shrewd though he be, he duller is than Zeus.


Hephæstos.

No one but he could justly censure me.


Strength.

Of adamantine wedge the stubborn fang
Straight through his breast now drive, right sturdily.


Hephæstos.

Alas! Prometheus! I lament thy pangs.


Strength.

Dost shrink, lamenting o'er the foes of Zeus?
Beware, lest some day for thyself thou grieve.

 

Hephæstos.

A sight thou seest, grievous to the eye.


Strength.

I see him meeting with his own deserts: 70
But come, around his sides the girdings cast.


Hephæstos.

Do it I must; urge me not over-much.


Strength.

Urge thee I will; ay, hound thee to the work;
Get thee below; forceful enring his legs.


Hephæstos.

There, finished is the work, nor great the toil.


Strength.

Now the bored fetters strike right lustily;
For stern the overlooker of these works.


Hephæstos.

Like to thy shape the utterance of thy tongue.


Strength.

Be thou soft-hearted but upbraid not me,
For stubborn will and ruggedness of heart. 80


Hephæstos.

Let us begone; his limbs are iron-meshed.

 

Strength to Prometheus.

Hero taunt away, and the gods' honours filching,
Bestow on creatures of a day; from thee
How much can mortals of these woes drain off?
Thee falsely do the gods Prometheus[12] name,
For a Prometheus thou thyself dost need,
To plan releasement from this handiwork.

[Exeunt Hephæstos, Strength, and Force.


Prometheus.

Oh holy ether, swiftly-wingèd gales,
Fountains of rivers, and of ocean-waves
Innumerable laughter, general mother Earth, 90
And orb all-seeing of the sun, I call:
Behold what I, a god, from gods endure.
See, wasted by what pains
Wrestle I must while myriad time shall flow!
Such ignominious chains
Hath he who newly reigns,
Chief of the blest, devised against me.Woe!
Ah woe! the torture of the hour
I wail, ay, and of anguish'd throes
The future dower,
How, when, shall rise a limit to these woes? 100

And yet what say I? clearly I foreknow
All that must happen; nor can woe betide
Stranger to me; the Destined it behoves,
As best I may, to bear, for well I wot
How incontestable the strength of Fate.
Yet in such strait silence to keep is hard,—
Hard not to keep;—for, bringing gifts to mortals,
Myself in these constraints hapless am yoked.
Stored within hollow wand fire's stealthy fount
I track, which to mankind in every art 110
Hath teacher proved, and mightiest resource.
Such forfeits I for such offences pay,—
Beneath the welkin nailed in manacles.

Hist! Hist! what sound,
What odour floats invisibly around,
Of God, or man, or intermediate kind?
Comes to this rocky bound,
One to behold my woes or seeking aught?
A god ye see in fetters, anguish-fraught;
The foe of Zeus, in hatred held of all
The deities who throng Zeus' palace-hall; 120
For that to men I bore too fond a mind.
Woe, woe! what rustling sound
Hard by, as if of birds, doth take mine ear?
Whistles the ether round
With the light whirr of pinions hovering near.
Whate'er approaches filleth me with fear.


[Enter Chorus of Ocean-Nymphs borne in a winged car.]


Chorus. Strophe I.

Fear not! a friendly troop we reach
On rival-speeding wing this cliff forlorn; 130
Our sire's consent wringing by suasive speech,
Me swift-escorting gales have hither borne.
For iron's clanging note
Piercing our caves' recesses rang,
And bashful shyness from me smote;—
Forthwith on winged car, unshod, aloft I sprang.


Prometheus.

Alas! alas! Woe! woe!
Prolific Tethys' offspring, progeny 140
Of sire Oceanos, whose sleepless flow
All the wide earth encircles! gaze and see
Bound with what fetters, ignominiously,
I, on the summit of this rock-bound steep,
Shall watch unenvied keep.


Chorus. Antistrophe I.

I see, Prometheus, and through fear
Doth mist of many tears mine eyes bedew,
As, 'gainst this rock, parched up, in tortures drear
Of adamantine bonds, thy form I view. 150
For helmsmen new of sway
Olympos hold; by laws new-made
Zeus wieldeth empire, impulse-swayed;
The mighty ones of old he sweeps away.


Prometheus.

Neath earth, 'neath Hades' shade-receiving plains,
Sheer down to Tartaros' unmeasured gloom
Would he had hurled me ruthless, bound with chains
That none may loose;—So then at this my doom 160
Had no one mock'd,—nor god, nor other kind.
But now most wretched, sport of every wind,
Foes triumph o'er my pains.

 

Chorus. Strophe II.

Who of the gods a heart doth own
So hard, to mock at thy despair?
Who at thy woes, save Zeus alone,
Doth not thine anguish share?
But ruthless still, with soul unbent,
The heavenly race he tames, nor will refrain 170
Till sated to his heart's content;
Or till another, by some cunning snare,
Wrest from his grasp the firmly guarded reign.


Prometheus.

Yet e'en of me although now wrung
In stubborn chains shall he have need,
This ruler of the blest—to read
The counsel new by which his sway
And honours shall be stript away.
But not persuasion's honied tongue
My stedfast soul shall charm; 180
Nor will I, crouching in alarm,
Divulge the secret, till these savage chains
He loose, and yield requital for my pains.


Chorus. Antistrophe II.

Daring thou art and yieldest nought
For bitter agony; with tongue
Unbridled thou art all too free.
But by keen fear my heart is stung;
I tremble for thy doom—ah, me!
Thy barque into what haven may'st thou steer, 190
Of these dire pangs the end to see?
For inaccessible, of mood severe
Is Kronos' son, inflexible his thought.


Prometheus.

That Zeus is stern full well I know,
And by his will doth measure right.
But, smitten by this destined blow,
Softened shall one day be his might.
Then curbing his harsh temper, he
Full eagerly will hither wend,
To join in league and amity with me,
Eager no less to welcome him as friend. 200


Chorus.

To us thy tale unfold; the whole speak out;
Upon what charge Zeus, seizing thee, doth thus
Outrage with harsh and ignominious pain?
Inform us if the telling breed no harm.


Prometheus.

Grievous to me it is these things to tell,
Grief to be silent: trouble every way.
When first the heavenly powers were moved to rage,
And in opposing factious ranged their might,
These wishing Kronos from his seat to hurl
That Zeus forsooth might reign; these, counter-wise, 210
Resolved that o'er the gods Zeus ne'er should rule;
Then I with sagest counsel strove to move
The Titans, progeny of Heaven and Earth,
But strove in vain; for they, in stubborn souls
Of crafty wiles disdainful, thought by force,
An easy task, the mastery to gain.
But me, not once but oft, my mother Themis,
And Earth (one shape with many names) had told
Prophetic, how the future should be wrought.
That not by strength of thew or hardiment 220
Should mastery be compassed, but by guile;
But when this lore I did expound in words,
They deigned me not a single look; whereon,
Of courses free to choose, the wisest seemed
Leagued with my mother, of my own free will
The will of Zeus to meet, siding with him,
And by my counsels black-roofed Tartaros'
Murky abyss primeval Kronos now
Engulfs with his allies; such benefits
From me the tyrant of the gods received, 230
And hath requited with these base returns.
For, someway, cleaveth aye to tyranny
This fell disease; to have no faith in friends.
But touching now your question, on what charge
He thus maltreats me; this will I make clear.
When seated on his father's throne, forthwith,
He to the several gods was dealing out
Their several honours, marshalling his realm;
But he of toil-worn mortals took no count;
The race entire he ardently desired 240
To quench, and plant a new one in its stead.
And none but I opposed his purposes;
I dared alone;—I saved the mortal race
From sinking blasted down to Hades' gloom.
For this by these dire tortures I am bent,
Grievous to suffer, piteous to behold.
I who did mortals pity, of like grace
Am deem'd unworthy,—but am grimly thus
Tuned to his will, a sight of shame to Zeus.


Chorus.

Iron of heart, ay, fashion'd out of rock 250
Who at thy pangs thine anger shareth not,
Prometheus; for myself, fain had I shunned
This sight;—beholding it, my heart is wrung.


Prometheus.

To friends, in sooth, a spectacle of woe.


Chorus.

But beyond this didst haply aught essay?


Prometheus.

Mortals I hindered from foreseeing death.


Chorus.

Finding what medicine for this disease?


Prometheus.

Blind hopes I caused within their hearts to dwell.


Chorus.

Vast boon was this thou gavest unto mortals.


Prometheus.

Yea, and besides 'twas I that gave them fire. 260

 

Chorus.

Have now these short-lived creatures flame-eyed fire?


Prometheus.

Ay, and by it full many arts will learn.


Chorus.

Upon such charges doth Zeus outrage thee,
Nor aught abateth of thy miseries?
To this dire struggle is no term assigned?


Prometheus.

No other but what seemeth good to him.


Chorus.

How may this be? What hope? Seest thou not
That thou hast erred? But in what way hast erred,
That to unfold,—while me it gladdens not,
To thee is pain. Forbear we then this theme;
But from this struggle seek thou some escape. 270


Prometheus.

Whoso his foot holdeth unmesh'd of harm,
For him 'tis easy to exhort and warn
One sorely plagued. But this I all foreknew;
Of will, free will, I erred, nor will gainsay it.
Mortals abetting I myself found bale;
Not that I thought, with penalties like these,
To wither thus against sky-piercing rocks,
Doom'd to this drear and solitary height.
But ye, no further wail my present woes,
But, on the ground alighting, hear from me 280
On-gliding fate—so shall ye learn the end.
Yield to me, prithee yield, and grieve with him
Who now is wretched. Thus it is that grief
Ranging abroad alights on each in turn.


Chorus.

To no unwilling ears thy words
Appeal, Prometheus; and with nimble feet
Leaving our swiftly wafted seat
And holy ether, track of birds,
I to this rugged ground draw near; 290
Thy woes from first to last I fain would hear.


[Enter Oceanos.]


Oceanos.

The goal of my long course I gain,
And come, Prometheus, to thy side.
This swift-winged bird without a bit I rein.
My will his only guide.
Compassion for thy fate, be sure, I feel;
Thereto the tie of kin constraineth me:
But blood apart, to no one would I deal
More honour than to thee. 300
That true my words thou soon shalt know;
No falsely glozing tongue is mine;
Come, how I may assist thee plainly show,
For than Oceanos a friend more leal
Thou ne'er shalt boast as thine.


Prometheus.

Ha! What means this? Art thou too hither come
Spectator of my pangs? How hast thou dared
Quitting thy namesake flood, thy rock-roof'd caves
Self-wrought, this iron-teeming land to reach?
Art come indeed to gaze upon my doom, 310
And with my grievous woes to sympathize?
A spectacle behold;—this friend of Zeus,
This co-appointer of his sovereignty,
By what dire anguish I by him am bow'd.


Oceanos.

I see, Prometheus, and would fain to thee,
All subtle as thou art, best counsel give;
Know thine own self, thy manners mould anew,
For new the monarch who now rules the gods;
But if thou thus harsh, keenly-whetted words
Still hurlest, Zeus, though thron'd so far aloft, 320
Mayhap may hear thee, so the pangs which now
His wrath inflicts but childish sport may seem.
But come, O much enduring, quell thy rage;
Seek thou releasement from these miseries;
Stale may appear to thee the words I speak;
Yet such the penalty that waits, Prometheus,
On a too haughty tongue; But thou, e'en now
Nowise art humbled, nor dost yield to ills,
But to the present wouldest add new woe;
Therefore, I charge thee, hearkening my rede, 330
Kick not against the pricks, since harsh the king
Who now holds sway, accountable to none.
And now I go and will forthwith essay
If I avail to free thee from these toils.
But be thou calm nor over-rash of speech;
Knowest thou not, being exceeding wise,
That to the froward tongue cleaves chastisement.


Prometheus.

Much joy I give thee scatheless as thou art,
Though in all plots and daring leagued with me.
But now let be; forbear thy toil: for Him 340
Persuade thou canst not: Him no suasion moves;
Nay, lest the journey breed thee harm, beware.


Oceanos.

More cunning art thou others to advise
Than thine own self. By deed I judge, not word;
But, fixed is my resolve, hold me not back;
For sure I am, yea, sure, that Zeus to me
Will grant this boon, and loose thee from these pains.


Prometheus.

For this I praise thee, nor will cease to praise;
For nought of kindly zeal thou lackest; yet,
Toil not, for vain, nor helpful unto me, 350
Thy toil will prove,—if toil indeed thou wilt;—
But hold thee quiet rather, keep aloof;
For I, though in mishap, not therefore wish
Wide-spreading fellowship of woe to see.
No truly, for my brother Atlas' doom
Grieves me, who, stationed on the western verge,
The pillars on his shoulders beareth up
Of heaven and earth; burthen of painful grasp.
So, in Cilician caves with ruth I saw
Their earth-born tenant, hostile prodigy, 360
The hundred-headed, curb'd by violence;
Raging Typhôeus, all the gods who braved,
Hissing out slaughter from his horrid jaws.
Forth from his eyeballs flash'd a hideous glare,
As though by force the reign of heaven to storm.
But on him fell the sleepless dart of Zeus,
The thunder-bolt down-rushing, breathing flame,
Which him from his high-worded boasting hurl'd
Prostrate; for, smitten to his inmost reins,
With strength burnt out, he lightning-blasted fell. 370
And now his frame, helpless and sprawling lies
Hard by the salt-sea narrows, sorely prest
Beneath the roots of Ætna. Seated there,
Upon the topmost peaks, Hephæstos smites
The molten masses, whence one day shall burst
Torrents of fire, devouring with fierce jaws
The level fields of fruitful Sicily.
Such rage Typhôeus shall anew belch forth
With scorching missiles of fire-breathing storm
Insatiate; by the fierce bolt of Zeus 380
Blasted, but unconsum'd. No tiro thou,
Nor dost my teaching need. Save thou thyself
As best thou knowest how. But be assured
I to the dregs my present doom will drain,
Until the heart of Zeus relax its ire.


Oceanos.

Know'st thou not this, Prometheus, that wise words
To a distemper'd mind physicians are?

 

Prometheus.

Ay, if well-timed they mollify the heart,
Nor with rude pressure chafe its swelling ire.


Oceanos.

True: but if forethought be with boldness leagued,
What lurking mischief seest thou? Instruct me. 390


Prometheus.

Light-minded folly and superfluous toil.


Oceanos.

Still from this ailment let me ail, since most
The wise it profiteth not wise to seem.


Prometheus.

But haply mine this error may appear.


Oceanos.

Certes, thine argument remands me home.


Prometheus.

Good! Lest thy plaint for me work thee ill-will.


Oceanos.

With him now-seated on the all-ruling throne?


Prometheus.

Of him beware that ne'er his heart be vexed.


Oceanos.

Thy plight, Prometheus, is my monitor.

 

Prometheus.

Speed forth! Begone! Cherish thy present mood. 400


Oceanos.

To me right eager hast thou bayed that word,
For my four-footed bird, with wings outspread,
Fans the clear track of æther; fain, in sooth,
In wonted stall to bend the weary knee.

[Exit Oceanos.


Chorus. Strophe I.

Prometheus, I bewail thy doom of woe;
From their moist fountains rise,
Flooding my tender eyes,
Tears that my cheek bedew. O, cruel blow! 410
For Zeus by his own laws doth now hold sway,
And to the elder gods a haughty spear display.


Antistrophe I.

Rings the whole country now with echoing groans.
The grand time-honour'd sway,
Mighty now passed away,
Of thee and of thy brethren, it bemoans.
And all who dwell on Asia's hallowed shore 420
Thy loud-resounding griefs with kindred grief deplore.


Strophe II.

And Colchis' virgin daughters,
In fight a dauntless train;
And round Mæotis' waters
The Scythian tribes, holding earth's outmost reign.

 

Antistrophe II.

And those with sharp spears clanging
Who dwell, a hostile power,
Fortress'd on rocks o'erhanging, 430
Near Caucasos,—Arabia's martial flower.[13]


Epode.

One only of the gods before thus bent
Have I beheld, 'neath adamantine pains,
Atlas, the Titan, who with many a groan
Still on his back sustains,
Vast burthen, the revolving firmament.
Chiming in cadence ocean-waves resound; 440
Moans the abyss, and Hades' murky gloom
Bellows responsive in the depth profound;
While fountains of clear-flowing rivers moan
His piteous doom.


Prometheus.

Think not that I through pride or stubbornness
Keep silence; nay, my brooding heart is gnawed
Seeing myself thus marred with contumely;
And yet what other but myself marked out
To these new gods their full prerogatives?
But I refrain; for, nought my tongue would tell
Save what ye know. But rather list the ills 450
Of mortal men, how being babes before,
I made them wise and masters of their wits.
This will I tell, not as in blame of men,
But showing how from kindness flow'd my gifts.
For they, at first, though seeing, saw in vain;
Hearing they heard not, but, like shapes in dreams,
Through the long time all things at random mixed;
Of brick-wove houses, sunward-turn'd, nought knew,
Nor joiner's craft, but burrowing they dwelt 460
Like puny ants, in cavern 'd depths unsunned.
Neither of winter, nor of spring flower-strewn,
Nor fruitful summer, had they certain sign,
But without judgment everything they wrought,
Till I to them the risings of the stars
Discovered, and their settings hard to scan.
Nay, also Number, art supreme, for them
I found, and marshalling of written signs,
Handmaid to memory, mother of the Muse.
And I in traces first brute creatures yok'd,
Subject to harness, with vicarious strength 470
Bearing in mortals' stead their heaviest toils.
And 'neath the car rein-loving steeds I brought,
Chief ornament of wealth-abounding pomp.
And who but I the ocean-roaming wain
For mariners invented, canvass-winged?
Such cunning works for mortals I contrived,
Yet, hapless, for myself find no device
To free me from this present agony.

 

Chorus.

Unseemly woe thou bearest. Driven astray 480
Flounders thy judgment, and like sorry leech
Falling distemper'd, spiritless thou art,
Nor remedies canst find thyself to cure.


Prometheus.

Hearken the rest, and thou wilt marvel more
What arts and what resources I devised.
This chief of all; if any one fell sick,
No help there was, diet nor liniment,
Nor healing draught; but men, for lack of drugs
Wasted away, till I to them revealed
Commixtures of assuaging remedies 490
Which may disorders manifold repel.
Of prophecies the various modes I fixed,
And among dreams did first discriminate
The truthful vision. Voices ominous,
Hard to interpret, I to them made known:
And way-side auguries, the flight of birds
With crooked talons, clearly I defined;
Showed by their nature which auspicious arc,
And which ill-omened—taught the modes of life
Native to each, and what, among themselves
Their feuds, affections, and confederacies. 500
Touching the smoothness of the vital parts,
And what the hue most pleasing to the gods,
I taught them, and the mottled symmetry
Of gall and liver. Thighs encased in fat
With the long chine I burnt, and mortals guided
To a mysterious art; of fire-eyed signs,
I purged the vision, over-filmed before.
Such were the boons I gave; and 'neath the earth
Those other helps to men, concealed which lie,
Brass, iron, silver, gold, who dares affirm 510
That before me he had discovered them?
No one, I know, but who would idly vaunt.
The sum of all learn thou in one brief word;
All arts to mortals from Prometheus came.


Chorus.

Not now for mortals beyond measure care
Thy hapless self neglecting; since, in sooth,
Good hope have I that, loosen'd from these bonds,
In might thou'lt prove an equal match for Zeus.


Prometheus.

Not yet nor thus is it ordained that fate
These things shall compass; but by myriad pangs 520
And tortures bent, so shall I 'scape these bonds;
Art than necessity is weaker far.


Chorus.

Who then is helmsman of necessity?


Prometheus.

The triform Fates and ever-mindful Furies.


Chorus.

Is Zeus in might less absolute than these?


Prometheus.

E'en he the fore-ordain'd cannot escape.

 

Chorus.

What is ordain'd for Zeus, save aye to reign?


Prometheus.

No further may'st thou question; urge me not.


Chorus.

Deep mystery, methinks, thou keepest veil'd.


Prometheus.

Turn to some other theme; not meet it is 530
Now to discourse of this, but close to wrap
In strictest silence; for, this secret kept,
Unseemly bonds I 'scape and tortures keen.


Chorus. Strophe I.

Never may Zeus, who sole doth reign,
My will with adverse might oppose;
Nor I to serve the gods refrain,
With rites of slaughter'd kine, where flows
Father Oceanos' exhaustless tide; 540
Neither in word may I transgress!
Deep in my heart's recess,
Steadfast for aye may this resolve abide.


Antistrophe I.

'Tis sweet to run life's long career
By hopes attended strong and bold,
Feeding the heart in blithesome cheer;
But thee I shudder to behold
By myriad tortures rack'd in sore distress. 550
For thou, of Zeus unaw'd, hast still,
In pride and sheer self-will,
Mortals, Prometheus, honour'd in excess.


Strophe II.

What boots it, friend, when grace by grace
Is unrequited? In distress
Say, from ephemera what aid?
Hast not discerned the feebleness,
Dream-like and weak, that man's blind race
Cramps and confines? No scheme by mortals laid 560
The harmony of Zeus shall e'er transgress.


Antistrophe II.

This lesson from thy doom of pain
I learnt, Prometheus. On mine ear
Alighteth now far other strain
Than that, 'mid Hymeneal mirth,
Which erst, the bath and couch beside,
I sang, what time our sister dear,
Hesione, as thine espoused bride 570
Thou wast escorting, won by gifts of worth.


[Enter Io.]


Io.[14]

What country? What race? who is he,
This man, whom, rock-bound, I survey,
Storm-battered? What trespass hath thee
Thus doomed to destruction? Oh, say,
To what region of earth have I wandered, forlorn?
Ah me! The dire anguish! Ah me!
Again the barbed pest doth assail!
Thou phantom of Argos,[15] earth-born;
Avert him, O earth! Ah, I quail, 580
The herdsman beholding with myriad eyes.
With crafty look, onward, still onward he hies;
Not even in death is he hid 'neath the earth;
But, e'en from the shades coming back,
He hounds me, forlorn one, in anguish of dearth,
To roam by the sea-waves' salt track.


Strophe.

Still droneth the wax-moulded reed,
Shrill-piping, a sleep-breathing strain. 590
Ah me! The dire anguish! Woe! Woe!
Ah, whither on earth do these far-roamings lead?
What trespass canst find, son of Kronos, in me,
That thou yokest me ever to pain?
Woe! Ah, woe!
And wherefore with brize-driven fear torture so
A wretchèd one, phrenzied in brain?
Oh burn me with fire, or o'erwhelm 'neath the soil,
Or fling me to ravenous beasts of the sea.
Begrudge not, O lord! to my prayers to give heed. 600
Enough hath out-worn me my much-roaming toil.
Nor wist I from torment how may I be freed.
The voice dost thou hear of the cow-horned maid?


Prometheus.

And how not hear the maid of Inachos,
Brize-driven, who the heart of Zeus with love
Doth warm, and now in courses all too long,
Through Hera's hate, is rudely exercised?


Io. Antistrophe.

Whence know'st thou to speak my sire's name? 610
Oh answer a wretched one's prayer;—
Ah me! the dire anguish! Woe! Woe!
Who art thou, poor wretch, who dost truly proclaim
My plague, with its phrenzying torture, that came
From Zeus and doth sting to despair?
Woe! ah woe!
With boundings, by food-craving anguish pursued,
On rushing with passionate throe,
By wrathful devices of Hera subdued,
I come. Of the wretched are any who know 620
Such pangs as I suffer? But now by clear sign,
Reveal what for me yet remaineth to bear;
What cure for my plague. If such knowledge be thine,
Forthwith to the sad-roaming maiden declare.


Prometheus.

Plainly I'll tell thee all thou wouldest learn,
Not weaving riddles, but in simple phrase,
As meet it is with friends to ope the lips.
Prometheus seest thou, giver of fire to mortals, 630


Io.

As mortals' common benefactor known,
Hapless Prometheus, why art suffering thus?


Prometheus.

Scarce have I ceased singing my dirge of woe.


Io.

To me then wilt thou not vouchsafe this boon?


Prometheus.

Say what thy quest, all shalt thou learn from me.


Io.

Reveal, in this ravine who fastened thee?


Prometheus.

The will of Zeus, but 'twas Hephæstos' hand.


Io.

And of what crimes dost thou the forfeit pay?


Prometheus.

Thus much alone to tell thee may suffice.


Io.

Then further of my roamings tell the goal. 640
What time to me, poor outcast, yet must run?


Prometheus.

This not to learn were better than to learn.

 

Io.

Yet from me hide not what I needs must suffer.


Prometheus.

Not chary am I of such boon to thee.


Io.

Then why delayest to make known the whole?


Prometheus.

Nothing I grudge, but shrink to vex thy heart.


Io.

Care not for me more than to me is sweet.


Prometheus.

Thine eager wish constrains my tongue; give ear.


Chorus.

Not yet: to me my dole of pleasure deal;
Enquire we first into this maiden's plague, 650
Herself relating her sore-wasting fortunes.
Her residue of toil then teach us thou.


Prometheus.

Io, thy task it is their wish to grant,
The more so as thy father's sisters they.
Besides, fair guerdon waits on lengthened tale,
When to deplore and wail one's evil plight
Draws from the listeners the kindly tear.


Io.

I know not how I can deny your wish,
So in clear word all ye desire to know
That shall ye hear;—Yet am I shamed to tell 660
Wherefore on me, forlorn one, burst the storm
Heaven-sent and whence this form's disfigurement.
For evermore would nightly visions haunt
My virgin chambers, gently urging me
With soothing words;—"O damsel, highly blest,
Why longer live in maidenhood when thee
Wait loftiest nuptials? For by passion's dart
Inflamed is Zeus for thee and fain would share
The yoke of Kypris. Spurn not thou, O child,
The couch of Zeus, but to the grassy mead 670
Of Lerna hie thee, to thy father's herds
And cattle-stalls, that so the eye of Zeus
From longing may find respite." By such dreams
From night to night still was I visited,
Unhappy one; till, taking heart at length,
My night-born visions to my sire I told.
Then he to Pytho many a herald sent
And to Dodona; seeking to be taught
How best, by deed or word, to please the gods.
But they returned, announcing oracles
Of riddling import, vague and hard to spell. 680
At length to Inachos came clear response,
By voice oracular commanding him
From home and father-land to thrust me forth,
At large to range, as consecrate to heaven,
Far as earth's utmost bounds. Should he refuse,
From Zeus would come the fiery thunderbolt,
And his whole race extirpate utterly.
Then yielding to such Loxian Oracles,
He drave me forth, and barred me from his home,
Against his will and mine; but, forcefully,
The curb of Zeus constrained him this to do. 690
Forthwith my shape and mind distorted were,
And horned, as ye behold me, goaded on
By gad-fly, keen of fang, with frenzied bounds
I to Kerchneias' limpid current rush'd,
And fount of Lerna. Then the earth-born herdsman,
Hot-tempered Argos, ever dogged my steps,
Gazing upon me with his myriad eyes.[16]
But him a sudden and unlooked-for fate
Did reave of life; but I, brize-tortured, still
Before the scourge divine am driven on 700
From land to land; the past thou hearest; now
If thou canst tell my future toils, say on,
Nor, pity-moved, soothe me with lying tales,
For garbled words, I hold, are basest ills.


Chorus.

Alas! Alas! Let be!
Never, oh never, had I thought
That words with such strange meaning fraught
Would reach mine ear, 710
Nor that such horrors, woes, such cruel ill,
So hard to gaze on, and so hard to bear,
With double-pointed goad, my soul would chill.
Fate! Fate! ah me! ah me!
I shudder Io's woeful plight to see.


Prometheus.

Too soon thou groanest and art full of fears.
Forbear till heard the remnant of my tale.


Chorus.

Speak, teach the whole. To ailing ones 'tis sweet
Clearly their coming sorrow to foreknow.


Prometheus.

Your former boon from me lightly ye won,
For first ye craved from Io's self to learn 720
The story of her toil. The rest now hearken,
What trials this young maid hath yet to bear
From Hera. Thou, too, seed of Inachos,
Cast in thy heart my words, that thou in full
May'st of thy weary travel learn the goal.
First, turning hence towards the rising sun,
Traverse uncultured wastes; so shalt thou reach
The Scythian nomads, who, 'neath wattled roofs,[17]
Uplifted dwell on waggons amply-wheeled,
And are accoutred with far-darting bows. 730
Approach not these but, skirting with thy foot
The sounding breakers, hie thee from their land.
Towards the left the iron-workers dwell,
The Chalybes, of whom thou must beware,
As all uncouth, of strangers ill-approached.
Hybristes'[18] river then—not falsely named—
Thou'lt reach; the ford, for hard it is to cross,
Attempt not until Caucasos thou gain,
Highest of mountains, from whose very brow
The river spouteth forth its might; forthwith
Its crest surmounting, neighbour to the stars, 740
Southward direct thy course until thou reach
The host of man-abhorring Amazons,
Who Themiscyra, near Thermodon's stream,
Shall one day people, where the cruel jaw
Of Salmydessus[19] hems the briny sea,
Rude host to sea-men, step-dame unto ships;
These will conduct thee and right willingly;
Then the Kimmerian isthmus[20] thou shalt gain
Hard by the narrow portals of the lake,
Which it behoveth thee with dauntless heart
To leave, and traverse the Mæotic strait; 750
And evermore among mankind shall live
The mighty record of thy passage there,
For men from thee shall call it Bosporos.
Quitting the plain of Europe, thou shalt come
To Asia's continent.—How think ye? say,
Seems not the monarch of the gods to be
Ruthless alike in all? For he, a god,
Yearning to meet in love a mortal maid,
Upon her did impose these wanderings?
A bitter wooer hast thou found, O maid,
For wedlock bond;—for what thine ears have heard
Account not e'en the prelude to thy toils. 760


Io.

Ah woe is me! Woe! Woe!


Prometheus.

Anew dost shriek and moan? What wilt thou do
When thou the remnant of thy woe hast heard?


Chorus.

How, hast thou aught of sorrow yet to tell?


Prometheus.

Ay, sea tempestuous of all-baleful grief.


Io.

What boots it then to live? Why not with speed
Hurl myself headlong from this rugged cliff,
That, dashed upon the ground, I from my woes
Respite may find? Better to die at once
Than all my days to linger out in pain. 770

 

Prometheus.

Ill wouldst thou bear, methinks, my agonies,
To whom it is not fore-ordained to die,
For death would be releasement from my pangs.
But now there is no limit to my woes,
Before that Zeus from sovereignty be hurled.


Io.

How! Shall Zeus ever be from empire hurled?


Prometheus.

Thou wouldest joy, methinks, such hap to see.


Io.

How should I not who suffer ill from Zeus?


Prometheus.

That thus it shall be it is thine to learn.


Io.

By whom despoiled of his imperial sway? 780


Prometheus.

Spoiled by himself and his own senseless plans.


Io.

But how? Declare, if telling bring no harm.


Prometheus.

Wedlock contracting he shall one day rue.


Io.

Divine, or human? If permitted, speak.

 

Prometheus.

What matters it? This may not be disclosed.


Io.

Shall then his consort drive him from his throne?


Prometheus.

Ay, a son bearing stronger than his sire.


Io.

Is there for him no refuge from this doom?


Prometheus.

No, none; unless I be from bonds released.


Io.

Who shall release thee 'gainst the will of Zeus? 790


Prometheus.

One of thy progeny, 'tis so ordained.


Io.

How so? shall child of mine free thee from bale?


Prometheus.

Count ten descents, and after them a third.


Io.

Not easy is this oracle to spell.


Prometheus.

So neither seek thy proper grief to learn.


Io.

Nay, hold not forth a boon and straight withdraw it.

 

Prometheus.

Of two narrations I will grant thee one.


Io.

Set forth the twain, the choice then leave to me.


Prometheus.

Granted: Shall I the remnant of thy woes
Plainly declare, or who shall set me free? 800


Chorus.

Of these to her the former grace vouchsafe
To me the latter; spurn not my request.
To her the sequel of her course disclose,
To me thy rescuer; for this I crave.


Prometheus.

Since ye are eager I will thwart you not,
Nor will withhold what ye desire to know.
First, Io, thy vex'd course to thee I'll tell,
Which in thy mind's recording tablets grave.
When thou hast crossed the flood, limit betwixt
Two continents, fronting the burning East[21] 810
Trod by the sun, [then onward hold thy course.
Fierce northern blasts thou wilt encounter first;
Shun thou their downward rush, lest, unaware,
In wintry tempest thou be rudely caught.]
The roaring sea-wave skirt thou then until
Kisthene's[22] Gorgoneian plains thou reach,
Where dwell the Phorkides,[23] maids grey with eld,
Three, swan-shaped, of one common eye possessed,
One common tooth, whom neither with his beams
The sun beholdeth, nor the nightly moon;
And near them dwell their winged sisters three,
Gorgons, with snaky locks, of men abhorred;
Whom mortal may not look upon and live.
This for thy warning I relate to thee; 820
List now another spectacle of dread.
The unbarking hounds of Zeus, sharp-mouthed, beware,—
The Griffins; and the Arimaspian[24] host,
Horse-mounted, single-eyed, around the stream
Who dwell of Pluto's gold-abounding flood.[25]
To these approach not; a far border-land
Thou next shalt reach, where dwells a swarthy race,
Near the sun's founts, whence is the Æthiop river.[26]
Along its banks proceed till thou attain
The mighty rapids, where from Bybline heights 830
Pure draughts of sacred water Neilos sends.
He to the land, three-cornered, thee shall guide,
Encircled by the Nile, where 'tis ordained,
Io, for thee and for thy sons to found
A far-off colony; Io, if aught of this
Seem dark to thee, or difficult to spell,
Repeat thy questions and be taught in full;
For leisure have I, more than I desire.


Chorus.

If aught untold of her sore-wasting course
Remains by thee to be unfolded, speak.
But if thou hast told all, to us vouchsafe 840
The boon we craved; its scope full well thou knowest.


Prometheus.

She of her roaming hath the limit heard,
That she not vainly to have heard may know,
Her woes ere coming here I will relate,
Sure pledge thus giving that my tale is true.
Tedious array of words I shall omit,
And of thy roamings reach at once the goal;
For when Molossia's plains thy foot had trod,
Round lofty-ridged Dodona, where is found
The seat prophetic of Thesprotian Zeus, 850
And, portent past belief, the speaking oaks,
By which thou clearly, in no riddling phrase,
Wert hailed as the illustrious spouse of Zeus,
Fate-destined,—if this flatter thee at all,—
Thence, fiercely stung, along the sea-washed tract,
To Rhea's mighty gulf didst hurry,—whence
In courses retrograde wert rudely tossed.
And through all future time know certainly
That sea-gulf shall the name Ionian bear,
To all mankind memorial of thy way; 860
These then to thee be tokens of my mind,
That more discerneth than doth moot the sense.
[To the Chorus.]
The rest for you and her I will relate.
The track regaining of my former words.
On the land's verge a town, Canobos, stands,
At Neilos' very mouth and sand-bar,—there,
Zeus shall restore thy reason,—stroking thee
With touch alone of unalarming hand;
Then thou dark Epaphos shalt bear, whose name 870
Records his sacred gendering, who shall reap
All regions watered by broad-flowing Nile.
Fifth in descent from him a female race,
Fifty in number, shall return to Argos,
Not willingly, but wedlock to avoid
Of cousins; these, with passion-wingèd hearts,
Falcons that follow close on doves, shall come
Chasing unlawful wedlock, but the god
Shall grudge them such fair prey; Pelasgian soil
Shall harbour them, what time, made bold by night,
Woman's fell prowess shall o'er men prevail; 880
For every bride her spouse shall reave of life,
The two-edged weapon bathing in his neck.—
May Kypris visit in such guise my foes!—
But of the maids shall one, by love beguiled,
Her partner fail to slay;—her will's keen edge
Blunted, she will of evils twain prefer
Repute of weakness to bloodguiltness.
She shall a kingly race in Argos bear;
This to set forth at large needs lengthy speech;
But from this seed shall dauntless hero spring, 890
Bow-famous, who shall free me from these toils.
Such oracle my mother, born of eld,
Themis, hoar Titaness, to me rehearsed.
But how and where, to tell, needs lengthy speech,
Nor would the knowledge aught advantage thee.


Io.

Ah me! ah woe is me!
Brain-smiting madness once again
Inflames me, and convulsive pain.
The gad-fly's barb, not wrought with fire,
Stings me; against my breast
Kicks my pent heart with fear oppressed. 900
Mine eyeballs roll in dizzy gyre;
Out of my course by frenzy's blast
I'm borne. My tongue brooks not the rein,
And turbid words, at random cast,
'Gainst waves of hateful madness beat in vain.

[Exit.


Chorus. Strophe I.

Sage was the man, ay, sage in sooth,
Who in his thought first weighed this truth,
And then in pithy phrase express'd:—
"That wedlock in one's own degree is best."
That not where wealth saps manly worth, 910
Nor where pride boasts its lofty birth,
Should son of toil repair in marriage quest.


Antistrophe I.

Never, oh never, Fates, may ye,
Dread powers primeval, gaze on me
Sharing his couch who reigns above,
Or joined with son of heaven in ties of love!
For filled with dread am I to see
Io's love-shunning virgin-state,
Consumed in wanderings dire through Hera's hate.


Strophe II.

Wedlock, when equal-yoked, to me 920
Nought dreadful seemeth, terror-free.
But ne'er may mighty god, with eye of love,
Escape forbidding, mark me from above.


Antistrophe II.

A battle to be fought by none,
Fruitful of fruitless woe, were this;
Nor can I see the end;—for well I wis,
The deep designs of Zeus I may not shun.


Prometheus.

Yea verily shall Zeus, though stubborn-souled,
Be humbled yet; such marriage he prepares
Which from his throne of power to nothingness 930
Shall hurl him down; so shall be all fulfilled
His father Kronos' curse, which erst he spake
What time he fell from his primeval throne.
From such disasters none of all the gods
To Zeus escape can show, save I alone;
I know it and the way. Let him then sit
Fearless, confiding in supernal thunder,
The bolt, fire-breathing, wielding in his hands;
Fur these shall not avail, but fall he shall,
A fall disgraceful, not to be endured. 940
Such wrestler now, himself against himself,
He arms for battle;—portent hard to quell;
Who flame shall find surpassing lightning's glare,
And crash more mighty than the thunder-roll;
Who the sea-trident, earth-convulsing plague,
Poseidon's sceptre, shall to pieces rend;
Against this evil stumbling, Zeus shall learn
How wide apart are sway and servitude.


Chorus.

Such talk 'gainst Zeus thy wish, I trow, inspires.


Prometheus.

Both what shall be, I speak, and what I wish. 950


Chorus.

And must we look for one o'er Zeus to reign?


Prometheus.

Yea, pangs than these more crushing shall he bear.


Chorus.

How canst thou fail to fear, hurling such words?


Prometheus.

What should I fear who am not doomed to die?


Chorus.

To keener struggle he may sentence thee.


Prometheus.

So let him then! all is by me foreseen.

 

Chorus.

The wise are they who worship Nemesis.


Prometheus.

Revere, adore, cringe aye to him who reigns,
For me, at less than nought I value Zeus.
For this brief hour let him both do and reign, 960
E'en as he will;—not long he'll rule the gods.
But yonder I behold the scout of Zeus,
Of this new potentate the servitor;—
Doubtless some news to herald he has come.


[Enter Hermes.]


Hermes.

To thee, professing wisdom, steeped in gall,
Who 'gainst the gods hast sinned, on short-lived men
Prerogatives bestowing, thief of fire,
To thee I speak; the Father bids thee tell
What nuptials these thou vauntest of, by which
Himself shall fall from sway; and nought in riddles, 970
But point by point explain; nor cause to me,
Prometheus, double journeys;[27] for thou seest,
Not by such dealing is Zeus mollified.


Prometheus.

Full of high spirit and augustly mouthed
This speech, as fits an underling of gods.
Younglings and young of sway, ye think to dwell
Henceforth in griefless citadels. From these
Have I not known two potentates cast down?
Ay, and a third, now reigning, I shall see
In basest and most sudden overthrow. 980
Seem I to thee before these upstart gods
To quail or cringe? Far from it, nay, no whit.
But get thee back with speed the way thou camest,
For of thy quest thou'lt nothing learn from me.


Hermes.

E'en by such haughty wilfulness before
Didst thou to these dirge moorings waft thyself.


Prometheus.

This my ill-fortune, be thou well assured,
I would not barter with thy servitude.
This rock to lackey better 'tis in sooth
Than trusty scout be born to father Zeus. 990
Thus, as is fitting, scorn replies to scorn.


Hermes.

Thou seem'st to revel in thy present state.


Prometheus.

Revel? Oh might I in such revel see
My foes! And thee among them do I count.


Hermes.

Me too thou holdest guilty of thy ills?


Prometheus.

Shortly to speak, all gods I hate, whoe'er,
By me bestead, maltreat me wrongfully.

 

Hermes.

By what I hear, not slight thy madness is.


Prometheus.

Mad let me be, if to hate foes be madness.


Hermes.

Unbearable wert thou if prosperous. 1000


Prometheus.

Alas!


Hermes.

That word, I trow, Zeus knoweth not.


Prometheus.

Time as it waxeth old can all things teach.


Hermes.

But thou not yet hast sober wisdom learned.


Prometheus.

Else I with thee, a menial, had not talked.


Hermes.

It seems thou'lt answer nought the sire demands.


Prometheus.

Grace since I owe him, grace must I repay.


Hermes.

Thou floutest me as though a child I were!


Prometheus.

Art not a child, ay, simpler than a child,
If thou expectest aught to learn from me?
No torture is there, no device whereby 1010
Zeus shall persuade me to reveal these things
Before these woe-inflicting bonds be loosed.
Let then his blazing lightnings hurtle down;
With white-winged snow and earth-born thunderings
Let him in ruin whelm and mingle all;
For none of these shall bend my will to tell
By whom from empery he needs must fall.


Hermes.

Mark now if helpful this may seem to thee.


Prometheus.

Of old my course was looked to and resolved.


Hermes.

Take heart, foolish one, take heart at length 1020
To deal discreetly with these present ills.


Prometheus.

Idly, as though a wave thou should'st exhort,
Thou troublest me. Harbour no more the thought
That I, in terror at the will of Zeus,
Effeminate of mind shall e'er become,
And supplicate whom hugely I abhor,
With woman-aping palms to heaven upturned,
To loose me from these fetters. Not a whit.


Hermes.

Much may I speak, it seems, and speak in vain;
For nothing moved or softened is thy heart
By prayers; but thou, like newly yokèd colt, 1030
Champing the bit, dost fight against the rein
Fiercely; yet futile the device wherein
Madly thou trustest; for mere stubbornness
Avails the foolish-hearted less than nought.
But mark, if unpersuaded by my words,
What storm and triple crested surge of ills
Shall o'er thee burst escapeless. Yea: for first,
With thunder and with lightning-flame, the Sire
This rugged crag shall rend, and hide thy frame
Deep in the rock's embraces rudely clasped. 1040
But when time's lengthened course thou hast fulfilled,
Back shalt thou come to daylight. Then, in sooth,
Zeus' wingèd hound, the eagle red with gore,
Shall of thy flesh a huge flap rudely tear;
Coming, unbidden guest, the live-long day
He on thy black-gnawed liver still shall feast.
But of such pangs look for no term, until,
Some god, successor of thy toils, appear,
Willing to Hades' rayless gloom to wend,
And to the murky depths of Tartaros. 1050
Wherefore take counsel:—since not feigned in sooth
Is this bold threat, but all too truly spoken.
Trust me, the mouth of Zeus knows not to lie,
But every word completeth. So do thou
Look round, take heed, nor deem that stubbornness
Shall ever better than good counsel prove.


Chorus.

Timely to us the word of Hermes seems,
For he exhorts thee, dropping thy self-will,
To search for prudent counsel. Be advised!
For to the wise it bringeth shame to err. 1060


Prometheus.

To me who knew them, hath he told
His messages, with utterance shrill.
But nowise I unseemly hold
That foe from foe should suffer ill.
So 'gainst me now be hurled amain
Curled lightning's two-edged glare!
By thunder and spasmodic whirl
Of savage gales be upper air
Madly convulsed! Let hurricane
Earth from its deep foundation rend,
E'en from its roots. Let ocean's wave,
Surging aloft, tumultuous rave,
And, foaming, with the courses blend 1070
Of heavenly stars! Ay, let him hurl
This body to the murky gloom
Of Tartaros, in stubborn whirl
Of fortune caught! Do what he will
My death he may not doom.


Hermes.

From fools brain-stricken may one hear
Such counsels and such words. But say,—
What sign of madness lacketh here?
What respite knows his frenzied ire?
Nathless do ye, who thus condole 1080
With his sore pangs, far hence retire;
Go quickly, lest harsh thunder's bray
With terror smite your soul.


Chorus.

In other style exhort and preach
If to persuade me thou art fain;
For all unbearable this speech
Which from thy lips hath burst amain.
How canst thou bid me consummate
A dastard's part? With him the worst
I'll brave, for I have learn'd to hate 1090
Traitors, than whom no pest is more accursed.


Hermes.

Then my forewarnings mark, nor dare
When tangled in fell ruin's snare
Fortune to blame, nor ever say
That Zeus hath plunged you unaware
In doleful plight;—nay, truly nay,
But ye yourselves; for not untaught,
Not stealthily, by sudden blow,
Ye through sheer folly will be caught
In net of boundless woe. 1100


Prometheus.

And lo in act, in word no more,
Earth totters;—from below
Loud bellows the discordant roar
Of thunder; lightning's wreathèd glow
Blazes around me; dust elate
Rides on the whirlwind; forward leap
Of every wind rude blasts that sweep
In strife of rancour-breathing hate.
The sky is mingled with the deep.
Such turmoil to arouse my fear
Comes visibly from Zeus. Oh thou, 1110
Mother revered! Oh upper air,
Who sheddest from thy circling sphere
The common light! Behold ye now
What pangs unjust I bear.




  1. Gruppe has, I think, satisfactorily refuted the plausible hypothesis of Hermann, that the "Prometheus Unbound" was composed prior to, and independently of, the "Prometheus Bound."
  2. These passages are cited by Schoemann.
  3. Channing.
  4. Hegel.
  5. An interesting analysis of the significance of the story of Herakles will be found in Cox's "Mythology of the Aryan Nations."
  6. Schoemann.
  7. This view is expounded at greater length by Schoemann.
  8. As his authority for this statement, Welcker refers to Athenæus and Menodotus.
  9. This and the following references are quoted from Welcker.
  10. Welcker.
  11. An epitome of Professor Kuhn's work, entitled "Die Herabkunft des Feuers und des Göttertranks," may be found in Kelly's "Indo-European Tradition and Folk-lore," from which the above notice is abridged.
  12. From πρό, μῆτιςforethought.
  13. The word Arabia, with Xenophon, included Mesopotamia, as part of the land on which Arabs roam. My friend Professor Newman conjectures that Mardin, built on a limestone rock, which is said to be 2000 feet high, was the city ὑψίκρημνον, of which the poet had heard. The Arabs still roam up to the base of this little mountain. No Greek, in Æschylus's day, knew the geography of Courdistân; so it was natural to include the whole of the wonderful "Asiatic Switzerland" in Caucasos.
  14. For an exposition of the theory which resolves the life of Io into the life of the moon, in its several phases from full to new, and then back to the full again, the reader is referred to Cox's "Mythology of the Aryan Nations," ii. 139.
  15. Argos Panôptes, according to modern mythologists, is the star-illumined sky watching over the moon as she wanders—

    "pale for very weariness
    Of climbing heaven."
    Cox's Mythology of the Aryan Nations.

  16. In the Io myth Hermes appears as the god of the morning, who with his magic rod lulls even Argos to slumber. The thousand eyes are closed in death as the stars go out when the morning comes, and leave the moon alone.—Cox's Mythology, ii. 139.
  17. The wicker huts in use among the Scythian nomads are described by Herodotus (iv. 46).
  18. The river which the poet calls Hybristes (i. e., insolent or violent) agrees with none so well as with the Kouban, which runs down violently from the Caucasos into the Crimean Bosporos.
  19. Salmydessos. "This name was originally applied to the whole coast, from the promontory of Thynia to the entrance of the Bosporos; and it was from this coast that the Black Sea obtained the name of Pontus Ἄξενος, or inhospitable;" afterwards changed to Euxeinos, or hospitable.
  20. Leaving the Kimmerian isthmus (the Crimea), she was to cross the Bosporos, which flows into the Mæotic Lake (the Sea of Azov). It may be remarked that in the foregoing account of Io's wanderings no consistency with our known geography is attainable.
  21. The poet here takes up the journey of Io where he left it in v. 754. The stream which is the limit of the continents is evidently the Kimmerian Bosporos. She now travels towards the sun (i. e., eastward). This is, in Herodotus, the course of merchants travelling for gold, no doubt, to the Ural Mountains. In this journey the Volga must be crossed, most naturally at Asterakhän, where, it has been conjectured, its numerous mouths, and the Caspian, may explain the πόντου φλοῖσβον of our poet.
  22. Kisthene, The character and situation of this legendary region vary according to the theory entertained as to the direction of Io's wanderings. Mr. Paley, to whose note I must refer for the grounds of his hypothesis, identifies it with Mont Blanc. This seems, however, directly to contradict the poet's statement that Io, after crossing the Kimmerian Bosporos, travelled eastward on Asiatic ground.
  23. The swan-shaped daughters of Phorkys are resolved by modern mythologists into the weird and dusky clouds never illumined by the light of the sun; while their more terrible sisters, the Gorgons, are the hideous storm-clouds, that rush with fury across the sky.—Cox's Mythology, ii. 287. These legendary beings are placed by Hesiod in the far west (Theog. 274).
  24. The Arimaspi are placed by Herodotus to the east of his Scythia, which was the region north of the Euxine, bounded probably by the Tanais on the east (Herod. iv 13–27).
  25. The theory which identifies "the ford of Pluto" with the Tartessos of Spain (the Guadalquivir) seems also at variance with the express statement of the poet. My friend Professor Newman conjectures that this gold-flowing stream was the Ural. The gold of the Ural mountains is still celebrated. The Arimaspi, with the Grypes, were, moreover, the recognised inhabitants of this gold region.
  26. Io is told by Prometheus that she is to travel eastward till she comes to the river Æthiops, which she is to follow till it falls into the Nile. According to the geographical theories of the earliest Greeks, this condition was fulfilled by the Indus. Arrian (vi. 1) mentions that Alexander the Great, when preparing to sail down the Indus (having seen crocodiles in the river Indus, and in no other river except the Nile . . . ), seemed to himself to have discovered the sources of the Nile; as though the Nile, rising from some place in India, and flowing through much desert land, and thereby losing its name Indus, next . . . . flowed through inhabited land, being now called Nile by the Ethiopians of those parts, and afterwards by the Egyptians. Virgil, in the 4th Georgic, echoes the obsolete error.
  27. This passage is also interpreted—
    "Nor set before me ambiguous replies."



 

NOTES.

Prometheus Bound.

550. After διακναιόμενον a word is lost. I suggest—
μυρίοις μόχθοις διακναιόμενον (κἀυθαιρετοῖς).

869. τῶν Διὸς γεννημάτων. Every one feels that the poet cannot have written thus. I suggest τῶνδ᾽ ὁσιογεννημάτων, as close to the letters of the text.

914. A word is lost, μοῖραι [μακραίωνες] λεχέων . . . . will satisfy metre and sense. The old text in the strophe is, ἦ σόφος, ἦ σόφος ἦν, | ὃς . . . .

920–27 appear to me to be antistrophic. Perhaps thus:
(στρ.)ἐμοὶ δ᾽, ὅποτε μὲν ὁμαλὸς, ὁ γάμος ἄφοβος·
οὐδὲ δέδια, μὴ θεῶν του
κρεισσόνων ἔρως ἄφυκτ᾽
ὄμματα προσδρακῇ με
(ἀντ.)ἀπόλεμος ὅδε γ᾽ὁ πόλεμος, ἄπορα πόριμος·
οὐδ᾽ἔχω τίς ἂν γενοίμαν·
τὰν Διὸς γὰρ οὐχ ὁρῶ
μῆτιν ὅπα φύγοιμ᾽ ἄν