John Henry Wright.

Masterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; online

. (page 7 of 29)
Online LibraryJohn Henry WrightMasterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; → online text (page 7 of 29)
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lack of technical scholarship, and her translation (which fol-
lows) is accepted as a true work of art.





Prometheus. • Hephaestus.

OcEANUS. lo, daughter of Inachus.

Strength and Force.
Chorus of Ocean Nymphs.

l^I'^irst Scene of Prologue,']
Strength and Force, Hephaestus and Prometheus, at the Rocks.

Strength. We reach the utmost limit of the earth, — '
The Scythian track, the desert without man.
And now, Hephaestus, thou must needs fulfil
The mandate of our Father, and with links
Indissoluble of adamantine chains 5

Fasten against this beetling precipice
This guilty god. Because he filched away
Thine own bright flower, the glory of plastic fire,
And gifted mortals with it, — such a sin
It doth behoove he expiate to the gods, 10

Learning to accept the empery of Zeus,
And leave off his old trick of loving man.

Hephaestus. O Strength and Force, for you our
Zeus's will
Presents a deed for doing, no more ! — But /,
I lack your daring, up this storm-rent chasm 15

To fix with violent hands a kindred god,
Howbeit necessity compels me so
That I must dare it, and our Zeus commands
With a most inevitable word. Ho, thou !
High-thoughted son of Themis, who is sage ! 20

Thee loath, I loath must rivet fast in chains
Against this rocky height unclomb by man,


Where never human voice nor face shall find

Out thee who lov'st them ; and thy beauty's flower,

Scorched in the sun's clear heat, shall fade away. 25

Night saall come up with garniture of stars

To comfort thee with shadow, and the sun

Disperse with retrickt beams the morning-frosts ;

But through all changes, sense of present woe

Shall vex thee sore, because with none of them 30

There comes a hand to free. Such fruit is plucked

From love of man ! And in that thou, a god.

Didst brave the wrath of gods, and give away

Undue respect to mortals, for that crime

Thou art adjudged to guard this joyless rock, 35

Erect, unslumbering, bending not the knee,

And many a cry and unavailing moan

To utter on the air. For Zeus is stern,

And new-made kings are cruel.

Strength* Be it so.

Why loiter in vain pity ? Why not hate 40

A god the gods hate ? — one, too, who betrayed
Thy glory unto men ?

Hephaestus. An awful thing

Is kinship joined to friendship.

Strength. Grant it be :

Is disobedience to the Father's word
A possible thing ? Dost quail not more for that ? 45

Hephaestus. Thou, at least, art a stern one, ever bold.

Strength. Why, if I wept, it were no remedy ;
And do not thou spend labor on the air
To bootless uses.

Hephaestus. Cursed handicraft !
I curse and hate thee, O my craft !

Strength. Why hate sfl

Thy craft most plainly innocent of all
These pending ills ?


HepJiaestus, I would some other han<

Were here to work it !

Strength. AH work hath its pai)

Except to rule the gods. There is none free
Except King Zeus.

Hephaestus. I know it very well ; ss

I argue not against it.

Strength. Why not, then,

Make haste and lock the fetters over him,
Lest Zeus behold thee lagging ?

Hephaestus. Here be chains.

Zeus may behold these.

Strength. Seize him ; strike amain ;

Strike with the hammer on each side his hands ; eo
Rivet him to the rock.

Hephaestus. The work is done,

And thoroughly done.

Strength. Still faster grapple him ;

Wedge him in deeper ; leave no inch to stir.
He 's terrible for finding a way out
Erom the irremediable.

Hephaestus. Here 's an arm, at least, 66

Grappled past freeing.

Strength. Now, then, buckle me

The other securely. Let this wise one learn
He 's duller than our Zeus.

Hephaestus. Oh, none but he

Accuse me justly.

Strength. Now, straight through the chest.

Take him and bite him with the clenching tooth 70
Of the adamantine wedge, and rivet him.

Hephaestus. Alas, Prometheus, what thou sufferest
I sorrow over.


Strength. Dost thou flincli again,
And breathe groans for the enemies of Zeus ?
Beware lest thine own pity find thee out. 75

Hephaestus. Thou dost behold a spectacle that
The sight o' the eyes to pity.

Strength. I behold

A sinner suffer his sin's penalty.
But lash the thongs about his sides.

Hephaestus. So much

I must do. Urge no farther than I must. so

Strength. Aj, but I will urge ! and, with shout on
Will hound thee at this quarry. Get thee down,
And ring amain the iron round his legs.

Hephaestus. That work was not long doing.

Strength. Heavily now

Let fall the strokes upon the perforant gyves ; ss

For he who rates the work has a heavy hand.

Hephaestus. Thy speech is savage as thy shape.

Strength. Be thou

Gentle and tender, but revile not me
For the firm will and the untruckling hate.

Hephaestus. Let us go. He is netted round with
chains. \_Exit Hephaestus.

Strength. Here, now, taunt on ! and, having spoiled
the gods 91

Of honors, crown withal thy mortal men
Who live a whole day out. Why, how could they
Draw off from thee one single of thy griefs ?
Methinks the Daemons gave thee a wrong name, 95
Prometheus^ which means Providence, because
Thou dost thyself need providence to see
Thy roll and ruin from the top of doom. \_Exiu


\_Seeond Scene of Prologue.']
Prometheus (alone).

O holy Aether, and swift-winged Winds,
And River-wells, and Laughter innumerous lOo

Of yon sea-waves ! Earth, mother of us all,
And all-viewing cyclic Sun, I cry on you, —
Behold me a god, what I endure from gods !
Behold, with throe on throe,
How, wasted by this woe, los

I wrestle down the myriad years of time !

Behold how, fast around me.
The new King of the happy ones sublime
Has flung the chain he forged, has shamed and

bound me !
Woe, woe ! to-day's woe and the coming mor-
row's 110
I cover with one groan. And where is found me

A limit to these sorrows?
And yet what word do I say ? I have foreknown
i Clearly all things that should be ; nothing done
Comes sudden to my soul ; and I must bear us

.What is ordained with patience, being aware
Necessity doth front the universe
With an invincible gesture. Yet this curse
Which strikes me now I find it hard to brave
In silence or in speech. Because I gave 120

Honor to mortals, I have yoked my soul
To this compelling fate. Because I stole
The secret fount of fire, whose bubbles went
Over the ferule's brim, and manward sent
Art's mighty means and perfect rudiment, 125

That sin I expiate in this agony.
Hung here in fetters, 'neath the blanching sky.


Ah, ah me ! what a sound !
What a fragrance sweeps up from a pinion unseen
Of a god, or a mortal, or nature between, 130

Sweeping up to this rock where the Earth has her

To have sight of my pangs, or some guerdon obtain.
Lo, a god in the anguish, a god in the chain !
The god Zeus hateth sore,

And his gods hate again, 135

As many as tread on his glorified floor.
Because I loved mortals too much evermore.
Alas me ! what a murmur and motion I hear,
As of birds flying near !

And the air undersings wo

The light stroke of their wings.
And all life that approaches I wait for in fear.

[Entrance of Chorus.']
Chorus of Sea-nymphs. First strophe.

Fear nothing ! our troop

Floats lovingly up

With a quick-oaring stroke 145

Of wings steered to the rock.
Having softened the soul of our father below.
For the gales of swift-bearing have sent me a sound.
And the clank of the iron, the malletted blow,

Smote down the profound 150

Of my caverns of old,
And struck the red light in a blush from my brow.
Till I sprang up unsandalled, in haste to behold,
And rushed forth on my chariot of wings manifold.

Prometheus. Alas me ! alas me ! 155

Ye offspring of Tethys, who bore at her breast


Many children, and eke of Oceanus, he,
Coiling still ai'ound earth with perpetual unrest !
Behold me and see

How transfixed with the fang im

Of a fetter I Jiang
On the high-jutting rocks of this fissure, and keep
An uncoveted watch o'er the world and the deep.

Chorus. First antistropTie.

I behold thee, Prometheus ; yet now, yet now,

A terrible cloud whose rain is tears les

Sweeps over mine eyes that witness how

Thy body appears
Hung awaste on the rocks by infrangible chains ;
For new is the hand, new the rudder, that steers
The ship of Olympus through surge and wind,
And of old things passed, no track is behind.^ i70
Prometheus, Under earth, under Hades,

Where the home of the shade is.
All into the deep, deep Tartarus,
I would he had hurled me adown.
I would he had plunged me, fastened thus 175

In the knotted chain, with the savage clang.
All into the dark, where there should be none,
Neither god nor another, to laugh and see.

But now the winds sing through and shake
The hurtling chains wherein I hang, iso

And I in my naked sorrows make
Much mirth for my enemy.

Chorus. Second strophe.
Nay ! who of the gods hath a heart so stern
As to use thy woe for a mock and mirth ?

1 The Greek means : " The mighty ones of old (i. e., the Titans) Zeus
puts out of sight." This suggests the words of Prometheus that



Who would not turn more mild to learn iss

Thy sorrows ? who of the heaven and earth

Save Zeus ? But he

Right wrathfully
Bears on his sceptral soul unbent,
And rules thereby the heavenly seed, 190

Nor will he pause till he content
His thirsty heart in a finished deed.
Or till Another shall appear,
To win by fraud, to seize by fear,
The hard-to-be-captured government. 195

Prometheus. Yet even of me he shall have need,
That monarch of the blessed seed, —
Of me, of me who now am cursed

By his fetters dire, —
To wring my secret out withal, 200

And learn by whom his sceptre shall
Be filched from him, as was at first

His heavenly fire.
But he never shall enchant me

With his honey-lipped persuasion ; 205

Never, never, shall he daunt me
With the oath and threat of passion,
Into speaking as they want me,
Till he loose this savage chain,

And accept the expiation 210

Of my sorrow in his pain.

Chorus. Second antistrophe.

Thou art, sooth, a brave god.

And, for all thou hast borne
From the stroke of the rod,

Nought relaxest from scorn. __^ as


But thou speakest unto me

Too free and unworn ;
And a terror strikes througli me

And festers my soul,

And I fear, in the roll 220

Of the storm, for thy fate

In the ship far from shore ;
Since the son of Saturnus ^ is hard in his hate,
And unmoved in his heart evermore.

\^First Scene of First Episode.']

Prometheus. I know that Zeus is stern ; 225

I know he metes his justice by his will ;
And yet his soul shall learn
More softness when once broken by this ill ;
And, curbing his unconquerable vaunt,
He shall rush on in fear to meet with me 230

Who rush to meet with him in agony,
To issues of harmonious covenant.

Chorus. Remove the veil from all things, and relate
The story to us, — of what crime accused,
Zeus smites thee with dishonorable pangs. 235

Speak, if to teach us do not grieve thyself.

Prometheus. The utterance of these things is tor-
ture to me.
But so, too, is their silence : each way lies
Woe strong as fate.

When gods began with wrath,
And war rose up between their starry brows, 240

Some choosing to cast Cronos from his throne
That Zeus might king it there, and some in haste
With opposite oaths, that they would have no Zeus
To rule the gods forever, — I, who brought

^ Elsewhere the translator generally uses the Greek name Cronos.


The counsel I thought meetest, could not move 245

The Titans, children of the Heaven and Earth,

What time, disdaining in their rugged souls

My subtle machinations, they assumed

It was an easy thing for force to take

The mastery of fate. My mother, then, 250

Who is called not only Themis, but Earth too,

(Her single beauty joys in many names) ^

Did teach me with reiterant prophecy

What future should be, and how conquering gods

Should not prevail by strength and violence, 255

But by guile only. When I told them so.

They would not deign to contemplate the truth

On all sides round ; whereat I deemed it best

To lead my willing mother upwardly.

And set my Themis face to face with Zeus 260

As willing to receive her. Tartarus,

With its abysmal cloister of the Dark,

Because I gave that counsel, covers up

The antique Cronos and his siding hosts.

And, by that counsel helped, the king of gods 265

Hath recompensed me with these bitter pangs ;

For kingship wears a cancer at the heart, —

Distrust in friendship. Do ye also ask

What crime it is for which he tortures me ?

That shall be clear before you. When at first 270

He filled his father's throne, he instantly

Made various gifts of glory to the gods.

And dealt the empire out. Alone of men,

Of miserable men, he took no count.

But yearned to sweep their track off from the world, 275

And plant a newer race there. Not a god

Resisted such desire, except myself.

^ More literally, " one form (i. e., one person) of many names."


I dared it ! / drew mortals back to light,

From meditated ruin deep as hell !

For which wrong I am bent down in these pangs 280

Dreadful to suffer, mournful to behold.

And I who pitied man am thought myself

Unworthy of pity ; while I render out

Deep rhythms of anguish 'neath the harping hand

That strikes me thus, — a sight to shame your Zeus ! 285

Chorus. Hard as thy chains, and cold as all these
Is he, Prometheus, who withholds his heart
From joining in thy woe. I yearned before
To fly this sight ; and, now I gaze on it,
I sicken inwards.

Prometheus. To my friends, indeed, 290

I must be a sad sight.

Chorus. And didst thou sin

]No more than so?

Prometheus. I did restrain besides

My mortals from premeditating death.

Chorus. How didst thou medicine the plague-fear
of death?

Prometheus. I set blind Hopes to inhabit in their

house. 295

Chorus. By that gift thou didst help thy mortals

Prometheus. I gave them also fire.

Chorus. And have they now,

Those creatures of a day, the red-eyed fire ?

Prometheus. They have, and shall learn by it many

Chorus. And truly for such sins Zeus tortures thee.
And will remit no anguish ? Is there set 301

No limit before thee to thine agony ?


Prometheus. No other — only what seems good to


Chorus. And how will it seem good ? what hope
remains ?
Seest thou not that thou hast sinned ? But that thou
hast sinned sos

It glads me not to speak of, and grieves thee ;
Then let it pass from both, and seek thyself
Some outlet from distress.

Prometheus. It is in truth

An easy thing to stand aloof from pain,
And lavish exhortation and advice 310

On one vexed sorely by it. I have known
All in prevision. By my choice, my choice,
I freely sinned, — I will confess my sin, —
And, helping mortals, found mine own despair.
I did not think indeed that I should pine 315

Beneath such pangs against such skyey rocks,
Doomed to this drear hill, and no neighboring
Of any life. But mourn not ye for griefs
I bear to-day : hear rather, dropping down
To the plain, how other woes creep on to me, 320

And learn the consummation of my doom.
Beseech you, nymphs, beseech you, grieve for me
^' "Who now am grieving ; for Grief walks the earth.
And sits down at the foot of each by turns.

Chorus. We hear the deep clash of thy words, 325
Prometheus, and obey.

And I spring with a rapid foot away

From the rushing car and the holy air.
The track of birds ;

And I drop to the rugged ground, and there 330
Await the tale of thy despair.


\_Second Scene of First EpisodeJ]

OcEANUS enters.
Oceanus. I reach the bourne of my weary road
Where I may see and answer thee,
Prometheus, in thine agony.
On the back of the quick-winged bird I glode, 335
And I bridled him in
With the will of a god.
Behold, thy sorrow aches in me

Constrained by the force of kin.
Nay, though that tie were all undone, mo

For the life of none beneath the sun
Would I seek a larger benison

Than 1 seek for thine.
And thou shalt learn my words are truth,
That no fair parlance of the mouth 345

Grows falsely out of mine.
Now give me a deed to prove my faith ;
For no faster friend is named in breath

Than I, Oceanus, am thine.
Prometheus. Ha ! what has brought thee ? Hast
thou also come 350

To look upon my woe ? How hast thou dared ^
To leave the depths called after thee ? the caves
Self-hewn, and self-roofed with spontaneous rock,
To visit Earth, the mother of my chain ?
Hast come, indeed, to view my doom, and mourn 355
That I should sorrow thus ? Gaze on, and see
How I, the fast friend of your Zeus, — how I
The erector of the empire in his hand,
Am bent beneath that hand in this despair. 359

Oceanus. Prometheus, I behold ; and I would fain
1 Rather, " had the heart." Compare verse 765.


Exhort thee, though already subtle enough,

To a better wisdom. Titan, know thyself.

And take new softness to thy manners, since

A new king rules the gods. If words like these.

Harsh words and trenchant, thou wilt fling abroad, aes

Zeus haply, though he sit so far and high.

May hear thee do it, and so this wrath of his,

Which now affects thee fiercely, shall appear ^

A mere child's sport at vengeance. Wretched god,

Eather dismiss the passion which thou hast, 370

And seek a change from grief. Perhaps I seem

To address thee with old saws and outworn sense ;

Yet such a curse, Prometheus, surely waits

On lips that speak too proudly : thou, meantime,

Art none the meeker, nor dost yield a jot 375

To evil circumstance, preparing still

To swell the account of grief with other griefs

Than what are borne. Beseech thee, use me, then,

For counsel : ^ do not spurn against the pricks.

Seeing that who reigns, reigns by cruelty 38o

Instead of right. And now I go from hence.

And will endeavor if a power of mine

Can break thy fetters through. For thee — be calm,

And smooth thy words from passion. Knowest thou

Of perfect knowledge, thou who knowest too much, sss
That, where the tongue wags, ruin never lags ?

Prometheus. , I gratulate thee who hast shared and

dare^\^ "
All things with me, except their penalty.
Enough so ! leave these thoughts. It cannot be
■<**• ■-

^ This prepares for the catastrophe of the play.
2 Literally, "If you take me as a counsellorj" — " If you take my
advice, you^will not kick against the pricks."


That thou shouldst move him. He may not be moved ; 390
And thou^ beware of sorrow on this road.

Oceanus. Ay ! ever wiser for another's use
Than thine. The event, and not the prophecy,
Attests it to me. Yet, where now I rush.
Thy wisdom hath no power to drag me back, 395

Because I glory, glory, to go hence.
And win for thee deliverance from thy pangs,
As a free gift from Zeus.

Prometheus. Why there, again,

I give thee gratulation and applause.
Thou lackest no good will. But, as for deeds, 400

Do nought ! 't were all done vainly, helping nought,
Whatever thou wouldst do. Eather take rest,
And keep thyself from evil. If I grieve,
I do not therefore wish to multiply
The griefs of others. Verily, not so ! 405

\ For still my brother's doom doth vex my soul, —
My brother Atlas, standing in the west.
Shouldering the column of the heaven and earth,
A difficult burden ! I have also seen.
And pitied as I saw, the earth-born one, 410

The inhabitant of old Cilician caves,^
The great war-monster of the hundred heads
(All taken and bowed beneath the violent Hand),
Typhon the fierce, who did resist the gods.
And, hissing slaughter from his dreadful jaws, 4i5

Flash out ferocious glory from his eyes
As if to storm the throne of Zeus. Whereat,
The sleepless arrow of Zeus flew straight at him,
The headlong bolt of thunder breathing flame,
And struck him downward from his eminence 420

Of exultation ; through the very soul

1 Compare Pindar's First Pythian Ode, page 75.


It struck him, and his strength was withered up

To ashes, thunder-blasted. Now he lies,

A helpless trunk, supinely, at full-length

Beside the strait of ocean,^ spurred into 425

By roots of Aetna, high upon whose tops

Hephaestus sits, and strikes the flashing ore.

From thence the rivers of fire shall burst away *

Hereafter, and devour with savage jaws

The equal plains of fruitful Sicily, 430

Such passion he shall boil back in hot darts

Of an insatiate fury and sough of flame,

Fallen Typhon, howsoever struck and charred

By Zeus's bolted thunder. But for thee,

Thou art not so unlearned as to need 435

My teaching ; let thy knowledge save thyself.

jT quaff the full cup of a present doom.

And wait till Zeus hath quenched his will in wrath.

Oceanus. Prometheus, art thou ignorant of this,
That words do medicine anger ?

Prometheus. If the word 440

With seasonable softness touch the soul.
And, where the parts are ulcerous, sear them not
By any rudeness.

Oceanus. With a noble aim

To dare as nobly — is there harm in that f
Dost thou discern it ? Teach me.

Prometheus. I discern 445

Vain aspiration, unresultive work.

Oceanus. Then suffer me to bear the brunt of this,

1 The Strait of Messina.

^ The prediction of this eruption is an indication of Prometheus' s
prophetic power, and thus gives weight to his prediction of the over-
throw of Zeus. The eruption took place in 478 B. c. Possibly this
passage may have been introduced for a presentation of the play in
Syracuse, within sight of Mt. Aetna.


Since it is profitable that one who is wise
Should seem not wise at all.

Prometheus. And such would seem

My very crime.

Oceanus. In truth thine argument 450

Sends me back home.

Prometheus. Lest any lament for me

Should cast thee down to hate.

Oceanus. The hate of him

Who sits a new king on the absolute throne ?

Prometheus. Beware of him, lest thine heart
grieve by him.^

Oceanus. Thy doom, Prometheus, be my teacher !

Prometheus. Go ! 455

Depart ! Beware ! And keep the mind thou hast.

Oceanus. Thy words drive after, as I rush before.
Lo, my four-footed bird sweeps smooth and wide
The flats of air with balanced pinions, glad
To bend his knee ^ at home in the ocean-stall. 46o

[Oceanus departs.

Chorus. First strophe.

I moan thy fate, I moan for thee,

Prometheus ! From my eyes too tender
Drop after drop incessantly

The tears of my heart's pity render
My cheeks wet from their fountains free ; 465

Because that Zeus, the stern and cold,

Whose law is taken from his breast,

Uplifts his sceptre manifest
Over the gods of old.

1 Perhaps more literally, " lest his heart be offended."

2 I, e.j rest. Compare verse 36.


First antistropJie,

All the land is moaning 470

With a murmured plaint to-day ;

All the mortal nations

Having habitations
In the holy Asia

Are a dirge entoning «75

For thine honor and thy brothers',
Once majestic beyond others

In the old belief, —
Now are groaning in the groaning

0£ thy deep-voiced grief. 48o

Second strophe.
Mourn the maids inhabitant

Of the Colchian land,^
Who with white, calm bosoms stand

In the battle's roar :
Mourn the Scythian tribes that haunt 485

The verge of earth, Maeotis' shore.

Second antistrophe.

Yea ! Arabia's battle crown,
And dwellers in the beetling town
Mt. Caucasus sublimely nears —
An iron squadron, thundering down 490

With the sharp-prowed spears.^

But one other before have I seen to remain
By invincible pain.
Bound and vanquished, — one Titan ! 't was Atlas,
who bears

^ The Amazons.

2 Apparently the Medes and Persians.


In a curse from tlie gods, by that strength of his

own 495

Which he evermore wears,
The weight of the heaven on his shoulder alone.

While he sighs up the stars ;
And the tides of the ocean wail, bursting their bars ;

Murmurs still the profound, 500

And black Hades roars up through the chasm of the

And the fountains of pure-running rivers moan low

In a pathos of woe.

\_Second Episode.'\

Prometheus. Beseech you, think not I am silent
Through pride or scorn. I only gnaw my heart sos
With meditation, seeing myself so wronged.
For see — their honors to these new-made gods.
What other gave but I, and dealt them out
With distribution ? Ay ! but here I am dumb ;
For here I should repeat your knowledge to you, 510
If I spake aught. List rather to the deeds

Online LibraryJohn Henry WrightMasterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; → online text (page 7 of 29)