William Cranston Lawton.

Ideals in Greek literature online

. (page 5 of 15)
Online LibraryWilliam Cranston LawtonIdeals in Greek literature → online text (page 5 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Was borne, and to the gods' abode he came.
There he famed Nereus' glorious daughters ^ saw
With fear; for from their bodies splendor rayed
Firelike, and golden were the snoods that waved
About their locks. Then with their supple feet

> The sea nymphs.

Lyric Poetry 6^

They made his heart delighted as they danced.

He saw his father's large-eyed stately wife,

Dear Amphitrite, in her lovely halls.

A purple mantle she did put on him,

And on his curling locks a faultless wreath.

With roses dark, that on her wedding day

From crafty Aphrodite she received.

Whatever gods accomplish is, to men
Endowed with sense, nowise incredible.
Beside the shapely vessel he appeared!
The Gnossian chieftain's haughty hopes were crushed.
When from the stainless sea he issued forth.
To all a marvel! Bright about his form
The gifts of gods were gleaming. Then the maids.
Enthroned in beauty, raised a joyous cry
In new- won happiness: the waters roared;
His youthful comrades gathered to his side
And with sweet voices sang a hymn of praise.


This is not a subject which can be very profitably pursued by
the unaided student in English. For many excellent versions see
Appleton's "Greek 'Poetry in English Verse," and Symonds*
"Greek Poets." For Sappho, see the beautiful volume of Whar-
ton, containing every fragment, with one or more translations of
each. Theognis has been all too ingeniously rendered and recon-
structed by Frere (Bohn Library). For Pindar there is a good
prose version by Myers, and various older verse translations, from
Gilbert West in 1749 to Moberly's and Morice's in 1876. The
magnificent rendering of the first Pythian ode contributed by Pro-
fessor A. G. Newcomer to the "Library of the World's Best
Literature," is, we believe, but a foretaste of a most desirable
larger undertaking. The enjoyable poems of Bacchylides are
partially presented, in prose, in a thin volume by E. Poste.


The Heroism of Endurance.

At the beginning of the fifth century (in 490 and
480-79 B.C.) Athens twice played a leading part in
repelling the invading Persians. With her poHtical
superiority came a still more decided preeminence in
literature and art. Before Pindar and Bacchylides died,
Attic tragedy arose. The careers of the three chief tragic
poets are wholly included in the fifth century B.C.

In all Greek drama, it is essential to remember, the
choral songs are the oldest element, the acting is an inno-
vation, -^schylus, by adding a second actor, made
possible a dialogue in which not even the leader of the
chorus took a share. The whole performance was but a
portion of a spring festival in honor of Bacchus or Diony-
sus, the favorite nature-god, and probably had little
artistic or religious seriousness until ^schylus became its
master. Three competing poets offered each four plays,
three tragedies with a lighter after-piece, ^schylus
usually, perhaps always, made the three — or even the
four — plays parts of one great mythic action. The sub-
jects are regularly drawn from the legends of a remote
and fabulous past.

We have extant, for example, his three tragedies: on
the murder of the home-returning Agamemnon, with the
deadly vengeance wreaked, years later, on his wife and


iEschylus and the Prornetheus 65

her lover, by the young Orestes, and the final absolution
of the latter from the guilt of matricide. So the three
generations of King CEdipus' unhappy line made the three
dramas of the Theban trilogy, though only one of these
three plays survives.

Of the three, or four, Prometheus plays it is clearly the
first that has come down to us. The fearless rebel, the
stoical sufferer, the tortured divine friend of man, has
always excited the warmest sympathy. Yet we know that
^schylus depicted also, in the later dramas of the series,
his complete submission and confession of error. Indeed,
the strength, the wisdom, the complete supremacy of Zeus,
even his large benignant purposes, for men as well as for
gods, must have been fully vindicated, ^schylus was
quite too large-minded, and too devout, to see any chaotic
or capricious element in the divine government of the
world. Even in this first play, Prometheus has the sym-
pathy, but not the approval, of every other character.
Even lo, the homeless wanderer, is to be more than
repaid for all her suffering, for through it the coming of
her descendant Heracles, the deliverer of man and even
of divine Prometheus, shall be made possible.

The play requires only two actors, an indication of
early date. In the first scene Force is a mute, and Prome-
theus, also silent, is probably a wooden image. One of
the actors could climb up behind this figure and speak his
part in the later scenes.

66 Ideals in Greek Literature


Heph^estos, the Smith-god, enters, followed by Strength
and Force dragging Prometheus

To Earth's remotest plain we now are come.
To Scythia's confine, an untrodden waste.
Hephaestos! Thou the mandates must observe
Enjoin'd thee by thy sire; this miscreant
'Gainst lofty-beethng rocks to clasp in fetters
Of adamantine bonds, unbreakable.
For that the splendor 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
To bear, and cease from mortal-loving wont.


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.
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

^schylus and the Prometheus 67

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.
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.


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

Awful is kindred blood and fellowship.


True, but the father's word to disobey —

How may that be? Fearest not that still more?

Alas! My much-detested handicraft!


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


Yet would that it to other hand had fallen.

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

Too well I know it: answer have I none.

or -HE


68 Ideals in Greek Literature


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

Behold the shackles ready here for use.


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

The work so far is finished; not amiss.


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


This arm, at least, is fast beyond escape.


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


No one but he could justly censure me.

Of adamantine wedge the stubborn fang

Straight through his breast now drive, right sturdily.


Like to thy shape the utterance of thy tongue.


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

iEschylus and the Prometheus 69

Let us begone; his limbs are iron-meshed.

Strength (to Prometheus)
Here 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 name,
For a Prometheus thou thyself dost need.
To plan releasement from this handiwork.

{Exeunt Heph^stos, Strength, and Force).

Oh holy ether, swiftly-winged gales.
Fountains of rivers and of ocean-waves
Innumerable laughter, general mother Earth,
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.?

And yet what say I? clearly I foreknow

All that must happen; nor can woe betide

Stranger to me; the Destined it behooves.

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.

Hath teacher proved, and mightiest resource.

yo Ideals in Greek Literature

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;
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 winghd car.)


Fear not ! A friendly troop we reach
On rival-speeding wind this cliff forlorn;
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.


Alas! Alas! Woe! Woe!
Prolific Tythys' offspring, progeny
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.

-^schylus and the Prometheus 71


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.
For helmsmen new of sway
Olympos hold; by laws new-made
Zeus wieldeth empire, impulse-swayed;
The mighty ones of old he sweeps away.


'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
Had no one mock'd, — nor god, nor other kind.
But now most wretched, sport of every wind,
Foes triumph o'er my pains.


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

Till sated to his heart's content;
Or till another, by some cunning snare
Wrest from his grasp the firmly-guarded reign.


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

72 Ideals in Greek Literature

My steadfast soul shall charm;
Nor will I, crouching in alarm,
Divulge the secret, till these savage chains
He loose, and yield requital for my pains.


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.

Of these dire pangs the end to see?
For inaccessible, of mood severe
Is Kronos' son, inflexible his thought.



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.


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 teUing breed no harm.


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,

-^schylus and the Prometheus 73

And in opposing factions ranged their might,

These wishing Kronos from his seat to hurl

That Zeus forsooth might reign; these, counterwise.

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

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.

And hath requited with these base returns.

For, some way 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 out his realm;

But he of toil-worn mortals took no count ;

The race entire he ardently desired

To quench, and plant a new one in its stead.

1 These are the brothers of Kronos; one of them, Oceanus, appears in a
later scene. The rest have been imprisoned ever since the war here men-
tioned. As Kronos had led in the assault on his own father, Ouranos or
Heaven, so he is now dethroned by his son Zeus.

2 Such sentiments of course appealed to the democratic audieqce in the
A t.)ienian theatre.

74 Ideals in Greek Literature

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.


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

To friends, in sooth, a spectacle of woe.

But beyond this didst haply aught essay?

Mortals I hindered from foreseeing death.

Finding what medicine for this disease?

Blind hopes I caused within their hearts to dwell.

Vast boon was this thou gavest unto mortals.

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

^schylus and the Prometheus 75

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

Ay, and by it full many arts will learn.


Upon such charges doth Zeus outrage thee, "

Nor aught abateth of thy miseries?

To this dire struggle is no term assigned?


No other but what seemeth good to him.


How can 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.


Whoso his foot holdeth unmeshed 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 skypiercing 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
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.

76 Ideals in Greek Literature


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;
Thy woes from first to last I fain would hear.

(Enter Oceanos, riding on a griffin or seamonster.)


The goal of my long course I gain.

And come, Prometheus, to thy side.
This swift- winged bird without a bit I reign.

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.
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.


Hal 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 .^ndeed to gaze upon my doom.

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.

iEschylus and the Prometheus 77


I see, Prometheus, and would fain to thee.
As subtle as thou art, best counsel give;
Know thine own self, thy manner 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,
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 awaits, 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, barkening to my rede,*
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?


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
Persuade thou canst not: Him no suasion moves;
Nay, lest the journey breed thee harm, beware.


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, yes sure, that Zeus to me

Will grant this boon, and loose thee from these pains.

1 Advice, counsel

78 Ideals in Greek Literature


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.
Thy toil will prove, — if toil indeed thou wilt; —
But hold thee quiet rather, keep aloof;
For I, though in mishap, not therefore wish
Widespreading fellowship of woe to see.

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.


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


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


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

Light-minded folly, and superfluous toil.


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

But haply mine this error may appear.

^schylus and the Prometheus 79


Certes,' thine argument remands me home.

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


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

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


Thy plight, Prometheus, is my monitor.

Speed forth! Begone! Cherish thy present mood.


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



Prometheus, I bewail thy doom of woe;

From their moist fountains rise,

Flooding my tender eyes.
Tears that my cheek bedew. O, cruel blow!
For Zeus by his own laws doth now hold sway.
And to the elder gods a haughty spear display.

1 Certainly.

8o Ideals in Greek Literature

Rings the whole country now with echoing groans.

The grand time-honoured sway,

Mighty now passed away,
Of thee and of thy brethren it bemoans.
And all who dwell on Asia's hallowed shore
Thy loud-resounding griefs with kindred grief deplore.
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;
Moans the abyss, and Hades' murky gloom
Bellows responsive in the depth profound;
While fountains of clear-flowing rivers moan

His piteous doom.



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, naught my tongue would tell

Save what ye know. But rather list the ills

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-turned, nought knew,

1 Divine Prometheus in this scene appears almost an allegory; a type of
man's own progressive spirit, audaciously at war with the forces of nature that
would crush him.

iEschylus and the Prometheus 8i

Nor joiner's craft, but burrowing they dwelt
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
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, canvas-winged?
Such cunning works for mortals I contrived,

1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryWilliam Cranston LawtonIdeals in Greek literature → online text (page 5 of 15)