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Yet, hapless, for myself find no device
To free me from this present agony.^


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


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 was there, diet or liniment.

Nor healing draught; but men, for lack of drugs,

Wasted away, till I to them revealed

Commixture of assuaging remedies

1 Conveyance, chariot.

2 The similarity in wording with Mark xv. 31, is striking. The early
Christian preachers often apply the name Prometheus to the Friend of man,
crucified for them.

82 Ideals in Greek Literature

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.

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

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.


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 'It prove an equal match for Zeus.


Nor yet nor thus is it ordained that fate
These things shall compass; but by myriad pangs
And tortures bent, so shall I 'scape these bonds;
Art than necessity is weaker far.

Who then is helmsman of necessity?

The triform Fates, and ever mindful Furies.^

Is Zeus in might less absolute than these?

E'en he the fore-ordain 'd can not escape.

1 All such vague conceptions are little more than types of cosmic law, which
no being, human or divine, can violate.

^schylus and the Prometheus 83

What is ordain*d for Zeus save aye to reign?

No further mayst thou question; urge me not.

Deep mystery, methinks, thou keepest veil'd.


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


Never may Zeus, who sole doth reign,

My will with adverse might oppose;

Nor I to serve the gods refrain,

With rites of slaughtered kine, where flows
Father Oceanos' exhaustless tide.

Neither in word may I transgress!
Deep in my heart's recess.
Steadfast for aye may this resolve abide.

'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.

For thou, of Zeus unaw'd, hast still.
In pride and sheer self-will,^
Mortals, Prometheus, honoured in excess.

This is indeed Prometheus' fatal error, of which he is reminded on every


84 Ideals in Greek Literature

{Enter lo.)

What country? What race? Who is he,

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 Argus, earthbom;

Avert him, O earth! Ah, I quail.
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.

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 wretched one, frenzied in brain?
Oh bum me with fire, or o'erwhelm 'neath the soil
Or fling me to ravenous beasts of the sea.

1 This strange myth seems to have been first suggested by the appearance
of the horned new moon, hurrying across the cloudy sky like a hunted maid,
fleeing the iealous wrath of some Heavenly queen. The ten thousand eves
of wakeful Argus set to watch her are plainly tne stars. The final escape of lo
to Egypt may have been added to the tale when Greeks first heard of the
horned Isis.

2 Goaded by gadfly.

iEschylus and the Prometheus 85

Begrudge not, O Lord! to my prayers to give heed.
Enough hath outworn me my much-roaming toil.
Nor wist I from torment how I may be freed.
The voice dost thou hear of the cow-horned maid?

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?

Whence know'st thou to speak my sire's name?
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 frenzying torture?

What cure for my plague? If such knowledge be thine,

Forthwith to the sad-roaming maiden declare.

Plainly I'll tell thee all thou wouldst learn.

What time to me, poor outcast, yet must run?

Nothing I grudge, yet shrink to vex thy heart.

Care not for me more than to me is sweet.

Thine eager wish constrains my tongue; give ear.

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

86 Ideals in Greek Literature

I know not how I can deny your wish,
So in clear word all ye desire to know
That shall ye hear; — Yet I am shamed to tell
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; — **0 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 Cypris.^ Spurn not thou, O child.
The couch of Zeus, but to the grassy mead
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-bom visions to my sire I told.
Then he to Pytho^ many a herald sent
And to Dodona f 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.
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 Apollo's oracles.
He drave me forth, and barred me from his home,
Against his will and mine; but, forcefully,

1 i. e. Aphrodite, goddess of love.

2 Delphi, seat of the oracle.

3 Another very ancient place of prophecy.
<Fatberof lo.

iEschylus and the Prometheus 87

The curb of Zeus constrained him this to do.
Forthwith my shape and mind distorted were.

Then the earth-born herdsman,
Hot-tempered Argus, ever dogged my steps,
Gazing upon me with his myriad eyes.
But him a sudden and unlooked-for fate
Did reave ^ of Hfe; but I, brize-tortured, still
Before the scourge divine am driven on
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.


Alas! Alas! Let be!
Never, oh never, had I thought
That words with such strange meaning fraught

Would reach mine ear.
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 lo's woeful plight to see.


The rest now hearken.
What trials this young maid hath yet to bear
From Hera. Thou too, child of Inachos,
Cast in thy heart my words, that thou in full
Mayst 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.
Uplifted dwell on waggons amply-wheeled.
And are accoutred with far-darting bows.
Approach not these, but skirting with thy foot
The sounding breakers, hie thee from their land.

1 Bereave, despoil, rob.

2 flatted or woveq.

88 Ideals in Greek Literature

Hybristes' ^ river then — not falsely named —
Thou 'It reach; the ford, for hard it is to cross,
Attempt not until Caucasus thou gain.
Highest of mountains, from whose very brow
The river spouteth forth its might; forthwith
Its crest surmounting, neighbor to the stars.
Southward direct thy course until thou reach
The host of man-abhorring Amazons.
These will conduct thee, and right willingly;
Then the Kimmerian isthmus ^ thou shalt gain
Hard by the narrow portals of the lake.
Which it behooveth thee with dauntless heart
To leave, and traverse the Maeotic strait;
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.


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.

111 wouldst thou bear, methinks, my agonies,
To whom it is not foreordained to die.
For death would be releasement from my woes.
Before that Zeus from sovereignty be hurled.

1 "Outrage." Nearly all the geography here is imaginary.
2 The Crimea,

-^schylus and the Prometheus 89

How? Shall Zeus ever be from empire hurled?

Thou wouldest joy, methinks, such hap to see.


How should I not, who suffer ill from Zeus?

That thus it shall be it is thine to learn.


By whom despoiled of his imperial sway?

Spoiled by himself, and his own senseless pians.


But how? Declare, if telling bring no harm.

Wedlock contracting he shall one day rue.


Divine or human? If permitted, speak.

What matters it? This may not be disclosed.

Shall then his consort drive him from the throne?

Ay, a son bearing stronger than his sire.

90 Ideals in Greek Literature

Is there for him no refuge from this doom?

No, none; unless I be from bonds released.


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

One of thy progeny, 'tis so ordained.


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

Count ten descendants, and after them a third.


Not easy is it this oracle to spell.

So neither seek thy proper grief to learn.

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


Since ye are eager, I will thwart you not.
Nor will withhold what ye desire to know.
First, lo, 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

-^schylus and the Prometheus 91

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 Gorgoneian plains thou reach,
Where dwell the Phorkides, 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.

A far border-land
Thou next shalt reach, where dwells a swarthy race.
Near the sun's fonts, whence is the ^thiop ^ river.
Along its banks proceed till thou attain
The mighty rapids, where from Bybline heights
.Pure draughts of sacred water Neilos sends.
He to the land three-cornered thee shall guide.
Encircled by the Nile.^

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 shalt dark Epaphos bear, whose name
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- winged hearts,
Falcons that follow close on doves, shall come
Chasing unlawful wedlock.
Woman's fell prowess shall o'er men prevail;
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,

iThis is the name for the upper courses of the Nile, whose sources, curi-
ously enough, ^Eschylus believes to be in Asia.
2 The Delta.

92 Ideals in Greek Literature

Her partner fail to slay; ' — her will's keen edge

Blunted, she will of evils twain prefer

Repute of weakness to bloodguiltiness.

She shall a kingly race in Argos bear;

This to set forth at large needs lengthy speech;

But from this line shall dauntless hero spring,^

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.


Ah me! ah woe is me!
Brain-smiting madness once again
Inflames me, and convulsive pain.
The gadfly's barb, not wrought with fire.

Stings me; against my breast
Kicks my pent heart with fear oppressed.
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.

Chorus. Strophe I

Sage was the man, ay, sage in sooth.
Who in his thought first weighed this truth.
And then with pithy phrase expressed —

That wedlock in one's own degree is best.

That not where wealth saps manly worth,
Nor where pride boasts its lofty birth.

Should son of toil repair in marriage quest.

» Hypermestra, whom Horace calls "magnificently untrue" to the promise
given her father, to kill her cousin-busband.
2 Heracles.

iEschylus and the Prometheus 93

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

lo's love- shunning virgin-state.
Consumed in wanderings dire through Hera's hate.


Yea verily shall Zeus, though stubborn-souled
Be humbled yet; such marriage he prepares,
Which from his throne of power to nothingness
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;
For these shall not avail, but fall he shall,
A fall disgraceful, not to be endured.
Such wrestler now, himself against himself.
He arnis for battle; — portent hard to quell;
Who flame shall find surpassing lightning's glare,
And crash more mighty than the thunder- roll;
Against this evil stumbling, Zeus shall learn
How wide apart are sway and servitude.

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

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

94 Ideals in Greek Literature

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

Yea, pangs than these more crushing shall he bear.

How canst thou fail to fear, hurling such words?

What should I fear, who am not doomed to die?

To keener struggle may he sentence thee.

So let him then! All is by me foreseen.

The wise are they who worship Nemesis.


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.
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.)


To thee, professing wisdom, steeped in gall.
Who 'gainst the gods hast sinned, on short-liveS men
Prerogatives bestowing, thief of fire,
To thee I speak; the father bids thee tell

^schylus and the Prometheus 95

What nuptials these thou vauntest of, by which
Himself shall fall in sway, and nought in riddles.
But point by point explain; nor cause to me,
Prometheus, double journeys; for thou seest.
Not by such deaUng is Zeus mollified.

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.
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 'It nothing learn from me.

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

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 bom to father Zeus.
Thus, as is fitting, scorn replies to scorn.

Thou seemst to revel in thy present state.

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

Me too thou boldest guilty of thy ills?
1 Ouranos and Kronos, grandfather and father of Zeus.

96 Ideals in Greek Literature


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

By what I hear, not slight thy madness is.

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

Unbearable wert thou, if prosperous.


That word, I trow, Zeus knoweth not.

Time, as it waxeth old, can all things teach.

But thou not yet hast sober wisdom learned.

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

It seems thou 'It answer nought the sire demands.

Grace since I owe him, grace must I repay.

Thou floutest me as though a child I were.

-Sschylus and the Prometheus 97

Art not a child, ay, simpler than a child,
If thou expect est aught to learn from me?
No torture is there, no device whereby
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.

Mark now^ if helpful this may seem to thee.

Of old my course was looked to and resolved.

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

Idly, as though a wave thou shouldst 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.

Much may I speak, it seems, and speak in vain;
For nothing moved or softened is thy heart
By prayers; but thou, like newly-yok^d colt,
Champing the bit, dost fight against the rein
Fiercely; yet futile the device wherein

1 Empire.

98 Ideals in Greek Literature

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.

But when time's lengthened course thou hast fulfilled,

Back shalt thou come to daylight. Then, in sooth,

Zeus' wingdd hound, the eagle wet with gore.

Shall of thy flesh a huge flap rudely tear;

Coming, unbidden guest, the livelong 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.^

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.


Timely to us the word of Hermes seems,
For he exhorts thee, dropping thy self-will,
To search for prudent counsel. Be advised 1
For to the wise it bringeth shame to err.


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.

1 Hades is the abode of the dead; Tartaros, still deeper, is the prison-
house of the old gods.

iEschylus and the Prometheus 99

So Against me now be hurled amain

Curled lightning's two-edged!
By thunder and spasmodic whirl

Of savage gales be upper air
Madly convulsed ! • Let hurricane
Earth from its deep foundations rend,
E'en from its roots. Let ocean's wave,
Surging aloft, tumultuous rave.
And foaming, with the courses blend
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.

From foois 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 console
With his spre pangs, far hence retire;
Go quickly, lest harsh thunder's bray
With terror smite your soul.

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 learned to hate
Traitors, than whom no pest is more accursed.

Then my forewarnings mark, nor dare
When tangled in fell ruin's snare
Fortune to blame, nor ever say

icx) Ideals in Greek Literature

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.


And lo in act, in word no more,

Earth totters; — from below
Loud bellows the discordant roar
Of thunder; lightning's wreathed 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.
Mother revered! Oh upper air.
Who sheddest from thy circling sphere
The common light ! Behold ye now
What pangs unjust I bear!

(Prometheus sinks out of sight.)
This charge of injustice must have been retracted later
in the trilogy. Yet it is no accident, that precisely this
play, delineating the unrepentant and defiant rebel, was
recopied and preserved from age to age. Shelley, him-
self in revolt against the political maxims and theological
beliefs of his age and land, actually rewrote this drama,
to make Prometheus successful in dethroning Zeus. But

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