Prometheus Unbound

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1

PROMETHEUS
MONARCH of Gods and Dæmons, and all Spirits

But One, who throng those bright and rolling worlds

Which Thou and I alone of living things

Behold with sleepless eyes! regard this Earth

Made multitudinous with thy slaves, whom thou

Requitest for knee-worship, prayer, and praise,

And toil, and hecatombs of broken hearts,

With fear and self-contempt and barren hope;

Whilst me, who am thy foe, eyeless in hate,

Hast thou made reign and triumph, to thy scorn,

O'er mine own misery and thy vain revenge.

Three thousand years of sleep-unsheltered hours,

And moments aye divided by keen pangs

Till they seemed years, torture and solitude,

Scorn and despair--these are mine empire:

More glorious far than that which thou surveyest

From thine unenvied throne, O Mighty God!

Almighty, had I deigned to share the shame

Of thine ill tyranny, and hung not here

Nailed to this wall of eagle-baffling mountain,

Black, wintry, dead, unmeasured; without herb,

Insect, or beast, or shape or sound of life.

Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!

No change, no pause, no hope! Yet I endure.

I ask the Earth, have not the mountains felt?

I ask yon Heaven, the all-beholding Sun,

Has it not seen? The Sea, in storm or calm,

Heaven's ever-changing shadow, spread below,

Have its deaf waves not heard my agony?

Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!

2

The crawling glaciers pierce me with the spears

Of their moon-freezing crystals; the bright chains

Eat with their burning cold into my bones.

Heaven's wingèd hound, polluting from thy lips

His beak in poison not his own, tears up

My heart; and shapeless sights come wandering by,

The ghastly people of the realm of dream,

Mocking me; and the Earthquake-fiends are charged

To wrench the rivets from my quivering wounds

When the rocks split and close again behind;

While from their loud abysses howling throng

The genii of the storm, urging the rage

Of whirlwind, and afflict me with keen hail.

And yet to me welcome is day and night,

Whether one breaks the hoar-frost of the morn,

Or starry, dim, and slow, the other climbs

The leaden-colored east; for then they lead

The wingless, crawling hours, one among whom--

As some dark Priest hales the reluctant victim--

Shall drag thee, cruel King, to kiss the blood

From these pale feet, which then might trample thee

If they disdained not such a prostrate slave.

Disdain! Ah, no! I pity thee. What ruin

Will hunt thee undefended through the wide Heaven!

How will thy soul, cloven to its depth with terror,

Gape like a hell within! I speak in grief,

Not exultation, for I hate no more,

As then ere misery made me wise. The curse

Once breathed on thee I would recall. Ye Mountains,

Whose many-voicèd Echoes, through the mist

Of cataracts, flung the thunder of that spell!

Ye icy Springs, stagnant with wrinkling frost,

Which vibrated to hear me, and then crept

Shuddering through India! Thou serenest Air

Through which the Sun walks burning without beams!

And ye swift Whirlwinds, who on poisèd wings

Hung mute and moveless o'er yon hushed abyss,

As thunder, louder than your own, made rock

The orbèd world! If then my words had power,

Though I am changed so that aught evil wish

Is dead within; although no memory be

Of what is hate, let them not lose it now!

What was that curse? for ye all heard me speak.

3

FIRST VOICE: from the Mountains
Thrice three hundred thousand years

O'er the earthquake's couch we stood;

Oft, as men convulsed with fears,

We trembled in our multitude.

SECOND VOICE: from the Springs
Thunderbolts had parched our water,

We had been stained with bitter blood,

And had run mute, 'mid shrieks of slaughter

Through a city and a solitude.

THIRD VOICE: from the Air
I had clothed, since Earth uprose,

Its wastes in colors not their own,

And oft had my serene repose

Been cloven by many a rending groan.

FOURTH VOICE: from the Whirlwinds
We had soared beneath these mountains

Unresting ages; nor had thunder,

Nor yon volcano's flaming fountains,

Nor any power above or under

Ever made us mute with wonder.

FIRST VOICE
But never bowed our snowy crest

As at the voice of thine unrest.

SECOND VOICE
Never such a sound before

To the Indian waves we bore.

A pilot asleep on the howling sea

Leaped up from the deck in agony,

And heard, and cried, 'Ah, woe is me!'

And died as mad as the wild waves be.

THIRD VOICE
By such dread words from Earth to Heaven

My still realm was never riven;

When its wound was closed, there stood

Darkness o'er the day like blood.

FOURTH VOICE
And we shrank back: for dreams of ruin

To frozen caves our flight pursuing

Made us keep silence--thus--and thus--

Though silence is a hell to us.

4

THE EARTH
The tongueless caverns of the craggy hills

Cried, 'Misery!' then; the hollow Heaven replied,

'Misery!' And the Ocean's purple waves,

Climbing the land, howled to the lashing winds,

And the pale nations heard it, 'Misery!'

PROMETHEUS
I hear a sound of voices; not the voice

Which I gave forth. Mother, thy sons and thou

Scorn him, without whose all-enduring will

Beneath the fierce omnipotence of Jove,

Both they and thou had vanished, like thin mist

Unrolled on the morning wind. Know ye not me,

The Titan? He who made his agony

The barrier to your else all-conquering foe?

O rock-embosomed lawns and snow-fed streams,

Now seen athwart frore vapors, deep below,

Through whose o'ershadowing woods I wandered once

With Asia, drinking life from her loved eyes;

Why scorns the spirit, which informs ye, now

To commune with me? me alone who checked,

As one who checks a fiend-drawn charioteer,

The falsehood and the force of him who reigns

Supreme, and with the groans of pining slaves

Fills your dim glens and liquid wildernesses:

Why answer ye not, still? Brethren!

THE EARTH
They dare not.

PROMETHEUS
Who dares? for I would hear that curse again.

Ha, what an awful whisper rises up!

'Tis scarce like sound; it tingles through the frame

As lightning tingles, hovering ere it strike.

Speak, Spirit! from thine inorganic voice

I only know that thou art moving near

And love. How cursed I him?

5

THE EARTH
How canst thou hear

Who knowest not the language of the dead?

PROMETHEUS
Thou art a living spirit; speak as they.

THE EARTH
I dare not speak like life, lest Heaven's fell King

Should hear, and link me to some wheel of pain

More torturing than the one whereon I roll.

Subtle thou art and good; and though the Gods

Hear not this voice, yet thou art more than God,

Being wise and kind: earnestly hearken now.

PROMETHEUS
Obscurely through my brain, like shadows dim,

Sweep awful thoughts, rapid and thick. I feel

Faint, like one mingled in entwining love;

Yet 't is not pleasure.

THE EARTH
No, thou canst not hear;

Thou art immortal, and this tongue is known

Only to those who die.

PROMETHEUS
And what art thou,

O melancholy Voice?

THE EARTH
I am the Earth,

Thy mother; she within whose stony veins,

To the last fibre of the loftiest tree

Whose thin leaves trembled in the frozen air,

Joy ran, as blood within a living frame,

When thou didst from her bosom, like a cloud

Of glory, arise, a spirit of keen joy!

And at thy voice her pining sons uplifted

Their prostrate brows from the polluting dust,

And our almighty Tyrant with fierce dread

Grew pale, until his thunder chained thee here.

Then--see those million worlds which burn and roll

Around us--their inhabitants beheld

My spherèd light wane in wide Heaven; the sea

Was lifted by strange tempest, and new fire

From earthquake-rifted mountains of bright snow

Shook its portentous hair beneath Heaven's frown;

Lightning and Inundation vexed the plains;

Blue thistles bloomed in cities; foodless toads

Within voluptuous chambers panting crawled.

When Plague had fallen on man and beast and worm,

And Famine; and black blight on herb and tree;

And in the corn, and vines, and meadow-grass,

Teemed ineradicable poisonous weeds

Draining their growth, for my wan breast was dry

With grief, and the thin air, my breath, was stained

With the contagion of a mother's hate

Breathed on her child's destroyer; ay, I heard

Thy curse, the which, if thou rememberest not,

Yet my innumerable seas and streams,

Mountains, and caves, and winds, and yon wide air,

And the inarticulate people of the dead,

Preserve, a treasured spell. We meditate

In secret joy and hope those dreadful words,

But dare not speak them.

6

PROMETHEUS
Venerable mother!

All else who live and suffer take from thee

Some comfort; flowers, and fruits, and happy sounds,

And love, though fleeting; these may not be mine.

But mine own words, I pray, deny me not.

THE EARTH
They shall be told. Ere Babylon was dust,

The Magus Zoroaster, my dead child,

Met his own image walking in the garden.

That apparition, sole of men, he saw.

For know there are two worlds of life and death:

One that which thou beholdest; but the other

Is underneath the grave, where do inhabit

The shadows of all forms that think and live,

Till death unite them and they part no more;

Dreams and the light imaginings of men,

And all that faith creates or love desires,

Terrible, strange, sublime and beauteous shapes.

There thou art, and dost hang, a writhing shade,

'Mid whirlwind-peopled mountains; all the gods

Are there, and all the powers of nameless worlds,

Vast, sceptred phantoms; heroes, men, and beasts;

And Demogorgon, a tremendous gloom;

And he, the supreme Tyrant, on his throne

Of burning gold. Son, one of these shall utter

The curse which all remember. Call at will

Thine own ghost, or the ghost of Jupiter,

Hades or Typhon, or what mightier Gods

From all-prolific Evil, since thy ruin,

Have sprung, and trampled on my prostrate sons.

Ask, and they must reply: so the revenge

Of the Supreme may sweep through vacant shades,

As rainy wind through the abandoned gate

Of a fallen palace.

7

PROMETHEUS
Mother, let not aught

Of that which may be evil pass again

My lips, or those of aught resembling me.

Phantasm of Jupiter, arise, appear!

IONE
My wings are folded o'er mine ears;

My wings are crossèd o'er mine eyes;

Yet through their silver shade appears,

And through their lulling plumes arise,

A Shape, a throng of sounds.

May it be no ill to thee

O thou of many wounds!

Near whom, for our sweet sister's sake,

Ever thus we watch and wake.

PANTHEA
The sound is of whirlwind underground,

Earthquake, and fire, and mountains cloven;

The shape is awful, like the sound,

Clothed in dark purple, star-inwoven.

A sceptre of pale gold,

To stay steps proud, o'er the slow cloud,

His veinèd hand doth hold.

Cruel he looks, but calm and strong,

Like one who does, not suffers wrong.

PHANTASM OF JUPITER
Why have the secret powers of this strange world

Driven me, a frail and empty phantom, hither

On direst storms? What unaccustomed sounds

Are hovering on my lips, unlike the voice

With which our pallid race hold ghastly talk

In darkness? And, proud sufferer, who art thou?

PROMETHEUS
Tremendous Image! as thou art must be

He whom thou shadowest forth. I am his foe,

The Titan. Speak the words which I would hear,

Although no thought inform thine empty voice.

8

THE EARTH
Listen! And though your echoes must be mute,

Gray mountains, and old woods, and haunted springs,

Prophetic caves, and isle-surrounding streams,

Rejoice to hear what yet ye cannot speak.

PHANTASM
A spirit seizes me and speaks within;

It tears me as fire tears a thunder-cloud.

PANTHEA
See how he lifts his mighty looks! the Heaven

Darkens above.

IONE
He speaks! Oh, shelter me!

PROMETHEUS
I see the curse on gestures proud and cold,

And looks of firm defiance, and calm hate,

And such despair as mocks itself with smiles,

Written as on a scroll: yet speak! Oh, speak!

PHANTASM
Fiend, I defy thee! with a calm, fixed mind,

All that thou canst inflict I bid thee do;

Foul tyrant both of Gods and humankind,

One only being shalt thou not subdue.

Rain then thy plagues upon me here,

Ghastly disease, and frenzying fear;

And let alternate frost and fire

Eat into me, and be thine ire

Lightning, and cutting hail, and legioned forms

Of furies, driving by upon the wounding storms.

Ay, do thy worst! Thou art omnipotent.

O'er all things but thyself I gave thee power,

And my own will. Be thy swift mischiefs sent

To blast mankind, from yon ethereal tower.

Let thy malignant spirit move

In darkness over those I love;

On me and mine I imprecate

The utmost torture of thy hate;

And thus devote to sleepless agony,

This undeclining head while thou must reign on high.

9

But thou, who art the God and Lord: O thou

Who fillest with thy soul this world of woe,

To whom all things of Earth and Heaven do bow

In fear and worship--all-prevailing foe!

I curse thee! let a sufferer's curse

Clasp thee, his torturer, like remorse;

Till thine Infinity shall be

A robe of envenomed agony;

And thine Omnipotence a crown of pain,

To cling like burning gold round thy dissolving brain!

Heap on thy soul, by virtue of this Curse,

Ill deeds; then be thou damned, beholding good;

Both infinite as is the universe,

And thou, and thy self-torturing solitude.

An awful image of calm power

Though now thou sittest, let the hour

Come, when thou must appear to be

That which thou art internally;

And after many a false and fruitless crime,

Scorn track thy lagging fall through boundless space and time!

PROMETHEUS
Were these my words, O Parent?

THE EARTH
They were thine.

PROMETHEUS
It doth repent me; words are quick and vain;

Grief for awhile is blind, and so was mine.

I wish no living thing to suffer pain.

THE EARTH
Misery, oh, misery to me,

That Jove at length should vanquish thee!

Wail, howl aloud, Land and Sea,

The Earth's rent heart shall answer ye!

Howl, Spirits of the living and the dead,

Your refuge, your defence, lies fallen and vanquishèd!

FIRST ECHO
Lies fallen and vanquishèd!

10

SECOND ECHO
Fallen and vanquishèd!

IONE
Fear not: 't is but some passing spasm,

The Titan is unvanquished still.

But see, where through the azure chasm

Of yon forked and snowy hill,

Trampling the slant winds on high

With golden-sandalled feet, that glow

Under plumes of purple dye,

Like rose-ensanguined ivory,

A Shape comes now,

Stretching on high from his right hand

A serpent-cinctured wand.

PANTHEA
'T is Jove's world-wandering herald, Mercury.

IONE
And who are those with hydra tresses

And iron wings, that climb the wind,

Whom the frowning God represses,--

Like vapors steaming up behind,

Clanging loud, an endless crowd?

PANTHEA
These are Jove's tempest-walking hounds,

Whom he gluts with groans and blood,

When charioted on sulphurous cloud

He bursts Heaven's bounds.

IONE
Are they now led from the thin dead

On new pangs to be fed?

PANTHEA
The Titan looks as ever, firm, not proud.

FIRST FURY
Ha! I scent life!

SECOND FURY
Let me but look into his eyes!

THIRD FURY
The hope of torturing him smells like a heap

Of corpses to a death-bird after battle.

FIRST FURY
Darest thou delay, O Herald! take cheer, Hounds

Of Hell: what if the Son of Maia soon

Should make us food and sport--who can please long

The Omnipotent?

11

MERCURY
Back to your towers of iron,

And gnash, beside the streams of fire and wail,

Your foodless teeth. Geryon, arise! and Gorgon,

Chimæra, and thou Sphinx, subtlest of fiends,

Who ministered to Thebes Heaven's poisoned wine,

Unnatural love, and more unnatural hate:

These shall perform your task.

FIRST FURY
Oh, mercy! mercy!

We die with our desire! drive us not back!

MERCURY
Crouch then in silence.

Awful Sufferer!

To thee unwilling, most unwillingly

I come, by the great Father's will driven down,

To execute a doom of new revenge.

Alas! I pity thee, and hate myself

That I can do no more; aye from thy sight

Returning, for a season, Heaven seems Hell,

So thy worn form pursues me night and day,

Smiling reproach. Wise art thou, firm and good,

But vainly wouldst stand forth alone in strife

Against the Omnipotent; as yon clear lamps,

That measure and divide the weary years

From which there is no refuge, long have taught

And long must teach. Even now thy Torturer arms

With the strange might of unimagined pains

The powers who scheme slow agonies in Hell,

And my commission is to lead them here,

Or what more subtle, foul, or savage fiends

People the abyss, and leave them to their task.

Be it not so! there is a secret known

To thee, and to none else of living things,

Which may transfer the sceptre of wide Heaven,

The fear of which perplexes the Supreme.

Clothe it in words, and bid it clasp his throne

In intercession; bend thy soul in prayer,

And like a suppliant in some gorgeous fane,

Let the will kneel within thy haughty heart,

For benefits and meek submission tame

The fiercest and the mightiest.

12

PROMETHEUS
Evil minds

Change good to their own nature. I gave all

He has; and in return he chains me here

Years, ages, night and day; whether the Sun

Split my parched skin, or in the moony night

The crystal-wingèd snow cling round my hair;

Whilst my belovèd race is trampled down

By his thought-executing ministers.

Such is the tyrant's recompense. 'T is just.

He who is evil can receive no good;

And for a world bestowed, or a friend lost,

He can feel hate, fear, shame; not gratitude.

He but requites me for his own misdeed.

Kindness to such is keen reproach, which breaks

With bitter stings the light sleep of Revenge.

Submission thou dost know I cannot try.

For what submission but that fatal word,

The death-seal of mankind's captivity,

Like the Sicilian's hair-suspended sword,

Which trembles o'er his crown, would he accept,

Or could I yield? Which yet I will not yield.

Let others flatter Crime where it sis throned

In brief Omnipotence; secure are they;

For Justice, when triumphant, will weep down

Pity, not punishment, on her own wrongs,

Too much avenged by those who err. I wait,

Enduring thus, the retributive hour

Which since we spake is even nearer now.

But hark, the hell-hounds clamor: fear delay:

Behold! Heaven lowers under thy Father's frown.

MERCURY
Oh, that we might be spared; I to inflict,

And thou to suffer! Once more answer me.

Thou knowest not the period of Jove's power?

13

PROMETHEUS
I know but this, that it must come.

MERCURY
Alas!

Thou canst not count thy years to come of pain!

PROMETHEUS
They last while Jove must reign; nor more, nor less

Do I desire or fear.

MERCURY
Yet pause, and plunge

Into Eternity, where recorded time,

Even all that we imagine, age on age,

Seems but a point, and the reluctant mind

Flags wearily in its unending flight,

Till it sink, dizzy, blind, lot, shelterless;

Perchance it has not numbered the slow years

Which thou must spend in torture, unreprieved?

PROMETHEUS
Perchance no thought can count them, yet they pass.

MERCURY
If thou mightst dwell among the Gods the while,

Lapped in voluptuous joy?

PROMETHEUS
I would not quit

This bleak ravine, these unrepentant pains.

MERCURY
Alas! I wonder at, yet pity thee.

PROMETHEUS
Pity the self-despising slaves of Heaven,

Not me, within whose mind sits peace serene,

As light in the sun, throned. How vain is talk!

Call up the fiends.

IONE
Oh, sister, look! White fire

Has cloven to the roots yon huge snow-loaded cedar;

How fearfully God's thunder howls behind!

MERCURY
I must obey his words and thine. Alas!

Most heavily remorse hangs at my heart!

PANTHEA
See where the child of Heaven, with wingèd feet,

Runs down the slanted sunlight of the dawn.

IONE
Dear sister, close thy plumes over thine eyes

Lest thou behold and die; they come--they come--

Blackening the birth of day with countless wings,

And hollow underneath, like death.

14

FIRST FURY
Prometheus!

SECOND FURY
Immortal Titan!

THIRD FURY
Champion of Heaven's slaves!

PROMETHEUS
He whom some dreadful voice invokes is here,

Prometheus, the chained Titan. Horrible forms,

What and who are ye? Never yet there came

Phantasms so foul through monster-teeming Hell

From the all-miscreative brain of Jove.

Whilst I behold such execrable shapes,

Methinks I grow like what I contemplate,

And laugh and stare in loathsome sympathy.

FIRST FURY
We are the ministers of pain, and fear,

And disappointment, and mistrust, and hate,

And clinging crime; and as lean dogs pursue

Through wood and lake some struck and sobbing fawn,

We track all things that weep, and bleed, and live,

When the great King betrays them to our will.

PROMETHEUS
O many fearful natures in one name,

I know ye; and these lakes and echoes know

The darkness and the clangor of your wings!

But why more hideous than your loathèd selves

Gather ye up in legions from the deep?

SECOND FURY
We knew not that. Sisters, rejoice, rejoice!

PROMETHEUS
Can aught exult in its deformity?

SECOND FURY
The beauty of delight makes lovers glad,

Gazing on one another: so are we.

As from the rose which the pale priestess kneels

To gather for her festal crown of flowers

The aërial crimson falls, flushing her cheek,

So from our victim's destined agony

The shade which is our form invests us round;

Else we are shapeless as our mother Night.

15

PROMETHEUS
I laugh your power, and his who sent you here,

To lowest scorn. Pour forth the cup of pain.

FIRST FURY
Thou thinkest we will rend thee bone from bone

And nerve from nerve, working like fire within?

PROMETHEUS
Pain is my element, as hate is thine;

Ye rend me now; I care not.

SECOND FURY
Dost imagine

We will but laugh into thy lidless eyes?

PROMETHEUS
I weigh not what ye do, but what ye suffer,

Being evil. Cruel was the power which called

You, or aught else so wretched, into light.

THIRD FURY
Thou think'st we will live through thee, one by one,

Like animal life, and though we can obscure not

The soul which burns within, that we will dwell

Beside it, like a vain loud multitude,

Vexing the self-content of wisest men;

That we will be dread thought beneath thy brain,

And foul desire round thine astonished heart,

And blood within thy labyrinthine veins

Crawling like agony?

PROMETHEUS
Why, ye are thus now;

Yet am I king over myself, and rule

The torturing and conflicting throngs within,

As Jove rules you when Hell grows mutinous.

CHORUS OF FURIES
From the ends of the earth, from the ends of the earth,

Where the night has its grave and the morning its birth,

Come, come, come!

O ye who shake hills with the scream of your mirth

When cities sink howling in ruin; and ye

Who with wingless footsteps trample the sea,

And close upon Shipwreck and Famine's track

Sit chattering with joy on the foodless wreck;

Come, come, come!

Leave the bed, low, cold, and red,

Strewed beneath a nation dead;

Leave the hatred, as in ashes

Fire is left for future burning;

It will burst in bloodier flashes

When ye stir it, soon returning;

Leave the self-contempt implanted

In young spirits, sense-enchanted,

Misery's yet unkindled fuel;

Leave Hell's secrets half unchanted

To the maniac dreamer; cruel

More than ye can be with hate

Is he with fear.

Come, come, come!

We are steaming up from Hell's wide gate

And we burden the blasts of the atmosphere,

But vainly we toil till ye come here.

16

IONE.
Sister, I hear the thunder of new wings.

PANTHEA
These solid mountains quiver with the sound

Even as the tremulous air; their shadows make

The space within my plumes more black than night.

FIRST FURY
Your call was as a wingèd car,

Driven on whirlwinds fast and far;

It rapt us from red gulfs of war.

SECOND FURY
From wide cities, famine-wasted;

THIRD FURY
Groans half heard, and blood untasted;

FOURTH FURY
Kingly conclaves stern and cold,

Where blood with gold is bought and sold;

FIFTH FURY
From the furnace, white and hot,

In which--

A FURY
Speak not; whisper not;

I know all that ye would tell,

But to speak might break the spell

Which must bend the Invincible,

The stern of thought;

He yet defies the deepest power of Hell.

FURY
Tear the veil!

ANOTHER FURY
It is torn.

CHORUS
The pale stars of the morn

Shine on a misery, dire to be borne.

Dost thou faint, mighty Titan? We laugh thee to scorn.

Dost thou boast the clear knowledge thou waken'dst for man?

Then was kindled within him a thirst which outran

Those perishing waters; a thirst of fierce fever,

Hope, love, doubt, desire, which consume him forever.

One came forth of gentle worth,

Smiling on the sanguine earth;

His words outlived him, like swift poison

Withering up truth, peace, and pity.

Look! where round the wide horizon

Many a million-peopled city

Vomits smoke in the bright air!

Mark that outcry of despair!

'T is his mild and gentle ghost

Wailing for the faith he kindled.

Look again! the flames almost

To a glow-worm's lamp have dwindled;

The survivors round the embers

Gather in dread.

Joy, joy, joy!

Past ages crowd on thee, but each one remembers,

And the future is dark, and the present is spread

Like a pillow of thorns for thy slumberless head.

17

SEMICHORUS I
Drops of bloody agony flow

From his white and quivering brow.

Grant a little respite now.

See! a disenchanted nation

Spring like day from desolation;

To Truth its state is dedicate,

And Freedom leads it forth, her mate;

A legioned band of linkèd brothers,

Whom Love calls children--

SEMICHORUS II
'T is another's.

See how kindred murder kin!

'T is the vintage-time for Death and Sin;

Blood, like new wine, bubbles within;

Till Despair smothers

The struggling world, which slaves and tyrants win.

[All the FURIES vanish, except one.

IONE
Hark, sister! what a low yet dreadful groan

Quite unsuppressed is tearing up the heart

Of the good Titan, as storms tear the deep,

And beasts hear the sea moan in inland caves.

Darest thou observe how the fiends torture him?

PANTHEA
Alas! I looked forth twice, but will no more.

IONE
What didst thou see?

PANTHEA
A woful sight: a youth

With patient looks nailed to a crucifix.

IONE
What next?

PANTHEA
The heaven around, the earth below,

Was peopled with thick shapes of human death,

All horrible, and wrought by human hands;

And some appeared the work of human hearts,

For men were slowly killed by frowns and smiles;

And other sights too foul to speak and live

Were wandering by. Let us not tempt worse fear

By looking forth; those groans are grief enough.

18

FURY
Behold an emblem: those who do endure

Deep wrongs for man, and scorn, and chains, but heap

Thousand-fold torment on themselves and him.

PROMETHEUS
Remit the anguish of that lighted stare;

Close those wan lips; let that thorn-wounded brow

Stream not with blood; it mingles with thy tears!

Fix, fix those tortured orbs in peace and death,

So thy sick throes shake not that crucifix,

So those pale fingers play not with thy gore.

Oh, horrible! Thy name I will not speak--

It hath become a curse. I see, I see

The wise, the mild, the lofty, and the just,

Whom thy slaves hate for being like to thee,

Some hunted by foul lies from their heart's home,

An early-chosen, late-lamented home,

As hooded ounces cling to the driven hind;

Some linked to corpses in unwholesome cells;

Some--hear I not the multitude laugh loud?--

Impaled in lingering fire; and mighty realms

Float by my feet, like sea-uprooted isles,

Whose sons are kneaded down in common blood

By the red light of their own burning homes.

FURY
Blood thou canst see, and fire; and canst hear groans:

Worse things unheard, unseen, remain behind.

PROMETHEUS
Worse?

FURY
In each human heart terror survives

The ruin it has gorged: the loftiest fear

All that they would disdain to think were true.

Hypocrisy and custom make their minds

The fanes of many a worship, now outworn.

They dare not devise good for man's estate,

And yet they know not that they do not dare.

The good want power, but to weep barren tears.

The powerful goodness want; worse need for them.

The wise want love; and those who love want wisdom;

And all best things are thus confused to ill.

Many are strong and rich, and would be just,

But live among their suffering fellow-men

As if none felt; they know not what they do.

19

PROMETHEUS
Thy words are like a cloud of wingèd snakes;

And yet I pity those they torture not.

FURY
Thou pitiest them? I speak no more!

[Vanishes.

PROMETHEUS
Ah woe!

Ah woe! Alas! pain, pain ever, forever!

I close my tearless eyes, but see more clear

Thy works within my woe-illumèd mind,

Thou subtle tyrant! Peace is in the grave.

The grave hides all things beautiful and good.

I am a God and cannot find it there,

Nor would I seek it; for, though dread revenge,

This is defeat, fierce king, not victory.

The sights with which thou torturest gird my soul

With new endurance, till the hour arrives

When they shall be no types of things which are.

PANTHEA
Alas! what sawest thou?

PROMETHEUS
There are two woes--

To speak and to behold; thou spare me one.

Names are there, Nature's sacred watchwords, they

Were borne aloft in bright emblazonry;

The nations thronged around, and cried aloud,

As with one voice, Truth, Liberty, and Love!

Suddenly fierce confusion fell from heaven

Among them; there was strife, deceit, and fear;

Tyrants rushed in, and did divide the spoil.

This was the shadow of the truth I saw.

THE EARTH
I felt thy torture, son, with such mixed joy

As pain and virtue give. To cheer thy state

I bid ascend those subtle and fair spirits,

Whose homes are the dim caves of human thought,

And who inhabit, as birds wing the wind,

Its world-surrounding ether; they behold

Beyond that twilight realm, as in a glass,

The future; may they speak comfort to thee!

20

PANTHEA
Look, sister, where a troop of spirits gather,

Like flocks of clouds in spring's delightful weather,

Thronging in the blue air!

IONE
And see! more come,

Like fountain-vapors when the winds are dumb,

That climb up the ravine in scattered lines.

And hark! is it the music of the pines?

Is it the lake? Is it the waterfall?

PANTHEA
'T is something sadder, sweeter far than all.

CHORUS OF SPIRITS
From unremembered ages we

Gentle guides and guardians be

Of heaven-oppressed mortality;

And we breathe, and sicken not,

The atmosphere of human thought:

Be it dim, and dank, and gray,

Like a storm-extinguished day,

Travelled o'er by dying gleams;

Be it bright as all between

Cloudless skies and windless streams,

Silent, liquid, and serene;

As the birds within the wind,

As the fish within the wave,

As the thoughts of man's own mind

Float through all above the grave;

We make there our liquid lair,

Voyaging cloudlike and unpent

Through the boundless element:

Thence we bear the prophecy

Which begins and ends in thee!

IONE
More yet come, one by one; the air around them

Looks radiant as the air around a star.

21

FIRST SPIRIT
On a battle-trumpet's blast

I fled hither, fast, fast, fast,

'Mid the darkness upward cast.

From the dust of creeds outworn,

From the tyrant's banner torn,

Gathering round me, onward borne,

There was mingled many a cry--

Freedom! Hope! Death! Victory!

Till they faded through the sky;

And one sound above, around,

One sound beneath, around, above,

Was moving; 't was the soul of love;

'T was the hope, the prophecy,

Which begins and ends in thee.

SECOND SPIRIT
A rainbow's arch stood on the sea,

Which rocked beneath, immovably;

And the triumphant storm did flee,

Like a conqueror, swift and proud,

Begirt with many a captive cloud,

A shapeless, dark and rapid crowd,

Each by lightning riven in half.

I heard the thunder hoarsely laugh.

Mighty fleets were strewn like chaff

And spread beneath a hell of death

O'er the white waters. I alit

On a great ship lightning-split,

And speeded hither on the sigh

Of one who gave an enemy

His plank, then plunged aside to die.

THIRD SPIRIT
I sat beside a sage's bed,

And the lamp was burning red

Near the book where he had fed,

When a Dream with plumes of flame

To his pillow hovering came,

And I knew it was the same

Which had kindled long ago

Pity, eloquence, and woe;

And the world awhile below

Wore the shade its lustre made.

It has borne me here as fleet

As Desire's lightning feet;

I must ride it back ere morrow,

Or the sage will wake in sorrow.

22

FOURTH SPIRIT
On a poet's lips I slept

Dreaming like a love-adept

In the sound his breathing kept;

Nor seeks nor finds he mortal blisses,

But feeds on the aërial kisses

Of shapes that haunt thought's wildernesses.

He will watch from dawn to gloom

The lake-reflected sun illume

The yellow bees in the ivy-bloom,

Nor heed nor see what things they be;

But from these create he can

Forms more real than living man,

Nurslings of immortality!

One of these awakened me,

And I sped to succor thee.

IONE
Behold'st thou not two shapes from the east and west

Come, as two doves to one belovèd nest,

Twin nurslings of the all-sustaining air,

On swift still wings glide down the atmosphere?

And, hark! their sweet sad voices! 't is despair

Mingled with love and then dissolved in sound.

PANTHEA
Canst thou speak, sister? all my words are drowned.

IONE
Their beauty gives me voice. See how they float

On their sustaining wings of skyey grain,

Orange and azure deepening into gold!

Their soft smiles light the air like a star's fire.

CHORUS OF SPIRITS
Hast thou beheld the form of Love?

FIFTH SPIRIT
As over wide dominions

I sped, like some swift cloud that wings the wide air's

wildernesses,

That planet-crested Shape swept by on lightning-braided pinions,

Scattering the liquid joy of life from his ambrosial tresses.

His footsteps paved the world with light; but as I passed 't was

fading,

And hollow Ruin yawned behind; great sages bound in madness,

And headless patriots, and pale youths who perished, unupbraiding,

Gleamed in the night. I wandered o'er, till thou, O King of

sadness,

Turned by thy smile the worst I saw to recollected gladness.

23

SIXTH SPIRIT
Ah, sister! Desolation is a delicate thing:

It walks not on the earth, it floats not on the air,

But treads with killing footstep, and fans with silent wing

The tender hopes which in their hearts the best and gentlest bear;

Who, soothed to false repose by the fanning plumes above

And the music-stirring motion of its soft and busy feet,

Dream visions of aërial joy, and call the monster, Love,

And wake, and find the shadow Pain, as he whom now we greet.

CHORUS
Though Ruin now Love's shadow be,

Following him, destroyingly,

On Death's white and wingèd steed,

Which the fleetest cannot flee,

Trampling down both flower and weed,

Man and beast, and foul and fair,

Like a tempest through the air;

Thou shalt quell this horseman grim,

Woundless though in heart or limb.

PROMETHEUS
Spirits! how know ye this shall be?

CHORUS
In the atmosphere we breathe,

As buds grow red, when the snow-storms flee,

From spring gathering up beneath,

Whose mild winds shake the elder-brake,

And the wandering herdsmen know

That the white-thorn soon will blow:

Wisdom, Justice, Love, and Peace,

When they struggle to increase,

Are to us as soft winds be

To shepherd boys, the prophecy

Which begins and ends in thee.

IONE
Where are the Spirits fled?

PANTHEA
Only a sense

Remains of them, like the omnipotence

Of music, when the inspired voice and lute

Languish, ere yet the responses are mute,

Which through the deep and labyrinthine soul,

Like echoes through long caverns, wind and roll.

24

PROMETHEUS
How fair these air-born shapes! and yet I feel

Most vain all hope but love; and thou art far,

Asia! who, when my being overflowed,

Wert like a golden chalice to bright wine

Which else had sunk into the thirsty dust.

All things are still. Alas! how heavily

This quiet morning weighs upon my heart;

Though I should dream I could even sleep with grief,

If slumber were denied not. I would fain

Be what it is my destiny to be,

The saviour and the strength of suffering man,

Or sink into the original gulf of things.

There is no agony, and no solace left;

Earth can console, Heaven can torment no more.

PANTHEA
Hast thou forgotten one who watches thee

The cold dark night, and never sleeps but when

The shadow of thy spirit falls on her?

PROMETHEUS
I said all hope was vain but love; thou lovest.

PANTHEA
Deeply in truth; but the eastern star looks white,

And Asia waits in that far Indian vale,

The scene of her sad exile; rugged once

And desolate and frozen, like this ravine;

But now invested with fair flowers and herbs,

And haunted by sweet airs and sounds, which flow

Among the woods and waters, from the ether

Of her transforming presence, which would fade

If it were mingled not with thine. Farewell!