Prometheus Unbound

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38

PANTHEA
What veilèd form sits on that ebon throne?

ASIA
The veil has fallen.

PANTHEA
I see a mighty darkness

Filling the seat of power, and rays of gloom

Dart round, as light from the meridian sun,

Ungazed upon and shapeless; neither limb,

Nor form, nor outline; yet we feel it is

A living Spirit.

DEMOGORGON
Ask what thou wouldst know.

ASIA
What canst thou tell?

DEMOGORGON
All things thou dar'st demand.

ASIA
Who made the living world?

DEMOGORGON
God.

ASIA
Who made all

That it contains? thought, passion, reason, will,

Imagination?

39

DEMOGORGON
God: Almighty God.

ASIA
Who made that sense which, when the winds of spring

In rarest visitation, or the voice

Of one belovèd heard in youth alone,

Fills the faint eyes with falling tears which dim

The radiant looks of unbewailing flowers,

And leaves this peopled earth a solitude

When it returns no more?

DEMOGORGON
Merciful God.

ASIA
And who made terror, madness, crime, remorse,

Which from the links of the great chain of things

To every thought within the mind of man

Sway and drag heavily, and each one reels

Under the load towards the pit of death;

Abandoned hope, and love that turns to hate;

And self-contempt, bitterer to drink than blood;

Pain, whose unheeded and familiar speech

Is howling, and keen shrieks, day after day;

And Hell, or the sharp fear of Hell?

DEMOGORGON
He reigns.

ASIA
Utter his name; a world pining in pain

Asks but his name; curses shall drag him down.

DEMOGORGON
He reigns.

ASIA
I feel, I know it: who?

DEMOGORGON
He reigns.

ASIA
Who reigns? There was the Heaven and Earth at first,

And Light and Love; then Saturn, from whose throne

Time fell, an envious shadow; such the state

Of the earth's primal spirits beneath his sway,

As the calm joy of flowers and living leaves

Before the wind or sun has withered them

And semivital worms; but he refused

The birthright of their being, knowledge, power,

The skill which wields the elements, the thought

Which pierces this dim universe like light,

Self-empire, and the majesty of love;

For thirst of which they fainted. Then Prometheus

Gave wisdom, which is strength, to Jupiter,

And with this law alone, 'Let man be free,'

Clothed him with the dominion of wide Heaven.

To know nor faith, nor love, nor law, to be

Omnipotent but friendless, is to reign;

And Jove now reigned; for on the race of man

First famine, and then toil, and then disease,

Strife, wounds, and ghastly death unseen before,

Fell; and the unseasonable seasons drove,

With alternating shafts of frost and fire,

Their shelterless, pale tribes to mountain caves;

And in their desert hearts fierce wants he sent,

And mad disquietudes, and shadows idle

Of unreal good, which levied mutual war,

So ruining the lair wherein they raged.

Prometheus saw, and waked the legioned hopes

Which sleep within folded Elysian flowers,

Nepenthe, Moly, Amaranth, fadeless blooms,

That they might hide with thin and rainbow wings

The shape of Death; and Love he sent to bind

The disunited tendrils of that vine

Which bears the wine of life, the human heart;

And he tamed fire which, like some beast of prey,

Most terrible, but lovely, played beneath

The frown of man; and tortured to his will

Iron and gold, the slaves and signs of power,

And gems and poisons, and all subtlest forms

Hidden beneath the mountains and the waves.

He gave man speech, and speech created thought,

Which is the measure of the universe;

And Science struck the thrones of earth and heaven,

Which shook, but fell not; and the harmonious mind

Poured itself forth in all-prophetic song;

And music lifted up the listening spirit

Until it walked, exempt from mortal care,

Godlike, o'er the clear billows of sweet sound;

And human hands first mimicked and then mocked,

With moulded limbs more lovely than its own,

The human form, till marble grew divine;

And mothers, gazing, drank the love men see

Reflected in their race, behold, and perish.

He told the hidden power of herbs and springs,

And Disease drank and slept. Death grew like sleep.

He taught the implicated orbits woven

Of the wide-wandering stars; and how the sun

Changes his lair, and by what secret spell

The pale moon is transformed, when her broad eye

Gazes not on the interlunar sea.

He taught to rule, as life directs the limbs,

The tempest-wingèd chariots of the Ocean,

And the Celt knew the Indian. Cities then

Were built, and through their snow-like columns flowed

The warm winds, and the azure ether shone,

And the blue sea and shadowy hills were seen.

Such, the alleviations of his state,

Prometheus gave to man, for which he hangs

Withering in destined pain; but who rains down

Evil, the immedicable plague, which, while

Man looks on his creation like a god

And sees that it is glorious, drives him on,

The wreck of his own will, the scorn of earth,

The outcast, the abandoned, the alone?

Not Jove: while yet his frown shook heaven ay, when

His adversary from adamantine chains

Cursed him, he trembled like a slave. Declare

Who is his master? Is he too a slave?

40

DEMOGORGON
All spirits are enslaved which serve things evil:

Thou knowest if Jupiter be such or no.

ASIA
Whom called'st thou God?

DEMOGORGON
I spoke but as ye speak,

For Jove is the supreme of living things.

ASIA
Who is the master of the slave?

DEMOGORGON
If the abysm

Could vomit forth its secrets--but a voice

Is wanting, the deep truth is imageless;

For what would it avail to bid thee gaze

On the revolving world? What to bid speak

Fate, Time, Occasion, Chance and Change? To these

All things are subject but eternal Love.

ASIA
So much I asked before, and my heart gave

The response thou hast given; and of such truths

Each to itself must be the oracle.

One more demand; and do thou answer me

As my own soul would answer, did it know

That which I ask. Prometheus shall arise

Henceforth the sun of this rejoicing world:

When shall the destined hour arrive?

DEMOGORGON
Behold!

ASIA
The rocks are cloven, and through the purple night

I see cars drawn by rainbow-wingèd steeds

Which trample the dim winds; in each there stands

A wild-eyed charioteer urging their flight.

Some look behind, as fiends pursued them there,

And yet I see no shapes but the keen stars;

Others, with burning eyes, lean forth, and drink

With eager lips the wind of their own speed,

As if the thing they loved fled on before,

And now, even now, they clasped it. Their bright locks

Stream like a comet's flashing hair; they all

Sweep onward.

41

DEMOGORGON
These are the immortal Hours,

Of whom thou didst demand. One waits for thee.

ASIA
A Spirit with a dreadful countenance

Checks its dark chariot by the craggy gulf.

Unlike thy brethren, ghastly Charioteer,

Who art thou? Whither wouldst thou bear me? Speak!

SPIRIT
I am the Shadow of a destiny

More dread than is my aspect; ere yon planet

Has set, the darkness which ascends with me

Shall wrap in lasting night heaven's kingless throne.

ASIA
What meanest thou?

PANTHEA
That terrible Shadow floats

Up from its throne, as may the lurid smoke

Of earthquake-ruined cities o'er the sea.

Lo! it ascends the car; the coursers fly

Terrified; watch its path among the stars

Blackening the night!

ASIA
Thus I am answered: strange!

PANTHEA
See, near the verge, another chariot stays;

An ivory shell inlaid with crimson fire,

Which comes and goes within its sculptured rim

Of delicate strange tracery; the young Spirit

That guides it has the dove-like eyes of hope;

How it soft smiles attract the soul! as light

Lures wingèd insects through the lampless air.

SPIRIT
My coursers are fed with the lightning,

They drink of the whirlwind's stream,

And when the red morning is bright'ning

They bathe in the fresh sunbeam.

They have strength for their swiftness I deem;

Then ascend with me, daughter of Ocean.

42

I desire--and their speed makes night kindle;

I fear--they outstrip the typhoon;

Ere the cloud piled on Atlas can dwindle

We encircle the earth and the moon.

We shall rest from long labors at noon;

Then ascend with me, daughter of Ocean.