Prometheus Unbound

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57

VOICE OF UNSEEN SPIRITS
THE pale stars are gone!

For the sun, their swift shepherd

To their folds them compelling,

In the depths of the dawn,

Hastes, in meteor-eclipsing array, and the flee

Beyond his blue dwelling,

As fawns flee the leopard,

But where are ye?

A Train of dark Forms and Shadows passes by confusedly, singing.

Here, oh, here!

We bear the bier

Of the father of many a cancelled year!

Spectres we

Of the dead Hours be;

We bear Time to his tomb in eternity.

Strew, oh, strew

Hair, not yew!

Wet the dusty pall with tears, not dew!

Be the faded flowers

Of Death's bare bowers

Spread on the corpse of the King of Hours!

Haste, oh, haste!

As shades are chased,

Trembling, by day, from heaven's blue waste,

We melt away,

Like dissolving spray,

From the children of a diviner day,

With the lullaby

Of winds that die

On the bosom of their own harmony!

58

IONE
What dark forms were they?

PANTHEA
The past Hours weak and gray,

With the spoil which their toil

Raked together

From the conquest but One could foil.

IONE
Have they passed?

PANTHEA
They have passed;

They outspeeded the blast,

While 't is said, they are fled!

IONE
Whither, oh, whither?

PANTHEA
To the dark, to the past, to the dead.

VOICE OF UNSEEN SPIRITS
Bright clouds float in heaven,

Dew-stars gleam on earth,

Waves assemble on ocean,

They are gathered and driven

By the storm of delight, by the panic of glee!

They shake with emotion,

They dance in their mirth.

But where are ye?

The pine boughs are singing

Old songs with new gladness,

The billows and fountains

Fresh music are flinging,

Like the notes of a spirit from land and from sea;

The storms mock the mountains

With the thunder of gladness,

But where are ye?

IONE
What charioteers are these?

PANTHEA
Where are their chariots?

SEMICHORUS OF HOURS
The voice of the Spirits of Air and of Earth

Has drawn back the figured curtain of sleep,

Which covered our being and darkened our birth

In the deep.

59

A VOICE
In the deep?

SEMICHORUS II
Oh! below the deep.

SEMICHORUS I
An hundred ages we had been kept

Cradled in visions of hate and care,

And each one who waked as his brother slept

Found the truth--

SEMICHORUS II
Worse than his visions were!

SEMICHORUS I
We have heard the lute of Hope in sleep;

We have known the voice of Love in dreams;

We have felt the wand of Power, and leap--

SEMICHORUS II
As the billows leap in the morning beams!

CHORUS
Weave the dance on the floor of the breeze,

Pierce with song heaven's silent light,

Enchant the day that too swiftly flees,

To check its flight ere the cave of night.

Once the hungry Hours were hounds

Which chased the day like a bleeding deer,

And it limped and stumbled with many wounds

Through the nightly dells of the desert year.

But now, oh, weave the mystic measure

Of music, and dance, and shapes of light,

Let the Hours, and the Spirits of might and pleasure,

Like the clouds and sunbeams, unite--

A VOICE
Unite!

PANTHEA
See, where the Spirits of the human mind,

Wrapped in sweet sounds, as in bright veils, approach.

CHORUS OF SPIRITS
We join the throng

Of the dance and the song,

By the whirlwind of gladness borne along;

As the flying-fish leap

From the Indian deep

And mix with the sea-birds half-asleep.

60

CHORUS OF HOURS
Whence come ye, so wild and so fleet,

For sandals of lightning are on your feet,

And your wings are soft and swift as thought,

And your eyes are as love which is veilèd not?

CHORUS OF SPIRITS
We come from the mind

Of humankind,

Which was late so dusk, and obscene, and blind;

Now 't is an ocean

Of clear emotion,

A heaven of serene and mighty motion.

From that deep abyss

Of wonder and bliss,

Whose caverns are crystal palaces;

From those skyey towers

Where Thought's crowned powers

Sit watching your dance, ye happy Hours!

From the dim recesses

Of woven caresses,

Where lovers catch ye by your loose tresses;

From the azure isles,

Where sweet Wisdom smiles,

Delaying your ships with her siren wiles.

From the temples high

Of Man's ear and eye,

Roofed over Sculpture and Poesy;

From the murmurings

Of the unsealed springs,

Where Science bedews his dædal wings.

Years after years,

Through blood, and tears,

And a thick hell of hatreds, and hopes, and fears,

We waded and flew,

And the islets were few

Where the bud-blighted flowers of happiness grew.

61

Our feet now, every palm,

Are sandalled with calm,

And the dew of our wings is a rain of balm;

And, beyond our eyes,

The human love lies,

Which makes all it gazes on Paradise.

CHORUS OF SPIRITS AND HOURS
Then weave the web of the mystic measure;

From the depths of the sky and the ends of the earth,

Come, swift Spirits of might and of pleasure,

Fill the dance and the music of mirth,

As the waves of a thousand streams rush by

To an ocean of splendor and harmony!

CHORUS OF SPIRITS
Our spoil is won,

Our task is done,

We are free to dive, or soar, or run;

Beyond and around,

Or within the bound

Which clips the world with darkness round.

We 'll pass the eyes

Of the starry skies

Into the hoar deep to colonize;

Death, Chaos and Night,

From the sound of our flight,

Shall flee, like mist from a tempest's might.

And Earth, Air and Light,

And the Spirit of Might,

Which drives round the stars in their fiery flight;

And Love, Thought and Breath,

The powers that quell Death,

Wherever we soar shall assemble beneath.

And our singing shall build

In the void's loose field

A world for the Spirit of Wisdom to wield;

We will take our plan

From the new world of man,

And our work shall be called the Promethean.

62

CHORUS OF HOURS
Break the dance, and scatter the song;

Let some depart, and some remain;

SEMICHORUS I
We, beyond heaven, are driven along;

SEMICHORUS II
Us the enchantments of earth retain;

SEMICHORUS I
Ceaseless, and rapid, and fierce, and free,

With the Spirits which build a new earth and sea,

And a heaven where yet heaven could never be;

SEMICHORUS II
Solemn, and slow, and serene, and bright,

Leading the Day, and outspeeding the Night,

With the powers of a world of perfect light;

SEMICHORUS I
We whirl, singing loud, round the gathering sphere,

Till the trees, and the beasts, and the clouds appear

From its chaos made calm by love, not fear;

SEMICHORUS II
We encircle the ocean and mountains of earth,

And the happy forms of its death and birth

Change to the music of our sweet mirth.

CHORUS OF HOURS AND SPIRITS
Break the dance, and scatter the song;

Let some depart, and some remain;

Wherever we fly we lead along

In leashes, like star-beams, soft yet strong,

The clouds that are heavy with love's sweet rain.

PANTHEA
Ha! they are gone!

IONE
Yet feel you no delight

From the past sweetness?

PANTHEA
As the bare green hill,

When some soft cloud vanishes into rain,

Laughs with a thousand drops of sunny water

To the unpavilioned sky!

IONE
Even whilst we speak

New notes arise. What is that awful sound?

PANTHEA
'T is the deep music of the rolling world,

Kindling within the strings of the waved air

Æolian modulations.

63

IONE
Listen too,

How every pause is filled with under-notes,

Clear, silver, icy, keen awakening tones,

Which pierce the sense, and live within the soul,

As the sharp stars pierce winter's crystal air

And gaze upon themselves within the sea.

PANTHEA
But see where, through two openings in the forest

Which hanging branches overcanopy,

And where two runnels of a rivulet,

Between the close moss violet-inwoven,

Have made their path of melody, like sisters

Who part with sighs that they may meet in smiles,

Turning their dear disunion to an isle

Of lovely grief, a wood of sweet sad thoughts;

Two visions of strange radiance float upon

The ocean-like enchantment of strong sound,

Which flows intenser, keener, deeper yet,

Under the ground and through the windless air.

IONE
I see a chariot like that thinnest boat

In which the mother of the months is borne

By ebbing night into her western cave,

When she upsprings from interlunar dreams;

O'er which is curved an orb-like canopy

Of gentle darkness, and the hills and woods,

Distinctly seen through that dusk airy veil,

Regard like shapes in an enchanter's glass;

Its wheels are solid clouds, azure and gold,

Such as the genii of the thunder-storm

Pile on the floor of the illumined sea

When the sun rushes under it; they roll

And move and grow as with an inward wind;

Within it sits a wingèd infant--white

Its countenance, like the whiteness of bright snow,

Its plumes are as feathers of sunny frost,

Its limbs gleam white, through the wind-flowing folds

Of its white robe, woof of ethereal pearl,

Its hair is white, the brightness of white light

Scattered in strings; yet its two eyes are heavens

Of liquid darkness, which the Deity

Within seems pouring, as a storm is poured

From jagged clouds, out of their arrowy lashes,

Tempering the cold and radiant air around

With fire that is not brightness; in its hand

It sways a quivering moonbeam, from whose point

A guiding power directs the chariot's prow

Over its wheelèd clouds, which as they roll

Over the grass, and flowers, and waves, wake sounds,

Sweet as a singing rain of silver dew.

64

PANTHEA
And from the other opening in the wood

Rushes, with loud and whirlwind harmony,

A sphere, which is as many thousand spheres;

Solid as crystal, yet through all its mass

Flow, as through empty space, music and light;

Ten thousand orbs involving and involved,

Purple and azure, white, green and golden,

Sphere within sphere; and every space between

Peopled with unimaginable shapes,

Such as ghosts dream dwell in the lampless deep;

Yet each inter-transpicuous; and they whirl

Over each other with a thousand motions,

Upon a thousand sightless axles spinning,

And with the force of self-destroying swiftness,

Intensely, slowly, solemnly, roll on,

Kindling with mingled sounds, and many tones,

Intelligible words and music wild.

With mighty whirl the multitudinous orb

Grinds the bright brook into an azure mist

Of elemental subtlety, like light;

And the wild odor of the forest flowers,

The music of the living grass and air,

The emerald light of leaf-entangled beams,

Round its intense yet self-conflicting speed

Seem kneaded into one aërial mass

Which drowns the sense. Within the orb itself,

Pillowed upon its alabaster arms,

Like to a child o'erwearied with sweet toil,

On its own folded wings and wavy hair

The Spirit of the Earth is laid asleep,

And you can see its little lips are moving,

Amid the changing light of their own smiles,

Like one who talks of what he loves in dream.

65

IONE
'T is only mocking the orb's harmony.

PANTHEA
And from a star upon its forehead shoot,

Like swords of azure fire or golden spears

With tyrant-quelling myrtle overtwined,

Embleming heaven and earth united now,

Vast beams like spokes of some invisible wheel

Which whirl as the orb whirls, swifter than thought,

Filling the abyss with sun-like lightnings,

And perpendicular now, and now transverse,

Pierce the dark soil, and as they pierce and pass

Make bare the secrets of the earth's deep heart;

Infinite mine of adamant and gold,

Valueless stones, and unimagined gems,

And caverns on crystalline columns poised

With vegetable silver overspread;

Wells of unfathomed fire, and water-springs

Whence the great sea even as a child is fed,

Whose vapors clothe earth's monarch mountain-tops

With kingly, ermine snow. The beams flash on

And make appear the melancholy ruins

Of cancelled cycles; anchors, beaks of ships;

Planks turned to marble; quivers, helms, and spears,

And gorgon-headed targes, and the wheels

Of scythèd chariots, and the emblazonry

Of trophies, standards, and armorial beasts,

Round which death laughed, sepulchred emblems

Of dead destruction, ruin within ruin!

The wrecks beside of many a city vast,

Whose population which the earth grew over

Was mortal, but not human; see, they lie,

Their monstrous works, and uncouth skeletons,

Their statues, homes and fanes; prodigious shapes

Huddled in gray annihilation, split,

Jammed in the hard, black deep; and over these,

The anatomies of unknown wingèd things,

And fishes which were isles of living scale,

And serpents, bony chains, twisted around

The iron crags, or within heaps of dust

To which the tortuous strength of their last pangs

Had crushed the iron crags; and over these

The jagged alligator, and the might

Of earth-convulsing behemoth, which once

Were monarch beasts, and on the slimy shores,

And weed-overgrown continents of earth,

Increased and multiplied like summer worms

On an abandoned corpse, till the blue globe

Wrapped deluge round it like a cloke, and they

Yelled, gasped, and were abolished; or some God,

Whose throne was in a comet, passed, and cried,

Be not! and like my words they were no more.

66

THE EARTH
The joy, the triumph, the delight, the madness!

The boundless, overflowing, bursting gladness,

The vaporous exultation not to be confined!

Ha! ha! the animation of delight

Which wraps me, like an atmosphere of light,

And bears me as a cloud is borne by its own wind.

THE MOON
Brother mine, calm wanderer,

Happy globe of land and air,

Some Spirit is darted like a beam from thee,

Which penetrates my frozen frame,

And passes with the warmth of flame,

With love, and odor, and deep melody

Through me, through me!

THE EARTH
Ha! ha! the caverns of my hollow mountains,

My cloven fire-crags, sound-exulting fountains,

Laugh with a vast and inextinguishable laughter.

The oceans, and the deserts, and the abysses,

And the deep air's unmeasured wildernesses,

Answer from all their clouds and billows, echoing after.

They cry aloud as I do. Sceptred curse,

Who all our green and azure universe

Threatenedst to muffle round with black destruction, sending 340

A solid cloud to rain hot thunder-stones

And splinter and knead down my children's bones,

All I bring forth, to one void mass battering and blending,

Until each crag-like tower, and storied column,

Palace, and obelisk, and temple solemn,

My imperial mountains crowned with cloud, and snow, and fire,

My sea-like forests, every blade and blossom

Which finds a grave or cradle in my bosom,

Were stamped by thy strong hate into a lifeless mire:

67

How art thou sunk, withdrawn, covered, drunk up

By thirsty nothing, as the brackish cup

Drained by a desert-troop, a little drop for all;

And from beneath, around, within, above,

Filling thy void annihilation, love

Bursts in like light on caves cloven by the thunder-ball!

THE MOON
The snow upon my lifeless mountains

Is loosened into living fountains,

My solid oceans flow, and sing and shine;

A spirit from my heart bursts forth,

It clothes with unexpected birth

My cold bare bosom. Oh, it must be thine

On mine, on mine!

Gazing on thee I feel, I know,

Green stalks burst forth, and bright flowers grow,

And living shapes upon my bosom move;

Music is in the sea and air,

Wingèd clouds soar here and there

Dark with the rain new buds are dreaming of:

'T is love, all love!

THE EARTH
It interpenetrates my granite mass,

Through tangled roots and trodden clay doth pass

Into the utmost leaves and delicatest flowers;

Upon the winds, among the clouds 't is spread,

It wakes a life in the forgotten dead,--

They breathe a spirit up from their obscurest bowers;

And like a storm bursting its cloudy prison

With thunder, and with whirlwind, has arisen

Out of the lampless caves of unimagined being;

With earthquake shock and swiftness making shiver

Thought's stagnant chaos, unremoved forever,

Till hate, and fear, and pain, light-vanquished shadows, fleeing,

68

Leave Man, who was a many-sided mirror

Which could distort to many a shape of error

This true fair world of things, a sea reflecting love;

Which over all his kind, as the sun's heaven

Gliding o'er ocean, smooth, serene, and even,

Darting from starry depths radiance and life doth move:

Leave Man even as a leprous child is left,

Who follows a sick beast to some warm cleft

Of rocks, through which the might of healing springs is

poured;

Then when it wanders home with rosy smile,

Unconscious, and its mother fears awhile

It is a spirit, then weeps on her child restored:

Man, oh, not men! a chain of linkèd thought,

Of love and might to be divided not,

Compelling the elements with adamantine stress;

As the sun rules even with a tyrant's gaze

The unquiet republic of the maze

Of planets, struggling fierce towards heaven's free wilderness:

Man, one harmonious soul of many a soul,

Whose nature is its own divine control,

Where all things flow to all, as rivers to the sea;

Familiar acts are beautiful through love;

Labor, and pain, and grief, in life's green grove

Sport like tame beasts; none knew how gentle they could be!

His will, with all mean passions, bad delights,

And selfish cares, its trembling satellites,

A spirit ill to guide, but mighty to obey,

Is as a tempest-wingèd ship, whose helm

Love rules, through waves which dare not overwhelm,

Forcing life's wildest shores to own its sovereign sway.

All things confess his strength. Through the cold mass

Of marble and of color his dreams pass--

Bright threads whence mothers weave the robes their children wear;

Language is a perpetual Orphic song,

Which rules with dædal harmony a throng

Of thoughts and forms, which else senseless and shapeless were.

69

The lightning is his slave; heaven's utmost deep

Gives up her stars, and like a flock of sheep

They pass before his eye, are numbered, and roll on!

The tempest is his steed, he strides the air;

And the abyss shouts from her depth laid bare,

'Heaven, hast thou secrets? Man unveils me; I have none.'

THE MOON
The shadow of white death has passed

From my path in heaven at last,

A clinging shroud of solid frost and sleep;

And through my newly woven bowers,

Wander happy paramours,

Less mighty, but as mild as those who keep

Thy vales more deep.

THE EARTH
As the dissolving warmth of dawn may fold

A half unfrozen dew-globe, green, and gold,

And crystalline, till it becomes a wingèd mist,

And wanders up the vault of the blue day,

Outlives the noon, and on the sun's last ray

Hangs o'er the sea, a fleece of fire and amethyst.

THE MOON
Thou art folded, thou art lying

In the light which is undying

Of thine own joy, and heaven's smile divine;

All suns and constellations shower

On thee a light, a life, a power,

Which doth array thy sphere; thou pourest thine

On mine, on mine!

THE EARTH
I spin beneath my pyramid of night

Which points into the heavens, dreaming delight,

Murmuring victorious joy in my enchanted sleep;

As a youth lulled in love-dreams faintly sighing,

Under the shadow of his beauty lying,

Which round his rest a watch of light and warmth doth keep.

70

THE MOON
As in the soft and sweet eclipse,

When soul meets soul on lovers' lips,

High hearts are calm, and brightest eyes are dull;

So when thy shadow falls on me,

Then am I mute and still, by thee

Covered; of thy love, Orb most beautiful,

Full, oh, too full!

Thou art speeding round the sun,

Brightest world of many a one;

Green and azure sphere which shinest

With a light which is divinest

Among all the lamps of Heaven

To whom life and light is given;

I, thy crystal paramour,

Borne beside thee by a power

Like the polar Paradise,

Magnet-like, of lovers' eyes;

I, a most enamoured maiden,

Whose weak brain is overladen

With the pleasure of her love,

Maniac-like around thee move,

Gazing, an insatiate bride,

On thy form from every side,

Like a Mænad round the cup

Which Agave lifted up

In the weird Cadmean forest.

Brother, wheresoe'er thou soarest

I must hurry, whirl and follow

Through the heavens wide and hollow,

Sheltered by the warm embrace

Of thy soul from hungry space,

Drinking from thy sense and sight

Beauty, majesty and might,

As a lover or a chameleon

Grows like what it looks upon,

As a violet's gentle eye

Gazes on the azure sky

Until its hue grows like what it beholds,

As a gray and watery mist

Glows like solid amethyst

Athwart the western mountain it enfolds,

When the sunset sleeps

Upon its snow.

71

THE EARTH
And the weak day weeps

That it should be so.

O gentle Moon, the voice of thy delight

Falls on me like thy clear and tender light

Soothing the seaman borne the summer night

Through isles forever calm;

O gentle Moon, thy crystal accents pierce

The caverns of my pride's deep universe,

Charming the tiger joy, whose tramplings fierce

Made wounds which need thy balm.

PANTHEA
I rise as from a bath of sparkling water,

A bath of azure light, among dark rocks,

Out of the stream of sound.

IONE
Ah me! sweet sister,

The stream of sound has ebbed away from us,

And you pretend to rise out of its wave,

Because your words fall like the clear soft dew

Shaken from a bathing wood-nymph's limbs and hair.

PANTHEA
Peace, peace! a mighty Power, which is as darkness,

Is rising out of Earth, and from the sky

Is showered like night, and from within the air

Bursts, like eclipse which had been gathered up

Into the pores of sunlight; the bright visions,

Wherein the singing Spirits rode and shone,

Gleam like pale meteors through a watery night.

IONE
There is a sense of words upon mine ear.

PANTHEA
An universal sound like words: Oh, list!

DEMOGORGON
Thou, Earth, calm empire of a happy soul,

Sphere of divinest shapes and harmonies,

Beautiful orb! gathering as thou dost roll

The love which paves thy path along the skies:

72

THE EARTH
I hear: I am as a drop of dew that dies.

DEMOGORGON
Thou, Moon, which gazest on the nightly Earth

With wonder, as it gazes upon thee;

Whilst each to men, and beasts, and the swift birth

Of birds, is beauty, love, calm, harmony:

THE MOON
I hear: I am a leaf shaken by thee.

DEMOGORGON
Ye kings of suns and stars, Dæmons and Gods,

Ethereal Dominations, who possess

Elysian, windless, fortunate abodes

Beyond Heaven's constellated wilderness:

A VOICE (from above)

Our great Republic hears: we are blessed, and bless.

DEMOGORGON
Ye happy dead, whom beams of brightest verse

Are clouds to hide, not colors to portray,

Whether your nature is that universe

Which once ye saw and suffered--

A VOICE FROM BENEATH
Or, as they

Whom we have left, we change and pass away.

DEMOGORGON
Ye elemental Genii, who have homes

From man's high mind even to the central stone

Of sullen lead; from Heaven's star-fretted domes

To the dull weed some sea-worm battens on:

A CONFUSED VOICE
We hear: thy words waken Oblivion.

DEMOGORGON
Spirits, whose homes are flesh; ye beasts and birds,

Ye worms and fish; ye living leaves and buds;

Lightning and wind; and ye untamable herds,

Meteors and mists, which throng air's solitudes:

A VOICE
Thy voice to us is wind among still woods.

DEMOGORGON
Man, who wert once a despot and a slave,

A dupe and a deceiver! a decay,

A traveller from the cradle to the grave

Through the dim night of this immortal day:

73

ALL
Speak: thy strong words may never pass away.

DEMOGORGON
This is the day which down the void abysm

At the Earth-born's spell yawns for Heaven's despotism,

And Conquest is dragged captive through the deep;

Love, from its awful throne of patient power

In the wise heart, from the last giddy hour

Of dread endurance, from the slippery, steep,

And narrow verge of crag-like agony, springs

And folds over the world its healing wings.

Gentleness, Virtue, Wisdom, and Endurance--

These are the seals of that most firm assurance

Which bars the pit over Destruction's strength;

And if, with infirm hand, Eternity,

Mother of many acts and hours, should free

The serpent that would clasp her with his length,

These are the spells by which to reassume

An empire o'er the disentangled doom.

To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite;

To forgive wrongs darker than death or night;

To defy Power, which seems omnipotent;

To love, and bear; to hope till Hope creates

From its own wreck the thing it contemplates;

Neither to change, nor falter, nor repent;

This, like thy glory, Titan, is to be

Good, great and joyous, beautiful and free;

This is alone Life; Joy, Empire, and Victory!