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- Specimens of Greek Tragedy - 5/44 -


Is miserable. High service done to man-- For this I bear the adamantine chain. I to its elemental fountain tracked, In fern-pith stored and bore by stealth away, Fire, source and teacher of all arts to men. Such mine offence, whereof the penalty I pay, thus chained in face of earth and heaven.

* * * * *

_THE SIN OF PROMETHEUS_.

LINES 444-533.

PROMETHEUS.

Think not it is from pride or wantonness That I forbear to speak; my heart is wrung With looking on these ignominious bonds. Who was it that to these new deities Their attributes apportioned? Who but I? Of that no more; to you as well as me The tale is known; but list while I recount How vile was man's estate, how void was man Of reason, till I gave him mind and sense. Not that I would upbraid the race of men: I would but show my own benevolence. Eyesight they had, yet nothing saw aright; Ears, and yet heard not; but like forms in dreams, For ages lived a life confused, nor bricks Nor woodwork had to build them sunny homes, But dwelt beneath the ground, as do the tribes Diminutive of ants, in sunless caves. Nor had they signs to mark the season's change, Coming of winter or of flowery spring Or of boon summer; but at random wrought In all things, till I taught them to discern The risings and the settings of the stars; The use of numbers, crown of sciences, Was my invention; mine were letters too, The implement of mind in all its works. First I trained beasts to draw beneath the yoke, The collar to endure, the rider bear, And thus relieve man of his heaviest toils. First taught the steed, obedient to the rein, To draw the chariot, wealth's proud appanage. Nor, before me, did any launch the barque With its white wings to rove the ocean wave. These blessings, hapless that I am, have I Devised for man, and yet device have none Myself to liberate from these fell bonds.

CHORUS.

Sad is thy lot, to thy unwisdom due. Now, like a bad physician that himself Has into sickness fallen, thou dost despair And hast no medicine for thine own disease.

PROMETHEUS.

Hear what remains, and thou wilt wonder more At all the feats of my inventive mind. Greatest of all was this; when they fell sick Men had no help, no medicine edible, Potion or ointment, but for lack of cure Wasted away and perished, till my skill Taught them to mix the juice of sovran herbs, With which they now ward off all maladies. Of divination many ways I traced, Laid down the rules for telling which of dreams Would be fulfilled, and of foreboding sounds The mystery unfolded. Then I taught What sights are ominous to wayfarers. I showed which of the birds that wing the heavens Were lucky, which unlucky, and what were Their loves and hatreds and foregatherings. Then what the flesh of victims signified, Of its appearances which pleased the gods, How shaped, how streaked each part behoved to be, And the burnt offerings on the altar laid, Thighs wrapped in fat and chine. I read the signs Of sacrificial flames unread before. More yet I did; the wealth that lurks for man In earth's dark womb,--gold, silver, iron, brass,-- Who was it brought all this to light but I? All others lie who would the honour claim. In one short sentence a long tale is told Alone Prometheus gave all arts to man.

CHORUS.

Take heed; be not to mortals overkind, But to thyself in this dire strait unkind. Good hope have I, one day to see thee stand Free from those bonds and mate the power of Zeus.

PROMETHEUS.

Not yet that consummation fate ordains. A thousand years of agony must pass Before my tortured frame puts off this chain. For skill is weak matched with necessity.

CHORUS.

Who, then, is pilot of necessity?

PROMETHEUS.

Fates three, and the unchanged Erinnyes.

CHORUS.

And have these powers the mastery over Zeus?

PROMETHEUS.

Not Zeus himself can baffle destiny.

CHORUS.

What is his destiny but endless rule?

PROMETHEUS.

I may not tell thee; importune me not.

CHORUS.

Dread is the secret that thou hidest thus.

PROMETHEUS.

Think of some other question; this to tell The time is not yet ripe; deep in my breast The secret must be buried; thus alone May I from chains and tortures be set free.

* * * * *

_PROMETHEUS DEFIES ZEUS_.

LINES 928-1114.

PROMETHEUS.

Yet, yet shall Zeus, for all his proud self-will, Be humbled. On a wedlock he is bent Whereof the fateful offspring shall one day Hurl him from sovereignty to nothingness, And so fulfil the curse old Chronos spake, When from his immemorial throne he fell. And this his doom how to escape not one Of all the gods can rede him saving I. But to me all is known. Then let him sit Triumphant while his thunders roll through heaven, And his hand grasps the flaming thunderbolt; All his artillery shall not save its lord From utter shame and ruin bottomless. Such the antagonist himself arrays Against himself, dread and invincible, One who a fiercer than the lightning's flame, A louder than the thunder's peal shall find, And wrest the truncheon that makes earth to quake, Poseidon's trident, from its wielder's hand. Wrecked on misfortune's rock, he then shall know How high it is to reign, to serve how low.

CHORUS.

Thy wish is father to thy prophecy.

PROMETHEUS.

My wish is one with destiny's decree.

CHORUS.

Think'st thou that Zeus will e'er his master find?

PROMETHEUS.

Ay! and a load harder than mine to bear.

CHORUS.

Dost thou not fear to cast such words at Zeus?

PROMETHEUS.

What should I fear when I must never die?

CHORUS.

But Zeus may yet enhance thine agony.

PROMETHEUS.

Prepared for all, his malice I defy.


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