Prometheus Bound by Æschylus
For the woe and the wreck and the doom, Prometheus, I utter my sighs;
O’er my cheek flows the fountain of tears from tender, compassionate eyes.
For stern and abhorred is the sway of Zeus on his self-sought throne,
And ruthless the spear of his scorn, to the gods of the days that are done.
And over the limitless earth goes up a disconsolate cry:
Ye were all so fair, and have fallen; so great, and your might has gone by!
So wails with a mighty lament the voice of the mortals, who dwell
In the Eastland, the home of the holy, for thee and the fate that befel;
And they of the Colchian land, the maidens whose arm is for war;
And the Scythian bowmen, who roam by the lake of Maeotis afar;
And the blossom of battling hordes, that flowers upon Caucasus’ height,
With clashing of lances that pierce, and with clamour of swords that smite.
Strange is thy sorrow! one only I know who has suffered thy pain—
Atlas, the Titan, the god, in a ruthless, invincible chain!
He beareth for ever and ever the burden and poise of the sky,
The vault of the rolling heaven, and earth re-echoes his cry.
The depths of the sea are troubled; they mourn from their caverns profound,
And the darkest and innermost hell moans deep with a sorrowful sound;
And the rivers of waters, that flow from the fountains that spring without stain,
Are as one in the great lamentation, and moan for thy piteous pain.
Deem not that I in pride or wilful scorn
Restrain my speech; ’tis wistful memory
That rends my heart, when I behold myself
Abased to wretchedness. To these new gods
I and none other gave their lots of power
In full attainment; no more words hereof
I speak—the tale ye know. But listen now
Unto the rede of mortals and their woes,
And how their childish and unreasoning state
Was changed by me to consciousness and thought.
Yet not in blame of mortals will I speak,
But as in proof of service wrought to them.
For, in the outset, eyes they had and saw not;
And ears they had but heard not; age on age,
Like unsubstantial shapes in vision seen,
They groped at random in the world of sense,
Nor knew to link their building, brick with brick,
Nor how to turn its aspect to the sun,
Nor how to join the beams by carpentry.
In hollowed caves they dwelt, as emmets dwell,
Weak feathers for each blast, in sunless caves.
Nor had they certain forecast of the cold,
Nor of the advent of the flowery spring,
Nor of the fruitful summer. All they wrought,
Unreasoning they wrought, till I made clear
The laws of rising stars, and inference dim,
More hard to learn, of what their setting showed.
I taught to them withal that art of arts,
The lore of number, and the written word
That giveth sense to sound, the tool wherewith
The gift of memory was wrought in all,
And so came art and song. I too was first
To harness ‘neath the yoke strong animals,
Obedient made to collar and to weight,
That they might bear whate’er of heaviest toil
Mortals endured before. For chariots too
I trained, and docile service of the rein,
Steeds, the delight of wealth and pomp and pride.
I too, none other, for seafarers wrought
Their ocean-roaming canvas-wingèd cars.
Such arts of craft did I, unhappy I,
Contrive for mortals: now, no feint I have
Whereby I may elude my present woe.
A rueful doom is thine! distraught of soul,
And all astray, and like some sorry leech
Art thou, repining at thine own disease,
Unskilled, unknowing of the needful cure.
More wilt thou wonder when the rest thou hearest—
What arts for them, what methods I devised.
Foremost was this: if any man fell sick,
No aiding art he knew, no saving food,
No curing oil nor draught, but all in lack
Of remedies they dwindled, till I taught
The medicinal blending of soft drugs,
Whereby they ward each sickness from their side.
I ranged for them the methods manifold
Of the diviner’s art; I first discerned
Which of night’s visions hold a truth for day,
I read for them the lore of mystic sounds,
Inscrutable before; the omens seen
Which bless or ban a journey, and the flight
Of crook-clawed birds, did I make clear to man—
And how they soar upon the right, for weal,
How, on the left, for evil; how they dwell,
Each in its kind, and what their loves and hates,
And which can flock and roost in harmony.
From me, men learned what deep significance
Lay in the smoothness of the entrails set
For sacrifice, and which, of various hues,
Showed them a gift accepted of the gods;
They learned what streaked and varied comeliness
Of gall and liver told; I led them, too,
(By passing thro’ the flame the thigh-bones, wrapt
In rolls of fat, and th’ undivided chine),
Unto the mystic and perplexing lore
Of omens; and I cleared unto their eyes
The forecasts, dim and indistinct before,
Shown in the flickering aspect of a flame.
Of these, enough is said. The other boons,
Stored in the womb of earth, in aid of men—
Copper and iron, silver, gold withal—
Who dares affirm he found them ere I found?
None—well I know—save who would babble lies!
Know thou, in compass of a single phrase—
All arts, for mortals’ use, Prometheus gave.
Nay, aid not mortal men beyond their due,
Holding too light a reckoning of thyself
And of thine own distress: good hope have I
To see thee once again from fetters free
And matched with Zeus in parity of power.
Not yet nor thus hath Fate ordained the end—
Not until age-long pains and countless woes
Have bent and bowed me, shall my shackles fall;
Art strives too feebly against destiny.
But what hand rules the helm of destiny?
The triform Fates, and Furies unforgiving.
Then is the power of Zeus more weak than theirs?
He may not shun the fate ordained for him.
What is ordained for him, save endless rule?
Seek not for answer: this thou may’st not learn.
Surely thy silence hides some solemn thing.
Think on some other theme: ’tis not the hour,
This secret to unveil; in deepest dark
Be it concealed: by guarding it shall I
Escape at last from bonds, and scorn, and pain.