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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.

The Masque of Pandora

III. Tower of Prometheus on Mount Caucasus

I HEAR the trumpet of Alectryon

Proclaim the dawn. The stars begin to fade,

And all the heavens are full of prophecies

And evil auguries. Blood-red last night

I saw great Kronos rise; the crescent moon

Sank through the mist, as if it were the scythe

His parricidal hand had flung far down

The western steeps. O ye Immortal Gods,

What evil are ye plotting and contriving?

HERMES and PANDORA at the threshold.

I cannot cross the threshold. An unseen

And icy hand repels me. These blank walls

Oppress me with their weight!

Powerful ye are,

But not omnipotent. Ye cannot fight

Against Necessity. The Fates control you,

As they do us, and so far we are equals!

Motionless, passionless, companionless,

He sits there muttering in his beard. His voice

Is like a river flowing underground!

Prometheus, hail!

Who calls me?

It is I.

Dost thou not know me?

By thy wingèd cap

And wingèd heels I know thee. Thou art Hermes,

Captain of thieves! Hast thou again been stealing

The heifers of Admetus in the sweet

Meadows of asphodel? or Hera’s girdle?

Or the earth-shaking trident of Poseidon?

And thou, Prometheus; say, hast thou again

Been stealing fire from Helios’ chariot-wheels

To light thy furnaces?

Why comest thou hither

So early in the dawn?

The Immortal Gods

Know naught of late or early. Zeus himself,

The omnipotent hath sent me.

For what purpose?

To bring this maiden to thee.

I mistrust

The Gods and all their gifts. If they have sent her

It is for no good purpose.

What disaster

Could she bring on thy house, who is a woman?

The Gods are not my friends, nor am I theirs.

Whatever comes from them, though in a shape

As beautiful as this, is evil only.

Who art thou?

One who, though to thee unknown,

Yet knoweth thee.

How shouldst thou know me, woman?

Who knoweth not Prometheus the humane?

Prometheus the unfortunate; to whom

Both Gods and men have shown themselves ungrateful.

When every spark was quenched on every hearth

Throughout the earth, I brought to man the fire

And all its ministrations. My reward

Hath been the rock and vulture.

But the Gods

At last relent and pardon.

They relent not;

They pardon not; they are implacable,

Revengeful, unforgiving!

As a pledge

Of reconciliation they have sent to thee

This divine being, to be thy companion,

And bring into thy melancholy house

The sunshine and the fragrance of her youth.

I need them not. I have within myself

All that my heart desires; the ideal beauty

Which the creative faculty of mind

Fashions and follows in a thousand shapes

More lovely than the real. My own thoughts

Are my companions; my designs and labors

And aspirations are my only friends.

Decide not rashly. The decision made

Can never be recalled. The Gods implore not,

Plead not, solicit not; they only offer

Choice and occasion, which once being passed

Return no more. Dost thou accept the gift?

No gift of theirs, in whatsoever shape

It comes to me, with whatsoever charm

To fascinate my sense, will I receive.

Leave me.

Let us go hence. I will not stay.

We leave thee to thy vacant dreams, and all

The silence and the solitude of thought,

The endless bitterness of unbelief,

The loneliness of existence without love.


How the Titan, the defiant,

The self-centred, self-reliant,

Wrapped in visions and illusions,

Robs himself of life’s best gifts!

Till by all the storm-winds shaken,

By the blast of fate o’ertaken,

Hopeless, helpless, and forsaken,

In the mists of his confusions

To the reefs of doom he drifts!

Sorely tried and sorely tempted,

From no agonies exempted,

In the penance of his trial,

And the discipline of pain;

Often by illusions cheated,

Often baffled and defeated

In the tasks to be completed,

He, by toil and self-denial,

To the highest shall attain.

Tempt no more the noble schemer;

Bear unto some idle dreamer

This new toy and fascination,

This new dalliance and delight!

To the garden where reposes

Epimetheus crowned with roses,

To the door that never closes

Upon pleasure and temptation,

Bring this vision of the night!