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Aeschylus (525–456 B.C.). Prometheus Bound.rn The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Lines 1–399

Enter HEPHÆSTOS, STRENGTH, and FORCE, leading PROMETHEUS in chains
StrengthLO! to a plain, earth’s boundary remote,

We now are come,—the track as Skythian known,

A desert inaccessible: and now,

Hephæstos, it is thine to do the hests

The Father gave thee, to these lofty crags

To bind this crafty trickster fast in chains

Of adamantine bonds that none can break;

For he, thy choice flower stealing, the bright glory

Of fire that all arts spring from, hath bestowed it

On mortal men. And so for fault like this

He now must pay the Gods due penalty,

That he may learn to bear the sovereign rule

Of Zeus, and cease from his philanthropy.

Heph.O Strength, and thou, O Force, the hest of Zeus,

As far as touches you, attains its end,

And nothing hinders. Yet my courage fails

To bind a God of mine own kin by force

To this bare rock where tempests wildly sweep;

And yet I needs must muster courage for it:

’Tis no slight thing the Father’s words to scorn.

O thou of Themis [to PROMETHEUS] wise in counsel son,

Full deep of purpose, lo! against my will,

I fetter thee against thy will with bonds

Of bronze that none can loose, the this lone height,

Where thou shalt know nor voice nor face of man,

But scorching in the hot blaze of the sun,

Shalt lose thy skin’s fair beauty. Thou shalt long

For starry-mantled night to hide day’s sheen,

For sun to melt the rime of early dawn;

And evermore the weight of present ill

Shall wear thee down. Unborn as yet is he

Who shall release thee: this the fate thou gain’st

As due reward for thy philanthropy.

For thou, a God not fearing wrath of Gods,

In thy transgression gav’st their power to men;

And therefore on this rock of little ease

Thou still shalt keep thy watch, nor lying down,

Nor knowing sleep, nor ever bending knee;

And many groans and wailings profitless

Thy lips shall utter; for the mind of Zeus

Remains inexorable. Who holds a power

But newly gained is ever stern of mood.

Strength.Let be! Why linger in this idle pity?

Why dost not hate a God to Gods a foe,

Who gave thy choicest prize to mortal men?

Heph.Strange is the power of kin and intercourse.

Strength.I own it; yet to slight the Father’s words,

How may that be? Is not that fear the worse?

Heph.Still art thou ruthless, full of savagery.

Strength.There is no help in weeping over him:

Spend not thy toil on things that profit not.

Heph.O handicraft to me intolerable!

Strength.Why loath’st thou it? Of these thy present griefs

That craft of thine is not one whit the cause.

Heph.And yet I would some other had that skill.

Strength.All things bring toil except for Gods to reign;

For none but Zeus can boast of freedom true.

Heph.Too well I see the proof, and gainsay not.

Strength.Wilt thou not speed to fix the chains on him,

Lest He, the Father, see thee loitering here?

Heph.Well, here the handcuffs thou mayst see prepared.

Strength.In thine hands take him. Then with all thy might

Strike with thine hammer; nail him to the rocks.

Heph.The work goes on, I ween, and not in vain.

Strength.Strike harder, rivet, give no whit of ease:

A wondrous knack has he to find resource,

Even where all might seem to baffle him.

Heph.Lo! this his arm is fixed inextricably.

Strength.Now rivet thou this other fast, that he

May learn, though sharp, that he than Zeus is duller.

Heph.No one but he could justly blame my work.

Strength.Now drive the stern jaw of the adamant wedge

Right through his chest with all the strength thou hast.

Heph.Ah me! Prometheus, for thy woes I groan.

Strength.Again, thou’rt loth, and for the foes of Zeus

Thou groanest: take good heed to it lest thou

Ere long with cause thyself commiserate.

Heph.Thou seest a sight unsightly to our eyes.

Strength.I see this man obtaining his deserts:

Nay, cast thy breast-chains round about his ribs.

Heph.I must needs do it. Spare thine o’ermuch bidding;

Go thou below and rivet both his legs.

Strength.Nay, I will bid thee, urge thee to thy work.

Heph.There, it is done, and that with no long toil.

Strength.Now with thy full power fix the galling fetters:

Thou hast a stern o’erlooker of thy work.

Heph.Thy tongue but utters words that match thy form.

Strength.Choose thou the melting mood; but chide not me

For my self-will and wrath and ruthlessness.

Heph.Now let us go, his limbs are bound in chains.

Strength.Here then wax proud, and stealing what


To the Gods, to mortals give it. What can they

Avail to rescue thee from these thy woes?

Falsely the Gods have given thee thy name,

Prometheus, Forethought; forethought thou dost need

To free thyself from this rare handiwork.[Exeunt HEPHÆSTOS, STRENGTH, and FORCE, leaving PROMETHEUS on the rock.

Prom.Thou firmament of God, and swift-winged winds,

Ye springs of rivers, and of ocean waves

That smile innumerous! Mother of us all,

O Earth, and Sun’s all-seeing eye, behold,

I pray, what I, a God, from Gods endure.

Behold in what foul case

I for ten thousand years

Shall struggle in my woe,

In these unseemly chains.

Such doom the new-made Monarch of the Blest

Hath now devised for me.

Woe, woe! The present and the oncoming pang

I wail, as I search out

The place and hour when end of all these ills

Shall dawn on me at last.

What say I? All too clearly I foresee

The things that come, and nought of pain shall be

By me unlooked-for; but I needs must bear

My destiny as best I may, knowing well

The might resistless of Necessity.

And neither may I speak of this my fate,

Nor hold my peace. For I, poor I, through giving

Great gifts to mortal men, am prisoner made

In these fast fetters; yea, in fennel stalk

I snatched the hidden spring of stolen fire,

Which is to men a teacher of all arts,

Their chief resource. And now this penalty

Of that offence I pay, fast riveted

In chains beneath the open firmament.

Ha! ha! What now?

What sound, what odour floats invisibly?

Is it of God or man, or blending both?

And has one come to this remotest rock

To look upon my woes? Or what wills he?

Behold me bound, a God to evil doomed,

The foe of Zeus, and held

In hatred by all Gods

Who tread the courts of Zeus:

And this for my great love,

Too great, for mortal men.

Ah me! what rustling sounds

Hear I of birds not far?

With the light whirr of wings

The air re-echoeth:

All that draws nigh to me is cause of fear.

Enter Chorus of Ocean Nymphs, with wings, floating in the air
Chor.Nay, fear thou nought: in love

All our array of wings

In eager race hath come

To this high peak, full hardly gaining o’er

Our Father’s mind and will;

And the swift-rushing breezes bore me on:

For lo! the echoing sound of blows on iron

Pierced to our cave’s recess, and put to flight

My shamefast modesty,

And I in unshod haste, on winged car,

To thee rushed hitherward.

Prom.Ah me! ah me!

Offspring of Tethys blest with many a child,

Daughters of Old Okeanos that rolls

Round all the earth with never-sleeping stream,

Behold ye me, and see

With what chains fettered fast,

I on the topmost crags of this ravine

Shall keep my sentry-post unenviable.

Chor.I see it, O Prometheus, and a mist

Of fear and full of tears comes o’er mine eyes,

Thy frame beholding thus,

Writhing on these high rocks

In adamantine ills.

New pilots now o’er high Olympos rule,

And with new-fashioned laws

Zeus reigns, down-trampling Right,

And all the ancient powers He sweeps away.

Prom.Ah! would that ’neath the Earth, ’neath Hades too,

Home of the dead, far down to Tartaros

Unfathomable He in fetters fast

In wrath had hurled me down:

So neither had a God

Nor any other mocked at these my woes;

But now, the wretched plaything of the winds,

I suffer ills at which my foes rejoice.

Chor.Nay, which of all the Gods

Is so hard-hearted as to joy in this?

Who, Zeus excepted, doth not pity thee

In these thine ills? But He,

Ruthless, with soul unbent,

Subdues the heavenly host, nor will He cease

Until His heart be satiate with power,

Or some one seize with subtle stratagem

The sovran might that so resistless seemed.

Prom.Nay, of a truth, though put to evil shame,

In massive fetters bound,

The Ruler of the Gods

Shall yet have need of me, yes, e’en of me,

To tell the counsel new

That seeks to strip from Him

His sceptre and His might of sovereignty.

In vain will He with words

Or suasion’s honeyed charms

Soothe me, nor will I tell

Through fear of His stern threats,

Ere He shall set me free

From these my bonds, and make,

Of His own choice, amends

For all these outrages.

Chor.Full rash art thou, and yield’st

In not a jot to bitterest form of woe;

Thou art o’er-free and reckless in thy speech:

But piercing fear hath stirred

My inmost soul to strife;

For I fear greatly touching thy distress,

As to what haven of these woes of thine

Thou now must steer: the son of Cronos hath

A stubborn mood and heart inexorable.

Prom.I know that Zeus is hard,

And keeps the Right supremely to Himself;

But then, I trow, He’ll be

Full pliant in His will,

When He is thus crushed down.

Then, calming down His mood

Of hard and bitter wrath,

He’ll hasten unto me,

As I to Him shall haste,

For friendship and for peace.

Chor.Hide it not from us, tell us all the tale:

For what offence Zeus, having seized thee thus,

So wantonly and bitterly insults thee:

If the tale hurt thee not, inform thou us.

Prom.Painful are these things to me e’en to speak:

Painful is silence; everywhere is woe.

For when the high Gods fell on mood of wrath

And hot debate of mutual strife was stirred,

Some wishing to hurl Cronos from his throne,

That Zeus, forsooth, might reign; while others strove,

Eager that Zeus might never rule the Gods:

Then I, full strongly seeking to persuade

The Titans, yea, the sons of Heaven and Earth,

Failed of my purpose. Scorning subtle arts,

With counsels violent, they thought that they

By force would gain full easy mastery.

But then not once or twice my mother Themis

And earth, one form though bearing many names,

Had prophesied the future, how ’twould run,

That not by strength nor yet by violence,

But guile, should those who prospered gain the day.

And when in my words I this counsel gave,

They deigned not e’en to glance at it at all.

And then of all that offered, it seemed best

To join my mother, and of mine own will,

Not against His will, take my side with Zeus,

And by my counsels, mine, the dark deep pit

Of Tartaros the ancient Cronos holds,

Himself and his allies. Thus profiting

By me, the mighty ruler of the Gods

Repays me with these evil penalties:

For somehow this disease in sovereignty

Inheres, of never trusting to one’s friends.

And since ye ask me under what pretence

He thus maltreats me, I will show it you:

For soon as He upon His father’s throne

Had sat secure, forthwith to divers Gods

He divers gifts distributed, and His realm

Began to order. But of mortal men

He took no heed, but purposed utterly

To crush their race and plant another new;

And, I excepted, none dared cross His will;

But I did dare, and mortal men I freed

From passing on to Hades thunder-stricken;

And therefore am I bound beneath these woes,

Dreadful to suffer, pitiable to see:

And I, who in my pity thought of men

More than myself, have not been worthy deemed

To gain like favour, but all ruthlessly

I thus am chained, foul shame this sight to Zeus.

Chor.Iron-hearted must he be and made of rock

Who is not moved, Prometheus, by thy woes:

Fain could I wish I ne’er had seen such things,

And, seeing them, am wounded to the heart.

Prom.Yea, I am piteous for my friends to see.

Chor.Didst thou not go to farther lengths than this?

Prom.I made men cease from contemplating death.

Chor.What medicine didst thou find for that disease?

Prom.Blind hopes I gave to live and dwell with them.

Chor.Great service that thou didst for mortal men!

Prom.And more than that, I gave them fire, yes, I.

Chor.Do short-lived men the flaming fire possess?

Prom.Yea, and full many an art they’ll learn from it.

Chor.And is it then on charges such as these

That Zeus maltreats thee, and no respite gives

Of many woes? And has thy pain no end?

Prom.End there is none, except as pleases Him.

Chor.How shall it please? What hope hast thou?

Seest not

That thou hast sinned? Yet to say how thou sinned’st

Gives me no pleasure, and is pain to thee.

Well! let us leave these things, and, if we may,

Seek out some means to ’scape from this thy woe.

Prom.’Tis a light thing for one who has his foot

Beyond the reach of evil to exhort

And counsel him who suffers. This to me

Was all well known. Yea, willing, willingly

I sinned, nor will deny it. Helping men,

I for myself found trouble: yet I thought not

That I with such dread penalties as these

Should wither here on these high-towering crags,

Lighting on this lone hill and neighbourless.

Wherefore wail not for these my present woes,

But, drawing nigh, my coming fortunes hear,

That ye may learn the whole tale to the end.

Nay, hearken, hearken; show your sympathy

With him who suffers now. ’Tis thus that woe,

Wandering, now falls on this one, now on that.

Chor.Not to unwilling hearers hast thou uttered,

Prometheus, thy request,

And now with nimble foot abounding

My swiftly rushing car,

And the pure æther, path of birds of heaven,

I will draw near this rough and rocky land,

For much do I desire

To hear this tale, full measure of thy woes.

Enter OKEANOS, on a car drawn by a winged gryphon Okean.Lo, I come to thee, Prometheus,

Reaching goal of distant journey,

Guiding this my winged courser

By my will, without a bridle;

And thy sorrows move my pity.

Force, in part, I deem, of kindred

Leads me on, nor know I any,

Whom, apart from kin, I honour

More than thee, in fuller measure.

This thou shalt own true and earnest:

I deal not in glozing speeches.

Come then, tell me how to help thee;

Ne’er shalt thou say that one more friendly

Is found than unto thee is Okean.

Prom.Let be. What boots it? Thou then too art come

To gaze upon my sufferings. How didst dare

Leaving the stream that bears thy name, and caves

Hewn in the living rock, this land to visit,

Mother of iron? What then, art thou come

To gaze upon my fall and offer pity?

Behold this sight: see here the friend of Zeus,

Who helped to seat Him in His sovereignty,

With what foul outrage I am crushed by Him!

Okean.I see, Prometheus, and I wish to give thee

My best advice, all subtle though thou be.

Know thou thyself, and fit thy soul to moods

To thee full new. New king the Gods have now;

But if thou utter words thus rough and sharp,

Perchance, though sitting far away on high,

Zeus yet may hear thee, and His present wrath

Seem to thee but as child’s play of distress.

Nay, thou poor sufferer, quit the rage thou hast,

And seek a remedy for these thine ills.

A tale thrice-told, perchance I seem to speak:

Lo! this, Prometheus, is the punishment

Of thine o’erlofty speech, nor art thou yet

Humbled, nor yieldest to thy miseries,

And fain wouldst add fresh evils unto these.

But thou, if thou wilt take me as thy teacher,

Wilt not kick out against the pricks; seeing well

A monarch reigns who gives account to none.

And now I go, and will an effort make,

If I, perchance, may free thee from thy woes;

Be still then, hush thy petulance of speech,

Or knowest thou not, o’er-clever as thou art,

That idle tongues must still their forfeit pay?

Prom.I envy thee, seeing thou art free from blame

Though thou shared’st all, and in my cause wast bold;

Nay, let me be, nor trouble thou thyself;

Thou wilt not, canst not soothe Him; very hard

Is He of soothing. Look to it thyself,

Lest thou some mischief meet with in the way.

Okean.It is thy wont thy neighbours’ minds to school

Far better than thine own. From deeds, not words,

I draw my proof. But do not draw me back

When I am hasting on, for lo! I deem,

I deem that Zeus will grant this boon to me,

That I should free thee from these woes of thine.

Prom.I thank thee much, yea, ne’er will cease to thank;

For thou no whit of zeal dost lack; yet take,

I pray, no trouble for me; all in vain

Thy trouble, nothing helping, e’en if thou

Shouldst care to take the trouble. Nay, be still;

Keep out of harm’s way; sufferer though I be,

I would not therefore wish to give my woes

A wider range o’er others. No, not so:

For lo! my mind is wearied with the grief

Of that my kinsman Atlas, who doth stand

In the far West, supporting on his shoulders

The pillars of the earth and heaven, a burden

His arms can ill but hold; I pity too

The giant dweller of Kilikian caves,

Dread portent, with his hundred hands, subdued

By force, the mighty Typhon, who arose

’Gainst all the Gods, with sharp and dreadful jaws

Hissing out slaughter, and from out his eyes

There flashed the terrible brightness as of one

Who would lay low the sovereignty of Zeus.

But the unsleeping dart of Zeus came on him,

Down-swooping thunderbolt that breathes out flame,

Which from his lofty boastings startled him,

For he i’ the heart was struck, to ashes burnt,