Home  »  Prometheus Bound  »  Lines 400–799

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

Lines 400–799

His strength all thunder-shattered; and he lies

A helpless, powerless carcase, near the strait

Of the great sea, fast pressed beneath the roots

Of ancient Ætna, where on highest peak

Hephæstos sits and smites his iron red-hot,

From whence hereafter streams of fire shall burst,

Devouring with fierce jaws the golden plains

Of fruitful, fair Sikelia. Such the wrath

That Typhon shall belch forth with bursts of storm,

Hot, breathing fire, and unapproachable,

Though burnt and charred by thunderbolts of Zeus.

Not inexperienced art thou, nor dost need

My teaching: save thyself, as thou know’st how;

And I will drink my fortune to the dregs,

Till from His wrath the mind of Zeus shall rest.

Okean.Know’st thou not this, Prometheus, even this:

Of wrath’s disease wise words the healers are?

Prom.Yea, could one soothe the troubled heart in time,

Nor seek by force to tame the soul’s proud flesh.

Okean.But, in due forethought with bold daring blent,

What mischief seest thou lurking? Tell me this.

Prom.Toil bootless, and simplicity full fond.

Okean.Let me, I pray, that sickness suffer, since

’Tis best being wise to have not wisdom’s show.

Prom.Nay, but this error shall be deemed as mine.

Okean.Thy word then clearly sends me home at once.

Prom.Yea, lest thy pity for me make a foe.…

Okean.What! of that new king on His mighty throne?

Prom.Look to it, lest His heart be vexed with thee.

Okean.Thy fate, Prometheus, teaches me that lesson.

Prom.Away, withdraw! keep thou the mind thou hast.

Okean.Thou urgest me who am in act to haste;

For this my bird four-footed flaps with wings

The clear path of the æther; and full fain

Would he bend knee in his own stall at home.


Chor.I grieve, Prometheus, for thy dreary fate,

Shedding from tender eyes

The drew of plenteous tears;

With streams, as when the watery south wind blows,

My cheek is wet;

For lo! these things are all unenviable,

And Zeus, by His own laws His sway maintaining,

Shows to the elder Gods

A mood of haughtiness.

And all the country echoeth with the moan,

And poureth many a tear

For that magnific power

Of ancient days far-seen that thou didst share

With those of one blood sprung;

And all the mortal men who hold the plain

Of holy Asia as their land of sojourn,

They grieve in sympathy

For thy woes lamentable.

And they, the maiden band who find their home

On distant Colchian coasts,


Or Skythian horde is earth’s remotest clime,

By far Mæotic lake;

And warlike glory of Arabia’s tribes,

Who nigh to Caucasos

In rock-fort dwell,

An army fearful, with sharp-pointed spear

Raging in war’s array.

One other Titan only have I seen,

One other of the Gods,

Thus bound in woes of adamantine strength—

Atlas, who ever groans

Beneath the burden of a crushing might,

The outspread vault of heaven.


And lo! the ocean billows murmur loud

The sea-depths groan, and Hades’ swarthy pit

Re-echoeth the sound,

And fountains of clear rivers, as they flow,

Bewail his bitter griefs.

Prom.Think not it is through pride or stiff self-will

That I am silent. But my heart is worn,

Self-contemplating, as I see myself

Thus outraged. Yet what other hand than mine

Gave these young Gods in fulness all their gifts?

But these I speak not of; for I should tell

To you that know them. But those woes of men,

List ye to them,—how they, before as babes,

By me were roused to reason, taught to think;

And this I say, not finding fault with men,

But showing my good-will in all I gave.

For first, though seeing, all in vain they saw,

And hearing, heard not rightly. But, like forms

Of phantom-dreams, throughout their life’s whole length

They muddled all at random; did not know

Houses of brick that catch the sunlight’s warmth,

Nor yet the work of carpentry. They dwelt

In hollowed holes, like swarms of tiny ants,

In sunless depths of caverns; and they had

No certain signs of winter, nor of spring

Flower-laden, nor of summer with her fruits;

But without counsel fared their whole life long,

Until I showed the risings of the stars,

And settings hard to recognise. And I

Found Number for them, chief devise of all,

Groupings of letters, Memory’s handmaid that,

And mother of the Muses. And I first

Bound in the yoke wild steeds, submissive made

Or to the collar or men’s limbs, that so

They might in man’s place bear his greatest toils;

And horses trained to love the rein I yoked

To chariots, glory of wealth’s pride of state;

Nor was it any one but I that found

Sea-crossing, canvas-wingèd cars of ships:

Such rare designs inventing (wretched me!)

For mortal men, I yet have no device

By which to free myself from this my woe.

Chor.Foul shame thou sufferest: of thy sense bereaved,

Thou errest greatly: and, like leech unskilled,

Thou losest heart when smitten with disease,

And know’st not how to find the remedies

Wherewith to heal thine own soul’s sicknesses.

Prom.Hearing what yet remains, thou’lt wonder more,

What arts and what resources I devised:

And this the chief: if any one fell ill,

There was no help for him, nor healing food

Nor unguent, nor yet potion; but for want

Of drugs they wasted, till I showed to them

The blendings of all mild medicaments,

Wherewith they ward the attacks of sickness sore.

I gave them many modes of prophecy;

And I first taught them what dreams needs must prove

True visions, and made known the ominous sounds

Full hard to know; and tokens by the way,

And flights of taloned birds I clearly marked,—

Those on the right propitious to mankind,

And those sinister,—and what form of life

They each maintain, and what their enmities

Each with the other, and their loves and friendships;

And of the inward parts the plumpness smooth.

And with what colour they the Gods would please,

And the streaked comeliness of gall and liver:

And with burnt limbs enwrapt in fat, and chine,

I led men on to art full difficult:

And I gave eyes to omens drawn from fire,

Till then dim-visioned. So far, then, for this.

And ’neath the earth the hidden boons for men,

Bronze, iron, silver, gold, who else could say

That he, ere I did, found them? None, I know,

Unless he fain would babble idle words.

In one short word, then, learn the truth condensed,—

All arts of mortals from Prometheus spring.

Chor.Nay, be not thou to men so over-kind,

While thou thyself art in sore evil case;

For I am sanguine that thou too, released

From bonds, shalt be as strong as Zeus Himself.

Prom.It is not thus that Fate’s decree is fixed;

But I, long crushed with twice ten thousand woes

And bitter pains, shall then escape my bonds;

Art is far weaker than Necessity.

Chor.Who guides the helm, then, of Necessity?

Prom.Fates triple-formed, Erinyes unforgetting.

Chor.Is Zeus, then, weaker in His might than these?

Prom.Not even He can ’scape the thing decreed.

Chor.What is decreed for Zeus but still to reign?

Prom.Thou mayst no further learn, ask thou no more.

Chor.’Tis doubtless some dread secret which thou hidest.

Prom.Of other theme make mention, for the time

Is not yet come to utter this, but still

It must be hidden to the uttermost;

For by thus keeping it it is that I

Escape my bondage foul, and these my pains.

Chor.Ah! ne’er may Zeus the Lord,

Whose sovran sway rules all,

His strength in conflict set

Against my feeble will!

Nor may I fail to serve

The Gods with holy feast

Of whole burnt—offerings,

Where the stream ever flows

That bears my father’s name,

The great Okeanos!

Nor may I sin in speech!

May this grace more and more

Sink deep into my soul

And never fade away!

Sweet is it in strong hope

To spend long years of life,

With bright and cheering joy

Our heart’s thoughts nourishing

I shudder, seeing thee

Thus vexed and harassed sore

By twice ten thousand woes;

For thou in pride of heart,

Having no fear of Zeus,

In thine own obstinacy,

Dost show for mortal men,

Prometheus, love o’ermuch.

See how that boon, dear friends,

For thee is bootless found.

Say, where is any help?

What aid from mortals comes?

Hast thou not seen this brief and powerless life,

Fleeting as dreams, with which man’s purblind race

Is fast in fetters bound?

Never shall counsels vain

Of mortal men break through

The harmony of Zeus.

This lesson have I learnt

Beholding thy sad fate,

Prometheus! Other strains

Come back upon my mind,

When I sang wedding hymns around thy bath,

And at thy bridal bed, when thou didst take

In wedlock’s holy bands

One of the same sire born,

Our own Hesione,

Persuading her with gifts

As wife to share thy couch.

Enter IO in form like a fair woman with a heifer’s horns, followed by the Spectre of ARGOS
Io.What land is this? What people? Whom shall I

Say that I see thus vexed

With bit and curb of rock?

For what offence dost thou

Bear fatal punishment?

Tell me to what far land

I’ve wandered here in woe.

Ah me! ah me!

Again the gadfly stings me miserable.

Spectre of Argos, thou, the earth-born one—

Ah, keep him off, O Earth!

I fear to look upon that herdsman dread,

Him with ten thousand eyes:

Ah lo! he cometh with his crafty look,

Whom Earth refuses even dead to hold;

But coming from beneath,

He hunts me miserable,

And drives me famished o’er the sea-beach sand.

And still his waxened reed-pipe soundeth clear

A soft and slumberous strain;

O heavens! O ye Gods!

Whither do these long wanderings lead me on?

For what offence, O son of Cronos, what,

Hast thou thus bound me fast

In these great miseries?

Ah me! ah me!

And why with terror of the gadfly’s sting

Dost thou thus vex me, frenzied in my soul?

Burn me with fire, or bury me in earth,

Or to wild sea-beasts give me as a prey:

Nay, grudge me not, O King,

An answer to my prayers:

Enough my many-wandered wanderings

Have exercised my soul,

Nor have I power to learn

How to avert the woe.

(To Prometheus.) Hear’st thou the voice of maiden crowned with horns?

Prom.Surely I heard the maid by gadfly driven,

Daughter of Inachos, who warmed the heart

Of Zeus with love, and now through Hera’s hate

Is tried, perforce, with wanderings overlong?

Io.How is it that thou speak’st my father’s name?

Tell me, the suffering one,

Who art thou, who, poor wretch,

Who thus so truly nam’st me miserable,

And tell’st the plague from Heaven,

Which with its haunting stings

Wears me to death? Ah woe,

And I with famished and unseemly bounds

Rush madly, driven by Hera’s jealous craft.

Ah, who of all that suffer, born to woe,

Have trouble like the pain that I endure?

But thou, make clear to me

What yet for me remains,

What remedy, what healing for my pangs.

Show me, if thou dost know:

Speak out and tell to me,

The maid by wanderings vexed.

Prom.I will say plainly all thou seek’st to know;

Not in dark tangled riddles, but plain speech,

As it is meet that friends to friends should speak;

Thou seest Prometheus who gave fire to men.

Io.O thou to men as benefactor known,

Why, poor Prometheus, sufferest thou this pain?

Prom.I have but now mine own woes ceased to wail.

Io.Wilt thou not then bestow this boon on me?

Prom.Say what thou seek’st, for I will tell thee all.

Io.Tell me, who fettered thee in this ravine?

Prom.The counsel was of Zeus, the hand Hephæstos’.

Io.Of what offence dost thou the forfeit pay?

Prom.Thus much alone am I content to tell.

Io.Tell me, at least, besides, what end shall come

To my drear wanderings; when the time shall be.

Prom.Not to know this is better than to know.

Io.Nay, hide not from me what I have to bear.

Prom.It is not that I grudge the boon to thee.

Io.Why then delayest thou to tell the whole?

Prom.Not from ill will, but loth to vex thy soul.

Io.Nay, care thou not beyond what pleases me.

Prom.If thou desire it I must speak. Hear then.

Chor.Not yet though; grant me share of pleasure too.

Let us first ask the tale of her great woe,

While she unfolds her life’s consuming chances;

Her future sufferings let her learn from thee.

Prom.’Tis thy work, Io, to grant these their wish,


On other grounds and as thy father’s kin;

For to bewail and moan one’s evil chance,

Here where one trusts to gain a pitying tear

From those who hear,—this is not labour lost.

Io.I know not how to disobey your wish;

So ye shall learn the whole that ye desire

In speech full clear. And yet I blush to tell

The storm that came from God, and brought the loss

Of maiden face, what way it seized on me.

For nightly visions coming evermore

Into my virgin bower, sought to woo me

With glozing words. “O virgin greatly blest,

Why art thou still a virgin when thou might’st

Attain to highest wedlock? For with dart

Of passion for thee Zeus doth glow, and fain

Would make thee His. And thou, O child, spurn not

The bed of Zeus, but go to Lerna’s field,

Where feed thy father’s flocks and herds,

That so the eye of Zeus may find repose

From this His craving.” With such visions I

Was haunted every evening, till I dared

To tell my father all these dreams of night,

And he to Pytho and Dodona sent

Full many to consult the Gods, that he

Might learn what deeds and words would please Heaven’s lords.

And they came bringing speech of oracles

Shot with dark sayings, dim and hard to know.

At last a clear word came to Inachos

Charging him plainly, and commanding him

To thrust me from my country and my home,

To stray at large to utmost bounds of earth;

And, should he gainsay, that the fiery bolt

Of Zeus should come and sweep away his race.

And he, by Loxias’ oracles induced,

Thrust me, against his will, against mine too,

And drove me from my home; but spite of all,

The curb of Zeus constrained him this to do.

And then forthwith my face and mind were changed;

And hornèd, as ye see me, stung to the quick

By biting gadfly, I with maddened leap

Rushed to Kerchneia’s fair and limpid stream,

And fount of Lerna. And a giant herdsman,

Argos, full rough of temper, followed me,

With many an eye beholding, on my track:

And him a sudden and unlooked-for doom

Deprived of life. And I, by gadfly stung,

By scourge from Heaven am driven from land to land.

What has been done thou hearest. And if thou

Canst tell what yet remains of woe, declare it;

Nor in thy pity soothe me with false words;

For hollow words, I deem, are worst of ills.

Chor.Away, away, let be:

Ne’er thought I that such tales

Would ever, ever come unto mine ears;

Nor that such terrors, woes and outrages,

Hard to look on, hard to bear,

Would chill my soul with sharp goad, double-edged.

Ah fate! Ah fate!

I shudder, seeing Io’s fortune strange.

Prom.Thou art too quick in groaning, full of fear:

Wait thou awhile until thou hear the rest.

Chor.Speak thou and tell. Unto the sick ’tis sweet

Clearly to know what yet remains of pain.

Prom.Your former wish ye gained full easily.

Your first desire was to learn of her

The tale she tells of her own sufferings;

Now therefore hear the woes that yet remain

For this poor maid to bear at Hera’s hands.

And thou, O child of Inachos! take heed

To these my words, that thou mayst hear the goal

Of all thy wanderings. First then, turning hence

Towards the sunrise, tread the untilled plains,

And thou shalt reach the Skythian nomads, those

Who on smooth-rolling wagons dwell aloft

In wicker houses, with far-darting bows

Duly equipped. Approach thou not to these,

But trending round the coasts on which the surf

Beats with loud murmurs, Traverse thou that clime.


On the left hand there dwell the Chalybes,

Who work in iron. Of these do thou beware,

For fierce are they and most inhospitable;

And thou wilt reach the river fierce and strong,

True to its name. This seek not thou to cross,

For it is hard to ford, until thou come

To Caucasos itself, of all high hills

The highest, where a river pours its strength

From the high peaks themselves. And thou must cross

Those summits near the stars, must onward go

Towards the south, where thou shalt find the host

Of the Amâzons, hating men, whose home

Shall one day be around Thermodon’s bank,

By Themiskyra, where the ravenous jaws

Of Salmydessos ape upon the sea,

Treacherous to sailors, stepdame stern to ships.

And they right good-will shall be thy guides;

And thou, hard by a broad pool’s narrow gates,

Wilt pass to the Kimmerian isthmus. Leaving

This boldly, thou must cross Mæotic channel;

And there shall be great fame ’mong mortal men

Of this thy journey, and the Bosporos

In one accord with him;

Fearless of fight,