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

Lines 800–1204

Shall take its name from thee. And Europe’s plain

Then quitting, thou shalt gain the Asian coast.

Doth not the all-ruling monarch of the Gods

Seem all ways cruel? For, although a God,

He, seeking to embrace this mortal maid,

Imposed these wanderings on her. Thou hast found,

O maiden! bitter suitor for thy hand;

For great as are the ills thou now hast heard,

Know that as yet not e’en the prelude’s known.

Io.Ah woe! woe! woe!

Prom.Again thou groan’st and criest. What wilt do

When thou shalt learn the evils yet to come?

Chor.What! are there troubles still to come for her?

Prom.Yea, stormy sea of woe most lamentable.

Io.What gain is it to live? Why cast I not

Myself at once from this high precipice,

And, dashed to earth, be free from all my woes?

Far better were it once for all to die

Than all one’s day to suffer pain and grief.

Prom.My struggles then full hardly thou wouldst bear,

For whom there is no destiny of death;

For that might bring a respite from my woes:

But now there is no limit to my pangs

Till Zeus be hurled out from His sovereignty.

Io.What! shall Zeus e’er be hurled from His high state?

Prom.Thou wouldst rejoice, I trow, to see that fall.

Io.How should I not, when Zeus so foully wrongs me?

Prom.That this is so thou now mayst hear from me.

Io.Who then shall rob Him of His sceptred sway?

Prom.Himself shall do it by His own rash plans.

Io.But how? Tell this, unless it bringeth harm.

Prom.He shall wed one for whom one day He’ll grieve.

Io.Heaven-born or mortal? Tell, if tell thou mayst.

Prom.Why ask’st thou who? I may not tell thee that

Io.Shall His bride hurl Him from His throne of might?

Prom.Yea; she shall bear child mightier than his sire.

Io.Has He no way to turn aside that doom?

Prom.No, none; unless I from my bonds be loosed.

Io.Who then shall loose thee ’gainst the will of Zeus?

Prom.It must be one of thy posterity.

Io.What, shall a child of mine free thee from ills?


Prom.Yea, the third generation after ten.

Io.No more thine oracles are clear to me.

Prom.Nay, seek not thou thine own drear fate to know.

Io.Do not, a boon presenting, then withdraw it.

Prom.Of two alternatives, I’ll give thee choice.

Io.Tell me of what, then give me leave to choose.

Prom.I give it then. Choose, or that I should tell

Thy woes to come, or who shall set me free.

Chor.Of these be willing one request to grant

To her, and one to me; nor scorn my words:

Tell her what yet of wandering she must bear,

And me who shall release thee. This I crave.

Prom.Since ye are eager, I will not refuse

To utter fully all that ye desire.

Thee, Io, first I’ll tell thy wanderings wild,

Thou, write it in the tablets of thy mind.

When thou shalt cross the straits, of continents

The boundary, take thou the onward path

On to the fiery-hued and sun-tracked East.

[And first of all, to frozen Northern blasts

Thou’lt come, and there beware the rushing whirl,

Lest it should come upon thee suddenly,

And sweep thee onward with the cloud-rack wild;]

Crossing the sea-surf till thou come at last

Unto Kisthene’s Gorgoneian plains,

Where dwell the grey-haired virgin Phorkides,

Three, swan-shaped, with one eye between them all

And but one tooth; whom nor the sun beholds

With radiant beams, nor yet the moon by night:

And near them are their wingèd sisters three,

The Gorgons, serpent-tressed, and hating men,

Whom mortal wight may not behold and live.

Such is one ill I bid thee guard against;

Now hear another monstrous sight: Beware

The sharp-beaked hounds of Zeus that never bark,

The Gryphons, and the one-eyed mounted host

Of Arimaspians, who around the stream

That flows o’er gold, the ford of Pluto, dwell:

Draw not thou night to them. But distant land

Thou shalt approach, the swarthy tribes who dwell

By the sun’s fountain, Æthiopia’s stream:

By its banks wend thy way until thou come To

that great fall where from the Bybline hills

The Neilos pours its pure and holy flood;

And it shall guide thee to Neilotic land,

Three-angled, where, O Io, ’tis decreed

For thee and for thy progeny to found

A far-off colony. And if of this

Aught seem to thee as stammering speech obscure,

Ask yet again and learn it thoroughly:

Far more of leisure have I than I like.

Chor.If thou hast aught to add, aught left untold

Of her sore-wasting wanderings, speak it out;

But if thou hast said all, then grant to us

The boon we asked. Thou dost not, sure, forget it.

Prom.The whole course of her journeying she hath heard,

And that she show she hath not heard in vain

I will tell out what troubles she hath borne

Before she came here, giving her sure proof

Of these my words. The greater bulk of things

I will pass o’er, and to the very goal

Of all thy wanderings go. For when thou cam’st

To the Molossian plains, and by the grove

Of lofty-ridged Dodona, and the shrine

Oracular of Zeus Thesprotian,

And the strange portent of the talking oaks,

By which full clearly, not in riddle dark,

Thou wast addressed as noble spouse of Zeus,—

If aught of pleasure such things give to thee,—

Thence strung to frenzy, thou didst rush along

The sea-coast’s path to Rhea’s mighty gulf,

In backward way from whence thou now art vexed,

And for all time to come that reach of sea,

Know well, from thee Ionian shall be called,

To all men record of thy journeyings.

These then are tokens to thee that my mind

Sees somewhat more than that is manifest.

What follows (to the Chorus) I will speak to you and her

In common, on the track of former words

Returning once again. A city stands,

Canobos, at its country’s furthest bound,

Hard by the mouth and silt-bank of the Nile;

There Zeus shall give thee back thy mind again,

With hand that works no terror touching thee,—

Touch only—and thou then shalt bear a child

Of Zeus begotten, Epaphos, “Touch-born,”

Swarthy of hue, whose lot shall be to reap

The whole plain watered by the broad-streamed Neilos:

And in the generation fifth from him

A household numbering fifty shall return

Against their will to Argos, in their flight

From wedlock with their cousins. And they too

(Kites but a little space behind the doves),

With eager hopes pursuing marriage rites,

Beyond pursuit shall come; and God shall grudge

To give up their sweet bodies. And the land

Pelasgian shall receive them, when by stroke

Of woman’s murderous hand these men shall lie

Smitten to death by daring deed of night:

For every bride shall take her husband’s life,

And dip in blood the sharp two-edgèd sword

(So to my foes may Kypris show herself!)

Yet one of that fair band shall love persuade

Her husband not to slaughter, and her will

Shall lose its edge; and she shall make her choice

Rather as weak than murderous to be known.

And she at Argos shall a royal seed

Bring forth (long speech ’twould take to tell this clear)

Famed for his arrows, who shall set me free

From these my woes. Such was the oracle

Mine ancient mother Themis, Titan-born,

Gave to me; but the manner and the means,—

That needs a lengthy tale to tell the whole,

And thou canst nothing gain by learning it.

Io.Eleleu! Oh, Eleleu!

The throbbing pain inflames me, and the mood

Of frenzy-smitten rage;

The gadfly’s pointed stings,

Not forged with fire, attacks,

And my heart beats against my breast with fear.

Mine eyes whirl round and round:

Out of my course I’m borne

By the wild spirit of fierce agony,

And cannot curb my lips,

And turbid speech at random dashes on

Upon the waves of dread calamity.

Chor.Wise, very wise was he

Who first in thought conceived this maxim sage,

That the best wedlock is with equals found,

And that a craftsman, born to work with hands,

Should not desire to wed

Or with the soft luxurious heirs of wealth,

Or with the race that boast their lineage high.

Oh ne’er, oh ne’er, dread Fates,

May ye behold me as the bride of Zeus,

The partner of His couch,

Nor may I wed with any heaven—born spouse!

For I shrink back, beholding Io’s lot

Of loveless maindenhood,

Consumed and smitten low exceedingly

By the wild wanderings from great Hera sent!

To me, when wedlock is on equal terms,

It gives no cause to fear:

Ne’er may the love of any of the Gods,

The strong Gods, look on me

With glance I cannot ’scape!

That fate is was that none can war against,

Source of resourceless ill;

Nor know I what might then become of me:

I see not how to ’scape

The counsel deep of Zeus.

Prom.Yea, of a truth shall Zeus, though stiff of will,

Be brought full low. Such bed of wedlock now

Is He preparing, one to cast Him forth

In darkness from His sovereignty and throne.

And then the curse His father Cronos spake

Shall have its dread completion, even that

He uttered when he left his ancient throne;

And from these troubles no one of the Gods

But me can clearly show the way to ’scape.

I know the time and manner: therefore now

Let Him sit fearless, in His peals on high

Putting His trust, and shaking in His hands

His darts fire-breathing. Nought shall they avail

To hinder Him from falling shamefully

A fall intolerable. Such a combatant

He arms against Himself, a marvel dread,

Who shall a fire discover mightier far

Than the red levin, and a sound more dread

Than roaring of the thunder, and shall shiver

That plague sea-born that causeth earth to quake,

The trident, weapon of Poseidon’s strength:

And stumbling on this evil, He shall learn

How far apart a king’s lot from a slave’s.

Chor.What thou dost with thou mutterest against Zeus.

Prom.Things that shall be, and things I wish, I speak.

Chor.And must we look for one to master Zeus?

Prom.Yea, troubles harder far than these are His.

Chor.Art not afraid to vent such words as these?

Prom.What can I fear whose fate is not to die?

Chor.But He may send on thee worse pain than this.

Prom.So let Him do: nought finds me prepared.


Chor.Wisdom is theirs who Adrasteia worship.

Prom.Worship then, praise and flatter Him that rules;

My care for Zeus is nought, and less than nought:

Let Him act, let Him rule this little while,

E’en as He will; for long He shall not rule

Over the Gods. But lo! I seed at hand

The courier of the Gods, the minister

Of our new sovereign. Doubtless he has come

To bring me tidings of some new device.

Herm.Thee do I speak to,—thee, the teacher wise,

The bitterly o’er-bitter, who ’gainst Gods

Hast sinned in giving gifts to short-lived men—

I speak to thee, the filcher of bright fire.

The Father bids thee say what marriage thou

Dost vaunt, and who shall hurl Him from His might;

And this too not in dark mysterious speech,

But tell each point out clearly. Give me not,

Prometheus, task of double journey. Zeus,

Thou seest, is not with such words appeased.

Prom.Stately of utterance, full of haughtiness

Thy speech, as fits a messenger of Gods.

Ye yet are young in your new rule, and think

To dwell in painless towers. Have I not

Seen two great rulers driven forth from thence?

And now the third, who reigneth, I shall see

In basest, quickest fall. Seem I to thee

To shrink and quail before these new-made Gods?

Far, very far from that am I. But thou,

Track once again the path by which thou camest;

Thou shalt learn nought of what thou askest me.

Herm.It was by such self-will as this before

That thou didst bring these sufferings on thyself.

Prom.I for my part, be sure, would never change

My evil state for that thy bondslave’s lot.

Herm.To be the bondslave of this rock, I trow,

Is better than to be Zeus’ trusty herald!

Prom.So it is meet the insulter to insult.

Herm.Thou waxest proud, ’twould seem, of this thy doom.

Prom.Wax proud! God grant that I may see my foes

Thus waxing proud, and thee among the rest!

Herm.Dost blame me then for thy calamities?

Prom.In one short sentence—all the Gods I hate,

Who my good turns with evil turns repay.

Herm.Thy words prove thee with no slight madness plagued.

Prom.If to hate foes be madness, mad I am.

Herm.Not one could bear thee wert thou prosperous.

Prom.Ah me!

Herm.That word is all unknown to Zeus.

Prom.Time waxing old can many a lesson teach.

Herm.Yet thou at least hast not true wisdom learnt.

Prom.I had not else addressed a slave like thee.

Herm.Thou wilt say nought the Father asks, ’twould seem.

Prom.Fine debt I owe Him, favour to repay.

Herm.Me as a boy thou scornest then, forsooth.

Prom.And art thou not a boy, and sillier far,

If that thou thinkest to learn aught from me?

There is no torture nor device by which

Zeus can impel me to disclose these things

Before these bonds that outrage me be loosed.

Let then the blazing levin-flash be hurled;

With white-winged snow-storm and with earth-born thunders

Let Him disturb and trouble all that is;

Nought of these things shall force me to declare

Whose hand shall drive Him from His sovereignty.

Herm.See if thou findest any help in this.

Prom.Long since all this I’ve seen, and formed my plans.

Herm.O fool, take heart, take heart at last in time,

To form right thoughts for these thy present woes.

Prom.Like one who soothes a wave, thy speech in vain

Vexes my soul. But deem not thou that I,

Fearing the will of Zeus, shall e’er become

As womanised in mind, or shall entreat

Him whom I greatly loathe, with upturned hand,

In woman’s fashion, from these bonds of mine

To set me free. Far, far am I from that.

Herm.It seems that I, saying much, shall speak in vain;

For thou in nought by prayers art pacified,

Or softened in thy heart, but like a colt

Fresh harnessed, thou dost champ thy bit, and strive,

And fight against the reins. Yet thou art stiff

In weak device; for self-will, by itself,

In one who is not wise, is less than nought.

Look to it, if thou disobey my words,

How great a storm and triple wave of ills,

Not to be ’scaped, shall come on thee; for first,

With thunder and the levin’s blazing flash

The Father this ravine of rocks shall crush,

And shall thy carcase hide, and stern embrace

Of stony arms shall keep thee in thy place.

And having traversed space of time full long,

Thou shalt come back to light, and then his hound,

The wingèd hound of Zeus, the ravening eagle,

Shall greedily make banquet of thy flesh,

Coming all day an uninvited guest,

And glut himself upon thy liver dark.

And of that anguish look not for the end,

Before some God shall come to bear thy woes,

And will to pass to Hades’ sunless realm,

And the dark cloudy depths of Tartaros.

Wherefore take heed. No feigned boast is this,

But spoken all too truly; for the lips

Of Zeus know not to speak in lying speech,

But will perform each single word. And thou,

Search well, be wise, nor think that self-willed pride

Shall ever better prove than counsel good.

Chor.To us doth Hermes seem to utter words

Not out of season; for he bids thee quit

Thy self-willed pride and seek for counsel good.

Hearken thou to him. To the wise of soul

It is foul shame to sin persistently.

Prom.To me who knew it all

He hath this message borne;

And that a foe from foes

Should suffer is not strange.

Therefore on me be hurled

The sharp-edged wreath of fire;

And let heaven’s vault be stirred

With thunder and the blasts

Of fiercest winds; and earth

From its foundations strong,

E’en to its deepest roots,

Let storm-wind make to rock;

And let the ocean wave,

With wild and foaming surge,

Be heaped up to the paths

Where move the stars of heaven;

And to dark Tartaros

Let Him my carcase hurl,

With mighty blasts of force:

Yet me He shall not slay.

Herm.Such words and thoughts from one

Brain-stricken one may hear.

What space divides his state

From frenzy? What repose

Hath he from maddened rage?

But ye who pitying stand

And share his bitter griefs,

Quickly from hence depart,

Lest the relentless roar

Of thunder stun your soul.

Chor.With other words attempt

To counsel and persuade,

And I will hear: for now

Thou hast this word thrust in

That we may never bear.

How dost thou bid me train

My soul to baseness vile?

With him I will endure

Whatever is decreed.

Traitors I’ve learned to hate,

Nor is there any plague

That more than this I loathe.

Herm.Nay then, remember ye

What now I say, nor blame

Your fortune: never say

That Zeus hath cast you down

To evil not foreseen.

Not so; ye cast yourselves:

For now with open eyes,

Not taken unawares,

In Atè’s endless net

Ye shall entangled be

By folly of your own.[A pause, and then flashes of lightning and peals of thunder

Prom.Yea, now in very deed,

No more in word alone,

The earth shakes to and fro,

And the loud thunder’s voice

Bellows hard by, and blaze

The flashing levin-fires;

And tempests whirl the dust,

And gusts of all wild winds

On one another leap,

In wild conflicting blasts,

And sky with sea is blent:

Such is the storm from Zeus

That comes as working fear,

In terrors manifest.

O Mother venerable!

O Æther! rolling round

The common light of all,

Seest thou what wrongs I bear?

And spread it with his speech,