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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Russia: Vol. XX. 1876–79.

Asiatic Russia: Caucasus, the Mountains

Prometheus Bound

By Æschylus (525–456 B.C.)

Translated by Mrs. E. B. Browning

PROMETHEUS (alone).O holy Æther, and swift-winged Winds,

And River-wells, and laughter innumerous

Of yon Sea-waves! Earth, mother of us all,

And all-viewing cyclic Sun, I cry on you!—

Behold me a god, what I endure from gods!

Behold, with throe on throe,

How, wasted by this woe,

I wrestle down the myriad years of Time!

Behold, how, fast around me,

The new King of the happy ones sublime

Has flung the chain he forged, has shamed and bound me!

Woe, woe! to-day’s woe and the coming morrow’s,

I cover with one groan! And where is found me

A limit to these sorrows?

And yet what word do I say? I have foreknown

Clearly all things that should be—nothing done

Comes sudden to my soul,—and I must bear

What is ordained with patience, being aware

Necessity doth front the universe

With an invincible gesture. Yet this curse

Which strikes me now, I find it hard to brave

In silence or in speech. Because I gave

Honor to mortals, I have yoked my soul

To this compelling fate! Because I stole

The secret fount of fire, whose bubbles went

Over the ferule’s brim, and manward sent

Art’s mighty means and perfect rudiment,

That sin I expiate in this agony,

Hung here in fetters, ’neath the blanching sky!

Ah, ah me! what a sound,

What a fragrance sweeps up from a pinion unseen

Of a god, or a mortal, or nature between,—

Sweeping up to this rock where the earth has her bound,

To have sight of my pangs,—or some guerdon obtain,—

Lo! a god in the anguish, a god in the chain!

The god, Zeus hateth sore,

And his gods hate again,

As many as tread on his glorified floor,—

Because I loved mortals too much evermore!

Alas me! what a murmur and motion I hear,

As of birds flying near!

And the air undersings

The light stroke of their wings—

And all life that approaches I wait for in fear.

Fear nothing! our troop

Floats lovingly up,

With a quick-oaring stroke

Of wings steered to the rock,

Having softened the soul of our father below!

For the gales of swift-bearing have sent me a sound,—

And the clank of the iron, the malleted blow,

Smote down the profound

Of my caverns of old,

And struck the red light in a blush from my brow,—

Till I sprang up unsandalled, in haste to behold,

And rushed forth on my chariot of wings manifold.

PROM.Alas me!—alas me!

Ye offspring of Tethys who bore at her breast

Many children, and eke of Oceanus,—he,

Coiling still around earth with perpetual unrest!

Behold me and see!

How transfixed with the fang

Of a fetter, I hang

On the high-jutting rocks of this fissure, and keep

An uncoveted watch o’er the world and the deep.

I behold thee, Prometheus,—yet now, yet now,

A terrible cloud, whose rain is tears,

Sweeps over mine eyes that witness how

Thy body appears

Hung awaste on the rocks by infrangible chains!

For new is the hand and the rudder that steers

The ship of Olympus through surge and wind—

And of old things passed, no track is behind.

PROM.Under earth, under Hades,

Where the home of the shade is,

All into the deep, deep Tartarus,

I would he had hurled me adown!

I would he had plunged me, fastened thus

In the knotted chain, with the savage clang,

All into the dark, where there should be none,

Neither god nor another, to laugh and see!

But now the winds sing through and shake

The hurtling chains wherein I hang,—

And I, in my naked sorrows, make

Much mirth for my enemy.

Nay! who of the gods hath a heart so stern

As to use thy woe for a mock and mirth?

Who would not turn more mild to learn

Thy sorrows? who of the heaven and earth,

Save Zeus? But he

Right wrathfully

Bears on his sceptral soul unbent,

And rules thereby the heavenly seed,

Nor will he cease, till he content

His thirsty heart in a finished deed;

Or till Another shall appear,

To win by fraud, to seize by fear

The hard-to-be-captured government.

PROM.Yet even of me he shall have need,

That monarch of the blessed seed,

Of me, of me, who now am cursed

By his fetters dire,

To wring my secret out withal

And learn by whom his sceptre shall

Be filched from him—as was, at first,

His heavenly fire!

But he never shall enchant me

With his honey-lipped persuasion,

Never, never shall he daunt me

With the oath and threat of passion,

Into speaking as they want me,

Till he loose this savage chain,

And accept the expiation

Of my sorrow, in his pain.

Thou art, sooth, a brave god,

And, for all thou hast borne

From the stroke of the rod,

Naught relaxest from scorn!

But thou speakest unto me

Too free and unworn—

And a terror strikes through me

And festers my soul,

And I fear, in the roll

Of the storm, for thy fate

In the ship far from shore—

Since the son of Saturnius is hard in his hate

And unmoved in his heart evermore.


PROM.Beseech you, think not I am silent thus

Through pride or scorn! I only gnaw my heart

With meditation, seeing myself so wronged!

For so,—their honors to these new-made gods,

What other gave but I,—and dealt them out

With distribution? Ay, but here I am dumb!

For here, I should repeat your knowledge to you,

If I spake aught. List rather to the deeds

I did for mortals! how, being fools before,

I made them wise and true in aim of soul!

And let me tell you—not as taunting men,

But teaching you the intention of my gifts,

How, first beholding, they beheld in vain,

And hearing, heard not, but, like shapes in dreams,

Mixed all things wildly down the tedious time,

Nor knew to build a house against the sun,

With wicketed sides, nor any woodcraft knew,

But lived, like silly ants, beneath the ground

In hollow caves unsunned. There, came to them

No steadfast sign of winter, nor of spring

Flower-perfumed, nor of summer full of fruit,—

But blindly and lawlessly they did all things

Until I taught them how the stars do rise

And set in mystery, and devised for them

Number, the inducer of philosophies,

The synthesis of Letters, and, beside,

The artificer of all things, Memory,

That sweet Muse-mother. I was first to yoke

The servile beasts in couples, carrying

An heirdom of man’s burdens on their backs!

I joined to chariots steeds that love the bit

They champ at, the chief pomp of golden ease!

And none but I originated ships,

The seaman’s chariots, wandering on the brine

With linen wings! And I—O, miserable!—

Who did devise for mortals all these arts,

Have no device left now to save myself

From the woe I suffer!


Never, O, never,

May Zeus, the all-giver,

Wrestle down from his throne

In that might of his own

To antagonize mine!

Nor let me delay

As I bend on my way

Toward the gods of the shrine,

Where the altar is full

Of the blood of the bull,

Near the tossing brine

Of Ocean my father!

May no sin be sped in the word that is said,

But my vow, be rather


Nor evermore fail, nor evermore pine.

’T is sweet to have

Life lengthened out

With hopes proved brave

By the very doubt,

Till the spirit enfold

Those manifest joys which were foretold!

But I thrill to behold

Thee, victim doomed,

By the countless cares

And the drear despairs,

For ever consumed,—

And all because thou, who art fearless now

Of Zeus above,

Dost overflow for mankind below

With a free-souled, reverent love.

Ah friend, behold and see!

What ’s all the beauty of humanity?

Can it be fair?

What ’s all the strength?—is it strong?

And what hope can they bear,

These dying livers—living one day long?

Ah, seest thou not, my friend,

How feeble and slow

And like a dream, doth go

This poor blind manhood, drifted from its end?

And how no mortal wranglings can confuse

The harmony of Zeus?

Prometheus, I have learnt these things

From the sorrow in thy face!

Another song did fold its wings

Upon my lips in other days

When round the bath and round the bed

The hymeneal chant instead

I sang for thee, and smiled,—

And thou didst lead, with gifts and vows,

Hesione, my father’s child,

To be thy wedded spouse.