Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Russia
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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
Æschylus (525–456 B.C.)
 
(Excerpt)
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!        5
        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        10
  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        15
  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        20
  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        25
  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,        30
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!        35
          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,        40
          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.
 
CHORUS OF SEA NYMPHS, 1ST STROPHE
          Fear nothing! our troop
        45
          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,—        50
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,        55
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!        60
        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.        65
 
CHORUS, 1ST ANTISTROPHE
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!        70
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,        75
  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,        80
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.        85
 
CHORUS, 2D STROPHE
  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        90
          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;        95
    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,        100
  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,        105
        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,        110
  Into speaking as they want me,
  Till he loose this savage chain,
        And accept the expiation
      Of my sorrow, in his pain.
 
CHORUS, 2D ANTISTROPHE
      Thou art, sooth, a brave god,
        115
        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—        120
      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—        125
      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!        130
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        135
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,        140
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        145
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        150
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        155
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,        160
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!
*        *        *        *        *
        165
CHORUS, 1ST STROPHE
            Never, O, never,
            May Zeus, the all-giver,
            Wrestle down from his throne
            In that might of his own
            To antagonize mine!        170
            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,        175
            Near the tossing brine
            Of Ocean my father!
    May no sin be sped in the word that is said,
            But my vow, be rather
                Consummated,        180
      Nor evermore fail, nor evermore pine.
 
1ST ANTISTROPHE
            ’T is sweet to have
              Life lengthened out
            With hopes proved brave
              By the very doubt,        185
            Till the spirit enfold
      Those manifest joys which were foretold!
            But I thrill to behold
              Thee, victim doomed,
            By the countless cares        190
            And the drear despairs,
              For ever consumed,—
And all because thou, who art fearless now
            Of Zeus above,
Dost overflow for mankind below        195
  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?        200
  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        205
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!        210
    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,—        215
  And thou didst lead, with gifts and vows,
    Hesione, my father’s child,
  To be thy wedded spouse.
 
 
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