Prometheus Unbound: A Lyrical Drama in Four Acts.




SCENE I.--Heaven. JUPITER on his Throne; THETIS and the other Deities assembled.
 JUPITER YE congregated powers of heaven, who share The glory and the strength of him ye serve, Rejoice! henceforth I am omnipotent. All else had been subdued to me; alone The soul of man, like unextinguished fire, Yet burns towards heaven with fierce reproach, and doubt, And lamentation, and reluctant prayer, Hurling up insurrection, which might make Our antique empire insecure, though built On eldest faith, and hell's coeval, fear; 10 And though my curses through the pendulous air, Like snow on herbless peaks, fall flake by flake, And cling to it; though under my wrath's night It climb the crags of life, step after step, Which wound it, as ice wounds unsandalled feet, It yet remains supreme o'er misery, Aspiring, unrepressed, yet soon to fall; Even now have I begotten a strange wonder, That fatal child, the terror of the earth, Who waits but till the destined hour arrive, 20 Bearing from Demogorgon's vacant throne The dreadful might of ever-living limbs Which clothed that awful spirit unbeheld, To redescend, and trample out the spark. Pour forth heaven's wine, Idæan Ganymede, And let it fill the dædal cups like fire, And from the flower-inwoven soil divine, Ye all-triumphant harmonies, arise, As dew from earth under the twilight stars. Drink! be the nectar circling through your veins 30 The soul of joy, ye ever-living Gods, Till exultation burst in one wide voice Like music from Elysian winds. And thou Ascend beside me, veilèd in the light Of the desire which makes thee one with me, Thetis, bright image of eternity! When thou didst cry, 'Insufferable might! God! spare me! I sustain not the quick flames, The penetrating presence; all my being, Like him whom the Numidian seps did thaw 40 Into a dew with poison, is dissolved, Sinking through its foundations,'--even then Two mighty spirits, mingling, made a third Mightier than either, which, unbodied now, Between us floats, felt, although unbeheld, Waiting the incarnation, which ascends, (Hear ye the thunder of the fiery wheels Griding the winds?) from Demogorgon's throne. Victory! victory! Feel'st thou not, O world, The earthquake of his chariot thundering up 50 Olympus? 
[The Car of the HOUR arrives. DEMOGORGON descends and moves towards the Throne of JUPITER.
 Awful shape, what art thou? Speak! DEMOGORGON Eternity. Demand no direr name. Descend, and follow me down the abyss. I am thy child, as thou wert Saturn's child; Mightier than thee; and we must dwell together Henceforth in darkness. Lift thy lightnings not. The tyranny of heaven none may retain, Or reassume, or hold, succeeding thee; Yet if thou wilt, as 't is the destiny Of trodden worms to writhe till they are dead, 60 Put forth thy might. JUPITER Detested prodigy! Even thus beneath the deep Titanian prisons I trample thee! Thou lingerest? Mercy! mercy! No pity, no release, no respite! Oh, That thou wouldst make mine enemy my judge, Even where he hangs, seared by my long revenge, On Caucasus! he would not doom me thus. Gentle, and just, and dreadless, is he not The monarch of the world? What then art thou? No refuge! no appeal! Sink with me then, 70 We two will sink on the wide waves of ruin, Even as a vulture and a snake outspent Drop, twisted in inextricable fight, Into a shoreless sea! Let hell unlock Its mounded oceans of tempestuous fire, And whelm on them into the bottomless void This desolated world, and thee, and me, The conqueror and the conquered, and the wreck Of that for which they combated! Ai, Ai! The elements obey me not. I sink 80 Dizzily down, ever, forever, down. And, like a cloud, mine enemy above Darkens my fall with victory! Ai, Ai! 
SCENE II.--The Mouth of a great River in the Island Atlantis. OCEAN is discovered reclining near the shore; APOLLO stands beside him.
 OCEAN He fell, thou sayest, beneath his conqueror's frown? APOLLO Ay, when the strife was ended which made dim The orb I rule, and shook the solid stars, The terrors of his eye illumined heaven With sanguine light, through the thick ragged skirts Of the victorious darkness, as he fell; Like the last glare of day's red agony, Which, from a rent among the fiery clouds, Burns far along the tempest-wrinkled deep. OCEAN He sunk to the abyss? to the dark void? 10 APOLLO An eagle so caught in some bursting cloud On Caucasus, his thunder-baffled wings Entangled in the whirlwind, and his eyes, Which gazed on the undazzling sun, now blinded By the white lightning, while the ponderous hail Beats on his struggling form, which sinks at length Prone, and the aërial ice clings over it. OCEAN Henceforth the fields of Heaven-reflecting sea Which are my realm, will heave, unstained with blood, Beneath the uplifting winds, like plains of corn 20 Swayed by the summer air; my streams will flow Round many-peopled continents, and round Fortunate isles; and from their glassy thrones Blue Proteus and his humid nymphs shall mark The shadow of fair ships, as mortals see The floating bark of the light-laden moon With that white star, its sightless pilot's crest, Borne down the rapid sunset's ebbing sea; Tracking their path no more by blood and groans, And desolation, and the mingled voice 30 Of slavery and command; but by the light Of wave-reflected flowers, and floating odors, And music soft, and mild, free, gentle voices, That sweetest music, such as spirits love. APOLLO And I shall gaze not on the deeds which make My mind obscure with sorrow, as eclipse Darkens the sphere I guide. But list, I hear The small, clear, silver lute of the young Spirit That sits i' the morning star. OCEAN Thou must away; Thy steeds will pause at even, till when farewell. 40 The loud deep calls me home even now to feed it With azure calm out of the emerald urns Which stand forever full beside my throne. Behold the Nereids under the green sea, Their wavering limbs borne on the windlike stream, Their white arms lifted o'er their streaming hair, With garlands pied and starry sea-flower crowns, Hastening to grace their mighty sister's joy. [A sound of waves is heard. It is the unpastured sea hungering for calm. Peace, monster; I come now. Farewell. APOLLO Farewell. 50 
SCENE III.--Caucasus. PROMETHEUS, HERCULES, IONE, the EARTH, SPIRITS, ASIA, and PANTHEA, borne in the Car with the SPIRIT OF THE HOUR. HERCULES unbinds PROMETHEUS, who descends.
 HERCULES Most glorious among spirits! thus doth strength To wisdom, courage, and long-suffering love, And thee, who art the form they animate, Minister like a slave. PROMETHEUS Thy gentle words Are sweeter even than freedom long desired And long delayed. Asia, thou light of life, Shadow of beauty unbeheld; and ye, Fair sister nymphs, who made long years of pain Sweet to remember, through your love and care; Henceforth we will not part. There is a cave, 10 All overgrown with trailing odorous plants, Which curtain out the day with leaves and flowers, And paved with veinèd emerald; and a fountain Leaps in the midst with an awakening sound. From its curved roof the mountain's frozen tears, Like snow, or silver, or long diamond spires, Hang downward, raining forth a doubtful light; And there is heard the ever-moving air Whispering without from tree to tree, and birds, And bees; and all around are mossy seats, 20 And the rough walls are clothed with long soft grass; A simple dwelling, which shall be our own; Where we will sit and talk of time and change, As the world ebbs and flows, ourselves unchanged. What can hide man from mutability? And if ye sigh, then I will smile; and thou, Ione, shalt chant fragments of sea-music, Until I weep, when ye shall smile away The tears she brought, which yet were sweet to shed. We will entangle buds and flowers and beams 30 Which twinkle on the fountain's brim, and make Strange combinations out of common things, Like human babes in their brief innocence; And we will search, with looks and words of love, For hidden thoughts, each lovelier than the last, Our unexhausted spirits; and, like lutes Touched by the skill of the enamoured wind, Weave harmonies divine, yet ever new, From difference sweet where discord cannot be; And hither come, sped on the charmèd winds, 40 Which meet from all the points of heaven--as bees From every flower aërial Enna feeds At their known island-homes in Himera-- The echoes of the human world, which tell Of the low voice of love, almost unheard, And dove-eyed pity's murmured pain, and music, Itself the echo of the heart, and all That tempers or improves man's life, now free; And lovely apparitions,--dim at first, Then radiant, as the mind arising bright 50 From the embrace of beauty (whence the forms Of which these are the phantoms) casts on them The gathered rays which are reality-- Shall visit us the progeny immortal Of Painting, Sculpture, and rapt Poesy, And arts, though unimagined, yet to be; The wandering voices and the shadows these Of all that man becomes, the mediators Of that best worship, love, by him and us Given and returned; swift shapes and sounds, which grow 60 More fair and soft as man grows wise and kind, And, veil by veil, evil and error fall. Such virtue has the cave and place around. [Turning to the SPIRIT OF THE HOUR. For thee, fair Spirit, one toil remains. Ione, Give her that curvèd shell, which Proteus old Made Asia's nuptial boon, breathing within it A voice to be accomplished, and which thou Didst hide in grass under the hollow rock. IONE Thou most desired Hour, more loved and lovely Than all thy sisters, this is the mystic shell. 70 See the pale azure fading into silver Lining it with a soft yet glowing light. Looks it not like lulled music sleeping there? SPIRIT It seems in truth the fairest shell of Ocean: Its sound must be at once both sweet and strange. PROMETHEUS Go, borne over the cities of mankind On whirlwind-footed coursers; once again Outspeed the sun around the orbèd world; And as thy chariot cleaves the kindling air, Thou breathe into the many-folded shell, 80 Loosening its mighty music; it shall be As thunder mingled with clear echoes; then Return; and thou shalt dwell beside our cave. And thou, O Mother Earth!-- THE EARTH I hear, I feel; Thy lips are on me, and thy touch runs down Even to the adamantine central gloom Along these marble nerves; 't is life, 't is joy, And, through my withered, old, and icy frame The warmth of an immortal youth shoots down Circling. Henceforth the many children fair 90 Folded in my sustaining arms; all plants, And creeping forms, and insects rainbow-winged, And birds, and beasts, and fish, and human shapes, Which drew disease and pain from my wan bosom, Draining the poison of despair, shall take And interchange sweet nutriment; to me Shall they become like sister-antelopes By one fair dam, snow-white, and swift as wind, Nursed among lilies near a brimming stream. The dew-mists of my sunless sleep shall float 100 Under the stars like balm; night-folded flowers Shall suck unwithering hues in their repose; And men and beasts in happy dreams shall gather Strength for the coming day, and all its joy; And death shall be the last embrace of her Who takes the life she gave, even as a mother, Folding her child, says, 'Leave me not again.' ASIA Oh, mother! wherefore speak the name of death? Cease they to love, and move, and breathe, and speak, Who die? THE EARTH It would avail not to reply; 110 Thou art immortal and this tongue is known But to the uncommunicating dead. Death is the veil which those who live call life; They sleep, and it is lifted; and meanwhile In mild variety the seasons mild With rainbow-skirted showers, and odorous winds, And long blue meteors cleansing the dull night, And the life-kindling shafts of the keen sun's All-piercing bow, and the dew-mingled rain Of the calm moonbeams, a soft influence mild, 120 Shall clothe the forests and the fields, ay, even The crag-built deserts of the barren deep, With ever-living leaves, and fruits, and flowers. And thou! there is a cavern where my spirit Was panted forth in anguish whilst thy pain Made my heart mad, and those who did inhale it Became mad too, and built a temple there, And spoke, and were oracular, and lured The erring nations round to mutual war, And faithless faith, such as Jove kept with thee; 130 Which breath now rises as amongst tall weeds A violet's exhalation, and it fills With a serener light and crimson air Intense, yet soft, the rocks and woods around; It feeds the quick growth of the serpent vine, And the dark linkèd ivy tangling wild, And budding, blown, or odor-faded blooms Which star the winds with points of colored light As they rain through them, and bright golden globes Of fruit suspended in their own green heaven, 140 And through their veinèd leaves and amber stems The flowers whose purple and translucid bowls Stand ever mantling with aërial dew, The drink of spirits; and it circles round, Like the soft waving wings of noonday dreams, Inspiring calm and happy thoughts, like mine, Now thou art thus restored. This cave is thine. Arise! Appear! [A SPIRIT rises in the likeness of a winged child. This is my torch-bearer; Who let his lamp out in old time with gazing On eyes from which he kindled it anew 150 With love, which is as fire, sweet daughter mine, For such is that within thine own. Run, wayward, And guide this company beyond the peak Of Bacchic Nysa, Mænad-haunted mountain, And beyond Indus and its tribute rivers, Trampling the torrent streams and glassy lakes With feet unwet, unwearied, undelaying, And up the green ravine, across the vale, Beside the windless and crystalline pool, Where ever lies, on unerasing waves, 160 The image of a temple, built above, Distinct with column, arch, and architrave, And palm-like capital, and overwrought, And populous most with living imagery, Praxitelean shapes, whose marble smiles Fill the hushed air with everlasting love. It is deserted now, but once it bore Thy name, Prometheus; there the emulous youths Bore to thy honor through the divine gloom The lamp which was thine emblem; even as those 170 Who bear the untransmitted torch of hope Into the grave, across the night of life, As thou hast borne it most triumphantly To this far goal of Time. Depart, farewell! Beside that temple is the destined cave. 
SCENE IV.--A Forest. In the background a Cave. PROMETHEUS, ASIA, PANTHEA, IONE, and the SPIRIT OF THE EARTH.
 IONE Sister, it is not earthly; how it glides Under the leaves! how on its head there burns A light, like a green star, whose emerald beams Are twined with its fair hair! how, as it moves, The splendor drops in flakes upon the grass! Knowest thou it? PANTHEA It is the delicate spirit That guides the earth through heaven. From afar The populous constellations call that light The loveliest of the planets; and sometimes It floats along the spray of the salt sea, 10 Or makes its chariot of a foggy cloud, Or walks through fields or cities while men sleep, Or o'er the mountain tops, or down the rivers, Or through the green waste wilderness, as now, Wondering at all it sees. Before Jove reigned It loved our sister Asia, and it came Each leisure hour to drink the liquid light Out of her eyes, for which it said it thirsted As one bit by a dipsas, and with her It made its childish confidence, and told her 20 All it had known or seen, for it saw much, Yet idly reasoned what it saw; and called her, For whence it sprung it knew not, nor do I, Mother, dear mother. THE SPIRIT OF THE EARTH, running to ASIA Mother, dearest mother! May I then talk with thee as I was wont? May I then hide my eyes in thy soft arms, After thy looks have made them tired of joy? May I then play beside thee the long noons, When work is none in the bright silent air? ASIA I love thee, gentlest being, and henceforth 30 Can cherish thee unenvied. Speak, I pray; Thy simple talk once solaced, now delights. SPIRIT OF THE EARTH Mother, I am grown wiser, though a child Cannot be wise like thee, within this day; And happier too; happier and wiser both. Thou knowest that toads, and snakes, and loathly worms, And venomous and malicious beasts, and boughs That bore ill berries in the woods, were ever An hindrance to my walks o'er the green world; And that, among the haunts of humankind, 40 Hard-featured men, or with proud, angry looks, Or cold, staid gait, or false and hollow smiles, Or the dull sneer of self-loved ignorance, Or other such foul masks, with which ill thoughts Hide that fair being whom we spirits call man; And women too, ugliest of all things evil, (Though fair, even in a world where thou art fair, When good and kind, free and sincere like thee) When false or frowning made me sick at heart To pass them, though they slept, and I unseen. 50 Well, my path lately lay through a great city Into the woody hills surrounding it; A sentinel was sleeping at the gate; When there was heard a sound, so loud, it shook The towers amid the moonlight, yet more sweet Than any voice but thine, sweetest of all; A long, long sound, as it would never end; And all the inhabitants leapt suddenly Out of their rest, and gathered in the streets, Looking in wonder up to Heaven, while yet 60 The music pealed along. I hid myself Within a fountain in the public square, Where I lay like the reflex of the moon Seen in a wave under green leaves; and soon Those ugly human shapes and visages Of which I spoke as having wrought me pain, Passed floating through the air and fading still Into the winds that scattered them; and those From whom they passed seemed mild and lovely forms After some foul disguise had fallen, and all 70 Were somewhat changed, and after brief surprise And greetings of delighted wonder, all Went to their sleep again; and when the dawn Came, wouldst thou think that toads, and snakes, and efts, Could e'er be beautiful? yet so they were, And that with little change of shape or hue; All things had put their evil nature off; I cannot tell my joy, when o'er a lake, Upon a drooping bough with nightshade twined, I saw two azure halcyons clinging downward 80 And thinning one bright bunch of amber berries, With quick long beaks, and in the deep there lay Those lovely forms imaged as in a sky; So with my thoughts full of these happy changes, We meet again, the happiest change of all. ASIA And never will we part, till thy chaste sister, Who guides the frozen and inconstant moon, Will look on thy more warm and equal light Till her heart thaw like flakes of April snow, And love thee. SPIRIT OF THE EARTH What! as Asia loves Prometheus? 90 ASIA Peace, wanton! thou art yet not old enough. Think ye by gazing on each other's eyes To multiply your lovely selves, and fill With spherèd fires the interlunar air? SPIRIT OF THE EARTH Nay, mother, while my sister trims her lamp 'T is hard I should go darkling. ASIA Listen; look! The SPIRIT OF THE HOUR enters PROMETHEUS We feel what thou hast heard and seen; yet speak. SPIRIT OF THE HOUR Soon as the sound had ceased whose thunder filled The abysses of the sky and the wide earth, There was a change; the impalpable thin air 100 And the all-circling sunlight were transformed, As if the sense of love, dissolved in them, Had folded itself round the spherèd world. My vision then grew clear, and I could see Into the mysteries of the universe. Dizzy as with delight I floated down; Winnowing the lightsome air with languid plumes, My coursers sought their birthplace in the sun, Where they henceforth will live exempt from toil, Pasturing flowers of vegetable fire, 110 And where my moonlike car will stand within A temple, gazed upon by Phidian forms Of thee, and Asia, and the Earth, and me, And you, fair nymphs, looking the love we feel,-- In memory of the tidings it has borne,-- Beneath a dome fretted with graven flowers, Poised on twelve columns of resplendent stone, And open to the bright and liquid sky. Yoked to it by an amphisbenic snake The likeness of those wingèd steeds will mock 120 The flight from which they find repose. Alas, Whither has wandered now my partial tongue When all remains untold which ye would hear? As I have said, I floated to the earth; It was, as it is still, the pain of bliss To move, to breathe, to be. I wandering went Among the haunts and dwellings of mankind, And first was disappointed not to see Such mighty change as I had felt within Expressed in outward things; but soon I looked, 130 And behold, thrones were kingless, and men walked One with the other even as spirits do-- None fawned, none trampled; hate, disdain, or fear, Self-love or self-contempt, on human brows No more inscribed, as o'er the gate of hell, 'All hope abandon, ye who enter here.' None frowned, none trembled, none with eager fear Gazed on another's eye of cold command, Until the subject of a tyrant's will Became, worse fate, the abject of his own, 140 Which spurred him, like an outspent horse, to death. None wrought his lips in truth-entangling lines Which smiled the lie his tongue disdained to speak. None, with firm sneer, trod out in his own heart The sparks of love and hope till there remained Those bitter ashes, a soul self-consumed, And the wretch crept a vampire among men, Infecting all with his own hideous ill. None talked that common, false, cold, hollow talk Which makes the heart deny the yes it breathes, 150 Yet question that unmeant hypocrisy With such a self-mistrust as has no name. And women, too, frank, beautiful, and kind, As the free heaven which rains fresh light and dew On the wide earth, passed; gentle, radiant forms, From custom's evil taint exempt and pure; Speaking the wisdom once they could not think, Looking emotions once they feared to feel, And changed to all which once they dared not be, Yet being now, made earth like heaven; nor pride, 160 Nor jealousy, nor envy, nor ill shame, The bitterest of those drops of treasured gall, Spoiled the sweet taste of the nepenthe, love. Thrones, altars, judgment-seats, and prisons, wherein, And beside which, by wretched men were borne Sceptres, tiaras, swords, and chains, and tomes Of reasoned wrong, glozed on by ignorance, Were like those monstrous and barbaric shapes, The ghosts of a no-more-remembered fame Which from their unworn obelisks, look forth 170 In triumph o'er the palaces and tombs Of those who were their conquerors; mouldering round, Those imaged to the pride of kings and priests A dark yet mighty faith, a power as wide As is the world it wasted, and are now But an astonishment; even so the tools And emblems of its last captivity, Amid the dwellings of the peopled earth, Stand, not o'erthrown, but unregarded now. And those foul shapes,--abhorred by god and man, 180 Which, under many a name and many a form Strange, savage, ghastly, dark, and execrable, Were Jupiter, the tyrant of the world, And which the nations, panic-stricken, served With blood, and hearts broken by long hope, and love Dragged to his altars soiled and garlandless, And slain among men's unreclaiming tears, Flattering the thing they feared, which fear was hate,-- Frown, mouldering fast, o'er their abandoned shrines. The painted veil, by those who were, called life, 190 Which mimicked, as with colors idly spread, All men believed and hoped, is torn aside; The loathsome mask has fallen, the man remains Sceptreless, free, uncircumscribed, but man Equal, unclassed, tribeless, and nationless, Exempt from awe, worship, degree, the king Over himself; just, gentle, wise; but man Passionless--no, yet free from guilt or pain, Which were, for his will made or suffered them; Nor yet exempt, though ruling them like slaves, 200 From chance, and death, and mutability, The clogs of that which else might oversoar The loftiest star of unascended heaven, Pinnacled dim in the intense inane. 



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