Tragedies of Aeschylus (Potter 1812)/Prometheus Chain'd

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For other English-language translations of this work, see Prometheus Bound.
The Tragedies of Aeschylus  (1812)  by Aeschylus, translated by Robert Potter
Prometheus Chain'd












Æschylus wrote three Tragedies on the story of Prometheus: the first exhibited him as carrying the sacred gift of fire to men; the second as chained to Caucasus; the third as delivered from his chains. Of these the second only remains to us. The short account, which Prometheus gives in this of the barbarous state of man before he taught them the civilizing arts, makes us regret the loss of the first; and we have good reason to imagine that the portrait of Hercules in the third, delineated, by this great master, must have been inimitable. There is in this remaining drama a sublimity of conception, a strength, a fire, a certain savage dignity peculiar to this bold writer. The scenery is the greatest that the human imagination ever formed: the wild and desolate rock frowning over the sea, the stern and imperious sons of Pallas and Styx holding up Prometheus to its rifted side whilst Vulcan fixes his chains, the Nymphs of the Ocean flying to its summit to commiserate his unhappy state, old Oceanus on his hippogriff, the appearance of Iö, the descent of Mercury, the whirlwind tearing up the sands, swelling the boisterous sea, and dashing its waves to the stars, the vollied thunders rolling all their fiery rage against the rock, and the figure of Prometheus unappalled at this terrible storm, and bidding defiance to Jupiter, would require the utmost effort of Salvator Rosa’s genius to represent them. Yet is the horrid greatness of this drama tempered with much tenderness; the reluctance of Vulcan to execute the severe commands of Jupiter is finely contrasted to the eager unfeeling insolence of Strength and Force; the character of Iö is mournfully gentle; and the Oceanitidæ are of a most amiable mildness joined to a firm but modest prudence ; even the untameable ferocity of Prometheus discovers under it a benevolence that interests us deeply in his sufferings.



STR. AT length then to the wide earth's extreme bounds,
To Scythia are we come, those pathless wilds
Where human footstep never mark’d the ground.
Now, Vulcan, to thy task; at Jove’s command
Fix to these high-projecting rocks this vain
Artificer of man; each massy link
Draw close, and bind his adamantine chains.
The radiant pride, the fiery flame, that lends
Its aid to ev'ry art, he stole, and bore
The gift to mortals; for which bold offence
The gods assign him this just punishment;

That he may learn to reverence the pow'r
Of Jove, and moderate his love to man.
VULC.Stern pow'rs, your harsh commands have here an end,
Nor find resistance. My less hardy mind,
Averse to violence, shrinks back, and dreads
To bind a kindred god to this wild cliff,
Expos'd to ev'ry storm: but strong constraint
Compels me; I must steel my soul, and dare:
Jove's high commands require a prompt observance.
High-thoughted son of truth-directing Themis[2],
Thee with indissoluble chains, perforce,
Must I now rivet to this savage rock,
Where neither human voice, nor human form
Shall meet thine eye, but parching in the beams,
Unshelter'd, of yon' fervid sun, thy bloom
Shall lose its grace, and make thee wish th' approach
Of grateful evening mild, whose dusky stole
Spangled with gems shall veil his fiery heat;
And night upon the whitening ground breathe frore,
But soon to melt, touch'd by his orient ray.
So shall some present ill with varied pain
Afflict thee; nor is he yet born, whose hand
Shall set thee free: thus thy humanity
Receives its meed, that thou, a god, regardless
Of the gods' anger, honouredst mortal man
With courtesies, which justice not approves.
Therefore the joyless station of this rock
Unsleeping, unreclining, shalt thou keep,
And many' a groan, many' a loud laiment
Throw out in vain, nor move the rig'rous breast
Of Jove, relentless in his youthful pow'r.
STR.No more: why these delays, this foolish pity?
Dost thou not hate a god by gods abhorr'd,
That prostitutes thy radiant boast to man ?
VULC. Strong are the ties of kindred and long converse.
STR. Well: but to disobey thy sire's commands,
Darest thou do that ? Is not that fear more strong ?
VULC. Soft pity never touch'd thy ruthless mind.
STR. Will thy vain pity bring relief Forbear,
Nor waste thyself in what avails not him.
VULC. Abhorr'd be all the fine skill of my hands.
STR. And why abhorr'd ? For of these present toils
Thy art, in very truth, is not the cause.
VULC. Yet wish I it had been some other's lot.
STR. All have their lot appointed, save to reign
In heav'n, for liberty is Jove's alone.
VULC. Truth guides thy words, nor have I to gainsay.
STR. Why thus reluctant then to bind his chains?
Let not thy sire observe these slow delays.
VULC. The manacles are ready, thou mayst see them.
STR. Bind them around his hands; with all thy force
Strike, nail them fast, drive them into the rock.
VULC. Thus far the work is finish'd, and not slightly.
STR. Strike harder, strain them, let them not relax;
His craft will work unthought of ways t' escape.
VULC. This arm too is inextricably fix'd.
STR. And now clasp this secure, that he may learn
How impotent his craft, oppos'd to Jove.
VULC. This work he only can with justice blame.
STR. Across his breast draw now this stubborn bar
Of adamant, fix firm its sharpen'd point.
VULC. Thy miseries, Prometheus, I bewail.
STR. Still dost thou linger Still bewail the foes
Of Jove ? Take heed lest thou bewail thyself.
VULC. Thou seest an object horrible to sight,
STR.I see him honour'd as his deeds deserve.
But haste thee, fix this strong habergeon on him.
VULC. Constraint lies on me; urge not thou its rigour.
STR. Urge thee I will, and in an higher tone.
Downwards; with all thy force enring his legs.
VULC. This too is finish'd, with no ling'ring speed.
STR.Strike hard, drive deep their penetrating points.
Severe his eye, who nicely scans thése works.
VULC. Thy voice is harsh, and rugged as thy form.
STR. Now fair befal thy softness; yet upbraid not
My ruder and unpitying ruthlessness.
VULC. Let us be gone: the rig'rous task is done.
STR.. Now triumph in thy insolence; now steal
The glory of the gods, and bear the gift
To mortal man: will they relieve thee now?
False is the boasted prudence of thy name,
Or wanted now to free the from thy fate.
PROM. Ethereal air, and ye swift-winged winds,[alone[3]
Ye rivers springing from fresh founts, ye waves[4]
That o'er th' iuterminable ocean wreath
Your crisped siniles, thou all-producing earth,
And thee, bright sun, I call, whose flaming orb
Views the wide world beneath, see what, a god,
I suffer from the gods; with what fierce pains,
Behold, what tortures for revolving ages
I here must struggle; such unseemly chains
This new-rais'd ruler of the gods devis d.
Ah me! That groan bursts from my anguish'd heart,
My present woes and future to bemoan.
When shall these suff'rings fiud their destin'd end?
But why that vain inquiry? My clear sight
Looks through the future; unforeseen no ill
Shall come on mc: behoves me then to bear-
Patient my destiu'd fate, kuowing how vain
To struggle with necessity's strong pow'r.
But to compluin, or not complain, alike
Is unavailable. For favours shown
To mortal man I bear this weight of woe;
Hid in an hollow cane the fount of fire
I privately convey'd, of ev'ry art
Productive, and the noblest gift to men.
And for this slight offence, woe, woe is me!
I bear these chaius, fix'd to this savage rock,
Uusheltered from the inclemencies of th' air.
Ah me! what sound, what softly-breathing odour[5]
Steals on my sense? Be you immortal gods,
Or mortal men, or of th' heroic race,
Whoe'er have reach'd this wild rock's extreme cliff,
Spectators of my woes, or what your purpose,
Ye see me bound, a wretched god, abhorr'd
By Jove, and ev'ry god that treads his courts,
For my fond love to man. Ah me ! again
I hear the sound of flutt'ring nigh; the air
Panis to the soft beat of light.moving wings:
Ali, that appioaches now, is dreadful to me.



Forbear thy fears: a friendly train[6]

On busy pennons flutt'ring light,

We come, our sire not ask'd in vain,

And reach this promontory's height.

The clanging iron's horrid sound

Re-echo'd thro' our caves profound;

And tho my cheek glows with shame's crimson dye,
Thus with un-andalld foot with winged speed I fly.
PROM. Ah me! Ah me!,
Ye virgin sisters, who derive your race
From fruitful Thetis, and th' embrace
Of old Oceanus, your sire, that rolls
Around the wide world his unquiet waves,
This way turn your eyes, behold
With what a chain fix d to this rugged steep
Th' unenvied station of the rock I keep.


I see, I see; and o'er my eyes,

Surcharg'd with sorrow's tearful rain,

Dark'ning the misty clouds arise;

I see thy adamantine chain;

In its strong grasp thy limbs confin'd,

And withering in the parching wind:

Such the stern-pow'r of heav'n's new-sceptired lord,
And law-controlling Jove's irrevocable word.
PROM. Beneath the earth,
Beneath the gulfs of Tartarus[7], that spread
Interminable o'er the dead,
Had his stern fury fix'd this rigid chain,
Nor gods, nor men had triumph'd in my pain
But pendent in th' ethereal air,
The pageant gratifies my ruthless foes,
That gaze, insult, and glory in my woes.


Is there a god, whose sullen soul

Feels a stern joy in thy despair?

Owns he not pity's soft control,

And drops in sympathy the tear?

All, all, save Jove; with fury drivn

Severe he tames the sons of heav'n;
And he will tame them, till some pow'r arise
To wrest from his strong hand the sceptre of the skies.
PROM. Yet he, e'en he,
That o'er the gods holds his despotic reign,
And fixes this disgraceful chain,
Shall need my aid, the counsels to disclose
Destructive to his honour and his throne.
But not the honied blandishment, that flows
From his alluring lips, shall ought avail;
His rigid menaces shall fail;
Nor will I make the fatal secret known,
Till his proud hands this galling chain unbind,
And his remorse sooths my indignant mind.


Bold and intrepid is thy soul,

Fir'd with resentment's warmest glow;

And thy free voice disdains control,

Disdains the tort'ring curb of woe.

My softer bosom, thrill'd with fear

Lest heavier ills await thee here,

By milder counşels wishes thee repose:
For Jove's relentless rage no tender pity knows.
PROM. Stern tho' he be,
And, in the pride of pow'r terrific drest,
Rears o'er insulted right his crest,
Yet gentler thoughts shall mitigate his soul,
When o'er his head this storm shall roll;
Then shall his stubborn indigation bend,
Submit to sue, and court me for a friend.
CHOR. But say, relate at large for what offence.
Committed doth the wrath of Jove inflict
This punishment so shameful, so severe:
if the tale shocks not thy soul.
Instruct us, if the tale shocks not thy soul.
PROM. Tis painful to relate it, to be silent
Is pain: each circumstance is full of woe.[8]
When stern debate amongst the gods appear'd,
And discord in the courts of heavn was rous'd;
Whilst against Saturn some conspiring will 'd
To pluck him from the throne, that Jove might reign;
And some, averse, with ardent zeal oppos'd
Jove's rising pow'r and empire o'er the gods;
My counsels, tho' discreetest, wisest, best,
Mov'd not the Titans, those impetuous sons
Of Ouranus and Terra, whose high spirits,
Disdaining milder measures, proudly ween'd
To seize by force the sceptre of the sky.
Oft did my goddess mother, Themis now,
Now Gaia, under various names design'd [9],
Herself the same, foretell me the event,
That not by violence, that not by pow'r,
But gentler arts, the royalty of heav'n
Must be obtain'd. Whilst thus my voice advis'd,
Their headlong rage deign'd mē not e'en a look.
What then could wisdom dictate, but to take
My mother, and with voluntary aid
Abet the cause of Jove ? Thus by my counsels
In the dark deep Tartarean gulph enclos'd
Old Saturn lies, and his confederate pow'rs.
For these good deeds the tyrant of the skies
Repays me with there dreadful punishments.
For foul mistrust of those that serve them best
Breathes its black poison in each tyrant's heart.
Ask you the cause for which he tortures me ?
I will declare it. On his father's throne
Scarce was he seated, on the chiefs of heav'n
He show'r'd his various honours; thus confirming
His royalty; but for unhappy mortals[10]
Had no regard, and all the present race
Will'd to extirpate, and to form anew.
None, save myself, oppos'd his will; I dar'd;
And boldly pleading sav'd them from destruction,
Sav'd them from sinking to the realms of night.
For this offence I bend beneath these pains,
Dreadful to suffer, piteous to behold:
For mercy to mankind I am not deem'd
Worthy of mercy; but with ruthless hate
In this uncouth appointment am fix'd here
A spectacle dishonourable to Jove.
CHOR. Of iron is he form'd and adamant,
Whose breast with social sorrow does not melt
At thy afflictions: I nor wish'd to see them,
Nor see them but with anguish at my heart.
PROM. It is a sight that strikes my friends with pity.
CHOR. But had th' offence in farther aggravation?
PROM. I hid from men the foresight of their fate.
CHOR. What cou'dst thou find to remedy that ill?
PROM. I sent blind Hope t' inhabit in their hearts.
CHOR. A blessing hast thou given to mortal man.
PROM. Nay more, with generous zeal I gave them Fire.
CHOR. Do mortals now enjoy the blazing gift?
PROM. And by it shall give birth to various arts.
CHOR. For such offences doth the wrath of Jove
Thus punish thee, relaxing nought of pain?
And is no bound prescrib'd to thy affliction?
PROM. None else, but when his own will shall incline him.
CHOR. Who shalt incline his will? Hast thou no hope?
Dost thou not see that thou hast much offended ?
But to point out th' offence to me were painful,
And might sound harsh to thee? forbear we then;
Bethink thee how thy ills may find an end.
PROM. How easy, when the foot is not entangled
In misery's thorny maze, to give monitions
And precepts to th' afflicted! Of these things
I was not unadvis'd; and my offence
Was voluntary; in man's cause I drew
These evils on my head: but ills like these,
On this aerial rock to waste away,
This desert and unsocial precipice,
My mind presag'd it not. But cease your grief,
Wail not my present woes; on the rough point
Of this firm cliff descend, and there observe
What further may betide me, e'en the whole
Of my hard fate; indulge me, O indulge
This my request, and sympathize with me
Thus wretched; for affliction knows no rest,
But rolls from breast to breast its vagrant tide.
CHOR Not to th' unwilling are thy words directed.
With light foot now this nimble-moving seat,
This pure sir, thro' whose liquid fields the birds
Wimow their wonton way, I leave; and now
Alight I on this rude and craggy reck,
Anxious ta hear all thy unhappy tale.


OCEA. Far distant, thro' the vast expanse of air,
To thee, Prometheus, on this swift-wing'd steed[11],
Whose neck unreign'd obeys my will, I come,
In social sorrow sympathizing with thee.
To this the near affinity of blood
Moves me; and be assur'd, that tie apart,
There'is not´who can tax my dear regard
Deeper than thou: helieve me, this is trath,
Not the false glozings of a flat'rng tongue.
Instruct me then n what my pow'e mmay serve thee,
For never shalt thou say thou hast a friend
More firm, more constant than Oceanus.
PROM. Ah ac! What draws thee bitheti Art thou come
Spectator of my toils? Hew hast thou ventur'd
To leave the ocean waves, from thee so call'd,
Thy rock-roof'd grottos arch'd by nature's hand,
And land upon this iron-teeming earth ?
Comest thou to visit and bewail my ills ?
Behold this sight, behold this friend of Jove,
Th' assertor of his empire, bending here
Beneath a weight of woes by him inflicted.
OCEA. I see it all, and wish to counsel thee,
Wise as thou art, to milder measures: learn
To know thyself; new model thy behaviour,
As the new monarch of the gods requires.
What if thy harsh and pointed speech shou'd reach
The ear of Jove, tho' on his distant throne
High-seated, might they not inflame his rage
T' inflict such tortures, that thy present pains
Might seem a recreation and a sport?
Cease then, unhappy sufferer, cease thy braves,
And meditate the means of thy deliverance.
To thee perchance this seems the cold advice
Of doting age; yet, trust me, woes like these
Are earnings of the lofty-sounding tongue.
But thy unbending spirit disdains to yield
E'en to afflictions, to the present rather
Ambitious to add more. Yet shalt thou not,
If my voice may be beard, lift up thy heel
To kick against the pricks; so rough, thou seest,
So uncontroll'd the monarch of the skies.
But now I go, and will exert my pow'r,
If haply I may free thee from thy pains.
Mean while be calm; forbear this haughty tone:
Has not thy copious wisdom taught thee this,
That mischief still attends the petulant tongue?
PROM. I gratulate thy fortune, that on thee
No blame hath lighted, tho' associate with me
In all, and daring equally. But now
Forbear, of my condition take no care;
Thou wilt not move him; nothing moves his rigour:
Take heed then, lest to go brings harm on thee.
OCEA. Wiser for others than thy self I find
Thy thoughts; yet shalt thou not withhold my speed.
And I have hopes, with pride I speak it, hopes
T' obtain this grace, and free thee from thy sufferings.
PROM. For this thou hast my thanks; thy courtesy
With grateful memory ever shall be honour'd.
But think not of it, the attempt were vain,
Nor wou'd thy labour profit me; cease then,
And leave me to my fate: however wretched,
I wish not to impart my woes to others.
OCEA. No; for thy brother's fate, th' unhappy Atlas[12],
Afflicts me: on the western shore he stands,
Supporting on his shoulders the vast pillar
Of Heav'n and Earth, a weight of cumbrous grasp.
Him too, the dweller of Cilicia's caves,
I saw, with pity saw, Earth's monstrous son,
With all his hundred heads[13] subdued by Force,
The furious Typhon, who 'gainst all the gods
Made war; his horrid jaws with serpent-hiss
Breath'd slaughter, from his eyes the gorgon glare
Of baleful lightnings flash'd, as his proud force
Wou'd rend from Jove his empire of the sky.
But, him the vengeful bolt, instinct with fire,
Smote sore, and dash'd him from his haughty vaunts,
Pierc'd thro' his soul, and wither'd al his strength.
Thus stretch'td out huge in length beneath the roots
Of Ætna, near Trinacria's narrow sea,
Astonied, blasted, spiritless he lies;
On whose high summit Vulcan holds his seat,
And forms the glowing mass. In times to come
Hence streams of torrent fire with hideous roar
Shall burst, and with its wasteful mouths devour
All the fair fields of fruitful Sicily.
Such rage shall Typhon, blasted as he is
With Jove's fierce lightning, pour incessant forth
In sinking whirlwinds and tempestuous flame.
PROM. Thou art not unexperienc'd, nor hast need
Of my instruction; save thyself, how best
Thy wisdom shall direct thee. I will bear
My present fate, till Jove's harsh wrath relents.
OCEA. Know'st thou not this, Prometheus, that soft speech
Is to distemper'd wrath medicinal?
PROM. When seasonably the healing balm's applied;
Else it exasperates the swelling heart.
OCEA. But in the fair endeavour, in th' attempt,
What disadvantage, tell me, dost thou see?
PROM. Unfruitful labour, and light-thoughted folly.
OCEA. Be that my weakness then. Oft' when the wise
Appears not wise, he works the greatest good.
PROM. This will be deem'd my simple policy.
OCEA. These words indeed remand me to my grotte.
PROM. Cease to bewail me, lest thou wake his wrath.
OCEA. What, the new monárch's of heav'n's potent throne ?
PROM. Take care bis indignation be not rous'd.
OCEA. Thy misery sliall be my monitor.
PROM. Go then, be cautious, hold thy present judgment,
OCEA. Thy words add speed to my dispatch. Already
My plumed steed his levell'd wings displays
To fan ihe hquid air, thro' fond desire.
In his own lodge his wearied speed to rest.



For thee I heave the heart-felt sigh,
My bosom inelting at thy woes;
For thee ury tear-distilling eye
In streams of tender sorrow flows:

For Jove's imperious ruthless soul,

That scorns the pow'r of nild control,

Chastens with horrid tort'ring pain

Not known to gods, before his iron reign.

E'en yet this ample region o'er

Hoarse strains of sullen woe resound[14]

Thy state, thy brother's state deplore,

Age-honour'd glories ruin'd round.

Thy woes, beneath the sacred shade[15]

Of Asia's pastur'd forests laid,

The chaste inhabitant bewails

Thy groans re-echoing thro' his plaintive vales.

The Colchian virgin, whose bold hand
Undaunted grasps the warlike spear;
On earth's last verge the Seythian band,
The torpid lake Mæætis near;
Arabia's martial race, that wield
The sharp lance in th' embattled field,
Thro' all their rock-built cities groan,

The crags of Caucasus return the groan.

One other, e'er thy galling chain,
Of heaven's high sous with tortures quell'd,
That rack each joint, each sinew strain,
Titanian Atlas I beheld;
His giant strength condemn'd to bear
The solid, vast and pond'rous sphere.
The springs whose fresh streams swell around,
The hoarse waves from their depths profound,
And all the gloomy realms below,

Sigh to his sighs, and murmur to his woe.
PROM. It is not pride; deem nobler' of me, virgins;
It is not pride, that held me silent thus;
The thought of these harsh chains, that hang me here,
Cuts to my heart. Yet who, like me, advanc'd
To their high dignity our new-rais'd gods?
But let me spare the tale, to you well known.
The ills of man you've heard. I form'd his mind,
And through the cloud of barb'rous ignorance
Diffus'd the beams of knowledge. I will speak,
Not taxing them with blame, but my own gifts
Displaying, and benevolence to them.
They saw indeed, they heard; but what avail'd
Or sight, or scuse of hearing, all things rolling
Like the unreal imagery of dreams,
In wild confusion mix'd? The lightsome wall
Of finer masonry, the rafter'd roof
They knew not; but, like ants still buried, delv'd[16]
Deep in the earth, and scoop'd their sunless caves.
Unmark'd the seasons chang'd, the biting winter,
The flow'r perfumed spring, the ripening summer
Fertile of fruits. At random all their works,
Till I instructed them to mark the stars,
Their rising, and, an harder science yet[17],
Their setting. The rich train of marshall'd numbers
I taught them, and the meet array of letters.
T' impress these precepts on their hearts I sent
Memory, the active mother of all wisdom.
I taught the patient steer to bear the yoke,
In all his toils joint-labourer with man.
By me the harness'd steed was train'd to whirl
The rapid car, and grace the pride of wealth.
The tall bark, lightly bounding o'er the waves,
I taught its course, and wing'd its flying sail.
To man I gave these arts; with all my wisdom
Yet want I now one art, that useful art
To free myself iron these afflicting chains.
CHOR. Unseemly are thy sufferings, sprung from error
And impotence of mind. And now inclos'd
With all these ills, as some unskilful leach
That sinks beneath his malady, thy soul
Desponds, nor seeks medicinal relief.
PROM. Hear my whole story, thou wilt wonder more,
What useful arts, what science I invented.
This first and greatest: when the fell disease
Prey'd on the human frame, relief was none,
Nor healing drug, nor cool refreshing draught,
Nor pain-assuaging unguent; but they pin'd
Without redress, and wasted, till I taught them
To mix the balmy medicine, of pow'r
To chase each pale disease, and soften pain.
I taught the various modes of prophecy,
What truth the dream portends, the omen what
Of nice distinction, what the casual sight
That meets us on the way; the flight of birds,
When to the right, when to the left they take
Their airy course, their various ways of life,
Their feuds, their fondnesses, their social flocks.
I taught th' Haruspex to inspect the entrails,
Their smoothness, and their colour to the gods
Grateful, the gall, the liver streak'd with veins,
The limbs involv'd in fat, and the long chine
Plac'd on the blazing altar; from the smoke
And mounting flame to mark th' unerring omen.
These arts I taught. And all the secret treasures
Deep buried in the bowels of the earth;
Brass, iron, silver, gold, their use to man,
Let the vain tongue make what high vaunts it may,
Are my inventions all; and, in a word,
Prometheus taught each useful art to man.
CHOR. Let not thy love to man o'erleap the bounds
Of reason, nor neglect thy wretched state:
So my fond hope suggests thou shalt be free
From these base chains, nor less in pow'r than Jove.
PROM. Not thus, it is not in the Fates that thus
These things should end: crush'd with a thousand wrongs,
A thousand woes, I shall escape these chains.
Necessity is stronger far than art.
CHOR. Who then is ruler of necessity?,
PROM. The triple Fates and unforgetting furies.
CHOR. Must Jove then yield to their superior pow'r?
PROM. He no way shall escape his destin'd fate.
CHOR. What, but eternal empire, in his fate?
PROM. Thou may'st not know this now: forbear t' inquire.
CHỌR. Is it of moment what thou keep'st thus close?
PROM. No more of this discourse; it is not time
Now to disclose that which requires the seal
Of strictest secresy; by guarding which
I shall escape the misery of these chains.



Never, never may my soul

Jove's all-ruling pow'r defy;

Never feel his harsh control,

Sovreign ruler of the sky.

When the hallow'd steer has bled[18],

When the sacred feast is spread,

'Midst the crystal waves below,

Whence father Ocean's boundless billows flew,

Let not my foot be slow:

There, th' ethereal guests among,

No rude speech disgrace my tongue

May my mind this rev'rence keep;

Print it strong, and grave it deep.


When thro' life's extended scene

Hope her stedfast lustre throws,

Swells the soul with joy serene,

With sublimest triumph glows.

Seest thou this pure lustre shine?

Are these heart-felt raptures thine?

My cold blood curdles in my veins,

To see thy hideous woes, thy tort'ring pains,

And adamantine chains.

Thy free soul, untaught to fear,

Scorn'd the danger threat'ning near;

And for mortals dar'd defy

The sovereign monarch of the sky.


Vain thy ardour, vain thy grace,

They nor force nor aid repay;

Like a dream man's feeble race,

Short-liv'd reptiles of a day.

Shall their weak devices move

Th' order'd harmony of Jove?

Touch'd with pity of thy pain,

All sad and slow I pour the moral strain:

Chang'd from that melting vein,

When the light mellifluous measure

Round thy bath, and round thy bed

For our sea-nymph sister spread,

Awoke young love and bridal pleasure,

And pour'd the soul of harmony,

To greet the bright Hesione.


Whither, ah whither am I borne[19]!
To what rude shore, what barb'rous race? O thou,
Whoe'er thou art, that chain'd to that bleak rock,
The seat of desolation, ruest thy crimes,
Say on what shore my wretched footsteps stray.—
Again that sting!—Ah me, that form again !—
With all his hundred eyes the earth-born Argus—
Cover it, Earth ! See, how it glares upon me,
The horrid spectre—Wilt thou not, O Earth,
Cover the dead, that from thy dark abyss
He comes to haunt me, to pursue my steps,
And drive me foodless o'er the barren strand?
Hoarse sounds the reed-compacted pipe[20], a note
Sullen and drowsy.—Miserable me!
Whither will these wide-wand'ring errors lead me?
How, son of Saturn, how have I offended,
That with these stings, these tortures thou pursuest me,
And drivest to madness my affrighted soul!
Hear me, supreme of gods, O hear thy suppliant,
Blast me with lightnings, bury me in th' earth,
Or cast me to the monsters of the sea;
But spare these toils, spare these wide-wand'ring errors,
Which drive me round the world, and know no rest.
CHOR. Hear'st thou the voice of this lamenting virgin?
For such she is, tho' in that form disguis'd.
PROM. I hear her griefs, that whirl her soul to madness,
Daughter of Inachus, whose love inflames
The heart of Jove; hence Juno's jealous rage
Drives the poor wanderer restless o'er the world.
Whence is it that I hear my father's name?
IO. Speak to my misery, tell me who thou art;
What wretch art thou, that to a wretch like me
Utterest these truths, naming the malady,
Which, heav'n-inflicted, stings my tortur'd soul
To frenzy? Hence with hurrying steps I rove
Foodless, pursued by never-ceasing wrath.
Ah me! What child of misery ever suffer'd
Misery like mine? But tell me, clearly tell me
What woes await me yet, what ease, what cure?
Say, if thou know'st, speak, tell a wand'ring virgin.
PROM. All, thou cau'st wish to learn, I'll tell thee clearly,
Wrapt in no veil abstruse; but in clear terms[21],
As friend to friend. Thine eyes behold Prometheus,
Whose warm benevolence gave fire to men.
IO. O thou, the common blessing of mankind,
Wretched Prometheus, wherefore are these sufferings?
PROM. Scarce have I ceas'd lamenting my misfortunes.
IO. And wilt thou not allow me that sad office?
PROM. Ask what thou wilt, thou shalt learn all from me.
IO. Say then, who bound thee in that rifted rock?
PROM. The ruthless will of Jove, but Vulcan's hand.
IO. In what offending art thou chasten'd thus?
PROM. Suffice it thee so much has been declar'd.
IO. Say then what time shall end my wretched wand'rings.
PROM. Better repose in ignorance, than know.
IO. Whate'er my woes to come, hide them not from me.
PROM. That favour unreluctant cou'd I grant thee.
IO. Why this delay then to declare the whole?
PROM. Ungrateful task to rend thy soul with anguish.
IO. Regard not me more than is pleasing to me.
PROM. Conjur'd thus strongly I must speak. Hear then.
CHOR. Not yet: this mournful pleasure let me, share:
Let us first learn the story of her woes;
Her lips will teach us each sad circumstance
Of misery past; the future be thy task.
PROM. Vouchsafe t' indulge their wish; they merit it;
And are besides the sisters of thy father[22].
Nor light the recompense, when they, who hear,
Melt at the melancholy tale, and drop,
In pity drop, the sympathizing tear.
IO. Ill wou'd excuse become me, or denial;
Take then the plain unornamented tale
Ye wish to hear; tho' sad the task enjoin'd,
And hard : for how relate the heav'n-sent tempest
That burst upon my head, my form thus chang'd,
And all the weight of woe that overwhelms me?
Still, when retir'd to rest, air-bodied forms[23]
Visit my slumber nightly, soothing me
With gentle speech, "Blest maid, why hoard for ever
Thy virgin treasure, when the highest nuptials
Await thy choice; the flames of soft desire
Have touch'd the heart of Jove; he burns with love:
Disdain not, gentle virgin, ah disdain not
The couch of Jove; to Lerna's deep recess,
Where graze thy father's herds the meads along,
Go, gentle virgin, crown the god's desires."
The night returns, the visionary forms
Return again, and haunt my troubled soul
Forbidding rest, till to my father's ear
I dar'd disclose the visions of the night.
To Pytho, to Dodona's vocal grove
He sent his seers, anxious to know what best
Was pleasing to the gods. Return'd they bring
Dark-utter'd answers of ambiguous sense.
At length one oracle distinct and plain
Pronounc'd its mandates, charging Inachus
To drive me from his house and from my country,
To rove at large o'er earth's extremest bounds:
Shou'd he refuse, the vengeful bolt of Jove,
Wing'd with red flames wou'd all his race destroy.
Obedient to the Pythian god he drove me
Unwilling from his house, himself unwilling
Compell'd by Jove, and harsh necessity.
Strait was my sense disorder'd, my fair form
Chang'd, as you see, disfigur'd with these horns;
And tortar'd with the bryze's horrid sting,
Wild with my pain with frantic speed I hurried
To Cenchrea's vale with silver-winding streams[24]
Irriguous, and the fount whence Lerna spreads
Its wide expanse of waters; close behind
In wrathful mood walk'd Argus, earth-born herdman,
With all his eyes observant of my steps.
Him unawares a sudden fate depriv'd
Of life; whilst I, stung with that heav'n-sent pest,
Am driv'n with devious speed from land to land.
Thou hast my tale. If ought of woes to come
Thy prescient mind divines, relate them freely;
Nor thro' false pity with fallacious words
Sooth my vain hopes, my soul abhors as base
The fabling tongue of glozing courtesy.
CHOR. No more, no more, forbear. Ah never, never
Conceiv'd I that a tale so strange shou'd reach
My ears; that miseries, woes, distresses, terrors,
Dreadful to sight, intolerable to sense,
Shou'd shock me thus: woe, woe, unhappy fate!
How my soul shudders at the fate of Iö!
PROM. Already dost thou sigh, already tremble?
Check these emotions till the whole is heard.
CHOR. Speak, show us: to the sick some gleam of comfort
Flows from the knowledge of their pains to come.
PROM. Your first request with ease has been obtain'd;
For from her lips you wish'd to hear the tale
Of her afflictions. Hear the rest; what woes
From Juno's rage await this suff'ring virgin.
And thou with deep-attention mark my words,
Daughter of Inachus; and learn from them
The traces of thy way. First then, from hence
Turn to the orient sun, and pass the height
Of these uncultur'd mountains; thence descend
To where the wandering Scythians, train'd to bear
The distant-wounding bow, on wheels aloft
Roll on their wattled cottages; to these
Approach not nigh, but turn thy devious steps
Along the rough verge of the murm'ring main,
And pass the barb'rous country: on the left
The Chalybes inhabit, whose rude hands
Temper the glowing steel; beware of these,
A savage and inhospitable race[25],
Thence shalt thou reach the banks of that proud stream,
Which from its[26] roaring torrent takes its name;
But pass, it not, tempt not its dangerous depths
Unfordable, till now thy weary steps
Shall reach the distant bound of Caucasus,
Monarch of mountains; from whose extreme height
The bursting flood rolls down his pow'r of waters.
Passing those star-aspiring heights, descend
Where to the south the Amazonian tents,
Hostile to men, stretch o'er the plain; whose troops
In after times shall near Thermodon's banks
Fix in Themiscyra's tow'rs their martial rule,
Where Salmydesia points her cruel rocks,
And glories in her wrecks: this female train
With courteous zeal shall guide thee in thy way.
Arriving where the dark Cimmerian lake
Spreads from its narrow mouth its vast expanse,
Leave it, and boldly plunge thy vent'rous foot
In the Mæotic straits; the voice of fame
Shall eternize thy passage, and from thee
Call it the Bosphorus[27]: there shalt thou quit
The shores of Europe, and intrepid reach
The continent of Asia.—Seems he now,
This tyrant of the skies, seems he in all[28].
Of fierce and headlong violence, when his love
Plunges a mortal in such deep distresses?
A rugged wooer, virgin, have thy charms
Won thee; for be assur'd what I have told thee
Is but a prelude to the woes untold,
IO. Ah miserable me!
PROM. Again that exclamation, that deep groan!
What wilt thou do, when thou shalt learn the rest?
CHOR. Remains there ought of ills yet to be told?
PROM. A wide tempestuous sea of baleful woes.
IO. What then has life desirable? Why rather
From this rude cliff leap I not headlong down,
And end my woes? Better to die at once,
Than linger out a length of life in pain.
PROM. Ill wou'dst thou bear my miseries, by the Fates,
Exempt from death, the refuge of th' afflicted.
Bat my afflictions know no bounds, till Jove
Falls from th' inmperial sovereignty of heav'n.
IO. Shall he then fall? Shall the time come, when Jove[29]
Shall sink dethron'd? I think I shou'd rejoice
To see the tyrant's ruin: Shou'd I not,
Since from his hands I suffer all these ills.
PROM. Then be thou well assur'd it shall be so.
IO. And who shall wrest th' imperial sceptre from him?
PROM. Himself, destroy'd by his improvident counsels.
IO. Oh say, if harmless what I ask, say how.
PROM. Urging a marriage he shall dearly rue.
IO. Heav'n-sprung, or mortal ? If permitted, say.
PROM. What matters which? It may not be disclos'd.
IO. Shall then a wife deprive him of the throne?
PROM. She greater than the sire shall bear a son.
Has he no means of pow'r t' avert this fate?
PROM. None, till from these vile chains I shall be free?
IO. And who, 'gainst Jove's high will, shall set thee free?
PROM. One, of necessity, from thee descended.
IO. From me! My son release thee from thy pains?
PROM. Third of thy race, first numb'ring ten descents[30]
. IO. Oracular this, of difficult conjecture.
PROM. Check then thy wish, nor seek to know thy toils.
IO. Do not hold forth a grace, then snatch it from me.
PROM. Of two relations I will grant thee either.
IO. Propose the two, then leave the choice to me.
PROM. Shall I declare the rest of thy misfortunes,
Or dost thou wish to know him that shall free me?
CHOR. The first to her, to me this other grace
Vouchsafe, nor my request treat with disdain.
To her impart what toils remain; to me
Him that shall free thee; this I most desire.
PROM. This your request I shall not be averse
To gratify, and tell you all you wish.
First for thy various wand'rings: Mark my words,
And grave them on the tablet of thy heart.
When thou shalt pass the flood, the common bound
Of either continent, direct thy steps
Right to the fiery portals of the east,
The sun's bright walk, along the roaring beach,
Till thou shalt come to the gorgonian plains
Of Cisthine, where dwell the swan-like forms
Of Phorcys' daughters, bent and white with age[31];
One common eye have these, one common tooth,
And never does the sun with cheerful ray
Visit them darkling, nor the moon's pale orb
That silvers o'er the night. The Gorgous nigh,
Their sisters these, spread their broad wings, and wreath
Their horrid hair with serpents, fiends abhorr'd,
Whom never mortal cou'd behold, and live.
Be therefore warn'd, and let it profit thee
To learn what else detestable to sight
Lies in thy way, and dang'rous. Shun the Gryphins,
Those dumb and rav'nous dogs of Jove. Avoid
The Arimaspian troops, whose frowning foreheads
Glare with one blazing eye; along the banks,
Where Pluto rolls his streams of gold, they rein[32]
Their foaming steeds; approach them not, but seek
A land far distant, where the tawny race[33]
Dwell near the fountains of the sun, and where
The Nigris pours his dusky waters; wind
Along his banks, till thou shalt reach the fall
Where from the mountains with Papyrus crown'd
The venerable Nile impetuous pours
His headlong torrent; he shall guide thy steps
To those irriguous plains, whose triple sides
His arms surround; there have the Fates decreed
Thee and thy sons to form the lengthen'd line.
Is ought imperfect, ought obscure? Resume
Th' inquiry, and be taught with greater clearness:
I have more leisure than I wish to have,
CHOR. If thou hast ought remaining, ought omitted,
To tell her of her woful wand'rings, speak it:
If all has been declar'd, to us vouchsafe
The grace we ask; what, thou rememb'rest well.
PROM. Her wand'ring in full measure has she heard.
That she may know she has not heard in vain,
Her labours pass'd, e'er these rude rocks she reach'd,
Will I recite, good argument that truth
Stamps my predictions sure: nor shall I use
A length of words, but 'speak thy wand'rings briefly.
Soon as thy foot reach'd the Molossian ground,
And round Dodona's ridgy heights, where stands
The seat oracular of Thesprotian Jove,
And, wond'rous prodigy, the vocal groves,
These in clear, plain, unquestionable terms
Hail'd thee "Illustrious wife of Jove that shall be,"
If that may sooth thy soul. The tort'ring sting
Thence drove thee wand'ring o'er the wave-washed strand
To the great gulf of Rhea, thence thy course
Thro' the vex'd billows hither. But know this,
In after times shall that deep gulph from thee
Be call'd th' Ionian, and preserve to men
The memory of thy passage. This to thee,
Proving the prescience of my mind, that sees
More than appears: The rest to you and her,
Resuming my discourse, I speak in common.
On the land's extreme verge a city stands,
Canobus, proudly elevate, nigh where the Nile
Rolls to the sea his rich stream: there shall Jove
Heal thy distraction, and with gentle hand
Sooth thee to peace. Of his high racc a son,
The dusky Epaphus, shall rise, and rule
The wide extended land o'er which the Nile
Pours his broad waves. In the fifth line from him
Fifty fair sisters shall return to Argos
Unwillingly, to fly the kindred beds
Of fifty brothers; these with eager speed,
Swift as the faulcon's flight when he pursues
The dove at hand, shall follow, nor obtain
The nuptials, which th' indignant gods deny.
These shall Pelasgia see by female hands
Welt'ring in gore, the night's convenient gloom
Fav'ring the daring deed; each female draws
The trenchant sword, and in her husband's blood
Stains the broad blade. Thus fatal to my foes
Be love! Yet one shall feel its softer flame
Melting her soul, and from the general carnage
Preserve her husband, choosing to be deem'd
Of base degenerate spirit, rather than stain
Her gentle hands with blood. From her shall Argos
Receive a long imperial line of kings.
The full distinct relation wou'd be tedious.
From her shall rise the hero, strong to wing
The dreaded shaft; he from these tort'ring pains
Shall set me free: this my age-honour'd mother,
Titanian Themis, with oracular voice
Foretold; but when, or how, requires a length
Of narrative, which known wou'd nought avail thee.
Ah me! Ah wretched me! That pang again !
Again that fiery pang, whose madd'ning smart
Corrodes and rankles in my breast! With fear
My heart pants thick; wildly my eyeballs roll;
Distraction drives my hurried steps a length
Of weary wand'rings; my ungovern'd tongue
Utters tumultuous ravings, that roll high
The floods of passion swoln with horrid woes.



Was it not wisdom's sovereign pow'r
That beam'd her brightest, purest flame,
T' illume her sage's soul the thought to frame[34],
And clothe with words his heav'n-taught lore?
" Whoe'er thou art, whom young desire
Shall lead to Hymen's holy fire,
Choose, from thy equals choose thy humble love:
Let not the pomp of wealth allure thine eye,
Nor high-trac'd lineage thy ambition move;
Ill suits with low degree t' aspire so high."


Never, O never may my fate
See me a splendid victim led
To grace the mighty Jove's imperial bed,
Or share a god's magnific state.

When Io's miseries meet my eyes,
What horrors in my soul arise!
Her virgin bosom, harb'ring high intent,
In man delights not, and his love disdains;
Hence the dire pest by wrathful Juno sent,
Her wide wild wand'rings hence, and agonizing pains.


Me less ambitious thoughts engage,
And love within my humbler sphere:
Hence my soul rests in peace secure from fear,
Secure from danger's threat'ning rage.
Me may the pow'rs that rule the sky
Ne'er view with love's resistless eye:
Ah, never be th' unequal conflict mine,
To strive with their inextricable love:
Might not my heart against itself combine?
Or how escape the pow'rful arts of Jove?

PROM. Yet shall this Jove, with all his self-will'd pride,
Learn humbler thoughts, taught by that fatal marriage,
Which from the lofty throne of sovereign rule
Shall sink him to a low and abject state,
And on his head fulfil his father's curse,
The curse of Saturn, vented in that hour
When from his ancient royalty he fell.
Of all the gods not one, myself except,
Can warn him of his fate, and how to shun
Th impending ruin. I know all, and how.
Let him then sit, and glorying in his height
Roll with his red right hand his vollied thunder
Falsely secure, and wreath his bick'ring flames.
Yet nought shall they avail him, nor prevent
His abject and dishonourable fall.
Such rival adversary forms he now
Against himself, prodigious in his might,
And unassailable; whose rage shall roll
Flames that surpass his lightnings, fiercer bolts
That quash his thunders; and from Neptune's band
Dash his trined mace, that from the bottom stirs
The troubled sea, and shakes the solid earth.
Crush'd with this dreadful ruin shall he learn
How different, to command, and to obey.
CHOR. Thy ominous tongue gives utterance to thy wish.
PROM. It is my wish, and shall be ratified.
CHOR. What, shall high Jove bend to a greater lord?
PROM. And to a yoke more galling stoop his neck.
CHOR. Dost thou not scar, vaunting this bold discourse?
PROM. What shou'd I fear, by Fate exempt from death?
CHOR. But he may add fresh tortures to thy pain.
PROM. Let him then add them, I await them all.
CHOR. Wise they, who reverence the stern pow'r of vengeance.
PROM. Go then, with prompt servility fall down
Before your lord, fawn, cringe, and sue for grace.
For me, I value him at less than nothing.
Let him exert his brief authority,
And lord it whilst he may; his pow'r in Heav'n
Shall vanish soon, nor leave a trace behind,
But see, his messenger hastes on amain,
Th' obsequious lackey of this new-made morarch:
He comes, I ween, the bearer of fresh tidings.


MERC. To thee grown old in craft, deep drench'd in gall,
Disgustful to the gods, too prodigal
Of interdicted gifts to mortal man,
Thief of the fire of Heav'n, to thee my message.
My father bids thee say what nuptials these
Thy tongue thus vaunts as threat'ning his high pow'r;
And clearly say, couch'd in no riddling phrase,
Each several circumstance; propound not to me
Ambiguous terms, Prometheus; for thou seest
Jove brooks not such, unfit to win his favour.
PROM. Thou doest thy message proudly, in high terms,
Becoming well the servant of such lords.
Your youthful pow'r is new; yet vainly deem ye
Your high-rais'd tow'rs impregnable to pain :
Have I not seen two sovereigns[35] of the sky
Sink from their glorious state And I shall see
A third, this present lord, with sudden ruin
Dishonourably fall. What, seem I now
To dread, to tremble at these new-rais'd gods?
That never shall their force extort from me.
Hence then, the way thou camest return with speed:
Thy vain inquiries get no other answer.
MERC. Such insolence before, so fiery fierce,
Drew on thy head this dreadful punishment.
PROM. My miseries, be assur'd, I would not change
For thy gay servitude, but rather choose
To live a vassal to this dreary rock,
Than lackey the proud heels of Jove. These words,
If insolent, your insolence extorts.
MERC. I think thou art delighted with thy woes.
PROM. Delighted! Might I see mine enemies
Delighted thus! And thee I hold among them.
MERC. And why blame me for thy calamities?
PROM. To tell thee in a word, I hate them all,
These gods; of them I deserv'd well, and they
Ungrateful and unjust work me these ills.
MERC. Thy malady, I find, is no small madness.
PROM. If to detest my enemies be madness,
It is a malady I wish to have.
MERC. Were it well with thee, who cou'd brook thy pride ?
PROM. Ah me!
MERC.That sound of grief Jove' doth not know,
PROM. Time, as its age advanceth, teaches all things.
MERC. All its advances have not taught thee wisdom.
PROM. I shou'd not else waste words on thee, a vassal.
MERC. Nought wilt thou answer then to what Jove asks.
PROM. If due, I wou'd repay his courtesy,
MERC. Why am I cheek'd, why rated as a boy ?
PROM. A boy thou art, more simple than a boy,
If thou hast hopes to be inform'd by me.
Not all his tortures, all his arts shall move me
T' unlock my lips, till this curs'd chain be loos'd.
No, let him hurl his flaming lightnings, wing
His whitening snows, and with his thunders shake
The rocking earth, they move not me to say
What fore shall wrest the sceptre from his hand[36].
MERC. Weigh these things well, will these unloose thy chains ?
PROM. Well have they long been weigh'd, and well consider'd.
MERC. Subdue, vain fool, subdue thy insolence,
And let thy miseries teach the juster thoughts.
PROM. Thy counsels, like the waves that dash against
The rock's firm base, disquiet but not move me.
Conceive not of me that, thro' fear what Jove
May in his rage inflict, my fix'd disdain
Shall e’er relent, e’er suffer my firm mind
To sink to womanish softness, to fall prostrate,
To stretch my supplicating hands, entreating
My hated foe to free me from these chains.
Far be that shame, that abject weakness from me.
MERC. I see thou art implacable, unsoften’d
By all the mild entreaties I can urge;
But like a young steed rein’d, that proudly struggles
And champs his iron curb, thy haughty soul
Abates not of its unavailing fierceness.
But pride, disdaining to be ral’d by reason,
Sinks weak and valueless. But mark me well,
If not obedient to my words, a storm,
A fiery and inevitable deluge
Shall burst in threefold vengeance on thy head.
First, his fierce thunder wing’d with lighting flames
Shall rend this rugged rock, and cover thee
With hideous ruin: long time shalt thou lie
Astonied in its rifted sides, till dragg’d
Again to light; then shall the bird of Jove,
The rav'ning eagle, lur’d with scent of blood,
Mangle thy body, and each day returning,
An uninvited guest, plunge his fell beak,
And feast and riot on thy black’ning liver.
Expect no pause, no respite, till some god
Comes to relieve thy pains, willing to pass
The dreary realms of ever-during night[37],
The dark descent of Tartarus profound.
Weigh these things well; this is no fiction drest
In vaunting terms, but words of serious truth.
The mouth of Jove knows not to utter falsehood,
But what he speaks is fate. Be cautious then,
Regard thyself; let not o'erweeniug pride.
Despise the friendly voice of prudent counsel.
CHOR. Nothing amiss we deem his words, but fraught
With reason, who but wills thee to relax
Thy haughty spirit, and by prudent counsels
Pursue thy peace: be then advis'd; what shame
For one so wise to persevere in error ?
PROM. All this I knew e'er he declar'd his message.
That enemy from enemy shou'd suffer
Extreme indignity is nothing strange.
Let him then work his horrible pleasure on me;
Wreath his black curling flames, tempest the air
With vollied thunders and wild warring winds,
Rend from its roots the firm earth's solid base,
Heave from the roaring main its boisterous waves,
And dash them to the stars; me let him hurl,
Caught in the fiery tempest, to the gloom
Of deepest Tarterus; not all his pow'r
Can quench th' ethereal breath of life in me.
MERC. Such ravings, such wild counsels might you bear,
From moon-struck madness. What is this but madness?
Were he at ease, wou'd he abate his frenzy?
But you, whose gentle hearts with social sorrow
Melt at his suff'rings, from this place remove,
Remove with speed, lest the tempestuous roar
Of his fierce thunder strike your souls with horror.
CHOR. To other themes, to other counsels turn
Thy voice, where pleaded reason may prevail:
This is ill urg'd, and may not be admitted.
Wou'dst thou solicit me to deeds of baseness[38]?
Whate'er betides, with him will I endure it.
The vile betrayer I have learn'd to bate;
There is no fouler stain, my soul abhors it.
MERC. Remember you are warn'd; if ill o'ertake you
Accuse not Fortune, lay not the blame on Jove,
As by his hand sunk in calamities
Unthought of, unforeseen: no, let the blame
Light on yourselves; your folly not unwarn'd,
Not unawares, but 'gainst your better knowledge,
Involv'd you in th' inextricable toils.
PROM. He fables not; I feel in very deed
The firm earth rock; the thunder's deep'ning roar
Rolls with redoubled rage; the bick'ring flames
Flash thick; the eddying sands are whirl'd on high;
In dreadful opposition the wild winds
Rend the vex'd air; the boist'rous billows rise
Confounding sea and sky; th' impetuous storm
Rolls all its terrible fury on my head.
Seest thou this, awful Themis; and thou, Ether,
Thro' whose pure azure floats the general stream
Of liquid light, see you what wrongs I suffer!

  1. According to ‘the theogony of Hesiod, Chaos was the ancestor of Nature; next to him was Gaia: her progeny by Ouranus was numerous, amongst these were Oceanus and Japetus: by Clymene, daughter of Oceanus, Jupetus was the farher of Prometheus, with whose history the Athenians were well acquainted from the narrative of Hesiod, which was, we may suppose, the popular creed of the tines in which our poet wrote. The English reader is by this time as well acquainted with this strange story.


    These two allegorical personages were of high antiquity and illustrious birth, the sons of Pallas and Styx. Cœus, the son of Ouranus and Gaia, was the father of Pallas by Eurybia, daughter of Pontus and Gaia: Styx was the daughter of Oceanus and Tethys. When Jupiter assembled the gods on Olympus, and declared his gracious intention to reward and honour each that should be auxiliary to him in his wars against the Titans, Styx, by the advice of her father, was the first that attended him, leading with her these her two sons; Jupiter received her with great respect, appointed her to be the sacred oath of the gods, and admitted her sons to be constant attendants on his own person. Hesiod. Theog. v, 400.

  2. Themis was one of the most ancient and respectable deities, the daughter of Ouranus and Gaia, that is of heaven and Earth. As she was the second prophetic power that held her oracular seat at Delphos, she was honoured as the goddess of Trutt and Justice.
  3. No writer knew better how to preserve propriety of character than Æschylus. Prometheus disdained to answer the ferocious insolence of these ministers of Jupiter, nor could even the tender commiseration of Vulcan elicit a word from him, There is a dignity, and even a sublimity in this silence beyond the expression of word's. But as soon as the instruments}} of tyranny left him, he bursts into a strain of pathetic lamentations and invokes all nature to attest his undeserved sufferings. There is a further propriety in this address; the Winds were the sons of Nereus and Doris, the Rivers of Oceanus and Tethys, the Sun of Hyperion and Thea, whose parents were Ouranus and Gaia: these were all kindred gods, benevolent to Prometheus, and deeply affected with his miseries,
  4. Refertur ad levem sonum undarum veratis exagitaturum, qui etiam aliquantulum crispant maris dorsum quasi amabili quádam γελασια.-Stanley. The image is here so beautifully poetical, that the translator could not give it up for the cool correction of Pauw.
  5. This softly-breathing odour marks the approach of some divinity
    When Juno, in the fourteenth Iliad, retires to her apartment to dress with more than ordinary care,

     Here first she bathes, and round her body pours,

    Soft oil of fragrance, and ambrosial show'rs:

    The winds perfum'd the balmy gale convey

    Thro' heav'n, thro' earth, and all th' acrial way;

    Spirit divine! whose exhalation greets

    The sense of gods with more than mortal sweets. Pope

    Thus Venus in, the first Æneid discovers herself to Æneas,

     Ambrosiræque coma divinum vertice odorem


    Her waving lucks immortal odours shed,

    And breath'd ambrosial scents around her head. PITT.

  6. Æschylas with great judgment introduces these daughters of Oceanus as attending Prometheus; by their consanguinity they must be a friendly train. In the simplicity of ancient manners their father's consent must first be obtained; and even thus virgin modesty is something hurt. The Nymphs of the waters wore no sandals; hence Thetis is called the silver-footed, as Juno is the golden-slippered queen.
  7. Japetus had three sons, Menetius, Prometheus, and Epimetheus. Menætius, for his insolence and audacious attenmpts, was by Jupiter smitten with thunder, and cast into Tartarus, where the vanquished Titans were imprisoned. HESIOD,—To this Prometheus here alludes.
  8. Gaia, offended with her husband Ouranus for having inprisoned the bravest of her sons, encouraged Saturn to revenge the affront, and armed him with a seythe of adamant, with which he dismembered his father, then seized his throne. But having heard a prophecy that he in his turn should be dethroned by one of his sons, to evade the completion of it, he swallowed down all his male offspring as soon as they were born, till at the birth of Jupiter, Rhea deceived him by a strange device, and privately conveyed the child to Crete, where he was educated, and concealed till he was of age to appear in arms against his father. As Saturn was the youngest son of Ouranus, the two eldest, Titanus and Japetus, claimed their hereditary honours, and opposed the sovereignty of Jupiter. The war had now continued ten years without intermission, and no prospect of a decision appeared when Jupiter released Briareus, Cottos, and Gyges, the sons whom Saturn had imprisoned, and by feasting them with nectar and ambrosia, secured their fidelity: these were of immense courage, strength, and size, each, had fifty heads and a hundred hands; by their assistance the Titans were totally defeated, and Jupiter acknowledged as the sovereign of the sky. Hesiod describes this battle with wonderful sublimity.
  9. A multiplicity of names was a mark of dignity; but Themis could not with propriety be called Gaia, this our poet mistook for Rhea, Gaia is the earth in its primitve uncultivated state, terra inculta, Rhea is the earth in its improved state of cultivation, tellus culta: and as from this culture property arose, Justice had here her office to assign and protect this property. suum cuique: Themis therefore, as the goddess of Justice, might well have the appellation of Rhea. This is only to show that we understand the mythology of the ancients much better than they did themselves.
  10. We are not informed for what cause Jupiter was so offended with the unhappy race of mortals; but by way of punishment he withdrew from them πατεΧΧTerTÉxva Tugos réras, the fiery flame, that lends its aid to every art: this Prometheus stole from heaven, and reconveyed to them in an hollew cane: hine illæ lacrynæ.
  11. Il paroit monté sur je ne scai quel animal (illegible text); bizarrerie inexplicable.—Brumoy.—Of thiss breed was the winged horse of Astolfo.—Orlando (illegible text), b. iv, c. 13,
  12. We have before seen one brother of Prometheus driven thunder-struck to Tartarus; we have here another of that unhappy family, the famous Atlas, condemned to support in his arms the pillars of the heavens.
  13. After the defeat of the Titans, Gaia, from an adventure with Tartarus, brought forth this her youngest son, the most enormous and most terrible of all the giant race: he had an hundred dragon-heads; his eyes glared fire; from all his heads he uttered every horrid sound, sometimes intelligible to the gods, sometimes the lowing of a bull, sometimes the roaring of a lion, sometimes the howl of dogs, sometimes the hiss of serpents; his force was so formidable, as alone to endanger the sovereignty of the sky, and to compel Jupiter to exert his whole strength and all his volfied thunder, of which Hesiod has given us a noble description. Happily for poetry, this monster, instead of being driven down to Tartarus, was defeated in the plains of Sicily, where the mountain Ætna was hurled upon him. The genius of Hesiod seems to have taken fire from hence, and communicated the flame to Æschylus, Pindar, and Virgil.
  14. The chorus here alludes to the punishment of Menœtius and Atlas mentioned before.
  15. This stanza and the next relate to Prometheus, the last to Atlas. All Asia lamented the sufferings of the former; the earth, the sea, and the gloomy depths of Pluto sympathize with Atlas, for whilst he bore the heavens on his shoulders, all below must be violently pressed beneath his feet.—Pauw.
  16. The translator has followed the emendation of Pauw; for though αεισορος be a proper and general epithet for the provident ants, who are therefore by Ovid styled frugilegæ, and it is to the purpose of Horace, when he says of this little animal, Ore trahit quodcunque potest, yet in this place it has no pertinent analogy to untutored barbarians dwelling in caves: it was not then the industrious forecast of the ant to which Æschylus had occasion to allude, but its nest scooped in the ground: {Greek|αεισορος}}conveys the precise idea.
  17. Of the many advantages for which the translator is indebted to Æschylus the greatest and must valuable is the honour which he receives from the acquaintance of some persons of the highest rank, and the most distinguished eminence in literature; among these he is proud to reckon

    Richard Paul Jodrell, Esq.

    This gentleman has been so kind as to communicate his own observations on one tragedy, the Siege of Thebes, with leave 'to the compiler of these notes to select from them such as might be found to coincide with his plan; a liberal use has been made of these, enough to make the reader regret that the pressing call for this publication would not admit of a delay, till the same learned person's observations on the other tragedies could be revised; but ex pede Herculem.
    The translator had religiously adhered to his original in the δυσμριτους δυσες v. 457. but was totally at a loss to account for the superior difficulty marking the setting of the stars. He took the liberty to communicate his embarrassment to Mr. Jodrell, and was immediately favoured with his judicious solution of the passage.
    "It is difficult to ascertain the degree of knowledge, which the philosophers contemporary with Æschylus had of the fixed stars; for Hipparchus the Rhodian, who flourished only 120 years before Christ, which was near 420 years after the birth of Æschylus, was the first who dared to undertake a thing, which, says Pliny, seemed to surpass the power of a divinity, that of wondering the stars for posterity, and reducing them to a rule. Because the civil year of the ancients did not correspond with the apparent annual motion of the sun, it was impossible by the calendar to ascertain the precise times for the purposes of agriculture, as the same day of the month would not happen in the same season of the year; it was necessary therefore to have recourse to more certain standards and invariable characters to distinguish times, which the risings and the settings of the stars naturally afforded; Prometheus, therefore, with great propriety might boast of this signal and important discovery to mankind: of which Virgil, in his first Georgic, when he delivers his poetical precepts nor the husbandman, makes a particular injunction.

    Præterea tam sunt Arcturi sídera nobis,
    Hædorumque dies servandi, et lucidus anguis, &c.

    Hesiod had before given precepts of similar nature.
    Now the rising of a star, as defined by Chrysippus, is its advancement above the earth, and its setting the occultation of it under the earth. (See Stanley's History of Philosophy, part vii. c. 8.) And astronomers have divided the risings and settings of stars, according to their technical expressions, into Cosmical, Achronical, and Heliacal, which are thus explained by Keil in his nineteenth lecture, p. 222. A star is said to rise or set cosmically, which rises or sets when the sun rises; achronically, when it rises while the sun sets, that iş in the evening, when it is in opposition to the sun, and is visible all night, heliacally, when after it has been in conjunction with the sun, and on that account invisible, it comes to be at such a distance from him as to be seen in the morning before sun rising, when the sun, by his apparent motion, recedes from the star towards the easts but the Heliacal setting is, when the sun approaches so near a star, that it hides it with its beams, which keep the fainter light of the star from being perceived" This I conceive to be the meaning of the poet in his epithet of , or

    ———an harder science yet,
    Their setting.———

    For by this philosophical solution the observation of the settings of the stars must be attended with more difficulty than that of the risings: this appears to me to be the most natural explication of this passage."

  18. The chorus here alludes to the solemn annual festival, which the gods held with their father Oceanus, and at which they showed their piety and reverence by their attendance and ministry.—Pauw,——See Homer, 1 Il. v. 423. with Mr. Pope's note.
  19. The poet here introduces to us the most singular and illustrious personage of ancient Greece, from whom the noblest families were proud of deriving their pedigree; the bare mention of her was a compliment to their vanity and therefore always well accepted; it had a peculiar propriety here, as it prepared the Athenian spectator to receive her great descendant Hercules, who was to appear in the next play, which unhappily is lost. In the Supplicants we shall have occasion to speak more particularly of her.
  20. So Ovid seems to have understaod this passage,

    ———junctisque canendo

    Vincere arundinibus servantia lumina tentat.

    And still betwixt, his tuneful pipe he plies,
    And watch'd his hour to close the keeper's eyes.DRYDEN.

    In her distraction she thought she saw the spectre of her keeper Argos, she thought she heard the sound of the pipe with which Mercury lulled all his hundred eyes to sleep.

  21. Prometheus had mentioned her father's name, and the cause of her sufferings; from whence Iö, rightly conceiving him to be a prophet, had requested him to tell her clearly what woes yet awaited her, and how they might be remedied: he answers, I will tell thee clearly, without that enigmatiçal obscurity which bad rendered oracles famous for

    Dark-utter'd aiswers of ambiguous sense.

  22. Inachus, the father of Iö, was the son of Oceanus and Tethys.
  23. Iö tells her tale with great propriety, and by preserving the decorum of their own character, consults the dignity of her illustrious descendants. The circumstance of the vision, and the influence of the god over her slumbers, is a fine stroke of nature, embellished with a rich poetical imagination;

    These are the day-dreams of a maid in love.

    Ovid, who had no prejudice of high-descended ancestry to flatter, has taken the liberty to depart from this bienseance; Pellicis argolicæ is a coarse appellation, and his poem is so much the worse for it.

  24. The translator hath here adopted the very judicious reading of Pauw with regard to Cenchrea; but notwithstanding his aliud melius et facilius tihi dabo, prefers the Αεςυη; τε χςηυην of Canterus to his Αεςυη or Αεςυη.
  25. The horrid custom of sacrificing strangers, whose ill fortune drove them on their coasts, marks the savage and inhospitable manners of these barbarians.
  26. Araxis
  27. Bospherus, the passage of the heifer.
  28. The Chorus had declared themselves to be deeply affected at the narrative of Iö; Prometheus therefore, having enumerated more and greater woes which yet awaited her, addresses them thus: Think you that this tyrant of the skies is of a fierce and headlong violence, when be has thus driven a mortal, even whilst he is a suiter for her love, to these wanderings? Then turning to the unhappy sufferer, he says,

    A rugged wooer, virgin, have thy charms
    Won thee.

    There is in this a malignant triumph, well suited to the implacable resentment of the speaker, which would not allow him to acknowledge that Jupiter did not voluntarily inflict these miseries on his favourite fair, but that with great reluctance he was obliged to make this sacrifice to the jealous and enraged Juno.

  29. This is one of those fine touches which distinguish a master's hand. Iö had been cruelly treated, and was sinking even to desperation under the sense of the miseries which she was yet to suffer, when she was told that her rugged wooer, from whom all her afflictions arose, should one day be deprived of the sovereignty of heaven. Here, instead of that pleasure with which it was supposed the predicted event would fill her indignant mind, her concealed love just rises to soften her resentment, and then, fearful of a discovery, hides itself beneath her conscious dignity, and the modest reserve of her sex: nay, the very questions which she afterwards asks, apparently to show her joy for the ruin of Jupiter, discover the most delicate tincture of tender and delicate şensibility.
  30. From Iö descended Epaphus, Libye, Belus, Danaus, Hypermnestra, Abas, Prœlus, Acrisius, Danæ, Perseus, Electrion, Alomena, Hercules.
  31. There is something so very ingenious in Mr. Bryant's analysis of these daughters of Phorcys, that the most rigid exactors of historical proof will not be offended to see it here laid before the reader. This history, he says, relates to an Amonian temple founded in the extreme parts of Africa, in which there were three priestesses of Canaanitish race, who on that account are said to be in the shape of swans, that bird being the insigne of their nation. The notion of their having but one eye among them took its rise from an hieroglyphic very common in Egypt, and probably in Canaan: this was the representation of an eye, which was said to be engraved upon the pediment of their temples. This may have been one reason, among others, why the Cyclopians and Arimaspians are represented with one eye.

    The Arimaspian troops, whose frowning foreheads
    Glare with one blazing eye.

    Bryant's Analysis, vol. i. p. 380. For his account of Medusa, see p. 510. &c.

  32. Pluto is here the name of a river απο του ωλουτου, from the gold found there; with which these northern parts are by historians said to abound, but to be inaccessible on account of the Gryphians, the fiercest and most formidable of all birds, against which the Arimaspians are continually in arms. Stanley.
  33. The ancients placed the Ethiopians at the extremities of the earth not only towards the south, but to the east, and also to the west; hence they are said to dwell near the fountains of the sun, so Virgil,

    Oceani finem juxta solemque cadentem
    Ultimus Æthiopuru locus est.

    The river Ethiops, Niger, or Nigris, rolls his black stream through immense deserts scorched with intolerable heat, till it comes to its last cataract; thence it falls into Egypt, and assumes, the name of the Nile. Stanley—. "Four miles below Cairo it divideth, making of the richest portion of the land a triangular island, named Delta, in that it beareth the form of the Greek "Δ." Sandys.

  34. This sage was Pittacus of Mitylene, one of the seven celebrated wise men of Greece.
  35. Ouranus dethroned by his son Saturn, and Saturn by his son Jupiter.
  36. It is not necessary to send the ladies to Pindar for their information in this celestial anecdote, as our courtly Lansdowne in his Mask of Peleus and Thetis is ready to discover the secret. Jupiter beheld the charm of Thetis, daughter of Oceanus, with the eye of a lover, and intended to advance her as his consort to the imperial throne of Heaven. Now it was in the Fates that this lady should have a son, who was to be greater than his father, Prometheus alone, by his divine foresight, could open the danger of Jupiter; but this he firmly refused to do, till he should be released from the rock. After that Hercules, by the permission of Jupiter, had killed the tormenting eagle, and unbound his chains, he disclosed the decree of the Fates: Thetis was given in marriage to Peleus, and the prophecy was accomplished in the famous Achilles.
  37. The scholiast explains this passage by saying, that whoever should attempt to succour Prometheus, and deliver him from his pain, should himself be be sent to the shades of Orcus, and the dark abyss of Tartarus. The words are very remarkable; for want of a better explication of them, we must take up with this.
  38. The Chorus throughout this tragedy find themselves in a very delicate and difficult situation. Consanguinity and affection brought them to the rock to commiserate the afflictions of Prometheus; hence they became interested in the action: as his sufferings were unjust, their office, which led them to favour the good, led them also to express their disapprobation of his punishment; but as it was inflicted by Jupiter, their piety and reverence would not permit them to oppose the king of the gods; all that remained for them was to condole with him, to give him friendly counsel, and to soften his inflamed resentment: their character is preserved with wonderful propriety and decorum. Even at the last, when nothing could prevail with him to abate his implacable spirit, and Mercury with much tenderness advised them to retire, and avoid the impending storm, they answer with a becoming firmness, that they could not be guilty of such a deed of baseness; ancient manners, which considered the desertion of a friend as the vilest of actions, required this sacrifice of their own safety.