Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906)/Volume 5/The Prometheus Bound of Aeschylus
THE PROMETHEUS BOUND OF ÆSCHYLUS
PERSONS OF THE DRAMA
Kratos and Bia (Strength and Force).
Chorus of Ocean Nymphs.
Io, Daughter of Inachus.
Kratos and Bia, Hephaistus, Prometheus.
Kr. We are come to the far-bounding plain of earth,
To the Scythian way, to the unapproached solitude.
Hephaistus, orders must have thy attention,
Which the Father has enjoined on thee, this bold one
To the high-hanging rocks to bind
In indissoluble fetters of adamantine bonds.
For thy flower, the splendor of fire useful in all arts,
Stealing, he bestowed on mortals; and for such
A crime 't is fit he should give satisfaction to the gods;
That he may learn the tyranny of Zeus
To love, and cease from his man-loving ways.
Heph. Kratos and Bia, your charge from Zeus
Already has its end, and nothing further in the way;
But I cannot endure to bind
A kindred god by force to a bleak precipice,—
Yet absolutely there 's necessity that I have courage for these things;
For it is hard the Father's words to banish.
High-plotting son of the right-counseling Themis,
Unwilling thee unwilling in brazen fetters hard to be loosed
I am about to nail to this inhuman hill,
Where neither voice [you 'll hear], nor form of any mortal
See, but, scorched by the sun's clear flame,
Will change your color's bloom; and to you glad
The various-robed night will conceal the light,
And sun disperse the morning frost again;
And always the burden of the present ill
Will wear you; for he that will relieve you has not yet been born.
Such fruits you 've reaped from your man-loving ways,
For a god, not shrinking from the wrath of gods,
You have bestowed honors on mortals more than just,
For which this pleasureless rock you 'll sentinel,
Standing erect, sleepless, not bending a knee;
And many sighs and lamentations to no purpose
Will you utter; for the mind of Zeus is hard to be changed;
And he is wholly rugged who may newly rule.
Kr. Well, why dost thou delay and pity in vain?
Why not hate the god most hostile to gods,
Who has betrayed thy prize to mortals?
Heph. The affinity indeed is appalling, and the familiarity.
Kr. I agree, but to disobey the Father's words
How is it possible? Fear you not this more?
Heph. Ay, you are always without pity, and full of confidence.
Kr. For 't is no remedy to bewail this one;
Cherish not vainly troubles which avail naught.
Heph. O much hated handicraft!
Kr. Why hatest it? for in simple truth, for these misfortunes
Which are present now Art's not to blame.
Heph. Yet I would 't had fallen to another's lot.
Kr. All things were done but to rule the gods,
For none is free but Zeus.
Heph. I knew it, and have naught to say against these things.
Kr. Will you not haste, then, to put the bonds about him,
That the Father may not observe you loitering?
Heph. Already at hand the shackles you may see.
Kr. Taking them, about his hands with firm strength
Strike with the hammer, and nail him to the rocks.
Heph. 'T is done, and not in vain this work.
Kr. Strike harder, tighten, nowhere relax,
For he is skillful to find out ways e'en from the impracticable.
Heph. Ay, but this arm is fixed inextricably.
Kr. And this now clasp securely, that
He may learn he is a duller schemer than is Zeus.
Heph. Except him would none justly blame me.
Kr. Now with an adamantine wedge's stubborn fang
Through the breasts nail strongly.
Heph. Alas! alas! Prometheus, I groan for thy afflictions.
Kr. And do you hesitate? for Zeus' enemies
Do you groan? Beware lest one day you yourself will pity.
Heph. You see a spectacle hard for eyes to behold.
Kr. I see him meeting his deserts;
But round his sides put straps.
Heph. To do this is necessity, insist not much.
Kr. Surely I will insist and urge beside;
Go downward, and the thighs surround with force.
Heph. Already it is done, the work, with no long labor.
Kr. Strongly now drive the fetters, through and through,
For the critic of the works is difficult.
Heph. Like your form your tongue speaks.
Kr. Be thou softened, but for my stubbornness
Of temper and harshness reproach me not.
Heph. Let us withdraw, for he has a net about his limbs.
Kr. There now insult, and the shares of gods
Plundering on ephemerals bestow; what thee
Can mortals in these ills relieve?
Falsely thee the divinities Prometheus
Call; for you yourself need one foreseeing
In what manner you will escape this fortune.
O divine ether, and ye swift-winged winds,
Fountains of rivers, and countless smilings
Of the ocean waves, and earth, mother of all,
And thou all-seeing orb of the sun I call.
Behold me what a god I suffer at the hands of gods.
See by what outrages
Tormented the myriad-yeared
Time I shall endure; such the new
Ruler of the blessed has contrived for me,
Alas! alas! the present and the coming
Woe I groan; where ever of these sufferings
Must an end appear.
But what say I? I know beforehand all,
Exactly what will be, nor to me strange
Will any evil come. The destined fate
As easily as possible it behooves to bear, knowing
Necessity's is a resistless strength.
But neither to be silent nor unsilent about this
Lot is possible for me; for a gift to mortals
Giving, I wretched have been yoked to these necessities;
Within a hollow reed by stealth I carry off fire's
Stolen source, which seemed the teacher
Of all art to mortals, and a great resource.
For such crimes penalty I pay,
Under the sky, riveted in chains.
Ah! ah! alas! alas!
What echo, what odor has flown to me obscure,
Of god, or mortal, or else mingled,—
Came it to this terminal hill
A witness of my sufferings, or wishing what?
Behold bound me an unhappy god,
The enemy of Zeus, fallen under
The ill will of all the gods, as many as
Enter into the hall of Zeus,
Through too great love of mortals.
Alas! alas! what fluttering do I hear
Of birds near? for the air rustles
With the soft rippling of wings.
Everything to me is fearful which creeps this way.
Prometheus and Chorus.
Ch. Fear nothing; for friendly this band
Of wings with swift contention
Drew to this hill, hardly
Persuading the paternal mind.
The swift-carrying breezes sent me;
For the echo of beaten steel pierced the recesses
Of the caves, and struck out from me reserved modesty;
And I rushed unsandaled in a winged chariot.
Pr. Alas! alas! alas! alas!
Offspring of the fruitful Tethys,
And of him rolling around all
The earth with sleepless stream children,
Of Father Ocean; behold, look on me;
By what bonds embraced
On this cliff's topmost rocks
I shall maintain unenvied watch.
Ch. I see, Prometheus; but to my eyes a fearful
Mist has come surcharged
With tears, looking upon thy body
Shrunk to the rocks
By these mischiefs of adamantine bonds;
Indeed, new helmsmen rule Olympus;
And with new laws Zeus strengthens himself, annulling the old,
And the before great now makes unknown.
Pr. Would that under earth, and below Hades,
Receptacle of dead, to impassable
Tartarus he had sent me, to bonds indissoluble
Cruelly conducting, that neither god
Nor any other had rejoiced at this.
But now the sport of winds, unhappy one,
A source of pleasure to my foes, I suffer.
Ch. Who so hard-hearted
Of the gods, to whom these things are pleasant?
Who does not sympathize with thy
Misfortunes, excepting Zeus? for he in wrath always
Fixing his stubborn mind,
Afflicts the heavenly race;
Nor will he cease, until his heart is sated;
Or with some palm some one may take the power hard to be taken.
Pr. Surely yet, though in strong
Fetters I am now maltreated,
The ruler of the blessed will have need of me,
To show the new conspiracy by which
He's robbed of sceptre and of honors,
And not at all me with persuasion's honey-tongued
Charms will he appease, nor ever,
Shrinking from his firm threats, will I
Declare this, till from cruel
Bonds he may release, and to do justice
For this outrage be willing.
Ch. You are bold; and to bitter
Woes do nothing yield,
But too freely speak.
But my mind piercing fear disturbs;
For I'm concerned about thy fortunes,
Where at length arriving you may see
An end to these afflictions. For manners
Inaccessible, and a heart hard to be dissuaded has the son of Kronos.
Pr. I know, that—Zeus is stern and having
Justice to himself. But after all
He will one day be, when thus he's crushed,
And his stubborn wrath allaying,
Into agreement with me and friendliness
Earnest to me earnest he at length will come.
Ch. The whole account disclose and tell us plainly,
In what crime taking you Zeus
Thus disgracefully and bitterly insults;
Inform us, if you are nowise hurt by the recital.
Pr. Painful indeed it is to me to tell these things,
And a pain to be silent, and every way unfortunate.
When first the divinities began their strife,
And discord 'mong themselves arose,
Some wishing to cast Kronos from his seat,
That Zeus might reign, forsooth, others the contrary
Striving, that Zeus might never rule the gods;
Then I, the best advising, to persuade
The Titans, sons of Uranus and Chthon,
Unable was; but crafty stratagems
Despising with rude minds,
They thought without trouble to rule by force;
But to me my mother not once only, Themis,
And Gæa, of many names one form,
How the future should be accomplished had foretold,
That not by power nor by strength
Would it be necessary, but by craft the victors should prevail.
Such I in words expounding,
They deigned not to regard at all.
The best course, therefore, of those occurring then
Appeared to be, taking my mother to me,
Of my own accord to side with Zeus glad to receive me;
And by my counsels Tartarus' black-pitted
Depths conceals the ancient Kronos,
With his allies. In such things by me
The tyrant of the gods having been helped,
With base rewards like these repays me;
For there is somehow in kingship
This disease, not to trust its friends.
What then you ask, for what cause
He afflicts me, this will I now explain.
As soon as on his father's throne
He sat, he straightway to the gods distributes honors,
Some to one and to another some, and arranged
The government; but of unhappy mortals account
Had none; but blotting out the race
Entire, wished to create another new.
And these things none opposed but I,
But I adventured; I rescued mortals
From going destroyed to Hades.
Therefore, indeed, with such afflictions am I bent,
To suffer grievous, and piteous to behold,
And, holding mortals up to pity, myself am not
Thought worthy to obtain it; but without pity
Am I thus corrected, a spectacle inglorious to Zeus.
Ch. Of iron heart and made of stone,
Whoe'er, Prometheus, with thy sufferings
Does not grieve; for I should not have wished to see
These things, and having seen them I am grieved at heart.
Pr. Indeed to friends I'm piteous to behold.
Ch. Did you in no respect go beyond this?
Pr. True, mortals I made cease foreseeing fate.
Ch. Having found what remedy for this all?
Pr. Blind hopes in them I made to dwell.
Ch. A great advantage this you gave to men.
Pr. Beside these, too, I bestowed on them fire.
Ch. And have mortals flamy fire?
Pr. From which, indeed, they will learn many arts.
Ch. Upon such charges, then, does Zeus
Maltreat you, and nowhere relax from ills?
Is there no term of suffering lying before thee?
Pr. Nay, none at all, but when to him it may seem good.
Ch. And how will it seem good? What hope? See you not that
You have erred? But how you 've erred, for me to tell
Not pleasant, and to you a pain. But these things
Let us omit, and seek you some release from sufferings.
Pr. Easy, whoever out of trouble holds his
Foot, to admonish and remind those faring
Ill. But all these things I knew;
Willing, willing I erred, I'll not deny;
Mortals assisting I myself found trouble.
Not indeed with penalties like these thought I
That I should pine on lofty rocks,
Gaining this drear unneighbored hill.
But bewail not my present woes,
But alighting, the fortunes creeping on
Hear ye, that ye may learn all to the end.
Obey me, obey, sympathize
With him now suffering. Thus indeed affliction,
Wandering round, sits now by one, then by another.
Ch. Not to unwilling ears do you urge
And now with light foot the swift-rushing
Seat leaving, and the pure ether,
Path of birds, to this peaked
Ground I come; for thy misfortunes
I wish fully to hear.
Prometheus, Chorus and Oceanus.
Oc. I come to the end of a long way
Traveling to thee, Prometheus,
By my will without bits directing
This wing-swift bird;
For at thy fortunes know I grieve.
And, I think, affinity thus
Impels me, but apart from birth,
There's not to whom a higher rank
I would assign than thee.
And you will know these things as true, and not in vain
To flatter with the tongue is in me. Come, therefore,
Show how it is necessary to assist you;
For never will you say, than Ocean
There's a firmer friend to thee.
Pr. Alas! what now? And you, then, of my sufferings
Come spectator? How didst thou dare, leaving
The stream which bears thy name, and rock-roofed
Caves self-built, to the iron-mother
Earth to go? To behold my fate
Hast come, and to compassionate my ills?
Behold a spectacle, this, the friend of Zeus,
Having with him stablished his tyranny,
With what afflictions by himself I'm bent.
Oc. I see, Prometheus, and would admonish
Thee the best, although of varied craft.
Know thyself, and fit thy manners
New; for new also the king among the gods.
For if thus rude and whetted words
Thou wilt hurl out, quickly may Zeus, though sitting
Far above, hear thee, so that thy present wrath
Of troubles child's play will seem to be.
But, O wretched one, dismiss the indignation which thou hast,
And seek deliverance from these woes.
Like an old man, perhaps, I seem to thee to say these things;
Such, however, are the wages
Of the too lofty speaking tongue, Prometheus;
But thou art not yet humble, nor dost yield to ills,
And beside the present wish to receive others still.
But thou wouldst not, with my counsel,
Against the pricks extend your limbs, seeing that
A stern monarch irresponsible reigns.
And now I go, and will endeavor,
If I can, to release thee from these sufferings.
But be thou quiet, nor too rudely speak.
Know'st thou not well, with thy superior wisdom, that
On a vain tongue punishment is inflicted?
Pr. I congratulate thee that thou art without blame,
Having shared and dared all with me;
And now leave off, and let it not concern thee.
For altogether thou wilt not persuade him, for he's not easily persuaded,
But take heed yourself lest you be injured by the way.
Oc. Far better thou art to advise those near
Than thyself; by deed and not by word I judge.
But me hastening by no means may est thou detain,
For I boast, I boast, this favor will Zeus
Grant me, from these sufferings to release thee.
Pr. So far I praise thee, and will never cease;
For zeal you nothing lack. But
Strive not; for in vain, naught helping
Me, thou 'lt strive, if aught to strive you wish.
But be thou quiet, holding thyself aloof,
For I would not, though I 'm unfortunate, that on this account
Evils should come to many.
Oc. Surely not, for me too the fortunes of thy brother
Atlas grieve, who towards the evening-places
Stands, the pillar of heaven and earth
Upon his shoulders bearing, a load not easy to be borne.
And the earth-born inhabitant of the Cilician
Caves seeing, I pitied, the savage monster
With a hundred heads, by force o'ercome,
Typhon impetuous, who stood 'gainst all the gods,
With frightful jaws hissing out slaughter;
And from his eyes flashed a Gorgonian light,
Utterly to destroy by force the sovereignty of Zeus;
But there came to him Zeus' sleepless bolt,
Descending thunder, breathing flame,
Which struck him out from lofty
Boastings. For, struck to his very heart,
His strength was scorched and thundered out.
And now a useless and extended carcass
Lies he near a narrow passage of the sea,
Pressed down under the roots of Ætna.
And on the topmost summit seated, Hephaistus
Hammers the ignited mass, whence will burst out at length
Rivers of fire, devouring with wild jaws
Fair-fruited Sicily's smooth fields;
Such rage will Typhon make boil over
With hot discharges of insatiable fire-breathing tempest,
Though by the bolt of Zeus burnt to a coal.
Pr. Thou art not inexperienced, nor dost want
My counsel; secure thyself as thou know'st how;
And I against the present fortune will bear up,
Until the thought of Zeus may cease from wrath.
Oc. Know'st thou not this, Prometheus, that
Words are healers of distempered wrath?
Pr. If any seasonably soothe the heart,
And swelling passion check not rudely.
Oc. In the consulting and the daring
What harm seest thou existing? Teach me.
Pr. Trouble superfluous, and light-minded folly.
Oc. Be this my ail then, since it is
Most profitable, being wise, not to seem wise.
Pr. This will seem to be my error.
Oc. Plainly homeward thy words remand me.
Pr. Aye, let not grief for me into hostility cast thee.
Oc. To the new occupant of the all-powerful seats?
Pr. Beware lest ever his heart be angered.
Oc. Thy fate, Prometheus, is my teacher.
Pr. Go thou, depart; preserve the present mind.
Oc. To me rushing this word you utter.
For the smooth path of the air sweeps with his wings
The four-legged bird; and gladly would
In the stalls at home bend a knee.
Prometheus and Chorus.
Ch. I mourn for thee thy ruinous
And tear-distilling from my tender
Eyes a stream has wet
My cheeks with flowing springs;
For these, unenvied, Zeus
By his own laws enforcing,
Haughty above the gods
That were displays his sceptre.
And every region now
With groans resounds,
Mourning the illustrious
And ancient honor
Of thee and of thy kindred;
As many mortals as the habitable seat
Of sacred Asia pasture,
With thy lamentable
Woes have sympathy;
And of the Colchian land, virgin
Inhabitants, in fight undaunted,
And Scythia's multitude, who the last
Place of earth, about
Mæotis lake possess,
And Arabia's martial flower,
And who the high-hung citadels
Of Caucasus inhabit near,
A hostile army, raging
With sharp-prowed spears.
Only one other god before, in sufferings
Subdued by injuries
Of adamantine bonds, I've seen, Titanian
Atlas, who always with superior strength
The huge and heavenly globe
On his back bears;
And with a roar the sea waves
Dashing, groans the deep,
And the dark depth of Hades murmurs underneath
The earth, and fountains of pure-running rivers
Heave a pitying sigh.
Pr. Think not, indeed, through weakness or through pride
That I am silent; for with the consciousness I gnaw my heart,
Seeing myself thus basely used.
And yet to these new gods their shares
Who else than I wholly distributed?
But of these things I am silent; for I should tell you
What you know; the sufferings of mortals too
You've heard, how I made intelligent
And possessed of sense them ignorant before.
But I will speak, not bearing any grudge to men,
But showing in what I gave the good intention;
At first, indeed, seeing they saw in vain,
And hearing heard not; but like the forms
Of dreams, for that long time, rashly confounded
All, nor brick-woven dwellings
Knew they, placed in the sun, nor woodwork;
But digging down they dwelt, like puny
Ants, in sunless nooks of caves.
And there was naught to them, neither of winter sign,
Nor of flower-giving spring, nor fruitful
Summer, that was sure; but without knowledge
Did they all, till I taught them the risings
Of the stars, and goings down, hard to determine.
And numbers, chief of inventions,
I found out for them, and the assemblages of letters,
And memory, Muse-mother, doer of all things;
And first I joined in pairs wild animals
Obedient to the yoke; and that they might be
Alternate workers with the bodies of men
In the severest toils, I harnessed the rein-loving horses
To the car, the ornament of over-wealthy luxury.
And none else than I invented the sea-wandering
Flaxen-winged vehicles of sailors.
Such inventions I wretched having found out
For men, myself have not the ingenuity by which
From the now present ill I may escape.
Ch. You suffer unseemly ill; deranged in mind
You err; and as some bad physician, falling
Sick you are dejected, and cannot find
By what remedies you may be healed.
Pr. Hearing the rest from me more will you wonder
What arts and what expedients I planned.
That which was greatest, if any might fall sick,
There was alleviation none, neither to eat,
Nor to anoint, nor drink, but for the want
Of medicines they were reduced to skeletons, till to them
I showed the mingling of mild remedies,
By which all ails they drive away.
And many modes of prophecy I settled,
And distinguished first of dreams what a real
Vision is required to be, and omens hard to be determined
I made known to them; and tokens by the way,
And flight of crooked-taloned birds I accurately
Defined, which lucky are,
And unlucky, and what mode of life
Have each, and to one another what
Hostilities, attachments, and assemblings;
The entrails' smoothness, and what color having
They would be to the divinities acceptable;
Of the gall and liver the various symmetry,
And the limbs concealed in fat; and the long
Flank burning, to an art hard to be guessed
I showed the way to mortals; and flammeous signs
Explained, before obscure.
Such indeed these; and under ground
Concealed the helps to men;
Brass, iron, silver, gold, who
Would affirm that he discovered before me?
None, I well know, not wishing in vain to boast.
But learn all in one word,
All arts to mortals from Prometheus.
Ch. Assist not mortals now unseasonably,
And neglect yourself unfortunate; for I
Am of good hope that, from these bonds
Released, you will yet have no less power than Zeus.
Pr. Never thus has Fate the Accomplisher
Decreed to fulfill these things, but by a myriad ills
And woes subdued, thus bonds I flee;
For art 's far weaker than necessity.
Ch. Who, then, is helmsman of necessity?
Pr. The Fates three-formed, and the remembering Furies.
Ch. Than these, then, is Zeus weaker?
Pr. Ay, he could not escape what has been fated.
Ch. But what to Zeus is fated, except always to rule?
Pr. This thou wilt not learn; seek not to know.
Ch. Surely some awful thing it is which you withhold.
Pr. Remember other words, for this by no means
Is it time to tell, but to be concealed
As much as possible; for keeping this do I
Escape unseemly bonds and woes.
Ch. Never may the all-ruling
Zeus put into my mind
Force antagonist to him.
Nor let me cease drawing near
The gods with holy sacrifices
Of slain oxen, by Father Ocean's
Nor offend with words,
But in me this remain
And ne'er be melted out.
'T is something sweet with bold
Hopes the long life to
Extend, in bright
Cheerfulness the cherishing spirit.
But I shudder, thee beholding
By a myriad sufferings tormented. . . .
For, not fearing Zeus,
In thy private mind thou dost regard
Mortals too much, Prometheus.
Come, though a thankless
Favor, friend, say where is any strength,
From ephemerals any help? Saw you not
The powerless inefficiency,
Dream-like, in which the blind . . .
Race of mortals are entangled?
Never counsels of mortals
May transgress the harmony of Zeus.
I learned these things looking on
Thy destructive fate, Prometheus.
For different to me did this strain come,
And that which round thy baths
And couch I hymned,
With the design of marriage, when my father's child
With bridal gifts persuading, thou didst lead
Hesione the partner of thy bed.
Prometheus, Chorus, and Io.
Io. What earth, what race, what being shall I say is this
I see in bridles of rock
Exposed? By what crime's
Penalty dost thou perish? Show, to what part
Of earth I miserable have wandered.
Ah! ah! alas! alas!
Again some fly doth sting me wretched,
Image of earth-born Argus, cover it, earth;
I fear the myriad-eyed herdsman beholding;
For he goes having a treacherous eye,
Whom not e'en dead the earth conceals.
But me, wretched from the Infernals passing,
He pursues, and drives fasting along the seaside
Sand, while low resounds a wax-compacted reed,
Uttering sleep-giving law; alas! alas! O gods!
Where, gods! where lead me far-wandering courses?
In what sin, O son of Kronos,
In what sin ever having taken,
To these afflictions hast thou yoked me? alas! alas!
With fly-driven fear a wretched
Frenzied one dost thus afflict?
With fire burn, or with earth cover, or
To sea monsters give for food, nor
Envy me my prayers, king.
Enough much-wandered wanderings
Have exercised me, nor can I learn where
I shall escape from sufferings.
Ch. Hear'st thou the address of the cow-horned virgin?
Pr. And how not hear the fly-whirled virgin,
Daughter of Inachus, who Zeus' heart warmed
With love, and now the courses over long,
By Here hated, forcedly performs?
Io. Whence utterest thou my father's name?
Tell me, miserable, who thou art,
That to me, O suffering one, me born to suffer,
Thus true things dost address?
The god-sent ail thou'st named,
Which wastes me stinging
With maddening goads, alas! alas!
With foodless and unseemly leaps
Rushing headlong, I came,
By wrathful plots subdued.
Who of the wretched, who, alas! alas! suffers like me?
But to me clearly show
What me awaits to suffer,
What not necessary; what remedy of ill,
Teach, if indeed thou know'st; speak out,
Tell the ill-wandering virgin.
Pr. I'll clearly tell thee all you wish to learn.
Not weaving in enigmas, but in simple speech,
As it is just to open the mouth to friends.
Thou seest the giver of fire to men, Prometheus.
Io. O thou who didst appear a common help to mortals,
Wretched Prometheus, to atone for what do you endure this?
Pr. I have scarce ceased my sufferings lamenting.
Io. Would you not grant this favor to me?
Pr. Say what you ask; for you 'd learn all from me.
Io. Say who has bound thee to the cliff.
Pr. The will, indeed, of Zeus, Hephaistus' hand.
Io. And penalty for what crimes dost thou pay?
Pr. Thus much only can I show thee.
Io. But beside this, declare what time will he
To me unfortunate the limit of my wandering.
Pr. Not to learn is better for thee than to learn these things.
Io. Conceal not from me what I am to suffer.
Pr. Indeed, I grudge thee not this favor.
Io. Why, then, dost thou delay to tell the whole?
Pr. There's no unwillingness, but I hesitate to vex thy mind.
Io. Care not for me more than is pleasant to me.
Pr. Since you are earnest, it behooves to speak; hear then.
Ch. Not yet, indeed; but a share of pleasure also give to me.
First we'll learn the malady of this one,
Herself relating her destructive fortunes,
And the remainder of her trials let her learn from thee.
Pr. 'T is thy part, Io, to do these a favor,
As well for every other reason, and as they are sisters of thy father.
Since to weep and to lament misfortunes,
There where one will get a tear
From those attending, is worthy the delay.
Io. I know not that I need distrust you,
But in plain speech you shall learn
All that you ask for; and yet e'en telling I lament
The god-sent tempest, and dissolution
Of my form—whence to me miserable it came.
For always visions in the night, moving about
My virgin chambers, enticed me
With smooth words: "O greatly happy virgin,
Why be a virgin long? is permitted to obtain
The greatest marriage. For Zeus with love's dart
Has been warmed by thee, and wishes to unite
In love; but do thou, O child, spurn not the couch
Of Zeus, but go out to Lerna's deep
Morass, and stables of thy father's herds,
That the divine eye may cease from desire."
With such dreams every night
Was I unfortunate distressed, till I dared tell
My father of the night-wandering visions.
And he to Pytho and Dodona frequent
Prophets sent, that he might learn what it was necessary
He should say or do, to do agreeably to the gods.
And they came bringing ambiguous
Oracles, darkly and indistinctly uttered.
But finally a plain report came to Inachus,
Clearly enjoining him and telling
Out of my home and country to expel me,
Discharged to wander to the earth's last bounds;
And if he was not willing, from Zeus would come
A fiery thunderbolt, which would annihilate all his race.
Induced by such predictions of the Loxian,
Against his will he drove me out,
And shut me from the houses; but Zeus' rein
Compelled him by force to do these things.
Immediately my form and mind were
Changed, and horned, as you behold, stung
By a sharp-mouthed fly, with frantic leaping
Rushed I to Cenchrea's palatable stream,
And Lerna's source; but a herdsman born-of-earth
Of violent temper, Argus, accompanied, with numerous
Eyes my steps observing.
But unexpectedly a sudden fate
Robbed him of life; and I, fly-stung,
By lash divine am driven from land to land.
You hear what has been done; and if you have to say aught,
What's left of labors, speak; nor pitying me
Comfort with false words; for an ill
The worst of all, I say, are made-up words.
Ch. Ah! ah! enough, alas!
Ne'er, ne'er did I presume such cruel words
Would reach my ears, nor thus unsightly
And intolerable hurts, sufferings, fears with a two-edged
Goad would chill my soul;
Alas! alas! fate! fate!
I shudder, seeing the state of Io.
Pr. Beforehand sigh'st thou, and art full of fears,
Hold till the rest also thou learn' st.
Ch. Tell, teach; for to the sick 't is sweet
To know the remaining pain beforehand clearly.
Pr. Your former wish ye got from me
With ease; for first ye asked to learn from her
Relating her own trials;
The rest now hear, what sufferings 't is necessary
This young woman should endure from Here.
But do thou, offspring of Inachus, my words
Cast in thy mind, that thou may'st learn the boundaries of the way.
First, indeed, hence towards the rising of the sun
Turning thyself, travel uncultivated lands,
And to the Scythian nomads thou wilt come, who woven roofs
On high inhabit, on well-wheeled carts,
With far-casting bows equipped;
Whom go not near, but to the sea-resounding cliffs
Bending thy feet, pass from the region.
On the left hand the iron-working
Chalybes inhabit, whom thou must needs beware,
For they are rude and inaccessible to strangers.
And thou wilt come to the Hybristes river, not ill named,
Which pass not, for not easy is 't to pass,
Before you get to Caucasus itself, highest
Of mountains, where the stream spurts out its tide
From the very temples; and passing over
The star-neighbored summits, 't is necessary to go
The southern way, where thou wilt come to the man-hating
Army of the Amazons, who Themiscyra one day
Will inhabit, by the Thermedon, where 's
Salmydessia, rough jaw of the sea,
Inhospitable to sailors, stepmother of ships;
They will conduct thee on thy way, and very cheerfully.
And to the Cimmerian isthmus thou wilt come,
Just on the narrow portals of a lake, which leaving
It behooves thee with stout heart to pass the Mœotic straits;
And there will be to mortals ever a great fame
Of thy passage, and Bosphorus from thy name
'T will be called. And leaving Europe's plain
The continent of Asia thou wilt reach.—Seemeth to thee, forsooth,
The tyrant of the gods in everything to be
Thus violent? For he a god, with this mortal
Wishing to unite, drove her to these wanderings.
A bitter wooer didst thou find, O virgin,
For thy marriage. For the words you now have heard
Think not yet to be the prelude.
Io. Ah! me! me! alas! alas!
Pr. Again dost shriek and heave a sigh? What
Wilt thou do when the remaining ills thou learn'st?
Ch. And hast thou any further suffering to tell her?
Pr. Ay, a tempestuous sea of baleful woe.
Io. What profit, then, for me to live, and not in haste
To cast myself from this rough rock,
That rushing down upon the plain I may be released
From every trouble? For better once for all to die,
Than all my days to suffer evilly.
Pr. Unhappily my trials would'st thou hear,
To whom to die has not been fated;
For this would be release from sufferings;
But now there is no end of ills lying
Before me, until Zeus falls from sovereignty.
Io. And is Zeus ever to fall from power?
Pr. Thou would'st be pleased, I think, to see this accident.
Io. How should I not, who suffer ill from Zeus?
Pr. That these things then are so, be thou assured.
Io. By what one will the tyrant's power be robbed?
Pr. Himself, by his own senseless counsels.
Io. In what way show, if there's no harm.
Pr. He will make such a marriage as one day he'll repent.
Io. Of god or mortal? If to be spoken, tell.
Pr. What matters which? For these things are not to be told.
Io. By a wife will he be driven from the throne?
Pr. Ay, she will bring forth a son superior to his father.
Io. Is there no refuge for him from this fate?
Pr. None, surely, till I may be released from bonds.
Io. Who, then, is to release thee, Zeus unwilling?
Pr. He must be some one of thy descendants.
Io. How sayest thou? that my child will deliver thee from ills?
Pr. Third of thy race after ten other births.
Io. This oracle is not yet easy to be guessed.
Pr. But do not seek to understand thy sufferings.
Io. First proffering gain to me, do not then withhold it.
Pr. I'll grant thee one of two relations.
Io. What two propose, and give to me my choice.
Pr. I give; choose whether thy remaining troubles
I shall tell thee clearly, or him that will release me.
Ch. Consent to do her the one favor,
Me the other, nor deem us undeserving of thy words;
To her indeed tell what remains of wandering,
And to me, who will release; for I desire this.
Pr. Since ye are earnest, I will not resist
To tell the whole, as much as ye ask for.
To thee first, Io, vexatious wandering I will tell,
Which engrave on the remembering tablets of the mind.
When thou hast passed the flood boundary of continents,
Towards the flaming orient sun-traveled . . .
Passing through the tumult of the sea, until you reach
The Gorgonian plains of Cisthene, where
The Phorcides dwell, old virgins,
Three, swan-shaped, having a common eye,
One-toothed, whom neither the sun looks on
With his beams, nor nightly moon ever.
And near, their winged sisters three,
Dragon-scaled Gorgons, odious to men,
Whom no mortal beholding will have breath;
Such danger do I tell thee.
But hear another odious sight;
Beware the gryphons, sharp-mouthed
Dogs of Zeus, which bark not, and the one-eyed Arimaspian
Host, going on horseback, who dwell about
The golden-flowing flood of Pluto's channel;
These go not near. But to a distant land
Thou 'lt come, a dusky race, who near the fountains
Of the sun inhabit, where is the Æthiopian river.
Creep down the banks of this, until thou com'st
To a descent, where from Byblinian mounts
The Nile sends down its sacred palatable stream.
This will conduct thee to the triangled land
Nilean, where, Io, 't is decreed
Thou and thy progeny shall form the distant colony.
If aught of this is unintelligible to thee, and hard to be found out,
Repeat thy questions, and learn clearly;
For more leisure than I want is granted me.
Ch. If to her aught remaining or omitted
Thou hast to tell of her pernicious wandering,
Speak; but if thou hast said all, give us
The favor which we ask, for surely thou remember'st.
Pr. The whole term of her traveling has she heard.
But that she may know that not in vain she hears me,
I'll tell what before coming hither she endured,
Giving this as proof of my relations.
The great multitude of words I will omit,
And proceed unto the very limit of thy wanderings.
When, then, you came to the Molossian ground,
And near the high-ridged Dodona, where
Oracle and seat is of Thesprotian Zeus,
And prodigy incredible, the speaking oaks,
By whom you clearly, and naught enigmatically,
Were called the illustrious wife of Zeus
About to be, if aught of these things soothes thee;
Thence, driven by the fly, you came
The seaside way to the great gulf of Rhea,
From which by courses retrograde you are now tempest-tossed.
But for time to come the sea gulf,
Clearly know, will be called Ionian,
Memorial of thy passage to all mortals.
Proofs to thee are these of my intelligence,
That it sees somewhat more than the apparent.
But the rest to you and her in common I will tell,
Having come upon the very track of former words.
There is a city Canopus, last of the land,
By Nile's very mouth and bank;
There at length Zeus makes thee sane,
Stroking with gentle hand, and touching only.
And, named from Zeus' begetting,
Thou wilt bear dark Epaphus, who will reap
As much land as broad-flowing Nile doth water;
And fifth from him, a band of fifty children
Again to Argos shall unwilling come,
Of female sex, avoiding kindred marriage
Of their cousins; but they, with minds inflamed,
Hawks by doves not far left behind,
Will come pursuing marriages
Not to be pursued, but heaven will take vengeance on their bodies;
For them Pelasgia shall receive by Mars
Subdued with woman's hand with night-watching boldness.
For each wife shall take her husband's life,
Staining a two-edged dagger in his throat.
Such 'gainst my foes may Cypris come.—
But one of the daughters shall love soften
Not to slay her bedfellow, but she will waver
In her mind; and one of two things will prefer,
To hear herself called timid, rather than stained with blood;
She shall in Argos bear a royal race.—
Of a long speech is need this clearly to discuss.
From this seed, however, shall be born a brave,
Famed for his bow, who will release me
From these sufferings. Such oracle my ancient
Mother told me, Titanian Themis;
But how and by what means, this needs long speech
To tell, and nothing, learning, wilt thou gain.
Io. Ah me! ah wretched me!
Spasms again and brain-struck
Madness burn me within, and a fly's dart
Stings me,—not wrought by fire.
My heart with fear knocks at my breast,
And my eyes whirl round and round,
And from my course I'm borne by madness'
Furious breath, unable to control my tongue;
While confused words dash idly
'Gainst the waves of horrid woe.
Ch. Wise, wise indeed was he,
Who first in mind
This weighed, and with the tongue expressed,
To marry according to one's degree is best by far;
Nor, being a laborer with the hands,
To woo those who are by wealth corrupted,
Nor, those by birth made great.
Never, never me
Fates . . .
May you behold the sharer of Zeus' couch.
Nor may I be brought near to any husband among those from heaven,
For I fear, seeing the virginhood of Io,
Not content with man, through marriage vexed
With these distressful wanderings by Here.
But for myself, since an equal marriage is without fear,
I am not concerned lest the love of the almighty
Gods cast its inevitable eye on me.
Without war, indeed, this war, producing
Troubles; nor do I know what would become of me;
For I see not how I should escape the subtlety of Zeus.
Pr. Surely shall Zeus, though haughty now,
Yet be humble, such marriage
He prepares to make, which from sovereignty
And the throne will cast him down obscure; and Father Kronos'
Curse will then be all fulfilled,
Which falling from the ancient seats he imprecated.
And refuge from such ills none of the gods
But I can show him clearly.
I know these things, and in what manner. Now, therefore,
Being bold, let him sit trusting to lofty
Sounds, and brandishing with both hands his fire-breathing weapon,
For naught will these avail him, not
To fall disgracefully intolerable falls;
Such wrestler does he now prepare,
Himself against himself, a prodigy most hard to be withstood;
Who, indeed, will invent a better flame than lightning,
And a loud sound surpassing thunder;
And shiver the trident, Neptune's weapon,
The marine earth-shaking ail.
Stumbling upon this ill he'll learn
How different to govern and to serve.
Ch. Ay, as you hope you vent this against Zeus.
Pr. What will be done, and also what I hope, I say.
Ch. And are we to expect that any will rule Zeus?
Pr. Even than these more grievous ills he'll have.
Ch. How fear'st thou not, hurling such words?
Pr. What should I fear, to whom to die has not been fated?
Ch. But suffering more grievous still than this he may inflict.
Pr. Then let him do it; all is expected by me.
Ch. Those reverencing Adrastia are wise.
Pr. Revere, pray, flatter each successive ruler.
Me less than nothing Zeus concerns.
Let him do, let him prevail this short time
As he will, for long he will not rule the gods,—
But I see here, indeed, Zeus' runner,
The new tryant's drudge;
Doubtless he brings some new message.
Prometheus, Chorus and Hermes.
Her. To thee, the sophist, the bitterly bitter,
The sinner against gods, the giver of honors
To ephemerals, the thief of fire, I speak;
The Father commands thee to tell the marriage
Which you boast, by which he falls from power;
And that, too, not enigmatically,
But each particular declare; nor cause me
Double journeys, Prometheus; for thou see'st that
Zeus is not appeased by such.
Pr. Solemn-mouthed and full of wisdom
Is thy speech, as of the servant of the gods.
Ye newly rule, and think forsooth
To dwell in griefless citadels; have I not seen
Two tyrants fallen from these?
And third I shall behold him ruling now,
Basest and speediest. Do I seem to thee
To fear and shrink from the new gods?
Nay, much and wholly I fall short of this.
The way thou cam'st go through the dust again;
For thou wilt learn naught which thou ask'st of me.
Her. Ay, by such insolence before
You brought yourself into these woes.
Pr. Plainly know, I would not change
My ill fortune for thy servitude,
For better, I think, to serve this rock
Than be the faithful messenger of Father Zeus.
Thus to insult the insulting it is fit.
Her. Thou seem'st to enjoy thy present state.
Pr. I enjoy? Enjoying thus my enemies
Would I see; and thee 'mong them I count.
Her. Dost thou blame me for aught of thy misfortunes?
Pr. In plain words, all gods I hate,
As many as well treated wrong me unjustly.
Her. I hear thee raving, no slight ail.
Pr. Ay, I should ail, if ail one's foes to hate.
Her. If prosperous, thou couldst not be borne.
Pr. Ah me!
Her. This word Zeus does not know.
Pr. But time growing old teaches all things.
Her. And still thou know'st not yet how to be prudent.
Pr. For I should not converse with thee a servant.
Her. Thou seem'st to say naught which the Father wishes.
Pr. And yet his debtor I'd requite the favor.
Her. Thou mock'st me verily as if I were a child.
Pr. And art thou not a child, and simpler still than this,
If thou expectest to learn aught from me?
There is not outrage nor expedient, by which
Zeus will induce me to declare these things,
Before he loose these grievous bonds.
Let there be hurled, then, flaming fire,
And the white-winged snows, and thunders
Of the earth, let him confound and mingle all.
For none of these will bend me till I tell
By whom 't is necessary he should fall from sovereignty.
Her. Consider now if these things seem helpful.
Pr. Long since these were considered and resolved.
Her. Venture, O vain one, venture, at length,
In view of present sufferings to be wise.
Pr. In vain you vex me, as a wave, exhorting.
Ne'er let it come into thy mind that I, fearing
Zeus' anger, shall become woman-minded,
And beg him, greatly hated,
With womanish upturnings of the hands,
To loose me from these bonds. I am far from it.
Her. Though saying much I seem in vain to speak;
For thou art nothing softened nor appeased
By prayers; but champing at the bit like a new-yoked
Colt, thou strugglest and contend'st against the reins.
But thou art violent with feeble wisdom.
For stubbornness to him who is not wise,
Itself alone, is less than nothing strong.
But consider, if thou art not persuaded by my words,
What storm and triple surge of ills
Will come upon thee, not to be avoided; for first this rugged
Cliff with thunder and lightning flame
The Father 'll rend, and hide
Thy body, and a strong arm will bury thee.
When thou hast spent a long length of time,
Thou wilt come back to light; and Zeus'
Winged dog, a bloodthirsty eagle, ravenously
Shall tear the great rag of thy body,
Creeping an uninvited guest all day,
And banquet on thy liver black by eating.
Of such suffering expect not any end,
Before some god appear
Succeeding to thy labors, and wish to go to rayless
Hades, and the dark depths of Tartarus.
Therefore deliberate; since this is not made
Boasting, but in earnest spoken;
For to speak falsely does not know the mouth
Of Zeus, but every word he does. So
Look about thee, and consider, nor ever think
Obstinacy better than prudence.
Ch. To us indeed Hermes appears to say not unseasonable things,
For he directs thee, leaving off
Self-will, to seek prudent counsel.
Obey; for it is base to err, for a wise man.
Pr. To me foreknowing these messages
He has uttered, but for a foe to suffer ill
From foes is naught unseemly.
Therefore 'gainst me let there be hurled
Fire's double-pointed curl, and air
Be provoked with thunder, and a tumult
Of wild winds; and earth from its foundations
Let a wind rock, and its very roots,
And with a rough surge mingle
The sea waves with the passages
Of the heavenly stars, and to black
Tartarus let him quite cast down my
Body, by necessity's strong eddies.
Yet after all he will not kill me.
Her. Such words and counsels you may hear
From the brain-struck.
For what lacks he of being mad?
And if prosperous, what does he cease from madness?
Do you, therefore, who sympathize
With this one's suffering,
From these places quick withdraw somewhere,
Lest the harsh bellowing thunder
Stupefy your minds.
Ch. Say something else, and exhort me
To some purpose; for surely
Thou hast intolerably abused this word.
How direct me to perform a baseness?
I wish to suffer with him whate'er is necessary,
For I have learned to hate betrayers;
Nor is the pest
Which I abominate more than this.
Her. Remember, then, what I foretell;
Nor by calamity pursued
Blame fortune, nor e'er say
That Zeus into unforeseen
Ill has cast you; surely not, but yourselves
You yourselves; for knowing,
And not suddenly nor clandestinely,
You 'll be entangled through your folly
In an impassable net of woe.
Pr. Surely indeed, and no more in word,
Earth is shaken;
And a hoarse sound of thunder
Bellows near; and wreaths of lightning
Flash out fiercely blazing, and whirlwinds dust
Whirl up; and leap the blasts
Of all winds, 'gainst one another
Blowing in opposite array;
And air with sea is mingled;
Such impulse against me from Zeus,
Producing fear, doth plainly come.
O revered Mother, O Ether
Revolving common light to all,
You see me, how unjust things I endure!