The Humanism of Aeschylus ─ Reading #2


 

Prometheus Bound (472 BCE)

http://classics.mit.edu/Aeschylus/prometheus.html

 

 

CHARACTERS

Might

Violence (mute persona)

Hephaestus

Prometheus

Oceanos

Io

Hermes

Chorus of daughters of Oceanos

 

 

SCENE: A bare and desolate crag in the Caucasus.

Enter Might and Violence, demons, servants of Zeus, and Hephaestus, the smith.

 

[1] Might

This is the world's limit that we have come to; this is the Scythian country, an untrodden desolation.

Hephaestus, it is you that must heed the demands the Father laid upon you to nail this malefactor

to the high crag-rocks in fetters unbreakable of adamantine chain. For it was your flower,

the brightness of fire that devises all, that he stole and gave to mortal men;

this is the sin for which he must pay the Gods the penalty—

that he may learn to endure and like the sovereignty of Zeus and quit his man-loving disposition.

 

[2] Hephaestus

Might and Violence, in you the command of Zeus has its perfect fulfillment:

in you there is nothing to stand in its way.

But, for myself, I have not the heart to bind violently a

 God who is my kin here on this wintry cliff.

Yet there is constraint upon me to have the heart for just that,

for it is a dangerous thing to treat the Father's words lightly. 

 

High-contriving Son of Themis of Straight Counsel: this is not of your will nor of mine;

yet I shall nail you in bonds of indissoluble bronze on this crag far from men.

Here you shall hear no voice of mortal; here you shall see no form of mortal.

You shall be grilled by the sun's bright fire and change the fair bloom of your skin.

You shall be glad when Night comes with her mantle of stars and hides the sun's light;

but the sun shall scatter the hoarfrost again at dawn.

Always the grievous burden of your torture will be there to wear you down;

for he that shall cause it to cease has yet to be born. 

 

Such is the reward you reap of your man-loving disposition.

For you, a God, feared not the anger of the Gods, but gave honors to mortals beyond what was just.

Thus you shall mount guard on this unlovely rock, upright, sleepless, not bending the knee.

Many groans and lamentations you shall utter, but they shall not serve you.

For the mind of Zeus is hard to soften with prayer, and every ruler is harsh whose rule is new. 

 

[3] Might 

Come, why are you holding back? Why are you pitying in vain?

Why is it that you do not hate a God whom the Gods hate most of all?

 Why do you not hate him, since it was your honor that he betrayed to men?

 

[4] Hephaestus

Our kinship has strange power; that, and our life together.

 

[5] Might 

Yes. But to turn a deaf ear to the Father's words—

how can that be? Do you not fear that more?

 

[6] Hephaestus

You are always pitiless, always full of ruthlessness.

 

[7] Might 

There is no good singing dirges over him.

Do not labor uselessly at what helps not at all.

 

[8] Hephaestus 

O handicraft of mine— that I deeply hate!

 

[9] Might 

Why do you hate it? To speak simply, your craft is in no way the author of his present troubles.

 

[10] Hephaestus

Yet would another had had this craft allotted to him.

 

[11] Might 

There is nothing without discomfort except the overlordship of the Gods. For only Zeus is free.

 

[12] Hephaestus 

I know. I have no answer to this.

 

[13] Might

Hurry now. Throw the chain around him that the Father may not look upon your tarrying.

 

[14] Hephaestus

There are the fetters, there: you can see them. 

 

[15] Might 

Put them on his hands: strong, now with the hammer: strike. Nail him to the rock. 

 

[16] Hephaestus 
It is being done now. I am not idling at my work. 

 

[17] Might 
Hammer it more; put in the wedge; leave it loose nowhere.

He's a cunning fellow at finding a way even out of hopeless difficulties. 

 

[18] Hephaestus 
Look now, his arm is fixed immovably!

 

[19] Might 

Nail the other safe, that he may learn, for all his cleverness, that he is duller witted than Zeus. 

 

[20] Hephaestus 
No one, save Prometheus, can justly blame me. 

 

[21] Might 

Drive the obstinate jaw of the adamantine wedge right through his breast: drive it hard. 

 

[22] Hephaestus 

Alas, Prometheus, I groan for your sufferings.

 

[23] Might 

Are you pitying again? Are you groaning for the enemies of Zeus?

Have a care, lest some day you may be pitying yourself. 

 

[24] Hephaestus

You see a sight that hurts the eye. 

 

[25] Might 

I see this rascal getting his deserts. Throw the girth around his sides.

 

[26] Hephaestus 

I am forced to do this; do not keep urging me. 

 

[27] Might 

Yes, I will urge you, and hound you on as well.

Get below now, and hoop his legs in strongly. 

 

[28] Hephaestus

There now, the task is done. It has not taken long. 

 

[29] Might

Hammer the piercing fetters with all your power, for the Overseer of our work is severe. 

 

[30] Hephaestus 

Your looks and the refrain of your tongue are alike.

 

[31] Might 

You can be softhearted. But do not blame my stubbornness and harshness of temper. 

 

[32] Hephaestus

Let us go. He has the harness on his limbs.

 

[33] Might (to Prometheus) 

Now, play the insolent; now, plunder the Gods' privileges and give them to creatures of a day.

What drop of your sufferings can mortals spare you?
The Gods named you wrongly when they called you Forethought [=Prometheus];

You yourself need Forethought to extricate yourself from this contrivance.

 

[Prometheus is left alone on the rock]

 

[34] Prometheus  Bright light; swift-winged winds, springs of the rivers,
numberless laughter of the sea's waves, earth, mother of all,
and the all-seeing circle of the sun:
I call upon you to see what I, a God, suffer at the hands of Gods
See with what kind of torture worn down I shall wrestle ten thousand years of time
Such is the despiteful bond that the Prince has devised against me,
The new Prince of the Blessed Ones. Oh woe is me! I groan for the present sorrow,
I groan for the sorrow to come,
I groan questioning when there shall come a time when He shall ordain a limit to my sufferings. 

 

What am I saying? I have known all before, all that shall be, and clearly known; to me,
Nothing that hurts shall come with a new face.
So must I bear, as lightly as I can, the destiny that fate has given me;
For I know well against necessity, against its strength, no one can fight and win.

 

I cannot speak about my fortune, cannot hold my tongue either.
It was mortal man to whom I gave great privileges and for that was yoked in this unyielding harness.
I hunted out the secret spring of fire, that filled the narthex stem,
Which when revealed became the teacher of each craft to men, a great resource.
This is the sin committed for which I stand accountant,
And I pay nailed in my chains under the open sky.

 

Ah! Ah! What sound, what sightless smell approaches me, God sent, or mortal, or mingled?
Has it come to earth's end to look on my sufferings, or what does it wish?
You see me a wretched God in chains, the enemy of Zeus,
Hated of all the Gods that enter Zeus's palace hall, because of my excessive love for Man.
What is that? The rustle of birds' wings near?
The air whispers with the gentle strokes of wings.
Everything that comes toward me is occasion for fear.

 

[The Chorus, composed of the daughters of Oceanos, enters, the members wearing some formalized

representation of wings, so that their general appearance is birdlike]

 

[35] Chorus 

Fear not: this is a company of friends that comes to your mountain with swift rivalry of wings.
Hardly have we persuaded our Father's mind, and the quick-bearing winds speeded us hither.
The sound of stroke of bronze rang through our cavern in its depths
And it shook from us shame-faced modesty;
Unsandaled we have hastened on our chariot of wings. 

 

[36] Prometheus 

Alas, children of teeming Tethys and of him who encircles all the world with stream unsleeping,
Father Ocean, look, see with what chains I am nailed on the craggy heights of this gully
To keep a watch that none would envy me. 

 

[37] Chorus 

I see, Prometheus: and a mist of fear and tears besets my eyes
As I see your form wasting away on these cliffs in adamantine bonds of bitter shame.
For new are the steersmen that rule Olympus: and new are the customs by which Zeus rules,
Customs that have no law to them, but what was great before he brings to nothingness.

 

[38] Prometheus 

Would that he had hurled me underneath the earth and underneath the House of Hades, host to the dead— yes, down to limitless Tartarus,
Yes, though he bound me cruelly in chains unbreakable, so neither God nor any other being might have found joy in gloating over me.
Now as I hang, the plaything of the winds, my enemies can laugh at what I suffer. 

 

[39] Chorus

Who of the Gods is so hard of heart that he finds joy in this?
Who is that that does not feel sorrow answering your pain save only Zeus?
For he malignantly, always cherishing a mind that bends not, has subdued the breed of Uranos,
Nor shall he cease until he satisfies his heart, or someone take the rule from him—
That hard-to-capture rule— by some device of subtlety. 

 

[40] Prometheus 

Yes, there shall come a day for me when he shall need me, me that now am tortured in bonds and fetters—
He shall need me then, this president of the Blessed to show the new plot whereby he may be spoiled of his throne and his power.
Then not with honeyed tongues of persuasion shall he enchant me;
He shall not cow me with his threats to tell him what I know,
Until he free me from my cruel chains and pay me recompense for what I suffer.

 

[41] Chorus 

You are stout of heart, unyielding to the bitterness of pain. You are free of tongue, too free.
It is my piercing fear has fluttered; your misfortunes frighten me.

 

Where and when is it fated to see you reach the term, to see you reach the harbor free of trouble at the last? 
A disposition none can win, a heart that no persuasions soften— these are his, the Son of Kronos.

 

[42] Prometheus 

I know that he is savage: and his justice a thing he keeps by his own standard:
Still that will of his shall melt to softness yet when he is broken in the way I know,
And though his temper now is oaken hard it shall be softened: hastily he'll come to meet my haste,
To join in amity and union with me— one day he shall come.

 

[43] Chorus 

Reveal it all to us: tell us the story of what the charge was on which
Zeus caught you and punished you so cruelly with such dishonor.
Tell us, if the telling will not injure you in any way.

 

[44] Prometheus 

To speak of this is bitterness. To keep silent bitter no less; and every way is misery.
When first the Gods began their angry quarrel, and
God matched God in rising faction, some eager to drive old Kronos from his throne that Zeus might rule—
The fools!— others again earnest that Zeus might never be their king—
I then with the best counsel tried to win the Titans, sons of Uranus and Earth, but failed.
They would have none of crafty schemes and in their savage arrogance of spirit
Thought they would lord it easily by force.
But she that was my mother, Themis, Earth—
She is but one although her names are many—
Had prophesied to me how it should be, even how the fates decreed it:
And she said that "not by strength nor overmastering force
The fates allowed the conquerors to conquer but by guile only":
This is what I told them, but they would not vouchsafe a glance at me.

 

Then with those things before me it seemed best to take my mother and join Zeus's side:
He was as willing as we were: thanks to my plans the dark receptacle of Tartarus conceals the ancient Kronos,
him and his allies. These were the services I rendered to this tyrant and these pains the payment he has given me in requital.
This is a sickness rooted and inherent in the nature of a tyranny: that he that holds it does not trust his friends.

 

But you have asked on what particular charge he now tortures me: this I will tell you.
As soon as he ascended to the throne that was his father's,
Straightway he assigned to the several Gods their several privileges and portioned out the power,
But to the unhappy breed of mankind he gave no heed,
Intending to blot the race out and create a new. Against these plans none stood save I: I dared. 

 

I rescued men from shattering destruction that would have carried them to Hades' house;
And therefore I am tortured on this rock, a bitterness to suffer, and a pain to pitiful eyes.
I gave to mortal man a precedence over myself in pity: I can win no pity:
Pitiless is he that thus chastises me, a spectacle bringing dishonor on the name of Zeus.

 

[45] Chorus

He would be iron-minded and made of stone, indeed, Prometheus, who did not sympathize with your sufferings.
I would not have chosen to see them, and now that I see, my heart is pained.

 

[46] Prometheus

Yes, to my friends I am pitiable to see.

 

[47] Chorus

Did you perhaps go further than you have told us? 

 

[48] Prometheus

I caused mortals to cease foreseeing doom. 

 

[49] Chorus

What cure did you provide them with against that sickness?

 

[50] Prometheus

I placed in them blind hopes.

 

[51] Chorus

That was a great gift you gave to men.

 

[52] Prometheus

Besides this, I gave them fire.

 

[53] Chorus

And do creatures of a day now possess bright-faced fire?

 

[54] Prometheus

Yes, and from it they shall learn many crafts.

 

[55] Chorus

Then these are the charges on which

 

[56] Prometheus

Zeus tortures me and gives me no respite.

 

[57] Chorus

Is there no limit set for your pain? 

 

[58] Prometheus

None save when it shall seem good to Zeus.

 

[59] Chorus

How will it ever seem good to him? What hope is there?
Do you not see how you have erred?
It is not pleasure for me to say that you have erred, and for you it is a pain to hear.
But let us speak no more of all this and do you seek some means of deliverance from your trials. 

 

[60] Prometheus

It is an easy thing for one whose foot is on the outside of calamity to give advice and to rebuke the sufferer.
I have known all that you have said: I knew, I knew when I transgressed nor will deny it.
In helping man I brought my troubles on me; but yet I did not think that with such tortures
I should be wasted on these airy cliffs, this lonely mountain top, with no one near.
But do not sorrow for my present suffering; alight on earth and hear what is to come that you may know the whole complete:
I beg you alight and join your sorrow with mine: misfortune wandering the same track lights now upon one and now upon another.

 

[61] Chorus

Willing our ears, that hear you cry to them, Prometheus, now with light foot I leave the rushing car and sky,
The holy path of birds, and light upon this jutting rock: I long to hear your story to the end.

 

[Enter Oceanos, riding on a hippocamp, or sea-monster]

 

[62] Oceanos

I come on a long journey, speeding past the boundaries, to visit you, Prometheus:
With the mind alone, no bridle needed, I direct my swift-winged bird;
My heart is sore for your misfortunes; you know that. I think that it is kinship makes me feel them so.
Besides, apart from kinship, there is no one I hold in higher estimation:
That you soon shall know and know beside that in me there is no mere word-kindness:
Tell me how I can help you, and you will never say that you have any friend more loyal to you than Oceanos.

 

[63] Prometheus

What do I see? Have you, too, come to gape in wonder at this great display, my torture?
How did you have the courage to come here to this land, Iron-Mother,
Leaving the stream called after you and the rock-roofed, self-established caverns?
Was it to feast your eyes upon the spectacle of my suffering and join in pity for my pain?
Now look and see the sight, this friend of Zeus, that helped set up his tyranny
And see what agonies twist me, by his instructions!

 

[64] Oceanos 

Yes, I see, Prometheus, and I want, indeed I do, to advise you for the best, for all your cleverness.
Know yourself and reform your ways to new ways, for new is he that rules among the Gods.
But if you throw about such angry words, words that are whetted swords, soon
Zeus will hear you, even though his seat in glory is far removed, and then
Your present multitude of pains will seem like child's play.
My poor friend, give up this angry mood of yours and look for means of getting yourself free of trouble.
Maybe what I say seems to you both old and commonplace; but this is what you pay, Prometheus,
For that tongue of yours which talked so high and haughty: you are not yet humble,
Still you do not yield to your misfortunes, and you wish, indeed, to add some more to them;

Now, if you follow me as a schoolmaster you :will not kick against the pricks,
Seeing that he, the King, that rules alone, is harsh and sends accounts to no one's audit for the deeds he does.
Now I will go and try if I can free you: do you be quiet, do not talk so much.
Since your mind is so subtle, don't you know that a vain tongue is subject to correction?

 

[65] Prometheus

I envy you, that you stand clear of blame, yet shared and dared in everything with me!
Now let me be, and have no care for me. Do what you will, Him you will not persuade;
He is not easily won over: look, take care lest coming here to me should hurt you. 

 

[66] Oceanos

You are by nature better at advising others than yourself. I take my cue from deeds, not words.
Do not withhold me now when I am eager to go to Zeus.
I'm sure, I'm sure that he will grant this favor to me, to free you from your chains.

 

[67] Prometheus

I thank you and will never cease; for loyalty is not what you are wanting in.
Don't trouble, for you will trouble to no purpose, and no help to me—
If it so be you want to trouble. No, rest yourself, keep away from this thing;
Because I am unlucky I would not, for that, have everyone unlucky too.

 

No, for my heart is sore already when I think about my brothers' fortunes—
Atlas, who stands to westward of the world, supporting the pillar of earth and heaven on his shoulders,
A load that suits no shoulders; and the earthborn dweller in caves Cilician,
Whom I saw and pitied, hundred-headed, dreadful monster, fierce Typho, conquered and brought low by, force.
Once against all the Gods he stood, opposing, hissing out terror from his grim jaws;
His eyes flashed gorgon glaring lightning as he thought to sack the sovereign tyranny of Zeus;
But upon him came the unsleeping bolt of Zeus, the lightning-breathing flame, down rushing,
Which cast him from his high aspiring boast. Struck to the heart, his strength was blasted
Dead and burnt to ashes; now a sprawling mass useless he lies,
Hard by the narrow seaway pressed down beneath the roots of Aetna:
High above him on the mountain peak the smith Hephaestus works at the anvil.
Yet one day there shall burst out rivers of fire, devouring with savage jaws the fertile,
Level plains of Sicily of the fair fruits; such boiling wrath with weapons of fire-breathing surf,
A fiery unapproachable torrent, shall Typho vomit, though Zeus's lightning left him but a cinder.

 

But all of this you know: you do not need me to be your schoolmaster:
Reassure yourself as you know how: this cup I shall drain myself till the high mind of Zeus shall cease from anger.

 

[68] Oceanos

Do you not know, Prometheus, that words are healers of the sick temper?

 

[69] Prometheus

Yes, if in season due one soothes the heart with them, not tries violently to reduce the swelling anger.

 

[70] Oceanos

Tell me, what danger do you see for me in loyalty to you, and courage therein? 

 

[71] Prometheus 
I see only useless effort and a silly good nature.

 

[72] Oceanos

Suffer me then to be sick of this sickness, for it is a profitable thing, if one is wise, to seem foolish.

 

[73] Prometheus This shall seem to be my fault. 

 

[74] Oceanos 

Clearly your words send me home again.

 

[75] Prometheus 

Yes, lest your doings for me bring you enmity.

 

[76] Oceanos 

His enmity, who newly sits on the all-powerful throne? 

 

[77] Prometheus

His is a heart you should beware of vexing. 

 

[78] Oceanos 

Your own misfortune will be my teacher, Prometheus.

 

[79] Prometheus
Off with you, then! Begone! Keep your present mind.

 

[80] Oceanos

These words fall on very responsive ears.
Already my four-legged bird is pawing the level track of Heaven with his wings,
And he will be glad to bend the knee in his own stable.

 

[81] Chorus

I cry aloud, Prometheus, and lament your bitter fate, my tender eyes are trickling tears: their fountains wet my cheek.
This is a tyrant's deed; this is unlovely, a thing done by a tyrant's private laws,
And with this thing Zeus shows his haughtiness of temper toward the Gods that were of old.

 

Now all the earth has cried aloud, lamenting: now all that was magnificent of old laments your fall,
Laments your brethren's fall as many as in holy Asia hold their established habitation,
All lament in sympathy for your most grievous woes.

 

Dwellers in the land of Colchis, maidens, fearless in the fight, and the host of Scythia,
Living round the lake Maeotis, living on the edges of the world.
And Arabia's flower of warriors and the craggy fortress keepers near Caucasian mountains,
Fighters terrible, crying for battle, brandishing sharp pointed spears. 

 

One God and one God only I have seen before this day, in torture
And in bonds unbreakable: he was a Titan, Alas, whose strength
And might ever exceeded; now he bends his back and groans beneath the load of earth and heaven. 

 

The wave cries out as it breaks into surf; the depth cries out, lamenting you;
The dark Hades, the hollow underneath the world, sullenly groans below;
The springs of sacred flowing rivers all lament the pain and pity of your suffering.

 

[82] Prometheus

Do not think that out of pride or stubbornness I hold my peace;
My heart is eaten away when I am aware of myself, when I see myself insulted as I am.
Who was it but I who in truth dispensed their honors to these new gods?
I will say nothing of this; you know it all; but hear what troubles there were among men,
How I found them witless and gave them the use of their wits and made them masters of their minds.

 

I will tell you this, not because I would blame men, but to explain the goodwill of my gift.
For men at first had eyes but saw to no purpose; they had ears but did not hear.
Like the shapes of dreams they dragged through their long lives and handled all things in bewilderment and confusion.
They did not know of building houses with bricks to face the sun; they did not know how to work in wood.
They lived like swarming ants in holes in the ground, in the sunless caves of the earth.
For them there was no secure token by which to tell winter nor the flowering spring nor the summer with its crops;
All their doings were indeed without intelligent calculation until
I showed them the rising of the stars, and the settings, hard to observe. 

 

And further I discovered to them numbering, pre-eminent among subtle devices,
And the combining of letters as a means of remembering all things, the Muses' mother,
Skilled in craft. It was I who first yoked beasts for them in the yokes
And made of those beasts the slaves of trace chain and pack saddle that they might be
Man's substitute in the hardest tasks; and I harnessed to the carriage, so that they loved the rein, horses,
The crowning pride of the rich man's luxury.
It was I and none other who discovered ships, the sail-driven wagons that the sea buffets. 

 

Such were the contrivances that I discovered for men— alas for me!
For I myself am without contrivance to rid myself of my present affliction.

 

[83] Chorus 

What you have suffered is indeed terrible. You are all astray and bewildered in your mind,
And like a bad doctor that has fallen sick himself, you are cast down and cannot find what sort of drugs would cure your ailment.

 

[84] Prometheus 

Hear the rest, and you will marvel even more at the crafts and resources I contrived.
Greatest was this: in the former times if a man fell sick he had no defense against the sickness,
Neither healing food nor drink, nor unguent; but through the lack of drugs men wasted away,

Until I showed them the blending of mild simples wherewith they drive out all manner of diseases. 

 

It was I who arranged all the ways of seer-craft, and I first adjudged what things come verily true from dreams;
And to men I gave meaning to the ominous cries, hard to interpret.
It was I who set in order the omens of the highway and the flight of crooked-taloned birds,
Which of them were propitious or lucky by nature, and what manner of life each led,
And what were their mutual hates, loves, and companionships;
Also I taught of the smoothness of the vitals and what color
They should have to pleasure the Gods and the dappled beauty of the gall and the lobe.

 

It was I who burned thighs wrapped in fat and the long shank bone and set mortals on the road to this murky craft.
It was I who made visible to men's eyes the flaming signs of the sky that before dim.
So much for these. Beneath the earth, man's hidden blessing, copper, iron, silver, and gold—
Will anyone claim to have discovered these before I did?
No one, I am very sure, who wants to speak truly and to the purpose.
One brief word will tell the whole story: all arts that mortals have come from Prometheus.

 

[85] Chorus

Therefore do not help mortals beyond all expediency while neglecting yourself in your troubles.
For I am of good hope that once freed of these bonds you will be no less in power than Zeus.

 

[86] Prometheus   
Not yet has fate that brings to fulfillment determined these things to be thus.
I must be twisted by ten thousand pangs and agonies, as I now am, to escape my chains at last.
Craft is far weaker than necessity.

 

[87] Chorus  Who then is the steersman of necessity?

 

[88] Prometheus  The triple-formed Fates and the remembering Furies. 

 

[89] Chorus Is Zeus weaker than these? 

 

[90] Prometheus Yes, for he, too, cannot escape what is fated.

 

[91] Chorus 

What is fated for Zeus besides eternal sovereignty?

 

[92] Prometheus  

Inquire of this no further, do not entreat me.

 

[93] Chorus 

This is some solemn secret, I suppose, that you are hiding. 

 

[94] Prometheus
Think of some other story: this one it is not yet the season to give tongue to,
But it must be hidden with all care; for it is only by keeping it that I will escape my despiteful bondage and my agony. 

 

[95] Chorus 
May Zeus never, Zeus that all the universe controls, oppose his power against my mind:
May I never dallying be slow to give my worship at the sacrificial feasts when the bulls are killed beside quenchless
Father Ocean: may I never sin in word: may these precepts still abide in my mind nor melt away.

 

It is a sweet thing to draw out a long, long life in cheerful hopes,
And feed the spirit in the bright benignity of happiness:
But I shiver when I see you wasted with ten thousand pains,
All because you did not tremble at the name of Zeus:
 
Your mind was yours, not his, and at its bidding you regarded mortal men too high, Prometheus.
Kindness that cannot be requited, tell me, where is the help in that, my friend?
What succor in creatures of a day?

 

You did not see the feebleness that draws its breath in gasps, a dreamlike feebleness by which the race of man is held in bondage,
A blind prisoner. So the plans of men shall never pass the ordered law of Zeus.
This I have learned while I looked on your pains, deadly pains, Prometheus.
A dirge for you came to my lips, so different from the other song I sang to crown your marriage,
In honor of your couching and your bath, upon the day you won her with your gifts to share your bed—
of your own race she was, Hesione— and so you brought her home. 

 

[Enter Io, a girl wearing horns like an ox.]

 

 [96] Io  What land is this? what race of men? Who is it I see here tortured in this rocky bondage?
What is the sin he's paying for? Oh tell me to what part of the world my wanderings have brought me. 

 

0, 0, 0, there it is again, there again— it stings me, the gadfly, the ghost of earth-born Argos:
Keep it away, keep it away, earth! I'm frightened when I see the shape of Argos,
Argos the herdsman with ten thousand eyes. He stalks me with his crafty eyes:
He died, but the earth didn't hide him; still he comes even from the depths of the Underworld to hunt me:
He drives me starving by the sands of the sea. The reed-woven pipe drones on in a hum and drones and drones its sleep-giving strain:

 

0, 0, 0: Where are you bringing me, my far-wandering wanderings?
Son of Kronos, what fault, what fault did you find in me that you should yoke me to
A harness of misery like this, that you should torture me so to madness driven in fear of the gadfly?

 

Burn me with fire: hide me in earth: cast me away to monsters of the deep for food:
But do not grudge me the granting of this prayer, King.
Enough have my much wandering wanderings exercised me: I cannot find a way to escape my troubles.

 

Do you hear the voice of the cow-horned maid?

 

[97] Prometheus 

Surely I hear the voice, the voice of the maiden, gadfly-haunted, the daughter of Inachus?
She set Zeus's heart on fire with love and now she is violently exercised running on courses overlong, driven by Hera's hate. 

 

[98] Io 

How is it you speak my father's name? Tell me, who are you? Who are you? Oh who are you that so exactly accosts me by name?
You have spoken of the disease that the Gods have sent to me which wastes me away, pricking with goads,
So that I am moving always tortured and hungry, wild bounding, quick sped I come, a victim of jealous plots.

 

Some have been wretched before me, but who of these suffered as I do?
But declare to me clearly what I have still to suffer: what would avail against my sickness, what drug would cure it:
Tell me, if you know: tell me, declare it to the unlucky, wandering maid. 

 

[99] Prometheus

I shall tell you clearly all that you would know, weaving you no riddles, but in plain words,
As it is just to open the lips to friends. You see before you him that gave fire to men, even Prometheus.

 

[100] Io

0 spirit that has appeared as a common blessing to all men, unhappy Prometheus, why are you being punished? 

 

[101] Prometheus 

I have just this moment ceased from the lamentable tale of my sorrows. 

 

[102] lo

Will you then grant me this favor?

 

[103 Prometheus

Say what you are asking for: I will tell you all. 

 

[104] lo Tell who it was that nailed you to the cliff.

 

[105] Prometheus

The plan was the plan of Zeus, and the hand the hand of Hephaestus.

 

[106] Io And what was the offense of which this is the punishment?

 

[107] Prometheus 

It is enough that I have told you a clear story so far. 

 

[108] Io

In addition, then, indicate to me what date shall be the limit of my wanderings.

 

[109] Prometheus

Better for you not to know this than know it. 

 

[110] Io 

I beg you, do not hide from me what I must endure.

 

[111] Prometheus

It is not that I grudge you this favor.

 

[112] Io 

Why then delay telling me all? 

 

[113] Prometheus

It is no grudging, but I hesitate to break your spirit. 

 

[114] Io

Do not have more thought for me than pleases me myself.

 

[115] Prometheus

Since you are so eager, I must speak; and do you give ear.

 

[116] Chorus

Not yet: give me, too, a share of pleasure. First let us question her concerning her sickness,
And let her tell us of her desperate fortunes. And then let you be our informant for the sorrows that still await her. 

 

[117] Prometheus

It is your task, Io, to gratify these spirits, for besides other considerations they are your father's sisters.
To make wail and lament for one's ill fortune, when one will win a tear from the audience, is well worthwhile.

 

[118] Io

I know not how I should distrust you: clearly you shall hear all you want to know from me.
Yet even as I speak I groan in bitterness for that storm sent by God on me, that ruin of my beauty;
I must sorrow when I think who sent all this upon me.

 

There were always night visions that kept haunting me and coming into my maiden chamber and exhorting with winning words,
"0 maiden greatly blessed, why are you still a maiden, you who might make marriage with the greatest?
Zeus is stricken with lust for you; he is afire to try the bed of love with you: do not disdain him.
Go, child, to Lerna's meadow, deep in grass, to where your father's flocks and cattle stand that Zeus's eye may cease from longing for you."

 

With such dreams I was cruelly beset night after night until I took the courage to tell my father of my nightly terror.
He sent to Pytho [Apollo at Delphi] many an embassy and to Dodona [oracle seat of Zeus]
Seeking to discover what deed or word of his might please the God,

But those he sent came back with riddling oracles dark and beyond the power of understanding.

 

At last the word came clear to Inachus charging him plainly that he cast me out of home and country,
Drive me out footloose to wander to the limits of the world; if he should not obey, the oracle said,
The fire-faced thunderbolt would come from Zeus and blot out his whole race.

 

These were the oracles of Loxias [Apollo], and Inachus obeyed them. He drove me out and shut his doors against me with tears on both our parts,
But Zeus's bit compelled him to do this against his will. Immediately my form and mind were changed and all distorted;
Horned, as you see, pricked on by the sharp biting gadfly, leaping in frenzied jumps I ran beside the river Kerchneia, good to drink, and Lerna's spring.
The earth-born herdsman Argos followed me whose anger knew no limits, and he spied after my tracks with all his hundred eyes.

 

Then an unlooked-for doom, descending suddenly, took him from life: I, driven by the gadfly, that god-sent scourge, was driven always onward
From one land to another: that is my story.
If you can tell me what remains for me, tell me, and do not out of pity cozen with kindly lies:
There is no sickness worse for me than words that to be kind must lie.

 

[119] Chorus

Hold! Keep away! Alas! Never did I think that such strange words would come to my ears:
Never did I think such intolerable sufferings, an offense to the eye, shameful and frightening, so would chill my soul with a double-edged point.
Alas, Alas, for your fate! I shudder when I look on Io's fortune.

 

[120] Prometheus

You groan too soon: you are full of fear too soon: wait till you hear besides what is to be.

 

[121] Chorus

Speak, tell us to the end. For sufferers it is sweet to know before-hand clearly the pain that still remains for them.

 

[122] Prometheus

The first request you made of me you gained lightly: from her you wished to hear the story of what she suffered.
Now hear what remains, what sufferings this maid must yet endure from Hera.
Do you listen, child of Inachus, hear and lay up my words within your heart that you may know the limits of your journey.

 

First turn to the sun's rising and walk on over the fields no plough has broken:
Then you will come to the wandering Scythians who live in wicker houses built above their well-wheeled wagons;
They are an armed people, armed with the bow that strikes from far away:
Do not draw near them; rather let your feet touch the surf line of the sea where the waves moan,
And cross their country: on your left there live the Chalybes who work with iron: these you must beware of;
For they are not gentle, nor people whom a stranger dare approach.
Then you will come to Insolence, a river that well deserves its name:
But cross it not it is no stream that you can easily ford until you come to Caucasus itself,
The highest mountains, where the river's strength gushes from its very temples. 

 

Cross these peaks, the neighbors of the stars, and take the road southward until you reach the Amazons,
The race of women who hate men, who one day will live around Thermodon in Themiscyra
Where Salmydessos, rocky jaw of the sea, stands sailor-hating, stepmother of ships.
The Amazons will set you on your way and gladly: you will reach Cimmeria, the isthmus, at the narrow gates of the lake.
Leave this with a good heart and cross the channel, the channel of Maeotis: and hereafter for all time men shall talk about your crossing,
And they shall call the place for you “Cow's-ford” [=Bosphorus].  Leave Europe's mainland then, and go to Asia.

(To the Chorus) 

Do you now think this tyrant of the Gods is hard in all things without difference?
He was a God and sought to lie in love with this girl who was mortal, and on her he brought this curse of wandering:
Bitter indeed you found your marriage with this suitor, maid. Yet you must think of all that I have told you as still only in prelude.

(To Io)

Again, you are crying and lamenting: what will you do when you hear of the evils to come? 

 

[123] Chorus 

Is there still something else to her sufferings of which you will speak? 

 

[124] Prometheus 

A wintry sea of agony and ruin. 

 

[125] Io 

What good is life to me then? Why do I not throw myself at once from some rough crag,
To strike the ground and win a quittance of all my troubles?
It would be better to die once for all than suffer all one's days. 

 

[126] Prometheus 

You would ill bear my trials, then, for whom Fate reserves no death.
Death would be a quittance of trouble: but for me there is no limit of suffering set till Zeus fall from power. 

 

 [127] Io

Can Zeus ever fall from power? 

 

[128] Prometheus

You would be glad to see that catastrophe, I think. 

 

[129] Io

Surely, since Zeus is my persecutor.

 

[130] Prometheus

Then know that this shall be.

 

[131] Io

Who will despoil him of his sovereign scepter?

 

[132] Prometheus

His own witless plans.

 

[133] Io

How? Tell me, if there is no harm to telling. 

 

[134] Prometheus

He shall make a marriage that shall hurt him.

 

[135] Io

With god or mortal? Tell me, if you may say it. 

 

[136] Prometheus

Why ask what marriage? That is not to be spoken.   

 

[137] Io

Is it his wife shall cast him from his throne? 

 

[138] Prometheus 

She shall bear him a son mightier than his father. 

 

[139] Io 

Has he no possibility of escaping this downfall?

 

[140] Prometheus

None, save through my release from these chains.   

 

[141] Io

But who will free you, against Zeus's will?

 

[142] Prometheus

Fate has determined that it be one of your descendants.

 

[143] Io 

What, shall a child of mine bring you free?

 

[144] Prometheus

Yes, in the thirteenth generation. 

 

[145] Io

Your prophecy has now passed the limits of understanding.

 

[146] Prometheus

Then also do not seek to learn your trials.

 

[147] Io

Do not offer me a boon and then withhold it. 

 

[148] Prometheus

I offer you then one of two stories.

 

[149] Io

Which? Tell me and give me the choice. 

 

[150] Prometheus

I will: choose that I tell you clearly either what remains for you or the one that shall deliver me.

 

[151] Chorus

Grant her one and grant me the other and do not deny us the tale.
Tell her what remains of her wanderings: tell us of the one that shall deliver you. That is what I desire.

 

[152] Prometheus

Since you have so much eagerness, I will not refuse to tell you all that you have asked me.
First to you, Io, I shall tell the tale of your sad wanderings, rich in groans— inscribe the story in the tablets of your mind.

 

When you shall cross the channel that divides Europe from Asia, turn to the rising sun, to the burnt plains,
Sun-scorched; cross by the edge of the foaming sea till you come to Gorgona to the flat stretches of Kisthene's country.
There live the ancient maids, children of Phorcys: these swan-formed hags,
With but one common eye, single-toothed monsters, such as nowhere else the sun's rays look on nor the moon by night.

 

Near are their winged sisters, the three Gorgons, with snakes to bind their hair up, mortal-hating:
No mortal that so much as looks on them shall live: these are the sentry guards I tell you of.

 

Hear, too, of yet another gruesome sight, the sharp-toothed hounds of Zeus, that have no bark, the vultures— them take heed of—

And the host of one-eyed Arimaspians, horse-riding, that live around the spring which flows with gold, the spring of Pluto's river:

Go not near them. A land far off, a nation of black men, these you shall come to,
Men who live hard by the fountain of the sun where is the river Aethiops—
Travel by his banks along to a waterfall where from the Bibline hills Nile pours his holy waters, pure to drink.

 

This river shall be your guide to the triangular land of the Nile and there, by Fate's decree,
There, Io, you shall find your distant home, a colony for you and your descendants.
If anything of this is still obscure or difficult ask me again and learn clearly: I have more leisure than I wish.

 

[153] Chorus

If there is still something left for you to tell her of her ruinous wanderings, tell it;
But if you have said everything, grant us the favor we asked and tell us the story too. 

 

[154] Prometheus

The limit of her wanderings complete she now has heard: but so that she may know that she has not been listening to no purpose
I shall recount what she endured before she came to us here: this I give as pledge, a witness to the good faith of my words.
The great part of the story I omit and come to the very boundary of your travels.

 

When you had come to the Molossian plains around the sheer back of Dodona where is the oracular seat of Zeus Thesprotian,
The talking oaks, a wonder past belief, by them full clearly, in no riddling terms, you were hailed glorious wife of Zeus that shall be:
Does anything of this wake pleasant memories?

 

Then, goaded by the gadfly, on you hastened to the great gulf of Rhea by the track at the side of the sea:
But in returning course you were storm-driven back: in time to come that inlet of the sea shall bear your name and shall be called Ionian,
A memorial to all men of your journeying: these are proofs for you, of how far my mind sees something farther than
What is visible: for what is left, to you and you this I shall say in common, taking up again the track of my old tale.

 

There is a city, furthest in the world, Canobos, near the mouth and issuing point of the Nile: there
Zeus shall make you sound of mind touching you with a hand that brings no fear, and through that touch alone shall come your healing.

 

You shall bear Epaphos, dark of skin, his name recalling Zeus's touch and his begetting. This Epaphos shall reap the fruit of all the land that is watered
By the broad flowing Nile. From him five generations, and again to Argos they shall come, against their will, in number fifty,
Women, flying from a marriage with their kinsfolk: but these kinsfolk their hearts with lust aflutter like
The hawks barely outdistanced by the doves will come hunting a marriage that the law forbids: the God shall grudge the men these women's bodies,
And the Pelasgian earth shall welcome them in death: for death shall claim them in a fight where women strike in the dark, a murderous vigil.

 

Each wife shall rob her husband of his life dipping in blood her two-edged sword: even so may Love come, too, upon my enemies.
But one among these girls shall love beguile from killing her bedfellow, blunting her purpose: and she shall make her choice—
To bear the name of coward and not murder: this girl, she shall in Argos bear a race of kings.
To tell this clearly needs a longer story, but from her seed shall spring a man renowned for archery, and he shall set me free.

 

Such was the prophecy which ancient Themis my Titan mother opened up to me; but how and by what means it shall come true
Would take too long to tell, and if you heard the knowledge would not profit you.

 

[155] Io 

Eleleu! Eleleu!

It creeps on me again, the twitching spasm, the mind-destroying madness, burning me up and the gadfly's sting goads me on steel point by no fire
Tempered and my heart in its fear knocks on my breast.
There's a dazing whirl in my eyes as I run out of my course by the madness driven, the crazy frenzy;
my tongue ungoverned babbles, the words in a muddy flow strike on the waves of the mischief I hate, strike wild without aim or sense. 

 

[156] Chorus

A wise man indeed he was that first in judgment weighed this word and gave it tongue:
The best by far it is to marry in one's rank and station:
Let no one working with her hands aspire to marriage with those lifted high in pride because of wealth,
Or of ancestral glory. Never, never may you see me, Fates majestic, drawing nigh the bed of Zeus, to share it with the kings:
Nor ever may I know a heavenly wooer: I dread such things beholding Io's sad virginity ravaged, ruined;
Bitter wandering hers because of Hera's wrath.
When a match has equal partners then I fear not: may the eye inescapable of the mighty Gods not look on me.
That is a fight that none can fight: a fruitful source of fruitlessness: I would not know what I could do:
I cannot see the hope when Zeus is angry of escaping him.

 

[157] Prometheus

Yet shall this Zeus, for all his pride of heart be humble yet: such is the match he plans,
A marriage that shall drive him from his power and from his throne, out of the sight of all.
So shall at last the final consummation be brought about of Father Kronos' curse which he,
Driven from his ancient throne, invoked against the son deposing him:
No one of all the Gods save I alone can tell a way to escape this mischief: I alone know it and how.
So let him confidently sit on his throne and trust his heavenly thunder and brandish in his hand his fiery bolt.
Nothing shall all of this avail against a fall intolerable, a dishonored end. 

So strong a wrestler Zeus is now equipping against himself, a monster hard to fight.
This enemy shall find a plan to best the thunderbolt, a thunderclap to best the thunderclap of Zeus:
And he shall shiver Poseidon's trident, curse of sea and land.
So, in his crashing fall shall Zeus discover how different are rule and slavery.

 

[158] Chorus
You voice your wishes for the God's destruction.

 

[159] Prometheus

They are my wishes, yet shall come to pass.

 

[160] Chorus

Must we expect someone to conquer Zeus? 

 

[161] Prometheus

Yes; he shall suffer worse than I do now. 

 

[162] Chorus

Have you no fear of uttering such words?

 

[163] Prometheus

Why should I fear, since death is not my fate? 

 

[164] Chorus

But he might give you pain still worse than this. 

 

[165] Prometheus

Then let him do so; all this I expect.

 

[166] Chorus

Wise are the worshipers of Adrasteia.

 

[167] Prometheus

Worship him, pray; flatter whatever king is king today; but I care less than nothing for Zeus.
Let him do what he likes, let him be king for his short time: he shall not be king for long.
Look, here is Zeus's footman, this fetch-and-carry messenger of him, the New King.
Certainly he has come here with news for us. 

 

[168] Hermes

You, subtle-spirit, you bitterly overbitter, you that sinned against the immortals, giving honor to the creatures of a day, you thief of fire:
The Father has commanded you to say what marriage of his is this you brag about that shall drive him from power— and declare it in clear terms and no riddles. You, Prometheus, do not cause me a double journey; these (pointing to the chains.) will prove to you that Zeus is not softhearted. 

 

[169] Prometheus

Your speech is pompous sounding, full of pride, as fits the lackey of the Gods.
You are young and young your rule and you think that the tower in which you live is free from sorrow:
From it have I not seen two tyrants thrown? The third, who now is king, I shall yet live to see him fall, of all three most suddenly, most dishonored.
Do you think I will crouch before your Gods,— so new— and tremble?
I am far from that. Hasten away, back on the road you came. You shall learn nothing that you ask of me.

 

[170] Hermes

Just the obstinacy that brought you here, to this self-willed calamitous anchorage. 

 

[171] Prometheus

Be sure of this: when I set my misfortune against your slavery, I would not change.

 

[172] Hermes
It is better, I suppose, to be a slave to this rock, than Zeus's trusted messenger.

 

[173] Prometheus

Thus must the insolent show their insolence!

 

[174] Hermes

I think you find your present lot too soft. 

 

[175] Prometheus Too soft? I would my enemies had it then, and you are one of those I count as such. 

 

[176] Hermes

Oh, you would blame me too for your calamity?

 

[177] Prometheus
In a single word, I am the enemy of all the Gods that gave me ill for good.

 

[178] Hermes

Your words declare you mad, and mad indeed. 

 

[179] Prometheus

Yes, if it's madness to detest my foes.

 

[180] Hermes

No one could bear you in success. 

 

[181] Prometheus

Alas! 

 

[182] Hermes

Alas! Zeus does not know that word. 

 

[183] Prometheus

Time in its aging course teaches all things. 

 

[184] Hermes

But you have not yet learned a wise discretion.

 

[185] Prometheus

True: or I would not speak so to a servant.

 

[186] Hermes

It seems you will not grant the Father's wish. 

 

[187] Prometheus

I should be glad, indeed, to requite his kindness!

 

[188] Hermes

You mock me like a child!

 

[189] Prometheus

And are you not a child, and sillier than a child, to think that I should tell you anything?
There is not a torture or an engine wherewithal Zeus can induce me to declare these things, till he has loosed me from these cruel shackles.
So let him hurl his smoky lightning flame, and throw in turmoil all things in the world with white-winged snowflakes and deep
Bellowing thunder beneath the earth: me he shall not bend by all this to tell him who is fated to drive him from his tyranny.

 

[190] Hermes

Think, here and now, if this seems to your interest.

 

[191] Prometheus

I have already thought— and laid my plans. 

 

[192] Hermes

Bring your proud heart to know a true discretion— O foolish spirit— in the face of ruin. 

 

[193] Prometheus

You vex me by these senseless adjurations, senseless as if you were to advise the waves.
Let it not cross your mind that I will turn womanish-minded from my fixed decision or that I shall entreat the one I hate so greatly,
With a woman's upturned hands, to loose me from my chains: I am far from that.

 

[194] Hermes 

I have said too much already— so I think and said it to no purpose: you are not softened: your purpose is not dented by my prayers.
You are a colt new broken, with the bit clenched in its teeth, fighting against the reins, and bolting.
You are far too strong and confident in your weak cleverness.
For obstinacy standing alone is the weakest of all things in one whose mind is not possessed by wisdom.
Think what a storm, a triple wave of ruin will rise against you, if you will not hear me, and no escape for you.
First this rough crag with thunder and the lightning bolt the Father shall cleave asunder and
Shall hide your body wrapped in a rocky clasp within its depth;
A tedious length of time you must fulfill before you see the light again, returning.

Then Zeus's winged hound, the eagle red, shall tear great shreds of flesh from you, a feaster coming unbidden,

Every day: your liver bloodied to blackness will be his repast.

And of this pain do not expect an end until some God shall show himself successor to take
Your tortures for himself and willing go down to lightless Hades and the shadows of Tartarus' depths.

Bear this in mind and so determine. This is no feigned boast but spoken with too much truth.
The mouth of Zeus does not know how to lie, but every word brings to fulfilment.
Look, and reflect, and never think that obstinacy is better than prudent counsel.

 

[195] Chorus 

Hermes seems to us to speak not altogether out of season.
He bids you leave your obstinacy and seek a wise good counsel.
Hearken to him. Shame it would be for one so wise to fall in error. 

 

[196] Prometheus 

Before he told it me I knew this message: but there is no disgrace in suffering at an enemy's hand, when you hate mutually.
So let the curling tendril of the fire from the lightning bolt be sent against me:
Let the air be stirred with thunderclaps, the winds in savage blasts convulsing all the world. 

Let earth to her foundations shake, yes to her root, before the quivering storm: let it confuse
The paths of heavenly stars and the sea's waves in a wild surging torrent:
This my body let Him raise up on high and dash it down into black Tartarus with rigorous compulsive eddies: death he cannot give me.

 

[197] Hermes
These are a madman's words, a madman's plan: is there a missing note in this mad harmony?
Is there a slack chord in his madness?
You, you, who are so sympathetic with his troubles,
Away with you from here, quickly away!
lest you should find your wits stunned by the thunder and its dreadful roar.

 

[198] Chorus

Say something else different from this: give me some other counsel that I will listen to: this word of yours for all its urgency is not for us.
How dare you bid us practice baseness? We will bear along with him what we must bear.
I have learned to hate all traitors: there is no disease I spit on more than treachery.

 

[199] Hermes

Remember then my warning before the act: when you are trapped by ruin don't blame fortune;
Don't say that Zeus has brought you to calamity that you could not foresee: do not do this:
But blame yourselves; now you know what you're doing:
And with this knowledge neither suddenly nor secretly your own want of good sense has tangled you in the net of ruin, past all hope of rescue.

 

[200] Prometheus 

Now it is words no longer: now in very truth the earth is staggered: in its depths the thunder bellows resoundingly,
The fiery tendrils of the lightning flash light up, and whirling clouds carry the dust along:
All the winds' blasts dance in a fury one against the other in violent confusion: earth and sea are one, confused together:
Such is the storm that comes against me manifestly from Zeus to work its terrors. 

 

O Holy mother mine, O Sky that circling brings the light to all, you see me, how I suffer, how unjustly.

 

 

 

THE END