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160 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 471
man was early recognized as a regrettable failure, and kept in a state of wretchedness and total subservience. Force ruled everything; reason and right were unknown. The Titans were a race of gigantic size and strength, and [at least in one version of the myth] no intelligence; until in one of them, Prometheus, emerged rational and moral qualities, ranging from cunning and ingenuity to a love of freedom and justice. The knowledge that the future lay with such intangible principles rather than with brute strength, was a secret possessed by Earth, who imparted it to her son Prometheus. This certainly set Prometheus at the side of Zeus, son of Cronos, in rebellion against his father and the older dynasty; and by Prometheus' help Zeus and the other 'Olympian' gods won the day and thenceforward ruled the universe.
But Prometheus was not only an immortal; he was also a son of Earth, and felt a natural sympathy with the earth's mortal inhabitants. The race which Zeus despised and planned to destroy, Prometheus saw as capable of infinite development. He stole fire from heaven and gave it to them; and he taught them the basic mental and manual skills. In so doing he frustrated Zeus's plan to create a more perfect race… What win our favor for Prometheus is largely the fact that he believed in, and wanted to help, the human race as it is, full of both noble achievement and pitiable squalor, honoring both goodness and wickedness… But though in this play the balance of feeling is in favor of Prometheus, even the sympathetic Chorus rebuke him for pride: and it is clear that Zeus's case has yet to be presented.
For you two, Strength and Violence, the command of Zeus
Is now performed. You are released. But how can I
Find heart to lay hands on a god of my own race,
And cruelly clamp him to this better, bleak ravine?
And yet I must; heart or no heart, this I must do.
To slight what Zeus has spoken is a fearful thing.
[to PROMETHEUS] Son of sagacious Themis, god of mountainous thoughts,
With heart as sore as yours I now shall fasten you
In bands of bronze immovable to this desolate peak,
Where you will hear no voice, nor see a human form;
But scorched with the sun's flaming rays your skin will lose
Its bloom of freshness. Glad you will be to see the night
Cloaking the day with her dark spangled robe; and glad
Again when the sun's warmth scatters the frost at dawn.
Each changing hour will bring successive pain to rack
Your body; and no man yet born shall set you free.
Your kindness to the human race has earned you this.
A god who would not bow to the gods' anger – you,
Transgressing right, gave privileges to mortal men.
For that you shall keep watch upon this bitter rock,
Standing upright, unsleeping, never bowed in rest.
And many groans and cries of pain shall come from you,
All useless; for the heart of Zeus is hard to appease.
Power newly won is always harsh.
See with what outrage
Racked and tortured
I am to agonize
For a thousand years!
See this shameful prison
Invented for me
By the new master of the gods!
I know exactly every thing
That is to be; no torment will come unforeseen.
My appointed fate I must endure as best I can,
knowing the power of Necessity is irresistible.
Under such suffering, speech and silence are alike
Beyond me. For bestowing gifts upon mankind
I am harnessed in this torturing clamp. For I am he
Who hunted out the source of fire, and stole it, …
And fire has proved
For men a teacher in every art, their grand resource.
That was the sin for which I now pay the full price,
Bared to the winds of heaven, bound and crucified.
From Susa they went, / from Agbatana, / from Kissia’s ancient, towering ramparts, / by horse, by ship, by foot, / in close-ranked columns of war. / Men like Amistres and Artaphrenes, / Megabates and Astaspes, / each of them kings, / Persian commanders, / but each of them also the Great King’s servants, / marshals of Persia’s massive forces, / surging, surging, / seething for battle, / archers, horsemen, / a sight to see, / fearful in the fight, / stern in the harsh resolve of their spirit.
Artembares, high in his chariot, / and Masistres, / and noble Imaios, / strong of arm with his archer’s bow, / unyielding Imaios, / and Pharandakes, / and Sosthenes, driver of stallions. / And others, still others / great Nile sent forth, / teeming Nile’s fertile flow: / Sousiskanes, / and Egypt-born, sun-dark Pegastagon, / and towering Arsames, / lord of temple-rich Memphis, and / Ariomardos, governor of age-old Thebes, / and marsh-dwelling oarsmen terrible in number… (pp. 122-23)
King! / My King! / I lament for your army, / your noble army, / for the greatness of Persia, / and her glorious men, / cut down now, / cut down, whom / god has destroyed!
The land, / the land cries, / cries aloud, / cries, / for her youth whom / Xerxes has / slain, / whom Xerxes had crammed into dismal / Hades, / Persia’s / youth from Agbatana, / great Persia’s flower, / many, many, / thousands, / ten thousands, / archers, / masters of the bow, / a forest of men, / gone, / destroyed, / no more!
Weep for them, / weep, / our noble defense! / All Asia brought to her / knees in / shame! (pp. 167-68)
O god-hated house of Oedipus, / house cursed by the gods, / house maddened by the gods, / house of tears, / now the curse of Oedipus is fulfilled!
But no time for tears or wailing now, / giving birth to even worse suffering!
As for him, / Polyneikes, / so well-named, / strife-bringer, we will / see if his sign is fulfilled; whether golden / letters on a shield will do what they say; / or are they the babble of a demented mind?
If Justice, virgin daughter of / Zeus, had ever been with him in / thought or deed, his boasting might have come true.
But never, never once, never – not when he / fled the dark cavern of his mother’s / womb, not in childhood or adolescence, not when the hair of manhood grew on his chin, / did Justice ever, even once, / turn her eye on him or ever acknowledge him! / Nor does she now, / now as he rapes his city, his parent / land, in this violent, criminal assault! / For is she did, / if Justice looked / kindly on him, she would be justly misnamed / for championing one who brings death on his city! pp. (215-16)