Imágenes de páginas


a Lyrical Drama.


Audisne hæc Amphiarae, sub terram abdite ?



by the purest and the truest motives to the best and

noblest ends. The Greek tragic writers, in selecting as their sub This Poem was chiefly written upon the mountainous ject any portion of their national history or mythology, ruins of the Baths of Caracalla, among the flowery employed in their treatment of it a certain arbitrary glades, and thickets of odoriferous blossoming trees, discretion. They by no means conceived themselves which are extended in ever-winding labyrinths upon bound to adhere to the common interpretation, or to its immense platforms and dizzy arches suspended in imitate in story, as in title, their rivals and prede the air. The bright blue sky of Rome, and the effect

Such a system would have amounted to a of the vigorous awakening of spring in that divinest resignation of those claims to preference over their climate, and the new life with which it drenches the competitors which incited the composition. The spirits even to intoxication, were the inspiration of Agamemnonian story was cxlibited on the Athenian this drama. theatre with as many variations as dramas.

The imagery which I have employed will be found, I have presumed to employ a similar license. The in many instances, to have been drawn from the opera“ Prometheus Unbound” of Æschylus supposed the tions of the human mind, or from those external actions reconciliation of Jupiter with his victim as the price of by which they are expressed. This is unusual in modern the disclosure of the danger threatened to his empire poetry, although Dante and Shakspeare are full of by the consummation of his marriage with Thetis. instances of the same kind : Dante indeed more than Thetis, according to this view of the subject, was given any other poet, and with greater success. But the in marriage to Peleus, and Prometheus, by the permis- Greek poets, as writers to whom no resource of awakension of Jupiter, delivered from his captivity by Hercules. ing the sympathy of their contemporaries was unknown, Had I framed my story on this model, I should have were in the habitual use of this power; and it is the done no more than have attempted to restore the lost study of their works (since a higher merit would prodrama of Æschylus; an ambition, which, if my pre bably be denied me), to which I am willing that my ference to this inode of treating the subject had incited readers should impute this singularity. me to cherish, the recollection of the high comparison One word is due in candour to the degree in which such an attempt would challenge might well abate. the study of contemporary writings may have tinged But, in truth, I was averse from a catastrophe so feeble my composition, for such has been a topic of censure as that of reconciling the Champion with the Oppressor with regard to poems far more popular, and, inderd, of mankind. The moral interest of the fable, which more deservedly popular, than mine. It is impossible is so powerfully sustained by the sufferings and endur that any one who inhabits the same age with such ance of Prometheus, would be annihilated if we could writers as those who stand in the foremost ranks of our conceive of him as unsaying his high language and own, can conscientiously assure himself that his language quailing before his successful and perfidious adversary. and tone of thought may not have been modified by The only imaginary being resembling in any degree the study of the productions of those extraordinary Prometheus, is Satan : and Prometheus is, in my judg- intellects. It is true, that, not the spirit of their ment, a more poetical character than Satan, because, genius, but the forms in which it has manifested itself, in addition to courage, and majesty, and firm and are due less to the peculiarities of their own minds patient opposition to omnipotent force, he is susceptible than to the peculiarity of the moral and intellectual of being described as exempt from the taints of ambi. condition of the minds among which they have been tion, envy, revenge, and a desire for personal aggran- produced. Thus a number of writers possess the disement, which, in the Hero of Paradise Lost, interfere form, whilst they want the spirit of those whom, it is with the interest. The character of Satan engenders alleged, they imitate; because the former is the endowin the mind a pernicious casuistry which leads us to ment of the age in which they live, and the latter weigh his faults with his wrongs, and to excuse the must be the uncommunicated lightning of their own former because the latter exceed all measure. In the mind. minds of those who consider that magnificent fiction The peculiar style of intense and comprehensive with a religious feeling, it engenders something worse. imagery which distinguishes the modern literature of But Promethens is, as it were, the type of the highest England, has not been, as a general power, the product perfection of moral and intellectual nature, impelled of the imitation of any particular writer. The mass of

[ocr errors]


capabilities remains at every period materially the same; another, the creations, of their age. From this subthe circumstances which awaken it to ac:ion perpetually jection the loftiest do not escape. There is a similarity change. If England were divided into forty republics, between Homer and Hesiod, between Æschylus and each equal in population and extent to Athens, there Euripides, between Virgil and Horace, between Dante is no reason to suppose but that, under institutions not and Petrarch, between Shakspeare and Fletcher, more perfect than those of Athens, each would produce between Dryden and Pope; each has a generic reseniphilosophers and poets equal to those who (if we except blance under which their specific distinctions are Shakspeare) have never been surpassed. We owe the arranged. If this similarity be the result of imitation, great writers of the golden age of our literature to that I am willing to confess that I have imitated. fervid awakening of the public mind which shook to Let this opportunity be conceded to me of acknowdust the oldest and most oppressive form of the Christian lcdging that I have, what a Scotch philosopher characreligion. We owe Milton to the progress and develop- teristically terms, “a passion for reforming the world :" ment of the same spirit : the sacred Milton was, let it what passion incited him to write and publish his book, ever be remembered, a republican, and a bold inquirer he omits to explain. For my part, I had rather be into morals and religion. The great writers of our damned with Plato and Lord Bacon, than go to heaven own age are, we have reason to suppose, the companions with Paley and Malthus. But it is a mistake to supand forerunners of some unimagined change in our pose that I dedicate my poetical compositions solely to social condition, or the opinions which cement it. The the direct enforcement of reform, or that I consider cloud of mind is discharging its collected lightning, and them in any degree as containing a reasoned system on the equilibrium between institutions and opinions is the theory of human life. Didactic poetry my

abhornow restoring, or is about to be restored.

rence; nothing can be equally well expressed in prose As to imitation, poetry is a mimetic art. It creates, that is not tedious and supererogatory in verse. My but it creates by combination and representation. | purpose has hitherto been simply to familiarise the Poetica! abstractions are beautiful and new, not highly refined imagination of the more select classes because the portions of wbich they are composed had of poetical readers with beautiful idealisins of moral no previous existence in the mind of man, or in nature, excellence ; aware that until the mind can love, and but because the whole produced by their combination admire, and trust, and hope, and endure, reasoned has some intelligible and beautiful analogy with those principles of moral conduct are seeds cast upon the sources of emotion and thought, and with the contem high way of life, which the unconscious passenger tramporary condition of them : one great poet is a master ples into dust, although they would bear the harvest piece of nature, which another not only ought to study of his happiness. Should I live to accomplish what I but must study. He might as wisely and as easily purpose, that is, produce a systematical history of what determine that his mind should no longer be the mirror appear to me to be the genuine elements of human of all that is lovely in the visible universe, as exclude society, let not the advocates of injustice and superstifrom his contemplation the beautiful which exists in tion flatter themselves that I should take Æschylus the writings of a great contemporary. The pretence rather than Plato as my model. of doing it would be a presumption in any but the The having spoken of myself with unaffected frecgreatest; the effect, even in him, would be strained, dom will need little apology with the candid ; and let unnatural, and ineffectual. A poet is the combined the uncandid consider that they injure me less than product of such internal powers as modify the nature their own hearts and minds by misrepresentation. of others; and of such external influences as excite Whatever talents a person may possess to amuse and and sustain these powers; he is not one, but both. instruct others, be they ever so inconsiderable, he is Every man's mind is, in this respect, modified by all yet bound to exert them : if his attempt be ineffectual, the objects of nature and art ; by every word and every let the punishment of an unaccomplished purpose have suggestion which he ever admitted to act upon his con been sufficient; let none trouble themselves to heap sciousness ; it is the mirror upon which all forms are the dust of oblivion upon his efforts; the pile they reflected, and in wbich they compose one form. Poets, raise will betray his grave, which might otherwise have not otherwise than philosophers, painters, sculptors, been unknown. and musicians, are, in one sense, the creators, and, in








SCENE, a Ravine of Icy Rocks in the Indian Caucasus. Not exultation, for I hate no more,

PROMETHEUS is discovered bound to the Precipice. PAN As then ere misery made me wise. The curse
THEA and Ione are seated at his feet. Time, Night. Once breathed on thee I would recall. Ye
During the Scene, Morning slowly breaks.


Whose many-voiced Echoes, through the mist Monarch of Gods and Dæmons, and all Spirits Of cataracts, flung the thunder of that spell ! But One, who throng those bright and rolling worlds Ye icy Springs, stagnant with wrinkling frost, Which Thou and I alone of living things

Which vibrated to hear me, and then crept Behold with sleepless eyes ! regard this Earth Shuddering through India! Thou serenest Air, Made multitudinons with thy slaves, whom thou Through which the Sun walks burning without Requitest for knee-worship, prayer, and praise,

beams! And toil, and hecatombs of broken hearts, And ye swift Whirlwinds, who on poised wings With fear and self-contempt and barren hope. Hung mute and moveless o'er yon hushed abyss, Whilst me, who am thy foe, eyeless in hate, As thunder, louder than your own, made rock Hast thou made reign and triumph, to thy scorn,

The orbed world ! If then my words had power, O'er mine own misery and thy vain revenge. Though I am changed so that aught evil wish Three thousand years of sleep-unsheltered hours, Is dead within ; although no memory be And moments aye divided by keen pangs

Of what is hate, let them not lose it now! Till they seemed years, torture and solitude, What was that curse? for ye all heard me speak. Scorn and despair,—these are mine empire. More glorious far than that which thou surveyest FIRST VOICE: (from the mountains.) From thine unenvied throne, O, Mighty God! Thrice three hundred thousand years Almighty, had I deigned to share the shame

O'er the Earthquake's couch we stood : Of thine ill tyranny, and hung not here

Oft, as men convulsed with fears,
Nailed to this wall of eagle-baffling mountain,

We trembled in our multitude.
Black, wintry, dead, unmeasured ; without herb,
Insect, or beast, or shape or sound of life.

SECOND VOICE: (from the springs.)
Ah me, alas! pain, pain ever, for ever!

Thunderbolts had parched our water, No change, no pause, no hope! Yet I endure.

We had been stained with bitter blood, I ask the Earth, have not the mountains felt?

And had run mute, 'mid shrieks of slaughter, I ask yon Heaven, the all-beholding Sun,

Through a city and a solitude.
Has it not seen? The Sea, in storm or calm,
Heaven's ever-changing Shadow, spread below,

THIRD Voice: (from the air.)
Have its deaf waves not heard my agony?

I had clothed, since Earth uprose, Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, for ever!

Its wastes in colours not their own;

And oft had my serene repose
The crawling glaciers pierce me with the spears

Been cloven by many a rending groan.
Of their moon-freezing crystals ; the bright chains
Eat with their burning cold into my bones.

FOURTH VOICE: (from the whirlwinds.) Heaven's winged hound, polluting from thy lips We had soared beneath these mountains His beak in poison not his own, tears up

Unresting ages; nor had thunder,
My heart; and shapeless sights come wandering by, Nor yon volcano's flaming fountains,
The ghastly people of the realm of dream,

Nor any power above or under
Mocking me:and the Earthquake-fiends are charged Ever made us mute with wonder.
To wrench the rivets from my quivering wounds
When the rocks split and close again behind :
While from their loud abysses howling throng
The genii of the storm, urging the rage

But never bowed our snowy crest

As at the voice of thine unrest.
Of whirlwind, and afflict me with keen hail.
And yet to me welcome is day and night,
Whether one breaks the hoar frost of the morn,
Or starry, dim, and slow, the other climbs

Never such a sound before
The leaden-coloured east; for then they lead

To the Indian waves we bore. The wingless, crawling hours, one among whom

A pilot asleep on the howling sea -As some dark Priest hales the reluctant victim Leaped up from the deck in agony, Shall drag thee, cruel King, to kiss the blood

And heard, and cried, “ Ah, woe is me!" From these pale feet, which then might trample thee

And died as mad as the wild waves be.
If they disdained not such a prostrate slave.
Disdain! Ah no! I pity thee. What ruin
Will hunt thee undefended through the wide By such dread words from Earth to Heaven

My still realm was never riven:
How will thy soul, cloven to its depth with terror, When its wound was closed, there stood
Gape like a hell within ! I speak in grief,

Darkness o'er the day like blood.







PROMETHEUS. And we shrank back: for dreams of ruin

And what art thou,
To frozen caves our flight pursuing

O melancholy Voice ?
Made us keep silence—thus—and thus-
Though silence is as hell to us.


I am the Earth,

Thy mother; she within whose stouy veins, The tongueless Caverns of the craggy hills

To the last fibre of the loftiest tree
Cried, “Misery!" then ; the hollow Heaven replied, Whose thin leaves trembled in the frozen air,
“ Misery!" And the Ocean's purple waves, Joy ran, as blood within a living frame,
Climbing the land, howled to the lashing winds, When thou didst from her bosom, like a cloud
And the pale nations heard it, “ Misery!" Of glory, arise, a spirit of keen joy!

And at thy voice her pining sons uplifted

Their prostrate brows from the polluting dust, I hear a sound of voices: not the voice

And our almighty Tyrant with fierce dread Which I gave forth. Mother, thy sons and thou

Grew pale, until his thunder chained thee here. Scorn him, without whose all-enduring will Then, see those million worlds which burn and roll Beneath the fierce omnipotence of Jove,

Around us : their inhabitants beheld Both they and thou had vanished, like thin mist

My sphered light wane in wide Heaven; the sea Unrolled on the morning wind. Know ye not me, Was lifted by strange tempest, and new fire The Titan? He who made his agony

From earthquake-rifted mountains of bright snow The barrier to your else all-conquering foe? Shook its portentous hair beneath Heaven's frown; Oh, rock-embosomed lawns, and snow-fed streams, Lightning and Inundation vexed the plains ; Now seen athwart frore vapours, deep below, Blue thistles bloomed in cities; foodless toads Through whose o'ershadowing woods I wandered Within voluptuous chambers panting crawled; With Asia, drinking life from her loved eyes ; [once When Plague had fallen on man, and beast, and Why scorns the spirit which informs ye, now To commune with me? me alone, who checked, And Famine; and black blight on herb and tree; As one who checks a fiend-drawn charioteer,

And in the corn, and vines, and meadow-grass, The falsehood and the force of him who reigns

Teemed ineradicable poisonous weeds Supreme, and with the groans of pining slaves

Draining their growth, for my wan breast was dry Fills your dim glens and liquid wildernesses :

With grief.; and the thin air, my breath, was stained Why answer ye not, still ? Brethren !

With the contagion of a mother's hate

Breathed on her child's destroyer; aye, I heard
They dare not.

Thy curse, the which, if thou rememberest not,
Yet my innumerable seas and streams,

Mountains, and caves, and winds, and yon wide air,
Who dares? for I would hear that curse again. And the inarticulate people of the dead,
Ha! what an awful whisper rises up !

Preserve, a treasured spell. We meditate 'Tis scarce like sound: it tingles through the frame In secret joy and hope those dreadful words As lightning tingles, hovering ere it strike. But dare not speak them. Speak, Spirit! from thine inorganic voice I only know that thou art moving near

PROMETHEUS. And love. How cursed I him?

Venerable mother! All else who live and suffer take from thee

Some comfort;flowers, and fruits,and happy sounds, How canst thou hear,

And love, though fleeting; these may not be mine. Who knowest not the language of the dead ?

But mine own words, I pray, deny me not.
Thou art a living spirit; speak as they.

They shall be told. Ere Babylon was dust,

The Magus Zoroaster, my dead child, I dare not speak like life, lest Heaven's fell King

Met his own image walking in the garden. Should hear, and link me to some wheel of pain

That apparition, sole of men, he saw. More torturing than the one whereon I roll.

For know there are two worlds of life and death : Subtle thou art and good; and though the Gods

One that which thou beholdest; but the other Hear not this voice, yet thou art more than God

Is underneath the grave, where do inhabit Being wise and kind : earnestly hearken now.

The shadows of all forms that think and live

Till death unite them and they part no more; PROMETHEUS.

Dreams and the light imaginings of men, Obscurely through my brain, like shadows dim, And all that faith creates or love desires, Sweep awful thoughts, rapid and thick. I feel Terrible, strange, sublime and beauteous shapes. Faint, like one mingled in entwining love; There thou art, and dost hang, a writhing shade, Yet 'tis not pleasure.

'Mid whirlwind-peopled mountains; all the gods

Are there, and all the powers of nameless worlds, THE EARTH.

Vast, sceptred phantoms; heroes, men, and beasts; No, thou canst not hear: And Demogorgon, a tremendous gloom ; Thou art immortal, and this tongue is known And he, the supreme Tyrant, on his throne Only to those who die.

Of burning gold. Son, one of these shall utter







The curse which all remember. Call at will
Thine own ghost, or the ghost of Jupiter,
Hades or Typhon, or what mightier Gods

Fiend, I defy thee ! with a calm, fixed mind, From all-prolific Evil, since thy ruin

All that thou canst inflict I bid thee do; Have sprung, and trampled on my prostrate sons.

Foul Tyrant both of Gods and Human-kind, Ask, and they must reply: so the revenge

One only being shalt thou not subdue. Of the Supreme may sweep through vacant shades,

Rain then thy plagues upon me here, As rainy wind through the abandoned gate

Ghastly disease and frenzying fear; Of a fallen palace.

And let alternate frost and fire

Eat into me, and be thine ire

Lightning, and cutting hail, and legioned forms
Mother, let not aught

Of furies, driving by upon the wounding storms. Of that which may be evil, pass again My lips, or those of aught resembling me.

Ay, do thy worst. Thou art omnipotent. Phantasm of Jupiter, arise, appear!

O’er all things but thyself I gave thee power, And my own will. Be thy swift mischiefs sent

To blast mankind, from yon ethereal tower. My wings are folded o’er mine ears:

Let thy malignant spirit move My wings are crossed o'er mine eyes :

In darkness over those I love : Yet through their silver shade appears,

On me and mine I imprecate And through their lulling plumes arise,

The utmost torture of thy hate ; A Shape, a throng of sounds;

And thus devote to sleepless agony, May it be no ill to thee

This undeclining head while thou must reign on high. O thou of many wounds ! Near whom, for our sweet sister's sake,

But thou who art the God and Lord: 0, thou Ever thus we watch and wake.

Who fillest with thy soul this world of woe, PANTHEA.

To whom all things of Earth and Heaven do bow The sound is of whirlwind underground,

In fear and worship: all-prevailing foe! Earthquake, and fire, and mountains cloven ;

I curse thee ! let a sufferer's curse The shape is awful like the sound,

Clasp thee, his torturer, like remorse! Clothed in dark purple, star-inwoven.

Till thine Infinity shall be
A sceptre of pale gold

A robe of envenomed agony ;
To stay steps proud, o'er the slow cloud And thine Omnipotence a crown of pain,
His veined hand doth hold.

To cling like burning gold round thy dissolving brain.
Cruel he looks, but calm and strong,
Like one who does, not suffers wrong.

Heap on thy soul, by virtue of this curse,

Iii deeds, then be thou damned, beholding good;

Both infinite as is the universe,
Why have the secret powers of this strange world And thou, and thy self-torturing solitude
Driven me, a frail and empty phantom, hither An awful image of calm power
On direst storms? What unaccustomed sounds Though now thou sittest, let the hour
Are hovering on my lips, unlike the voice

Come, when thou must appear to be
With which our pallid race hold ghastly talk That which thou art internally.
In darkness? And, proud sufferer, who art thou ? And after many a false and fruitless crime,

Scorn track thy lagging fall through boundless space

and time.
Tremendous Image! as thou art must be
He whom thou shadowest forth. I am his foe,
The Titan. Speak the words which I would hear, Were these my words, 0 Parent?
Although no thought inform thine empty voice.

They were thine.
Listen! And though your echoes must be mute,
Grey mountains, and old woods,and haunted springs,

PROMETHEUS. Prophetic caves, and isle-surrounding streams, It doth repent me : words are quick and vain; Rejoice to hear what yet ye cannot speak.

Grief for awhile is blind, and so was mine.

I wishi no living thing to suffer pain.
A spirit seizes me and speaks within :
It tears me as fire tears a thunder-cloud.

Misery, Oh misery to me,

That Jove at length should vanquish thec.
See, how he lifts his mighty looks, the Heaven

Wail, howl aloud, Land and Sea, Darkens above.

The Earth’s rent heart shall answer ye.

Howl, Spirits of the living and the dead,
He speaks! O shelter me !

Your refuge, your defence lies fallen and van-

I see the curse on gestures proud and cold,

Lies fallen and vanquished ?
And looks of firm defiance, and calm hate,
And such despair as mocks itself with smiles,
Written as on a scroll : yet speak: Oh, speak ! Fallen and vanquished !











« AnteriorContinuar »