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PROMETHEUS UNBOUND;

& Epncal Drama.

IN POUR ACTS.

Audi me haec Amphiarae, sub terrain abditc?

PREFACE.

The Greek tragic writers, in selecting as their subject any portion of their national history or mythology, employed in their treatment of it a certain arbitrary discretion. They by no means conceived themselves bound to adhere to the common interpretation, or to imitate in story, as in title, their rivals and predecessors. Such a system would have amounted to a resignation of those claims to preference over their competitors -which incited the composition. The Agamcmnonian story was exhibited on the Athenian theatre with as many variations as dramas.

I have presumed to employ a similar license. The "Prometheus Unbound" of /Eschylus supposed the reconciliation of Jupiter with his victim as the price of the disclosure of the danger threatened to his empire by the consummation of his marriage with Thetis. Thetis, according to this view of the subject, was given in marriage to Peleus, and Prometheus, by the permission of Jupiter, delivered from hiscaptivity by Hercules. Had I framed my story on this model, I should have done no more than have attempted to restore the lost drama of JEschylus; an ambition, which, if my preference to this mode of treating the subject had incited me to cherish, the recollection of the high comparison such an attempt would challenge might well abate. But, in truth, I was averse from a catastrophe so feeble as that of reconciling tbe Champion with the Oppressor of mankind. The moral interest of the fable, which, is so powerfully sustained by the Bufferings and endurance of Prometheus, would be annihilated if we could conceive of him as unsaying his high language and quailing before his successful and perfidious adversary. The only imaginary being resembling in any degree Prometheus, is Satan: and Prometheus is, in my judgment, a more poetical character than Satan, because, in addition to courage, and majesty, and firm and patient opposition to omnipotent forco, he is susceptible of being described as exempt from the taints of ambition, envy, revenge, and a desire for personal aggrandisement, which, in the Hero of Paradise Lost, interfere with the interest. The character of Satan engenders in the mind a pernicious casuistry which leads us to weigh his faults with his wrongs, and to excuse the former because the latter exceed all measure. In the minds of those who consider that magnificent fiction with a religious feeling, it engenders something worse. But Prometheus is, as it were, the type of the highest perfection of moral and intellectual nature, impelled

by the purest and the truest motives to the best and nohlcBt ends.

This Poem was chiefly written upon the mountainous ruins of the Baths of Caracalla, among the flowery glades, and thickets of odoriferous blossoming tree?, which are extended in ever-winding labyrinths upon its immense platforms and dizzy arches suspended in the air. The bright blue sky of Rome, and the effect of the vigorous awakening of spring in that divinest climate, and the new life with which it drenches the spirits even to intoxication, were the inspiration of thin drama.

The imagery which I have employed will be found, in many instances, to have been drawn from the operations of the human mind, or from those external actions by which they are expressed. This is unusual in modern poetry, although Dante and Shakspeare are frill of instances of the same kind: Dante indeed more than any other poet, and with greater success. But the Greek poets, as writers to whom no resource of awakeoing the sympathy of their contemporaries was unknown, were in the habitual use of this power; and it is the study of their works (since a higher merit would probably be denied me), to which I am willing that my readers should impute this singularity.

One word is due in candour to the degree in which the study of contemporary writings may have tinged my composition, for such has been a topic of censure with regard to poems far more popular, and, indeed, more deservedly popular, than mine. It is impossible that any one who inhabits the same age with such writers as those who stand in the foremost ranks of our own, can conscientiously assure himself that his language and tone of thought may not have been modified by the study of the productions of those extraordinary intellects. It is true, that, not the spirit of their genius, but the forms in which it has manifested itself, are due less to the peculiarities of their own minds than to the peculiarity of the moral and intellectual condition of the minds among which they have been produced. Thus a number of writers possess the form, whilst they want the spirit of those whom, it is alleged, they imitate; because the former is the endowment of the age in which they live, and the latter must be the uncommunicated lightning of their own mind.

The peculiar style of intense and comprehensive imagery which distinguishes the modern literature ot England, has not been, as a general power, the product of the imitation of any particular writer. The mass of capabilities remains at every period materially the same; the circumstances which awaken it to action perpetually change. If England were divided into forty republics, each equal in population and extent to Athens, there a so reason to suppose but that, under institutions not more perfect than those of Athens, each would produce philosophers and poets equal to those who (if we except Seakspeare) have never been surpassed. We owe the great writers of the golden age of our literature to that fervid awakening of the public mind which shook to dost the oldest and most oppressive form of the Christian religion. We owe Milton to the progress and development of the same spirit: the sacred Milton was, lot it ever be remembered, a republican, and a bold inquirer into morals and religion. The great writers of our own age are, we have reason to suppose, the companions and forerunners of some unimagined change in our social condition, or the opinions which cement it. The cloud of mind is discharging its collected lightning, and the equilibrium between institutions and opinions is now restoring, or is about to be restored.

As to imitation, poetry is a mimetic art. It creates, but it creates by combination and representation. Poetical abstractions are beautiful and new, not the portions of which they are composed had i existence in the mind of man, or in nature, bat because the whole produced by their combination has tome intelligible and beautiful analogy with those sources of emotion and thought, and with the contemporary condition of them: ono great poet is a masterpiece of nature, which another not only ought to study but must study. He might as wisely and as easily determine that his mind should no longer be the mirror of all that is lovely in the visible universe, as exclude from his contemplation the beautiful which exists in the writings of a great contemporary. The pretence of doing it would be a presumption in any but the greatest; the effect, even in him, would he strained, unnatural, and ineffectual. A poet is the combined product of such internal powers as modify the nature of others; and of such external influences as excite and sustain these powers; he is not anc, but both. Every man's mind is, in this respect, modified by all the objects of nature and art; by every word and every suggestion which he ever admitted to act upon his consciousness; it is the mirror upon which all forms are reflected, and in which they compose one form. Poets, sot otherwise than philosophers, painters, sculptors, and musicians, are, in one sense, the creators, and, in

another, the creations, of their age. From this subjection the loftiest do not escape. There is a similarity between Homer and Hesiod, between ./Eschylus and Euripides, between Virgil and Horace, between Dante and Petrarch, between Shakspeare and Fletcher, between Dry den and Pope; each has a generic resemblance under which their specific distinctions are arranged. If this similarity be tho result of imitation, I am willing to confess that I have imitated.

Let this opportunity bo conceded to me of acknowledging that I have, what a Scotch philosopher characteristically terms, "a passion for reforming the world:** what passion incited him to write and publish his book, he omits to explain. For my part, I had rather be damned with Plato and Lord Bacon, than go to heaven with Paley and Malthus. But it is a mistake to suppose that I dedicate my poetical compositions solely to the direct enforcement of reform, or that I consider them in any degree as containing a reasoned system on the theory of human life. Didactic poetry is my abhorrence; nothing can be equally well expressed in prose that is not tedious and supererogatory in verse. My purpose has hitherto been simply to familiarise the highly refined imagination of the more select classes of poetical readers with beautiful idealisms of moral excellence; aware that until the mind can love, and admire, and trust, and hope, and endure, reasoned principles of moral conduct are seeds cast upon the highway of life, which the unconscious passenger tramples into dust, although they would bear the harvest of his happiness. Should I live to accomplish what I purpose, that is, produce a systematical history of what appear to me to be the genuine elements of human society, let not the advocates of injustice and superstition flatter themselves that I should take JEschylus rather than Plato as my model.

The having spoken of myself with unaffected freedom will need little apology with the candid; and let the uncandid consider that they injure me less than their own hearts and minds by misrepresentation. Whatever talents a person may possess to amuse and instruct others, be they ever so inconsiderable, he is yet bound to exert them : if his attempt be ineffectual, let the punishment of an unaccomplished purpose have been sufficient; let none trouble themselves to heap the dust of oblivion upon his efforts; the pile they raise will betray his grave, which might otherwise have been unknown.

DRAMATIS PERSONS.

pROMKTHEirS. DcatOGOROOM.

Jupiter.

The EARTH.

Ocean.

Apollo.

Mercury.

Hercules.

Asia, \

Panthba , L OcMtnitUi.

Ions, )

The Phantasm Of Jupiter.

The Spirit Op The Earth.

The Spirit Op The Moon.

Spirits Op The Hours.

Spirits. Echoes. Fauws.

Furies.

ACT I.

Scknb, a Ravine of Icy Rocks in the Indian Caucasus. Promkthki'8 is discovered bound to the Precipice. PanThea and loss are seated at his feet. Time, Night. During the Scene, Morning slowly breaks.

PROMETHEUS.

Monarch of Gods and Dcemons, and all Spirits
But One, who throng those bright and rolling worlds
Which Thou and I alone of living things
Behold with sleepless eyes! regard this Earth
Made multitudinous with thy slaves, whom thou
Requitest for knee-worship, prayer, and praise,
And toil, and hecatombs of broken hearts,
With fear and self-contempt and barren hope.
Whilst me, who am thy foe, eyeless in hate.
Hast thou made reign and triumph, to thy scorn,
O'er mine own misery and thy vain revenge.
Three thousand years of sleep-unsheltered hours,
And moments aye divided by keen pangs
Till they seemed years, torture and solitude,
Scorn and despair,—these are mine empire.
More glorious far than that which thou surveyest
From thine unenvied throne, 0, Mighty God!
Almighty, had I deigned to share the shame
Of thine ill tyranny, and hung not here
Nailed to this wall of eagle-baffling mountain,
Black, wintry, dead, unmeasured; without herb,
Insect, or beast, or shape or sound of life.
Ah me, alas! pain, pain ever, for ever!

No change, no pause, no hope! Yet I endure.
I ask the Earth, have not the mountains felt 1
I ask yon Heaven, the all-beholding Sun,
Has it not seenI The Sea, in storm or calm,
Heaven's ever-changing Shadow, spread below,
Have its deaf waves not heard my agony!
Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, for ever!

The crawling glaciers pierce me with the spears
Of their moon-freezing crystals; the bright chains
Eat with their burning cold into my bones.
Heaven's winged hound, polluting from thy lips
His beak in poison not his own, tears up
My heart; and shapeless sights come wandering by,
The ghastly people of the realm of dream,
Mocking me: and the Earthquake-fiends are charged
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
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
The leaden-coloured east; for then they lead
The wingless, crawling hours, one among whom
—As some dark Priest hales the reluctant victim—
Shall drag thee, cruel King, to kiss the blood
From these pale feet, which then might trample thee
If they disdained not such a prostrate slave.
Disdain 1 Ah no! I pity thee. What ruin
Will hunt thee undefended through the wide

Heaven!
How will thy soul, cloven to its depth with terror,
Gape like a hell within! I speak in grief,

Not exultation, for I hate no more,

As then ere misery made me wise. The i

Once breathed on thee I would recall. Ye

Mountains, Whose many-voiced Echoes, through the mist Of cataracts, flung the thunder of that spell! Ye icy Springs, stagnant with wrinkling frost, Which vibrated to hear me, and then crept Shuddering through India! Thou serenest Air, Through which the Sun walks burning without

beams! And ye swift Whirlwinds, who on poised wings Hung mute and moveless o'er yon bushed abyss, As thunder, louder than your own, made rock The orbed world! If then my words had power. Though I am changed so that aught evil wish Is dead within; although no memory be Of what is hate, let them not lose it now! What was that curse! for ye all heard me spca.k.

First Voice: (from the mountain*.) Thrice three hundred thousand years

O'er the Earthquake's couch we stood: Oft, as men convulsed with fears,

We trembled in our multitude.

SECOND VOICE: (from the springs.) Thunderbolts had parched our water,

We had been stained with bitter blood. And had run mute, 'mid shrieks of slaughter,

Through a city and a solitude.

Third Voice: (from the air.) I had clothed, since Earth uprose,

Its wastes in colours not their own; And oft had my serene repose

Been cloven by many a rending groan.

Fourth Voice: (from the whirlwinds.) We had soared beneath these mountains

Unresting ages; nor had thunder, Nor yon volcano's flaming fountains,

Nor any power above or under

Ever made us mute with wonder.

First Voice.
But never bowed our snowy crest
As at the voice of thine unrest.

Second Voice.
Never such a sound before
To the Indian waves we bore.
A pilot asleep on the howling sea
Leaped up from the deck in agony,
And heard, and cried, " Ah, woe is me!"
And died as mad as the wild waves be.

Third Voice.
By such dread words from Earth to Heaven
My still realm was never riven:
When its wound was closed, there stood
Darkness o'er the day like blood.

FOURTH VOICE.

And we shrank back: for dreams of ruin
To frozen caves our flight pursuing
Made us keep silence—thus—and thus—
Though silence is as hell to us.

THE EARTH.

The tongneless Caverns of the craggy hilla
Cried," Misery!" then; the hollow Heaven replied,
"Misery!" And the Ocean's purple waves,
Climbing the land, howled to the lashing winds,
And the pale nations heard it, " Misery I"

PROMETHEUS.

1 hear a sound of voices: not the voice
Which I gave forth. Mother, thy sons and thou
Scorn him, without whose all-enduring will
Beneath the fierce omnipotence of Jove,
Both they and thou had vanished, like thin mist
Unrolled on the morning wind. Know ye not me,
The Titan i He who made his agony
The harrier to your else all-conquering foe!
Oh, rock-embosomed lawns, and snow-fed streams,
Now seen athwart frore vapours, deep below,
Through whose o'ershadowing woods I wandered
With Asia, drinking life from her loved eyes; [once
Why scorns the spirit which informs ye, now
To commune with me 1 me alone, who checked,
As one who checks a fiend-drawn charioteer,
The falsehood and the force of him who reigns
Supreme, and with the groans of pining slaves
Fills your dim glens and liquid wildernesses:
Why answer ye not, still 1 Brethren!

THE EARTH.

They dare not.

PROMETHEUS.

Who dares T for I would hear that curse again.

Ha! what an awful whisper rises up!

'Tis scarce like sound: it tingles through the frame

As lightning tingles, hovering ere it strike.

Speak, Spirit! from thine inorganic voice

I only know that thou art moving near

And love. How cursed I him 1

THE EARTH.

How canst thou hear, Who knowest not the language of the dead?

PROMETHEUS.

Thou art a living spirit; speak as they.

THE EARTH.

I dare not speak like life, lest Heaven's fell King Should hear, and link me to some wheel of pain More torturing than the one whereon I roll. Subtle thou art and good; and though the Gods Hear not this voice, yet thou art more than God Being wise and kind: earnestly hearken now.

PROMETHEUS.

Obscurely through my brain, like shadows dim,
Sweep awful thoughts, rapid and thick. I feel
Faint, like one mingled in entwining love;
Vet 'tis not pleasure.

THE EARTH.

No, thou canst not hear: Thou art immortal, and this tongue is known Only to those who die. .

PROMETHEUS.

And what art thou, 0 melancholy Voice!

THE EARTH.

I am the Earth, Thy mother; she within whose stony veins, To the last fibre of the loftiest tree Whose thin leaves trembled in the frozen air, Joy ran, as blood within a living frame, When thou didst from her bosom, like a cloud Of glory, arise, a spirit of keen joy! And at thy voice her pining sons uplifted Their prostrate brows from the polluting dust, And our almighty Tyrant with fierce dread Grew pale, until his thunder chained thee here. Then, see those million worlds which burn and roll Around us: their inhabitants beheld My sphered light wane in wide Heaven; the sea Was lifted by strange tempest, and new fire From earthquake-rifted mountains of bright snow Shook its portentous hair beneath Heaven's frown; Lightning and Inundation vexed the plains; Blue thistles bloomed in cities; foodless toads Within voluptuous chambers panting crawled; When Plague had fallen on man, and beast, and

worm, And Famine; and black blight on herb and tree; And in the corn, and vines, and meadow-grass, Teemed ineradicable poisonous weeds Draining their growth, for my wan breast was dry With grief; and the thin air, my breath, was stained With the contagion of a mother's hate Breathed on her child's destroyer; aye, I heard Thy curse, the which, if thou rememberest not, Yet my innumerable seas and streams, Mountains, and caves, and winds, and yon wide air, And the inarticulate people of the dead, Preserve, a treasured spell. We meditate In secret joy and hope those dreadful words But dare not speak them.

PROMETHEUS.

Venerable mother! All else who live and suffer take from thee Some comfort; flowers, and fruits, and happy sounds, And love, though fleeting; these may not be mine. But mine own words, I pray, deny me not.

THE EARTn.

They shall be told. Ere Babylon was dust,
The Magus Zoroaster, my dead child,
Met his own image walking in the garden.
That apparition, sole of men, he saw.
For know there are two worlds of life and death:
One that which thou beholdest; but the other
Is underneath the grave, where do inhabit
The shadows of all forms that think and live
Till death unite them and they part no more;
Dreams and the light imaginings of men,
And all that faith creates or love desires,
Terrible, strange, sublime and beauteous shapes.
There thou art, and dost hang, a writhing shade,
'Mid whirlwind-peopled mountains; all the gods
Are there, and all the powers of nameless worlds,
Vast, sceptred phantoms; heroes, men, and beasts;
And Demogorgon, a tremendous gloom;
And he, the supreme Tyrant, on his throne
Of burning gold. Son, one of these shall utter

[graphic]

The curse which all remember. Call at will

Thine own ghost, or the ghost of Jupiter,

Hades or Typhon, or what mightier Gods

From all-prolific Evil, since thy ruin

Have sprung, and trampled on my prostrate sons.

Ask, and they must reply: so the revenge

Of the Supreme may sweep through vacant shades,

As rainy wind through the abandoned gate

Of a fallen palace.

PROMETHEUS.

Mother, let not aught
Of that which may be evil, pass again
My lips, or those of aught resembling me.
Phantasm of Jupiter, arise, appear!

IONE.
My wings are folded o'er mine ears:

My wings are crossed o'er mine eyes:
Yet through their silver shade appears,

And through their lulling plumes arise,
A Shape, a throng of sounds;

May it be no ill to thee
0 thou of many wounds!
Near whom, for our sweet sister's sake,
Ever thus we watch and wake.

PANTHEA.

The sound is of whirlwind underground,

Earthquake, and tire, and mountains cloven; The shape is awful like the sound,

Clothed in dark purple, star-inwoven.
A sceptre of pale gold

To stay steps proud, o'er the slow cloud
His veined hand doth hold.
Cruel he looks, but calm and strong,
Like one who does, not suffers wrong.

PHANTASM OP JUPITER.

Why have the secret powers of this strange world
Driven me, a frail and empty phantom, hither
On direst storms 1 What unaccustomed sounds
Are hovering on my lips, unlike the voice
With which our pallid race hold ghastly talk
In darkness! And, proud sufferer, who art thout

PROMETHEUS.

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,
Although no thought inform thine empty voice.

THE EARTH.

Listen! And though your echoes must be mute, Grey mountains, and old woods, and haunted springs, Prophetic caves, and isle-surrounding streams, Rejoice to hear what yet ye cannot speak.

PHANTASM.

A spirit seizes mo and speaks within:
It tears me as fire tears a thunder-cloud.

PANTHEA.

See, how he lifts his mighty looks, the Heaven
Darkens above.

IONE.
He speaks! 0 shelter me!

PROMETHEUS.

I see the curse on gestures proud and cold,
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!

Fiend, I defy thee ! with a calm, fixed mind,
All that thou canst inflict I bid thee do;

Foul Tyrant both of Gods and Human-kind,
One only being shalt thou not subdue.

Rain then thy plagues upon me here,

Ghastly disease and frenzying fear;

And let alternate frost and fire

Eat into me, and be thine ire Lightning, and cutting hail, and legioned forms Of furies, driving by upon the wounding stormsAy, do thy worst. Thou art omnipotent.

O'er all things but thyself I gave thee power.

And my own will. Be thy swift mischiefs seut To blast mankind, from yon ethereal tower.

Let thy malignant spirit move

In darkness over those I love:

On me and mine I imprecate

The utmost torture of thy hate; And thus devote to sleepless agony, This uudeclining head while thou must reign on high.

Bnt thon, who art the God and Lord: O, thou Who fiUest with thy soul this world of woe,

To whom all things of Earth and Heaven do bow In fear and worship: all-prevailing foe!

I curse thee! let a sufferer's curse

Clasp thee, his torturer, like remorse!

Till thine Infinity shall be

A robe of envenomed agony; And thine Omnipotence a crown of pain, To cling like burninggoldroundthydissolving brain.

Heap on thy soul, by virtue of this curse,

111 deeds, then be thou damned, beholding good; Both infinite as is the universe,

And thon, and thy self-torturing solitude. An awful image of calm power Though now thou sittest, let the hour Come, when thou must appear to be That which thou art internally. And after many a false and fruitless crime. Scorn track thy lagging fall through boundless space and time.

PROMETHEUS.

Were these my words, 0 Parent!

THE EARTH.

They were thine.

PROMETHEUS.
It doth repent me: words are quick and vain;
Grief for awhile is blind, and so was mine.
I wish no living thing to suffer pain.

THE EARTH.

Misery, Oh misery to me,
That Jove at length should vanquish thee.
Wail, howl aloud, Land and Sea,
The Earth's rent heart shall answer ye.
Howl, Spirits of the living and the dead,
Your refuge, your defence lies fallen and van-
quished.

FIRST ECHO.

Lies fallen and vanquished?

SECOND ECHO.

Fallen and vanquished!

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