Online Texts for Craig White's Literature Courses

  • Not a critical or scholarly text but a reading text for a seminar

  • Gratefully adapted from

  • Changes may include paragraph divisions, highlights, spelling updates, bracketed annotations, &
    elisions (marked by ellipses . . . )

Percy Shelley

Prometheus Unbound:

A Lyrical Drama in Four Acts


(Abridged for LITR courses taught by Craig White)

Textual notes: Shelley’s poem is adapted from Percy Bysshe Shelley. Complete Poetical Works. Boston; NY: Houghton Mifflin, 1901 (Cambridge: Riverside Press) online at 4 April 2008. Shelley’s Preface is from the same volume at

  • Line numbers, starting over in every scene, are original from the edition; cuts in text do not change line numbers.
  • Ellipses ( . . . ) indicate cuts in text.
  • Bold print identifies important names, themes or actions.
  • [Instructor’s notes are in closed brackets and smaller font].
  • Shelley’s stage directions are in regular font italics.

Purpose of abridgement: Prometheus Unbound stands among the most beautiful and inspiring poems in English, but its imaginative abstraction, intensity, and scale may overwhelm first-time readers. This abridgement compromises between teaching the whole poem unsuccessfully or not teaching it at all. Repetitive or non-essential passages are cut, but the narrative is retained. The original 21,775 word count is reduced below 14,000. If one-third of Shelley’s poetry is lost, two-thirds remain. More students may enjoy this version and feel encouraged to read the entire poem.


Instructor’s introduction: Ancient Greek myths tell that the Titan Prometheus (or “forethought”) stole fire from Zeus (a. k. a. Jupiter or Jove, king of the Gods) and gave it to humanity. As punishment, Zeus chained Prometheus to a rock where every day a vulture ate his liver. Since Prometheus was immortal, it grew back. Later Hercules killed the vulture and freed Prometheus.

The Greek tragic playwright Aeschylus (5th c BCE) is traditionally credited with authorship of the tragedy Prometheus Bound, one of a trilogy whose other two dramas, Prometheus Unbound and Prometheus the Fire-Bringer, are known only from fragmentary evidence. According to these plays and other sources, Prometheus made the first people from clay, gave them fire, and taught them the arts of civilization (writing, mathematics, agriculture, science, etc.). See Asia’s speech, Act 2, sc. 4.

Prometheus’s gifts endow humans’ power to change and shape the world—essential to modernity—but his rebellion against divine authority also makes him an archetype of Satan, who similarly shared prohibited knowledge.

The English Romantic poet Shelley (1792-1822) published Prometheus Unbound in 1820. Its genre is “closet drama”—a play to be read, not performed. Other examples of this genre: John Milton’s Samson Agonistes (1671); Goethe’s Faust, Parts 1 & 2 (1806, 1832). Prometheus Unbound’ may also be described as “lyric drama”: little action occurs; effects are achieved by lyrical poetry evoking emotions or personal awakening.

The sub-title of the novel Frankenstein (1818, 1831) by Shelley’s wife, Mary Shelley (1797-1851) is The Modern Prometheus.

Romantic style conventions in Prometheus Unbound:

·         Imagination, metaphor, correspondence connect entities & share meaning

·         Transcendence of everyday reality via semi-divine, semi-human characters

·         Romance narrative as personal transformation, release from bondage

·         The Sublime: grand visions of nature, changes in history, transformation

·         The Gothic: Demogorgon’s early appearance underground

·         elevated language or tone; Romantic rhetoric and diction


Prometheus Unbound: A Lyrical Drama in Four Acts


Preface [by Shelley]

 . . . The Prometheus Unbound of Aeschylus [see above] supposed the reconciliation of Jupiter with his victim . . . . Had I framed my story on this model, I should have done no more than have attempted to restore the lost drama of Aeschylus . . . . But, in truth, I was averse from a catastrophe* so feeble as that of reconciling the Champion [Prometheus] with the Oppressor of mankind [Jupiter or Zeus]. The moral interest of the fable, which is so powerfully sustained by the sufferings 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 [in Milton’s Paradise Lost]; 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 force, he is susceptible of being described as exempt from the taints of ambition, envy, revenge, and a desire for personal aggrandizement, which, in the hero of Paradise Lost, interfere with the interest. . . . 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 noblest ends. [*catastrophe = dramatic event initiating resolution of plot in a tragedy]

[Shelley’s Preface continues] This Poem was chiefly written upon the mountainous ruins of the Baths of Caracalla [ruins of public baths outside Rome], among the flowery glades and thickets of odoriferous blossoming trees, 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 spring in that divinest climate, and the new life with which it drenches the spirits even to intoxication, were the inspiration of this drama.

The imagery which I have employed will be found . . . to have been drawn from the operations of the human mind, or from those external actions by which they are expressed. . . .

 . . . We owe the great writers of the golden age of our [English] literature to that fervid awakening of the public mind which shook to dust the oldest and most oppressive form of the Christian religion [the Enlightenment or Age of Reason]. We owe Milton to the progress and development of the same spirit: the sacred Milton was, let 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. [*John Milton, author of the epic Paradise Lost, defended popular government in support of the English Revolution of the 1640s and was Secretary of Foreign Tongues for the Puritan Commonwealth]

As to imitation, poetry is a mimetic [imitative] art. It creates, but it creates by combination and representation. Poetical abstractions are beautiful and new, not because the portions of which they are composed had no previous existence in the mind of man or in Nature, but because the whole produced by their combination has some intelligible and beautiful analogy with those sources of emotion and thought and with the contemporary condition of them. . . .

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 . . . . My purpose has hitherto been simply to familiarize 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. . . .

Prometheus Unbound: A Lyrical Drama in Four Acts

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ      [Latin: persons or characters of the drama]

PROMETHEUS.   [a titan, chained to mountain for stealing fire from gods for humanity]

DEMOGORGON   [a primordial pagan god of the underworld]

JUPITER  [a. k. a. Jove, Zeus, king of the gods; master of thunder and lightning]

THE PHANTASM OF JUPITER      [an image, ghost, or illusion of the king of the gods]

APOLLO   [god of the sun]

MERCURY  [messenger of the gods]

HERCULES  [a. k. a. Heracles, Herakles; legendary strongman; son of Zeus & Alcmene]


ASIA [an Oceanid, daughter of the titans Oceanus and Tethys, mother of Prometheus]

IONE [a sea nymph of the Nereids, the 50 daughters of the titan Nereus and the Oceanid Doris]

PANTHEA [an Oceanid]

THETIS  [mother by Jupiter of Achilles & Demogorgon]

Oceanides [sea nymphs]







SPIRITS. ECHOES. FAUNS.   [fauns = men  w/ horns & goat-tails]

FURIES.    [spirits of vengeance or conscience]

Act I, SCENE, a Ravine of Icy Rocks in the Indian Caucasus. PROMETHEUS is discovered bound to the Precipice. PANTEA and IONE are seated at his feet. Time, Night. During the Scene morning slowly breaks.

PROMETHEUS: Monarch of Gods and Daemons, and all Spirits  [Monarch=Jupiter; Daemons=spirits]

But One, who throng those bright and rolling worlds [But one = Except Prometheus]

Which Thou and I alone of living things

Behold with sleepless eyes!

                                               Regard this Earth

Made multitudinous with thy slaves, whom thou                [thy, thou = Jupiter]

Requitest for knee-worship, prayer, and praise,                 [Requitest = repay]

And toil, and hecatombs of broken hearts,                         [hecatombs = slaughters]

With fear and self-contempt and barren hope;

Whilst me, who am thy foe, eyeless in hate,

Hast thou made reign and triumph [celebration], to thy scorn,           10

O'er mine own misery and thy vain revenge.

Three thousand years of sleep-unsheltered hours,

And moments aye divided by keen pangs     [aye = always]

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, O Mighty God!

Almighty, had I deigned to share the shame             [deigned = chosen]

Of thine ill tyranny, and hung not here

Nailed to this wall of eagle-baffling mountain,                         20

Black, wintry, dead, unmeasured; without herb,        [herb = vegetation]

Insect, or beast, or shape or sound of life.

Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever! . . .


And yet to me welcome is day and night,

Whether one breaks the hoar-frost of the morn,             [hoar = white]

Or starry, dim, and slow, the other climbs                       [other = night]

The leaden-colored east; for then they lead

The wingless, crawling hours, one among whom—

As some dark Priest hales the reluctant victim—    [hales = summons; as in an execution]

Shall drag thee, cruel King, to kiss the blood                                         50

From these pale feet, which then might trample thee

If they disdained not such a prostrate slave.


Disdain! Ah, no! I pity thee. What ruin              [thee = Jupiter]

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 curse      [ere = before]

Once breathed on thee I would recall. . . .

                         If then my words had power,

Though I am changed so that aught evil wish    [aught = any]                  70

Is dead within; although no memory be

Of what is hate, let them not lose it now!

What was that curse? . . .


[Omitted passages: Several spirits respond, recalling the dreadfulness of Prometheus’s curse against Jupiter but not answering as to the curse’s content. Prometheus then speaks to “The Earth.”]


PROMETHEUS:  . . . I would hear that curse again. . . .

Speak, Spirit! from thine inorganic voice   [Prometheus addresses the Spirit of the Earth]

I only know that thou art moving near

And love. How cursed I him? . . .


THE EARTH: No, thou canst not hear;

Thou art immortal, and this tongue is known                                                150

Only to those who die.


PROMETHEUS: And what art thou,

O melancholy Voice?


THE EARTH: I am the Earth,

Thy mother; she within whose stony veins,

To the last fiber 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                 [pining sons = desperate mankind]

Their prostrate brows from the polluting dust,                                                160

And our almighty Tyrant with fierce dread                              [Tyrant = Jupiter]

Grew pale, until his thunder chained thee here.

Then—see those million worlds which burn and roll  [million worlds=stars, heavenly bodies]

Around us—their inhabitants beheld

My spherèd light wane in wide Heaven; the sea [sphered light wane=Earth’s surrounding light fades]

Was lifted by strange tempest, and new fire

From earthquake-rifted mountains of bright snow

Shook its portentous hair beneath Heaven's frown . . . .

                                     . . . ay, I heard                    [ay = yes]

Thy curse, the which, if thou rememberest not,                              180

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.                                             190


THE EARTH: They shall be told. Ere Babylon was dust,

The Magus Zoroaster, my dead child, [magus=magician; Zoroaster=ancient Iranian prophet]

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 . . .

                                         . . . all the gods

Are there, and all the powers of nameless worlds,

Vast, sceptered phantoms; heroes, men, and beasts;

And Demogorgon, a tremendous gloom; [primordial pagan god of underworld; gothic]

And he, the supreme Tyrant, on his throne    [he, Tyrant = Jupiter]

Of burning gold. Son, one of these shall utter

The curse which all remember. Call at will                                                210

Thine own ghost, or the ghost of Jupiter . . . .


PROMETHEUS: Mother, let not aught     [aught = any]

Of that which may be evil pass again

My lips, or those of aught resembling me.                                                  220

Phantasm of Jupiter, arise, appear! . . .  [phantasm = ghost, image]


PANTHEA: The sound is of whirlwind underground,        [sublime imagery]

    Earthquake, and fire, and mountains cloven;

  The shape is awful, like the sound,

    Clothed in dark purple, star-inwoven.

  A scepter of pale gold,              [scepter = wand or rod of royal authority]

    To stay steps proud, o'er the slow cloud,

  His veinèd hand doth hold.

Cruel he looks, but calm and strong,

Like one who does, not suffers wrong.


PHANTASM [ghost, phantom, image] OF JUPITER:

Why have the secret powers of this strange world                                          240

Driven me, a frail and empty phantom, hither

On direst storms? 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 thou?


PROMETHEUS: Tremendous Image! as thou art must be    [Image = form, ghost]

He whom thou shadowest forth. I am his foe,                             [He = Jupiter]

The Titan. Speak the words which I would hear,

Although no thought inform thine empty voice. . . .


PHANTASM:  A spirit seizes me and speaks within;

It tears me as fire tears a thunder-cloud. . . .


PHANTASM: [reciting Prometheus’s curse against Jupiter]

  Fiend, I defy thee! with a calm, fixed mind,     [Fiend = Jupiter; I = Prometheus]

    All that thou canst inflict I bid thee do;

  Foul tyrant both of Gods and humankind,

    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                           [ire = anger]

  Lightning, and cutting hail, and legioned forms     [legioned = swarming]     270

Of furies, driving by upon the wounding storms.


  Ay, do thy worst! Thou art omnipotent.

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

  And my own will. . . .


  But thou, who art the God and Lord: O thou

    Who fillest 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,                                                 290

To cling like burning gold round thy dissolving brain! . . .


PROMETHEUS: Were these my words, O 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. . . .


[Omitted passages: The messenger of the gods, Mercury, relays to Prometheus a bargain offered by Jupiter: if Prometheus will bow to Jupiter’s rule, he may return to heaven. Prometheus refuses and is set upon by Furies—winged female personifications of vengeance.]


PROMETHEUS: He whom some dreadful voice invokes is here,

Prometheus, the chained Titan. Horrible forms,

What and who are ye? . . .


FIRST FURY: We are the ministers of pain, and fear,

And disappointment, and mistrust, and hate,

And clinging crime . . . .


PROMETHEUS: I laugh [mock] your power, and his who sent you here,

To lowest scorn. Pour forth the cup of pain. . . .


[Instructor’s note: Chorus and Semichorus below are conventions from classical Greek tragedy in which a group of figures comment or provide background information]


CHORUS [OF FURIES]: The pale stars of the morn  

Shine on a misery, dire to be borne.                                                             540

Dost thou faint, mighty Titan? We laugh thee to scorn.

Dost thou boast the clear knowledge thou waken'dst for man?

Then was kindled within him a thirst which outran

Those perishing waters; a thirst of fierce fever,

Hope, love, doubt, desire, which consume him forever.

  One came forth of gentle worth,                                                [One = Christ]

  Smiling on the sanguine earth;

  His words outlived him . . .

Past ages crowd on thee, but each one remembers,

And the future is dark, and the present is spread

Like a pillow of thorns for thy slumberless head.


[Instructor’s note: The description of Christ parallels Prometheus’s change from vengeful rebellion to love]


SEMICHORUS I: Drops of bloody agony flow    [semichorus=half group of Furies]

  From his white and quivering brow.

  Grant a little respite now.

  See! a disenchanted nation

  Spring like day from desolation;

  To Truth its state is dedicate,

  And Freedom leads it forth, her mate;                                                570

  A legioned band of linkèd brothers,

  Whom Love calls children—


[Instructor’s note: These passages refer to the histories of Christ and the French Revolution.]


SEMICHORUS II: 'T is another's.

  See how kindred murder kin!

  'T is the vintage-time for Death and Sin;

  Blood, like new wine, bubbles within;

  Till Despair smothers

The struggling world, which slaves and tyrants win. [win = gain, take possession of]

    [All the FURIES vanish, except one.]


IONE: Hark, sister! what a low yet dreadful groan

Quite unsuppressed is tearing up the heart

Of the good Titan, as storms tear the deep,                                     580

And beasts hear the sea moan in inland caves.

Darest thou observe how the fiends torture him?


PANTHEA: Alas! I looked forth twice, but will no more.


IONE: What didst thou see?


PANTHEA: A woeful sight: a youth

With patient looks nailed to a crucifix. . . .


FURY: Blood thou canst see, and fire; and canst hear groans:

Worse things unheard, unseen, remain behind.




FURY: In each human heart terror survives

The ruin it has gorged: the loftiest fear

All that they would disdain to think were true.                                                    620

Hypocrisy and custom make their minds

The fanes of many a worship, now outworn.                [fanes = temples]

They dare not devise good for man's estate,             [they = “worships,” religions]

And yet they know not that they do not dare.


The good want power, but to weep barren tears.              [but to = besides]

The powerful goodness want; worse need for them.

The wise want love; and those who love want wisdom;

And all best things are thus confused to ill.

Many are strong and rich, and would be just,

But live among their suffering fellow-men                                            630

As if none felt; they know not what they do.                    [Luke 23:24]


PROMETHEUS: Thy words are like a cloud of wingèd snakes;

And yet I pity those they torture not.


FURY: Thou pitiest them? I speak no more!  [Vanishes.]



Ah woe! Alas! pain, pain ever, forever!

I close my tearless eyes, but see more clear

Thy works within my woe-illumèd mind,                     [thy = Jupiter’s]

Thou subtle tyrant! Peace is in the grave.

The grave hides all things beautiful and good.

I am a God and cannot find it there,          [Prometheus cannot die]               640

Nor would I seek it; for, though dread revenge,

This is defeat, fierce king, not victory.

The sights with which thou torturest gird my soul

With new endurance, till the hour arrives

When they shall be no types of things which are. [millennial change]


PANTHEA: Alas! what sawest thou?


PROMETHEUS:  There are two woes—

To speak and to behold; thou spare me one.      

Names are there, Nature's sacred watchwords, they

Were borne aloft in bright emblazonry;

The nations thronged around, and cried aloud,                                          650

As with one voice, Truth, Liberty, and Love! [cf. Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood of French Revolution ]

Suddenly fierce confusion fell from heaven

Among them; there was strife, deceit, and fear;

Tyrants rushed in, and did divide the spoil.

This was the shadow of the truth I saw. . . .


CHORUS OF SPIRITS: From unremembered ages we

    Gentle guides and guardians be

    Of heaven-oppressed mortality;

    And we breathe, and sicken not,

    The atmosphere of human thought:

    Be it dim, and dank, and gray,

    Like a storm-extinguished day,

    Traveled o'er by dying gleams; . . .

    Thence we bear the prophecy                                                      690

    Which begins and ends in thee!


IONE: More yet come, one by one; the air around them

Looks radiant as the air around a star.


FIRST SPIRIT:   On a battle-trumpet's blast

  I fled hither, fast, fast, fast,

  'Mid the darkness upward cast.

  From the dust of creeds outworn,

  From the tyrant's banner torn,

  Gathering round me, onward borne,

  There was mingled many a cry—                                             700

  Freedom! Hope! Death! Victory!

  Till they faded through the sky;

  And one sound above, around,

  One sound beneath, around, above,

  Was moving; 't was the soul of love;

  'T was the hope, the prophecy,

  Which begins and ends in thee. . . .      [thee = Prometheus]          707


CHORUS OF SPIRITS: Hast thou beheld the form of Love? . . .


CHORUS: Though Ruin now Love's shadow be,                         780

  Following him, destroyingly,

    On Death's white and wingèd steed,

  Which the fleetest cannot flee,

    Trampling down both flower and weed,

  Man and beast, and foul and fair,

  Like a tempest through the air;

  Thou shalt quell this horseman grim,

  Woundless though in heart or limb. . . . .


PROMETHEUS: How fair these air-born shapes! and yet I feel

Most vain all hope but love; and thou art far,

Asia! who, when my being overflowed, [Asia=Oceanid or sea-nymph, mother of Prometheus]

Wert like a golden chalice to bright wine                                                810

Which else had sunk into the thirsty dust. . . . .

                                                  I would fain       [fain = choose to]

Be what it is my destiny to be,

The savior and the strength of suffering man,

Or sink into the original gulf of things.

There is no agony, and no solace left;

Earth can console, Heaven can torment no more.                                 820


PANTHEA: Hast thou forgotten one who watches thee [one=Asia, Prometheus’s mother]

The cold dark night, and never sleeps but when

The shadow of thy spirit falls on her?


PROMETHEUS: I said all hope was vain but love; thou lovest.


PANTHEA: Deeply in truth; but the eastern star looks white,

And Asia waits in that far Indian vale,         [Indian vale = valley in Asian subcontinent]

The scene of her sad exile; rugged once

And desolate and frozen, like this ravine;

But now invested with fair flowers and herbs,

And haunted by sweet airs and sounds, which flow   [airs = melodies]       830

Among the woods and waters, from the ether            [ether = heavenly element]

Of her transforming presence, which would fade

If it were mingled not with thine. Farewell!


Act II

SCENE IMorning. A lovely Vale in the Indian Caucasus. ASIA, alone.

[Asia = ocean nymph, Prometheus’s mother]

. . . PANTHEA enters . . . [Panthea = Ocean nymph]


ASIA: Lift up thine eyes,

And let me read thy dream.       [wow]


PANTHEA: . . . With our sea-sister at his feet I slept. [sea-sister=Ione; his=Prometheus’s]

The mountain mists, condensing at our voice

Under the moon, had spread their snowy flakes,

From the keen ice shielding our linkèd sleep.                                            60


Then two dreams came. One I remember not.

But in the other his pale wound-worn limbs

Fell from Prometheus, and the azure night           [azure = sky-blue]

Grew radiant with the glory of that form

Which lives unchanged within, and his voice fell

Like music which makes giddy the dim brain,

Faint with intoxication of keen joy:

'Sister of her whose footsteps pave the world  [Prometheus speaks to Panthea in her dream]

With loveliness—more fair than aught but her,

Whose shadow thou art—lift thine eyes on me.'                   70


I lifted them; the overpowering light

Of that immortal shape was shadowed o'er

By love; which, from his soft and flowing limbs,

And passion-parted lips, and keen, faint eyes,

Steamed forth like vaporous fire; an atmosphere

Which wrapped me in its all-dissolving power,

As the warm ether of the morning sun

Wraps ere it drinks some cloud of wandering dew.

I saw not, heard not, moved not, only felt

His presence flow and mingle through my blood                        80

Till it became his life, and his grew mine,

And I was thus absorbed, until it passed,

And like the vapors when the sun sinks down,

Gathering again in drops upon the pines,

And tremulous as they, in the deep night

My being was condensed; and as the rays

Of thought were slowly gathered, I could hear

His voice, whose accents lingered ere they died

Like footsteps of weak melody; thy name

Among the many sounds alone I heard                                           90

Of what might be articulate . . .

 . . . the Eastern star grew pale,

But fled to thee.


ASIA: Thou speakest, but thy words

Are as the air; I feel them not. Oh, lift

Thine eyes, that I may read his written soul!                                        110


PANTHEA: I lift them, though they droop beneath the load

Of that they would express; what canst thou see

But thine own fairest shadow imaged there?


ASIA: Thine eyes are like the deep, blue, boundless heaven

Contracted to two circles underneath

Their long, fine lashes; dark, far, measureless,

Orb within orb, and line through line inwoven.


PANTHEA: Why lookest thou as if a spirit passed?


ASIA: There is a change; beyond their inmost depth  [their = Panthea’s eyes’]

I see a shade, a shape: 'Tis He, arrayed           [He = Prometheus]             120

In the soft light of his own smiles, which spread

Like radiance from the cloud-surrounded moon.

Prometheus, it is thine! depart not yet!                           [it = radiance? Shape?]

Say not those smiles that we shall meet again  [Don’t those smiles say that . . . ]

Within that bright pavilion which their beams  [pavilion = ornate structure or shelter]

Shall build on the waste world? The dream is told.


What shape is that between us? Its rude hair       [rude = wild]

Roughens the wind that lifts it, its regard

Is wild and quick, yet 'tis a thing of air,

For through its gray robe gleams the golden dew                                      130

Whose stars the noon has quenched not.


DREAM: Follow! Follow!


PANTHEA: It is mine other dream. . . .   [the dream Panthea couldn’t remember, line 61 above]


ECHOES: Oh, follow, follow,

  As our voice recedeth

Through the caverns hollow,

  Where the forest spreadeth;

(More distant)

Oh, follow, follow!

Through the caverns hollow,

    As the song floats thou pursue,

    Where the wild bee never flew,                                                           180

    Through the noontide darkness deep,

    By the odor-breathing sleep

    Of faint night-flowers, and the waves

    At the fountain-lighted caves,

    While our music, wild and sweet,

    Mocks thy gently falling feet,

    Child of Ocean! . . .                                   [ = Panthea, an Ocean nymph]


ASIA: Come, sweet Panthea, link thy hand in mine,

And follow, ere the voices fade away.


ACT II, SCENE II. A Forest intermingled with Rocks and Caverns. ASIA and PANTHEA pass into it. Two young Fauns [woodland creatures like satyrs] are sitting on a Rock, listening.



The path through which that lovely twain [= couple, two; Asia & Panthea]

  Have passed, by cedar, pine, and yew,

  And each dark tree that ever grew,

  Is curtained out from Heaven's wide blue;

Nor sun, nor moon, nor wind, nor rain,

    Can pierce its interwoven bowers,

Nor aught, save where some cloud of dew,

Drifted along the earth-creeping breeze

Between the trunks of the hoar trees,          [hoar = white or grayish-white]

    Hangs each a pearl in the pale flowers . . .                                     10

  Or when some star of many a one

That climbs and wanders through steep night,

Has found the cleft through which alone            [cleft = opening, passage]

Beams fall from high those depths upon,—

Ere it is borne away, away,                                [it = star]

By the swift Heavens that cannot stay,

It scatters drops of golden light,                                                           20

Like lines of rain that ne'er unite;

And the gloom divine is all around;

And underneath is the mossy ground.



There the voluptuous nightingales,              [voluptuous = fully, sensuously pleasant]

  Are awake through all the broad noon day:

When one with bliss or sadness fails,              [fails = ceases singing]

    And through the windless ivy-boughs,

  Sick with sweet love, droops dying away

On its mate's music-panting bosom;

Another from the swinging blossom,                                                 30

    Watching to catch the languid close

  Of the last strain, then lifts on high

  The wings of the weak melody,

Till some new strain of feeling bear

  The song, and all the woods are mute;

When there is heard through the dim air

The rush of wings, and rising there,

  Like many a lake-surrounded flute,

Sounds overflow the listener's brain

So sweet, that joy is almost pain.      [the sublime, which mixes pleasure & pain]     40



There those enchanted eddies play               [eddy = circular current of air]

  Of echoes, music-tongued, which draw,

  By Demogorgon's mighty law,

  With melting rapture, or sweet awe,

All spirits on that secret way,

    As inland boats are driven to Ocean

Down streams made strong with mountain-thaw;

And first there comes a gentle sound

To those in talk or slumber bound,

    And wakes the destined; soft emotion                                                          50

Attracts, impels them; those who saw

Say from the breathing earth behind

There steams a plume-uplifting wind

Which drives them on their path, while they

  Believe their own swift wings and feet

The sweet desires within obey;

And so they float upon their way,

  Until, still sweet, but loud and strong,

  The storm of sound is driven along . . . .


ACT II, SCENE III.—A Pinnacle of Rock among Mountains. ASIA and PANTHEA.


PANTHEA: Hither the sound has borne us—to the realm

Of Demogorgon, and the mighty portal,     [portal = cave later claimed by Prometheus]

Like a volcano's meteor-breathing chasm,       [chasm = mouth; gothic + sublime]

Whence the oracular vapor is hurled up [underground gases may have affected oracles]

Which lonely men drink wandering in their youth,

And call truth, virtue, love, genius, or joy,

That maddening wine of life, whose dregs they drain

To deep intoxication; and uplift,

Like Mænads who cry loud, Evoe! Evoe!  [Maenads = female devotees of Dionysus / Bacchus]

The voice which is contagion to the world.   [“Evoe” was the cry of the maenads.] 10


ASIA: Fit throne for such a Power! Magnificent!  [Sublime!—Asia describes Demogorgon’s cave]

How glorious art thou, Earth! and if thou be

The shadow of some spirit lovelier still,

Though evil stain its work, and it should be

Like its creation, weak yet beautiful,

I could fall down and worship that and thee.

Even now my heart adoreth. Wonderful!

Look, sister, ere the vapor dim thy brain:                 [vapor = gases from cavern]

Beneath is a wide plain of billowy mist,

As a lake, paving in the morning sky . . .            [sublime scale]                            20

                                           Behold it, rolling on

Under the curdling winds, and islanding

The peak whereon we stand, midway, around,

Encinctured by the dark and blooming forests,     [encinctured = encircled, surrounded]

Dim twilight-lawns, and stream-illumined caves,

And wind-enchanted shapes of wandering mist;

And far on high the keen sky-cleaving mountains

From icy spires of sunlike radiance fling

The dawn, as lifted Ocean's dazzling spray,                                                       30

From some Atlantic islet scattered up,

Spangles the wind with lamp-like waterdrops. . . .


Hark! the rushing snow!

The sun-awakened avalanche! whose mass,

Thrice sifted by the storm, had gathered there

Flake after flake, in heaven-defying minds

As thought by thought is piled, till some great truth                                          40

Is loosened, and the nations echo round,

Shaken to their roots, as do the mountains now.


PANTHEA: Look how the gusty sea of mist is breaking

In crimson foam, even at our feet! . . .


ASIA: The fragments of the cloud are scattered up;

The wind that lifts them disentwines my hair;

Its billows now sweep o'er mine eyes; my brain

Grows dizzy; I see shapes within the mist.                                                    50


PANTHEA: A countenance with beckoning smiles; there burns

An azure fire within its golden locks!

Another and another: hark! they speak!


SONG OF SPIRITS  [directing Asia & Panthea to the underworld throne of Demogorgon]

  To the deep, to the deep,

    Down down!

  Through the shade of sleep,

  Through the cloudy strife

  Of Death and of Life;

  Through the veil and the bar

  Of things which seem and are,                                                                     60

  Even to the steps of the remotest throne,

    Down, down! . . . .


  We have bound thee, we guide thee;                                                           90

    Down, down!

  With the bright form beside thee;

Resist not the weakness,

  Such strength is in meekness

  That the Eternal, the Immortal,

  Must unloose through life's portal

  The snake-like Doom coiled underneath his throne [Doom = fate, destiny]

    By that alone.




PANTHEA: What veilèd form sits on that ebon throne?  [ebon = dark, deep black]


ASIA: The veil has fallen.     [Panthea & Asia see Demogorgon transform: doom > love]


PANTHEA: I see a mighty darkness

Filling the seat of power, and rays of gloom

Dart round, as light from the meridian sun,

Ungazed upon and shapeless; neither limb,

Nor form, nor outline; yet we feel it is

A living Spirit.


DEMOGORGON: Ask what thou wouldst know.


ASIA: What canst thou tell?


DEMOGORGON: All things thou dar'st demand.          [dar’st = darest]


ASIA: Who made the living world?




ASIA: Who made all

That it contains? thought, passion, reason, will,                                          10



DEMOGORGON: God: Almighty God.


ASIA: Who made that sense which, when the winds of spring

In rarest visitation, or the voice

Of one belovèd heard in youth alone,

Fills the faint eyes with falling tears which dim

The radiant looks of unbewailing flowers,

And leaves this peopled earth a solitude

When it returns no more?


DEMOGORGON: Merciful God.


ASIA: And who made terror, madness, crime, remorse, . . .

Abandoned hope, and love that turns to hate;

And self-contempt . . .

And Hell, or the sharp fear of Hell?


DEMOGORGON: He reigns.            [He = Jupiter]


ASIA: Utter his name; a world pining in pain

Asks but his name; curses shall drag him down.                               30


DEMOGORGON: He reigns.


ASIA: I feel, I know it: who?


DEMOGORGON: He reigns.


ASIA          [tells a creation story with Greek mythical figures paralleling the fall in Genesis]

Who reigns? There was the Heaven and Earth at first,

And Light and Love; then Saturn, from whose throne [Titans’ father, tried to kill & eat them]

Time fell, an envious shadow; such the state    [Time = Greek Kronos, alt. aspect of Saturn]

Of the earth's primal spirits beneath his sway . . . [earth’s primal spirits = the Titans?]

                                 ; but he refused              [he refused = Saturn denied]

The birthright of their being, knowledge, power, [their = the earth’s primal spirits’ = Titans?] 

The skill which wields the elements, the thought                                         40

Which pierces this dim universe like light,

Self-empire, and the majesty of love;

For thirst of which they fainted. Then Prometheus

Gave wisdom, which is strength, to Jupiter,

And with this law alone, 'Let man be free,'

Clothed him with the dominion of wide Heaven.                       [him = Jupiter]

To know nor faith, nor love, nor law, to be                  [nor faith = neither faith]

Omnipotent but friendless, is to reign;

And Jove now reigned; for on the race of man

First famine, and then toil, and then disease,  [cf. God’s curse of labor in Genesis]   50

Strife, wounds, and ghastly death unseen before,

Fell; and the unseasonable seasons drove,

With alternating shafts of frost and fire,

Their shelterless, pale tribes to mountain caves;         [their = humans’]

And in their desert hearts fierce wants he sent,

And mad disquietudes, and shadows idle

Of unreal good, which levied mutual war,

So ruining the lair wherein they raged.

Prometheus saw. . .

[The following passage relates Prometheus’s teaching humanity the arts of civilization]

                         Love he sent to bind

The disunited tendrils of that vine

Which bears the wine of life, the human heart;

And he tamed fire which, like some beast of prey,

Most terrible, but lovely, played beneath

The frown of man; and tortured to his will                  [tortured = shaped]

Iron and gold, the slaves and signs of power,

And gems and poisons, and all subtlest forms                                        70

Hidden beneath the mountains and the waves.

He gave man speech, and speech created thought,

Which is the measure of the universe;

And Science struck the thrones of earth and heaven,

Which shook, but fell not; and the harmonious mind

Poured itself forth in all-prophetic song;    [song = poetry]

And music lifted up the listening spirit

Until it walked, exempt from mortal care,

Godlike, o'er the clear billows of sweet sound;

And human hands first mimicked and then mocked,      [mimesis]                80

With moulded limbs more lovely than its own,                   [sculpture]

The human form, till marble grew divine;

And mothers, gazing, drank the love men see

Reflected in their race, behold, and perish.

He told the hidden power of herbs and springs,                     [medicine]

And Disease drank and slept. Death grew like sleep.

He taught the implicated orbits woven                                [astronomy]

Of the wide-wandering stars; and how the sun

Changes his lair, and by what secret spell

The pale moon is transformed . . .                                                                   90

He taught to rule . . .

                         Cities then

Were built . . . .

Such, the alleviations of his state,                                            [his = man’s]

Prometheus gave to man, for which he hangs

Withering in destined pain; but who rains down                                         100

Evil . . . ?

Not Jove: while yet his frown shook heaven ay, when            [Jove = Jupiter]

His adversary from adamantine chains     [adamantine = diamond-hard, unbreakable]

Cursed him, he trembled like a slave. Declare

Who is his master? Is he too a slave?


DEMOGORGON: All spirits are enslaved which serve things evil:         110

Thou knowest if Jupiter be such or no.


ASIA: Whom called'st thou God?


DEMOGORGON: I spoke but as ye speak,

For Jove is the supreme of living things.


ASIA: Who is the master of the slave?


DEMOGORGON: If the abysm

Could vomit forth its secrets—but a voice

Is wanting, the deep truth is imageless;

For what would it avail to bid thee gaze

On the revolving world? What to bid speak

Fate, Time, Occasion, Chance and Change? To these

All things are subject but eternal Love.                                                    120


ASIA: So much I asked before, and my heart gave

The response thou hast given; and of such truths

Each to itself must be the oracle.

One more demand; and do thou answer me

As my own soul would answer, did it know

That which I ask. Prometheus shall arise

Henceforth the sun of this rejoicing world:

When shall the destined hour arrive?




ASIA: The rocks are cloven, and through the purple night   [cloven = divided, split]

I see cars drawn by rainbow-wingèd steeds                        [cars = chariots] 130

Which trample the dim winds . . . .

 Their bright locks                                                     [their = steeds’]

Stream like a comet's flashing hair; they all

Sweep onward.                                                         [all on sublime imaginative scale]


DEMOGORGON: These are the immortal Hours,                                   140

Of whom thou didst demand. One waits for thee.


[Instructor’s note: The “Hours” may be imagined as personifications of moments or times in history, including the millennium]


ASIA: A Spirit with a dreadful countenance                    [a “spirit of the hour”]

Checks its dark chariot by the craggy gulf.                      [checks = parks, holds]

Unlike thy brethren, ghastly Charioteer,

Who art thou? Whither wouldst thou bear me? Speak!


SPIRIT [a “spirit of the hour”]: I am the Shadow of a destiny [“Shadow” = foreshadowing]

More dread than is my aspect; ere yon planet [Venus or the Morning Star. See below]

Has set, the darkness which ascends with me

Shall wrap in lasting night heaven's kingless throne.        [dystopian millennium]


ASIA: What meanest thou?


PANTHEA: That terrible Shadow floats                                                       150

Up from its throne, as may the lurid smoke

Of earthquake-ruined cities o'er the sea.

Lo! it ascends the car; the coursers fly           [car = chariot; courses = steeds / horses]

Terrified; watch its path among the stars

Blackening the night!


ASIA: Thus I am answered: strange!


PANTHEA: See, near the verge, another chariot stays;

An ivory shell inlaid with crimson fire,

Which comes and goes within its sculptured rim

Of delicate strange tracery; the young Spirit

That guides it has the dove-like eyes of hope;                                             160

How its soft smiles attract the soul! as light

Lures wingèd insects through the lampless air.


SPIRIT:                          [a benign “spirit of the hour” suggesting a utopian millennium]

My coursers are fed with the lightning,                  [courser = racing horse]

  They drink of the whirlwind's stream,

And when the red morning is bright'ning

  They bathe in the fresh sunbeam. . . .


I desire—and their speed makes night kindle;              [kindle = alight, catch fire]

  I fear—they outstrip the typhoon;                                                      170

Ere the cloud piled on Atlas can dwindle     [Atlas Mountains in N Africa, or myth of Atlas]

  We encircle the earth and the moon.

  We shall rest from long labors at noon;

Then ascend with me, daughter of Ocean.


ACT II, SCENE V.The Car [chariot] pauses within a Cloud on the Top of a snowy Mountain. ASIA, PANTHEA, and the SPIRIT OF THE HOUR.


SPIRIT: On the brink of the night and the morning

  My coursers are wont to respire;                           [respire = to rest; catch their breath]

But the Earth has just whispered a warning

  That their flight must be swifter than fire;

  They shall drink the hot speed of desire! . . .


PANTHEA: O Spirit! pause, and tell whence is the light

Which fills the cloud? the sun is yet unrisen.


SPIRIT: The sun will rise not until noon. Apollo       [Apollo = god of sun]           10

Is held in heaven by wonder; and the light

Which fills this vapor, as the aërial hue

Of fountain-gazing roses fills the water,

Flows from thy mighty sister. . . .    [Asia, Panthea’s sister, as embodiment of love]


PANTHEA: How thou art changed! I dare not look on thee;    [thou, thee = Asia]

I feel but see thee not. I scarce endure

The radiance of thy beauty. Some good change

Is working in the elements, which suffer

Thy presence thus unveiled. The Nereids tell       [Nereids = sea nymphs] 20

That on the day when the clear hyaline     [hyaline = glassy surface of the sea]

Was cloven at thy uprise, and thou didst stand

Within a veinèd shell, which floated on  [Asia = Venus/Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty]

Over the calm floor of the crystal sea,       [see below, act III, sc. III, l. 65, p. 25]

Among the Ægean isles, and by the shores    [Aegean sea, b/w Greece & Turkey]

Which bear thy name,—love, like the atmosphere

Of the sun's fire filling the living world,

Burst from thee, and illumined earth and heaven

And the deep ocean and the sunless caves

And all that dwells within them; till grief cast  [grief cast eclipse: Prometheus bound]  30

Eclipse upon the soul from which it came.

Such art thou now; nor is it I alone,

Thy sister, thy companion, thine own chosen one,

But the whole world which seeks thy sympathy.

Hearest thou not sounds i' the air which speak the love

Of all articulate beings? Feelest thou not

The inanimate winds enamored of thee? List!            [Music. . . . ]


VOICE in the air, singing: Life of Life, thy lips enkindle               [thy = Asia’s]

  With their love the breath between them;

And thy smiles before they dwindle                                                                50

  Make the cold air fire . . . .


Child of Light! thy limbs are burning                                [Child of Light = Asia]

  Through the vest which seems to hide them;

As the radiant lines of morning

  Through the clouds, ere they divide them;

And this atmosphere divinest

Shrouds thee wheresoe'er thou shinest. . . .


ASIA: My soul is an enchanted boat,

  Which, like a sleeping swan, doth float

Upon the silver waves of thy sweet singing;

  And thine doth like an angel sit                                      [thine = Prometheus’s]

  Beside a helm conducting it,

Whilst all the winds with melody are ringing.

  It seems to float ever, forever,

  Upon that many-winding river,

  Between mountains, woods, abysses,                                                      80

  A paradise of wildernesses!

Till, like one in slumber bound,

Borne to the ocean, I float down, around,

Into a sea profound of ever-spreading sound.


  Meanwhile thy spirit lifts its pinions                                     [pinions = wings]

  In music's most serene dominions;

Catching the winds that fan that happy heaven.

  And we sail on, away, afar,

  Without a course, without a star,

  But, by the instinct of sweet music driven;                                                 90

Till through Elysian garden islets                                [Elysian = heavenly]

  By thee most beautiful of pilots,

  Where never mortal pinnace glided,                 [pinnace = vessel, ship]

  The boat of my desire is guided;

Realms where the air we breathe is love,

Which in the winds on the waves doth move,

Harmonizing this earth with what we feel above.  [millennial utopia: heaven & earth in correspondence; “as above, so below”]   


  We have passed Age's icy caves,

  And Manhood's dark and tossing waves,

And Youth's smooth ocean, smiling to betray;                                           100

  Beyond the glassy gulfs we flee

  Of shadow-peopled Infancy,

Through Death and Birth, to a diviner day;

  A paradise of vaulted bowers                                                [utopia]

  Lit by downward-gazing flowers,

  And watery paths that wind between

  Wildernesses calm and green,

Peopled by shapes too bright to see,

And rest, having beheld; somewhat like thee;

Which walk upon the sea, and chant melodiously!                                       110


Act III, Scene I.Heaven. JUPITER on his Throne; THETIS and the other Deities assembled.


JUPITER: Ye congregated powers of heaven, who share

The glory and the strength of him ye serve,

Rejoice! henceforth I am omnipotent.

All else had been subdued to me; alone

The soul of man, like unextinguished fire,

Yet burns towards heaven with fierce reproach, and doubt,

And lamentation, and reluctant prayer,

Hurling up insurrection, which might make

Our antique empire insecure, though built

On eldest faith, and hell's coeval, fear;                             [coeval = contemporary]   10

And though my curses through the pendulous air,            [pendulous = hanging]

Like snow on herbless peaks, fall flake by flake,                [herbless = barren]

And cling to it; though under my wrath's night                    [it = soul of man]

It climb the crags of life, step after step,                             [it = soul of man]

Which wound it, as ice wounds unsandalled feet,

It yet remains supreme o'er misery,                                     [It = soul of man]

Aspiring, unrepressed, yet soon to fall;

Even now have I begotten a strange wonder,

That fatal child, the terror of the earth,                                    [Demogorgon]

Who waits but till the destined hour arrive,  [destined hour: sounds millennial]      20

Bearing from Demogorgon's vacant throne

The dreadful might of ever-living limbs

Which clothed that awful spirit unbeheld,

To redescend, and trample out the spark.

Pour forth heaven's wine, Idæan Ganymede, . . .  [Olympians’ cupbearer, from Mt. Ida]


Drink! be the nectar circling through your veins                                               30

The soul of joy, ye ever-living Gods,

Till exultation burst in one wide voice

Like music from Elysian winds.                                           [Elysian = heavenly]

  And thou                                                                   [addressing Thetis—see below]

Ascend beside me, veilèd in the light

Of the desire which makes thee one with me,

Thetis, bright image of eternity!               [mother by Jupiter of Achilles & Demogorgon]

When thou didst cry, 'Insufferable might!

God! spare me! I sustain not the quick flames,         [Jupiter recalls his rape of Thetis]

The penetrating presence; all my being,

Like him whom the Numidian seps did thaw  [Lucellus, poisoned in Numidia by seps or snake] 40

Into a dew with poison, is dissolved,

Sinking through its foundations,'—even then

Two mighty spirits, mingling, made a third        [Jupiter + Thetis = Demogorgon]

Mightier than either, which, unbodied now,

Between us floats, felt, although unbeheld,

Waiting the incarnation, which ascends,

(Hear ye the thunder of the fiery wheels

Griding the winds?) from Demogorgon's throne.      [gride = produce a grinding sound]

Victory! victory! Feel'st thou not, O world,

The earthquake of his chariot thundering up                                                    50

Olympus?                          [Jupiter believes Demogorgon will crush the hopes of humanity]


[The Car of the HOUR arrives. DEMOGORGON descends and moves towards the Throne of JUPITER.


                  Awful shape, what art thou? Speak!


DEMOGORGON: Eternity. Demand no direr name.     [dire = dreadful, terrible]

Descend, and follow me down the abyss.

I am thy child, as thou wert Saturn's child;      [Jupiter overthrew father Saturn]

Mightier than thee; and we must dwell together

Henceforth in darkness. Lift thy lightnings not.        [Jupiter / Zeus = god of lightning]

The tyranny of heaven none may retain,

Or reassume, or hold, succeeding thee . . . .


JUPITER: Detested prodigy!             [prodigy = amazingly powerful offspring]

Even thus beneath the deep Titanian prisons        [Titanian= of the Titans]

I trample thee! Thou lingerest?

   Mercy! mercy!

No pity, no release, no respite! Oh,

That thou wouldst make mine enemy my judge,               [enemy = Prometheus]

Even where he hangs, seared by my long revenge,          [he = Prometheus]

On Caucasus! he would not doom me thus.     [Caucasus = Asian mountain range]

Gentle, and just, and dreadless, is he not

The monarch of the world? What then art thou?

No refuge! no appeal! . . .

    Ai, Ai!

The elements obey me not. I sink                                                                        80

Dizzily down, ever, forever, down. . . .


ACT III, SCENE II.—The Mouth of a great River in the Island Atlantis. OCEAN is discovered reclining near the shore; APOLLO stands beside him. [Ocean = Oceanus, Greek god of the Ocean, father of the Oceanid nymphs; Apollo = god of the sun]


. . . OCEAN: He sunk to the abyss? to the dark void?            [He = Jupiter] 10

. . .

OCEAN: Henceforth the fields of Heaven-reflecting sea

Which are my realm, will heave, unstained with blood,

Beneath the uplifting winds, like plains of corn                                           20

Swayed by the summer air; my streams will flow

Round many-peopled continents, and round

Fortunate isles; and from their glassy thrones

Blue Proteus and his humid nymphs shall mark                   [Proteus = a sea god]

The shadow of fair ships, as mortals see

The floating bark of the light-laden moon

With that white star, its sightless pilot's crest,  [Venus, the morning star—see l. 39 below]

Borne down the rapid sunset's ebbing sea;

Tracking their path no more by blood and groans,

And desolation, and the mingled voice                                                        30

Of slavery and command; but by the light

Of wave-reflected flowers, and floating odors,

And music soft, and mild, free, gentle voices,

That sweetest music, such as spirits love.


APOLLO: And I shall gaze not on the deeds which make

My mind obscure with sorrow, as eclipse

Darkens the sphere I guide. But list, I hear                        [sphere I guide = sun]

The small, clear, silver lute of the young Spirit

That sits i' the morning star.  [morning star = Venus / Aphrodite, another body of cosmic love]


OCEAN: Thou must away;

Thy steeds will pause at even, till when farewell.     [even = evening]                40

The loud deep calls me home even now to feed it

With azure calm out of the emerald urns

Which stand forever full beside my throne.

Behold the Nereids under the green sea,                [Nereids = sea nymphs]

Their wavering limbs borne on the windlike stream,

Their white arms lifted o'er their streaming hair,

With garlands pied and starry sea-flower crowns,       [pied = splotched with color]

Hastening to grace their mighty sister's joy.

[A sound of waves is heard.]

It is the unpastured sea hungering for calm.

Peace, monster; I come now. Farewell.


APOLLO: Farewell.                                                                                    50




HERCULES unbinds PROMETHEUS, who descends.


HERCULES: Most glorious among spirits! thus doth strength

To wisdom, courage, and long-suffering love,

And thee, who art the form they animate,

Minister like a slave.


PROMETHEUS: Thy gentle words

Are sweeter even than freedom long desired

And long delayed.


 Asia, thou light of life,

Shadow of beauty unbeheld; and ye,

Fair sister nymphs, who made long years of pain

Sweet to remember, through your love and care;

Henceforth we will not part. There is a cave,                                         10

All overgrown with trailing odorous plants,

Which curtain out the day with leaves and flowers,

And paved with veinèd emerald; and a fountain

Leaps in the midst with an awakening sound.

From its curved roof the mountain's frozen tears,

Like snow, or silver, or long diamond spires,

Hang downward, raining forth a doubtful light;

And there is heard the ever-moving air

Whispering without from tree to tree, and birds,

And bees; and all around are mossy seats,                                          20

And the rough walls are clothed with long soft grass;

A simple dwelling, which shall be our own;

Where we will sit and talk of time and change,

As the world ebbs and flows, ourselves unchanged.

What can hide man from mutability?

And if ye sigh, then I will smile; and thou,

Ione, shalt chant fragments of sea-music,      [Ione = sea nymph, Nereid]

Until I weep, when ye shall smile away

The tears she brought, which yet were sweet to shed.

We will entangle buds and flowers and beams                                     30

Which twinkle on the fountain's brim, and make

Strange combinations out of common things,

Like human babes in their brief innocence;

And we will search, with looks and words of love,

For hidden thoughts, each lovelier than the last,

Our unexhausted spirits; and, like lutes            [stringed instruments]

Touched by the skill of the enamoured wind,       [enamoured = infatuated]

Weave harmonies divine, yet ever new,

From difference sweet where discord cannot be;

And hither come, sped on the charmèd winds,                                    40

Which meet from all the points of heaven . . .

The echoes of the human world, which tell

Of the low voice of love, almost unheard,

And dove-eyed pity's murmured pain, and music,

Itself the echo of the heart, and all

That tempers or improves man's life, now free;

And lovely apparitions, —dim at first,

Then radiant, as the mind arising bright                                              50

From the embrace of beauty (whence the forms

Of which these are the phantoms) casts on them

The gathered rays which are reality—

Shall visit us the progeny immortal   [shall endow us with the immortal offspring . . . ]

Of Painting, Sculpture, and rapt Poesy,

And arts, though unimagined, yet to be;

The wandering voices and the shadows these

Of all that man becomes, the mediators

Of that best worship, love, by him and us       [him = man]

Given and returned; swift shapes and sounds, which grow       60

More fair and soft as man grows wise and kind,

And, veil by veil, evil and error fall.

Such virtue has the cave and place around.

    [Turning to the SPIRIT OF THE HOUR.]

For thee, fair Spirit, one toil remains. Ione,

Give her that curvèd shell, which Proteus old    [see above, act II, sc. V, l. 23, p. 20]

Made Asia's nuptial boon . . . [Asia identified w/ Venus / Aphrodite, goddess of love]


IONE: Thou most desired Hour, more loved and lovely

Than all thy sisters, this is the mystic shell.                                        70

See the pale azure fading into silver

Lining it with a soft yet glowing light.

Looks it not like lulled music sleeping there?


SPIRIT: It seems in truth the fairest shell of Ocean:

Its sound must be at once both sweet and strange.


PROMETHEUS: [Prometheus addresses the spirits of the hour as charioteers]

Go, borne over the cities of mankind  

On whirlwind-footed coursers; once again

Outspeed the sun around the orbèd world;

And as thy chariot cleaves the kindling air,

Thou breathe into the many-folded shell,                                                 80

Loosening its mighty music; it shall be  [shell bearing Venus / love is now a horn]

As thunder mingled with clear echoes; then

Return; and thou shalt dwell beside our cave.


[Instructor’s note: Compare the musical shell-horn in passage above to traditions of the Archangel Gabriel’s trumpet announcing Judgment Day.]


And thou, O Mother Earth!—


THE EARTH: I hear, I feel;

Thy lips are on me, and thy touch runs down

Even to the adamantine central gloom     [adamantine = crystalline]

Along these marble nerves; 't is life, 't is joy,

And, through my withered, old, and icy frame

The warmth of an immortal youth shoots down

Circling. Henceforth the many children fair                                              90

Folded in my sustaining arms; all plants,

And creeping forms, and insects rainbow-winged,

And birds, and beasts, and fish, and human shapes,

Which drew disease and pain from my wan bosom,

Draining the poison of despair, shall take

And interchange sweet nutriment . . . .

The dew-mists of my sunless sleep shall float                                       100

Under the stars like balm; night-folded flowers

Shall suck unwithering hues in their repose;

And men and beasts in happy dreams shall gather

Strength for the coming day, and all its joy;

And death shall be the last embrace of her

Who takes the life she gave, even as a mother,

Folding her child, says, 'Leave me not again.'


ASIA: Oh, mother! wherefore speak the name of death?

Cease they to love, and move, and breathe, and speak,

Who die?


THE EARTH: It would avail not to reply;                                            110

Thou art immortal and this tongue is known

But to the uncommunicating dead.

Death is the veil which those who live call life;

They sleep, and it is lifted; and meanwhile

In mild variety the seasons mild

With rainbow-skirted showers, and odorous winds,

And long blue meteors cleansing the dull night,

And the life-kindling shafts of the keen sun's

All-piercing bow, and the dew-mingled rain

Of the calm moonbeams, a soft influence mild,                                                 120

Shall clothe the forests and the fields, ay, even

The crag-built deserts of the barren deep,      [barren deep = ocean floor]

With ever-living leaves, and fruits, and flowers.

And thou! there is a cavern where my spirit      [thou = winged child-spirit below, l. 147]

Was panted forth in anguish whilst thy pain

Made my heart mad, and those who did inhale it             [cf. Oracle at Delphi]

Became mad too, and built a temple there,                              [compare II.iii, ll. 2-10]

And spoke, and were oracular, and lured

The erring nations round to mutual war,

And faithless faith, such as Jove kept with thee;                                              130

Which breath now rises as amongst tall weeds

A violet's exhalation, and it fills

With a serener light and crimson air

Intense, yet soft, the rocks and woods around;

It feeds the quick growth of the serpent vine,

And the dark linkèd ivy tangling wild,

And budding, blown, or odor-faded blooms

Which star the winds with points of colored light

As they rain through them, and bright golden globes

Of fruit suspended in their own green heaven,                                               140

And through their veinèd leaves and amber stems

The flowers whose purple and translucid bowls     [translucid = translucent]

Stand ever mantling with aërial dew,

The drink of spirits; and it circles round,

Like the soft waving wings of noonday dreams,

Inspiring calm and happy thoughts, like mine,

Now thou art thus restored. This cave is thine.

Arise! Appear!

 [A SPIRIT rises in the likeness of a winged child.]  [“The Spirit of the Earth”]

    This is my torch-bearer;

Who let his lamp out in old time with gazing

On eyes from which he kindled it anew                                                           150

With love, which is as fire, sweet daughter mine,               [daughter = Asia / love]

For such is that within thine own. Run, wayward,

And guide this company beyond the peak   [company = those waiting for Prom’s freedom]

Of Bacchic Nysa, Mænad-haunted mountain,  [Nysa=place assoc. w/ Dionysus or Bacchus]

And beyond Indus and its tribute rivers,   [Indus river on Indian subcontinent, now in Pakistan]

Trampling the torrent streams and glassy lakes

With feet unwet, unwearied, undelaying,

And up the green ravine, across the vale,

Beside the windless and crystalline pool,

Where ever lies, on unerasing waves,                                                             160

The image of a temple, built above,

Distinct with column, arch, and architrave,

And palm-like capital, and overwrought,

And populous most with living imagery,

Praxitelean shapes, whose marble smiles     [Praxiteles = classical Greek sculptor]

Fill the hushed air with everlasting love.

It is deserted now, but once it bore

Thy name, Prometheus; there the emulous youths    [emulous = imitative, emulating]

Bore to thy honor through the divine gloom

The lamp which was thine emblem; even as those                                       170

Who bear the untransmitted torch of hope

Into the grave, across the night of life,

As thou hast borne it most triumphantly

To this far goal of Time. Depart, farewell!

Beside that temple is the destined cave.


ACT III, SCENE IV.—A Forest. In the background a Cave. PROMETHEUS, ASIA, PANTHEA, IONE, and the SPIRIT OF THE EARTH. [winged child in scene 3]


IONE: Sister, it is not earthly; how it glides              [it = spirit of the earth]

Under the leaves! how on its head there burns

A light, like a green star, whose emerald beams

Are twined with its fair hair! how, as it moves,

The splendor drops in flakes upon the grass!

Knowest thou it?


PANTHEA: It is the delicate spirit

That guides the earth through heaven. From afar

The populous constellations call that light [pop. contellations = extraterrestrial intelligence?]

The loveliest of the planets . . .

Before Jove reigned

It loved our sister Asia, and it came [earth & love united before Jove / Jupiter’s tyranny]

Each leisure hour to drink the liquid light

Out of her eyes, for which it said it thirsted

As one bit by a dipsas, and with her        [legendary snake whose bite caused thirst]

It made its childish confidence, and told her                                                  20

All it had known or seen, for it saw much,

Yet idly reasoned what it saw; and called her,

For whence it sprung it knew not, nor do I,

Mother, dear mother.                                        [Panthea addresses Asia / love]



    Mother, dearest mother!

May I then talk with thee as I was wont?

May I then hide my eyes in thy soft arms,

After thy looks have made them tired of joy?

May I then play beside thee the long noons,

When work is none in the bright silent air?


ASIA: I love thee, gentlest being, and henceforth                                           30

Can cherish thee unenvied. Speak, I pray;

Thy simple talk once solaced, now delights.       [solaced = consoled]


SPIRIT OF THE EARTH: Mother, I am grown wiser, though a child

Cannot be wise like thee, within this day;

And happier too; happier and wiser both.

Thou knowest that toads, and snakes, and loathly worms,

And venomous and malicious beasts, and boughs

That bore ill berries in the woods, were ever

An hindrance to my walks o'er the green world;

And that, among the haunts of humankind,                                                  40

Hard-featured men, or with proud, angry looks,

Or cold, staid gait, or false and hollow smiles,

Or the dull sneer of self-loved ignorance,

Or other such foul masks, with which ill thoughts

Hide that fair being whom we spirits call man;

And women too, ugliest of all things evil,

(Though fair, even in a world where thou art fair,

When good and kind, free and sincere like thee)

When false or frowning made me sick at heart

To pass them, though they slept, and I unseen.                                           50

Well, my path lately lay through a great city

Into the woody hills surrounding it;

A sentinel was sleeping at the gate;

When there was heard a sound, so loud, it shook

The towers amid the moonlight, yet more sweet

Than any voice but thine, sweetest of all;

A long, long sound, as it would never end;

And all the inhabitants leapt suddenly

Out of their rest, and gathered in the streets,

Looking in wonder up to Heaven, while yet                                                   60

The music pealed along. I hid myself

Within a fountain in the public square,

Where I lay like the reflex of the moon

Seen in a wave under green leaves; and soon

Those ugly human shapes and visages

Of which I spoke as having wrought me pain,

Passed floating through the air and fading still

Into the winds that scattered them; and those

From whom they passed seemed mild and lovely forms

After some foul disguise had fallen, and all                                                     70

Were somewhat changed, and after brief surprise

And greetings of delighted wonder, all

Went to their sleep again; and when the dawn

Came, wouldst thou think that toads, and snakes, and efts,  [efts = lizards, newts]

Could e'er be beautiful? yet so they were,

And that with little change of shape or hue;

All things had put their evil nature off;

I cannot tell my joy, when o'er a lake,

Upon a drooping bough with nightshade twined,

I saw two azure halcyons clinging downward     [halcyons = kingfisher birds] 80

And thinning one bright bunch of amber berries,

With quick long beaks, and in the deep there lay

Those lovely forms imaged as in a sky;

So with my thoughts full of these happy changes,

We meet again, the happiest change of all. . . .


ASIA:  Listen; look!




PROMETHEUS: We feel what thou hast heard and seen; yet speak.


SPIRIT OF THE HOUR: Soon as the sound had ceased whose thunder filled

The abysses of the sky and the wide earth,

There was a change; the impalpable thin air                                         100

And the all-circling sunlight were transformed,

As if the sense of love, dissolved in them,

Had folded itself round the spherèd world.

My vision then grew clear, and I could see

Into the mysteries of the universe. . . . Alas,

Whither has wandered now my partial tongue

When all remains untold which ye would hear?

As I have said, I floated to the earth;

It was, as it is still, the pain of bliss           [pain of bliss = cf. sublime]

To move, to breathe, to be. I wandering went

Among the haunts and dwellings of mankind,

And first was disappointed not to see

Such mighty change as I had felt within

Expressed in outward things; but soon I looked,                                     130

And behold, thrones were kingless, and men walked

One with the other even as spirits do—

None fawned, none trampled; hate, disdain, or fear,

Self-love or self-contempt, on human brows

No more inscribed, as o'er the gate of hell,

'All hope abandon, ye who enter here.'                               [from Dante, Inferno]

None frowned, none trembled, none with eager fear

Gazed on another's eye of cold command,

Until the subject of a tyrant's will

Became, worse fate, the abject of his own,                                               140

Which spurred him, like an outspent horse, to death.

None wrought his lips in truth-entangling lines

Which smiled the lie his tongue disdained to speak.

None, with firm sneer, trod out in his own heart

The sparks of love and hope till there remained

Those bitter ashes, a soul self-consumed,

And the wretch crept a vampire among men,

Infecting all with his own hideous ill.

None talked that common, false, cold, hollow talk

Which makes the heart deny the yes it breathes,                                         150

Yet question that unmeant hypocrisy

With such a self-mistrust as has no name.

And women, too, frank, beautiful, and kind,

As the free heaven which rains fresh light and dew

On the wide earth, passed; gentle, radiant forms,

From custom's evil taint exempt and pure;

Speaking the wisdom once they could not think,

Looking emotions once they feared to feel,

And changed to all which once they dared not be,

Yet being now, made earth like heaven; nor pride,                                     160

Nor jealousy, nor envy, nor ill shame,

The bitterest of those drops of treasured gall,

Spoiled the sweet taste of the nepenthe, love.     [nepenthe = drug of forgetfulness]


Thrones, altars, judgment-seats, and prisons, wherein,

And beside which, by wretched men were borne

Sceptres, tiaras, swords, and chains, and tomes

Of reasoned wrong, glozed on by ignorance,      [glozed on = interpreted positively]

Were like those monstrous and barbaric shapes,

The ghosts of a no-more-remembered fame

Which from their unworn obelisks, look forth  [memorial pillar, cf. Washington Monument] 170

In triumph o'er the palaces and tombs

Of those who were their conquerors; mouldering round,

Those imaged to the pride of kings and priests

A dark yet mighty faith, a power as wide

As is the world it wasted, and are now

But an astonishment; even so the tools         [astonishment = wonder, marvel]

And emblems of its last captivity,

Amid the dwellings of the peopled earth,

Stand, not o'erthrown, but unregarded now.

And those foul shapes,—abhorred by god and man,                                   180

Which, under many a name and many a form

Strange, savage, ghastly, dark, and execrable,

Were Jupiter, the tyrant of the world,

And which the nations, panic-stricken, served

With blood, and hearts broken by long hope, and love

Dragged to his altars soiled and garlandless,

And slain among men's unreclaiming tears,

Flattering the thing they feared, which fear was hate,—

Frown, mouldering fast, o'er their abandoned shrines.

The painted veil, by those who were, called life,                                         190

Which mimicked, as with colors idly spread,

All men believed and hoped, is torn aside;

The loathsome mask has fallen, the man remains

Sceptreless, free, uncircumscribed, but man

Equal, unclassed, tribeless, and nationless,

Exempt from awe, worship, degree, the king

Over himself; just, gentle, wise; but man

Passionless—no, yet free from guilt or pain,

Which were, for his will made or suffered them;

Nor yet exempt, though ruling them like slaves,                                               200

From chance, and death, and mutability,

The clogs of that which else might oversoar             [clogs = impediments]

The loftiest star of unascended heaven,

Pinnacled dim in the intense inane.             [formless void of infinite space]


Act IV: SCENEA part of the Forest near the Cave of PROMETHEUS. PANTHEA and IONE are sleeping: they awaken gradually during the first Song.


VOICE OF UNSEEN SPIRITS: The pale stars are gone!

    For the sun, their swift shepherd

    To their folds them compelling,              [folds = pens, shelters]

    In the depths of the dawn,

Hastes, in meteor-eclipsing array, and they flee

    Beyond his blue dwelling,

    As fawns flee the leopard,

But where are ye?


A Train of dark Forms and Shadows passes by confusedly, singing.


    Here, oh, here!

    We bear the bier                                                                                        10

Of the father of many a cancelled year!

    Spectres we                                                                    [specters = ghosts]

    Of the dead Hours be;

We bear Time to his tomb in eternity. . . .


IONE: Whither, oh, whither?


PANTHEA: To the dark, to the past, to the dead.


VOICE OF UNSEEN SPIRITS: Bright clouds float in heaven,                       40

    Dew-stars gleam on earth,

    Waves assemble on ocean,

    They are gathered and driven

By the storm of delight, by the panic of glee!

    They shake with emotion,

    They dance in their mirth.

But where are ye?                                                 [ye = you = the dead past?]


    The pine boughs are singing

    Old songs with new gladness,

    The billows and fountains                                                                               50

    Fresh music are flinging,

Like the notes of a spirit from land and from sea;

    The storms mock the mountains

    With the thunder of gladness,

But where are ye? . . .


SEMICHORUS OF HOURS: The voice of the Spirits of Air and of Earth

  Has drawn back the figured curtain of sleep,    [the unconscious?]

Which covered our being and darkened our birth

  In the deep.


A VOICE: In the deep?


SEMICHORUS II: Oh! below the deep.                                                           60


SEMICHORUS I: An hundred ages we had been kept

  Cradled in visions of hate and care,

And each one who waked as his brother slept

  Found the truth—


SEMICHORUS II: Worse than his visions were!


SEMICHORUS I: We have heard the lute of Hope in sleep;

  We have known the voice of Love in dreams;

We have felt the wand of Power, and leap—


SEMICHORUS II: As the billows leap in the morning beams! . . .


CHORUS OF HOURS: Whence come ye, so wild and so fleet,

For sandals of lightning are on your feet,                                                       90

And your wings are soft and swift as thought,

And your eyes are as love which is veilèd not?


CHORUS OF SPIRITS: We come from the mind

Of humankind,

Which was late so dusk, and obscene, and blind;

Now 't is an ocean

Of clear emotion,

A heaven of serene and mighty motion. . . .


Years after years,

Through blood, and tears,

And a thick hell of hatreds, and hopes, and fears,

We waded and flew,                                                                                     120

And the islets were few

Where the bud-blighted flowers of happiness grew.


Our feet now, every palm,

Are sandalled with calm,

And the dew of our wings is a rain of balm;

And, beyond our eyes,

The human love lies,

Which makes all it gazes on Paradise. . . .



Then weave the web of the mystic measure;

  From the depths of the sky and the ends of the earth,                                 130

Come, swift Spirits of might and of pleasure,

  Fill the dance and the music of mirth,

As the waves of a thousand streams rush by

To an ocean of splendor and harmony!


CHORUS OF SPIRITS: And our singing shall build

In the void's loose field                                                   [void = empty space]

A world for the Spirit of Wisdom to wield;

We will take our plan

From the new world of man,

And our work shall be called the Promethean. . . .


PANTHEA: Ha! they are gone!


IONE: Yet feel you no delight                                                                          180

From the past sweetness?


PANTHEA: As the bare green hill,

When some soft cloud vanishes into rain,

Laughs with a thousand drops of sunny water

To the unpavilioned sky! . . .


PANTHEA: But see where, through two openings in the forest

Which hanging branches overcanopy,               [overcanopy = form a roof]

And where two runnels of a rivulet,         [runnels of a rivulet = parts of a small stream]

Between the close moss violet-inwoven,

Have made their path of melody, like sisters

Who part with sighs that they may meet in smiles,

Turning their dear disunion to an isle                                                          200

Of lovely grief, a wood of sweet sad thoughts;

Two visions of strange radiance float upon

The ocean-like enchantment of strong sound,

Which flows intenser, keener, deeper yet,

Under the ground and through the windless air.


IONE: I see a chariot like that thinnest boat

In which the mother of the months is borne . . .  .   [mother of months = the moon]

Its wheels are solid clouds, azure and gold . . .  ;

Within it sits a wingèd infantwhite  [contrast lifeless white of moon with earth’s colors below]

Its countenance, like the whiteness of bright snow,                                        220

Its plumes are as feathers of sunny frost,

Its limbs gleam white, through the wind-flowing folds

Of its white robe, woof of ethereal pearl,

Its hair is white, the brightness of white light

Scattered in strings; yet its two eyes are heavens

Of liquid darkness, which the Deity

Within seems pouring, as a storm is poured

From jagged clouds, out of their arrowy lashes,

Tempering the cold and radiant air around

With fire that is not brightness; in its hand                                                         230

It sways a quivering moonbeam, from whose point

A guiding power directs the chariot's prow

Over its wheelèd clouds, which as they roll

Over the grass, and flowers, and waves, wake sounds,

Sweet as a singing rain of silver dew.


PANTHEA: And from the other opening in the wood

Rushes, with loud and whirlwind harmony,

A sphere, which is as many thousand spheres;

Solid as crystal, yet through all its mass

Flow, as through empty space, music and light;                                         240

Ten thousand orbs involving and involved,

Purple and azure, white, green and golden,

Sphere within sphere; and every space between

Peopled with unimaginable shapes,

Such as ghosts dream dwell in the lampless deep;

Yet each inter-transpicuous; and they whirl         [transpicuous = transparent]

Over each other with a thousand motions,

Upon a thousand sightless axles spinning,

And with the force of self-destroying swiftness,

Intensely, slowly, solemnly, roll on,                                                             250

Kindling with mingled sounds, and many tones,

Intelligible words and music wild.

With mighty whirl the multitudinous orb

Grinds the bright brook into an azure mist

Of elemental subtlety, like light;

And the wild odor of the forest flowers,

The music of the living grass and air,

The emerald light of leaf-entangled beams,

Round its intense yet self-conflicting speed

Seem kneaded into one aërial mass                                                            260

Which drowns the sense. Within the orb itself,

Pillowed upon its alabaster arms,

Like to a child o'erwearied with sweet toil,

On its own folded wings and wavy hair

The Spirit of the Earth is laid asleep,

And you can see its little lips are moving,

Amid the changing light of their own smiles,

Like one who talks of what he loves in dream.


IONE: 'T is only mocking the orb's harmony.

[Panthea’s description is only a pale imitation of the vision itself]


PANTHEA: And from a star upon its forehead shoot,                              270

Like swords of azure fire or golden spears

With tyrant-quelling myrtle overtwined,

Embleming heaven and earth united now,

Vast beams like spokes of some invisible wheel

Which whirl as the orb whirls, swifter than thought,

Filling the abyss with sun-like lightnings,                               [sublime]

And perpendicular now, and now transverse,

Pierce the dark soil, and as they pierce and pass

Make bare the secrets of the earth's deep heart;

Infinite mine of adamant and gold,                                                            280

Valueless stones, and unimagined gems,

And caverns on crystalline columns poised

With vegetable silver overspread; . . .

            The beams flash on

And make appear the melancholy ruins

Of cancelled cycles; . . .

 sepulchred emblems                                          [sepulchred = entombed]

Of dead destruction, ruin within ruin!

The wrecks beside of many a city vast,

Whose population which the earth grew over

Was mortal, but not human; see, they lie,

Their monstrous works, and uncouth skeletons,

Their statues, homes and fanes; prodigious shapes                                300

Huddled in gray annihilation . . .

And weed-overgrown continents of earth,

Increased and multiplied like summer worms

On an abandoned corpse, till the blue globe

Wrapped deluge round it like a cloke, and they                 [cloke = cloak]

Yelled, gasped, and were abolished; or some God,

Whose throne was in a comet, passed, and cried,

Be not! and like my words they were no more.


THE EARTH: The joy, the triumph, the delight, the madness!

The boundless, overflowing, bursting gladness,                                        320

The vaporous exultation not to be confined!

  Ha! ha! the animation of delight

  Which wraps me, like an atmosphere of light,

And bears me as a cloud is borne by its own wind.


THE MOON: Brother mine, calm wanderer,      [Brother mine: Moon addresses Earth]

  Happy globe of land and air,

Some Spirit is darted like a beam from thee,

  Which penetrates my frozen frame,

  And passes with the warmth of flame,

With love, and odor, and deep melody                                                           330

    Through me, through me!


THE EARTH: Ha! ha! the caverns of my hollow mountains,

  My cloven fire-crags, sound-exulting fountains,

Laugh with a vast and inextinguishable laughter.

  The oceans, and the deserts, and the abysses,

  And the deep air's unmeasured wildernesses,

Answer from all their clouds and billows, echoing after. . . .


THE MOON: The snow upon my lifeless mountains

  Is loosened into living fountains,

My solid oceans flow, and sing and shine;

  A spirit from my heart bursts forth,

  It clothes with unexpected birth                                                                     360

My cold bare bosom. Oh, it must be thine                    [the earth’s spirit]

    On mine, on mine!


  Gazing on thee I feel, I know,

  Green stalks burst forth, and bright flowers grow,

And living shapes upon my bosom move;

  Music is in the sea and air,

  Wingèd clouds soar here and there

Dark with the rain new buds are dreaming of:

    'T is love, all love!     [the moon reflects and shares the love and life of earth]


THE EARTH: It interpenetrates my granite mass,  [It = love, or life and love] 370 

  Through tangled roots and trodden clay doth pass

Into the utmost leaves and delicatest flowers;

  Upon the winds, among the clouds 't is spread,

  It wakes a life in the forgotten dead,—

They breathe a spirit up from their obscurest bowers;


  And like a storm bursting its cloudy prison

  With thunder, and with whirlwind, has arisen

Out of the lampless caves of unimagined being;

  With earthquake shock and swiftness making shiver

  Thought's stagnant chaos, unremoved forever,                                          380

Till hate, and fear, and pain, light-vanquished shadows, fleeing,


  Leave Man . . . .


  Man, one harmonious soul of many a soul,                                                 400

  Whose nature is its own divine control,

Where all things flow to all, as rivers to the sea;

  Familiar acts are beautiful through love;

  Labor, and pain, and grief, in life's green grove

Sport like tame beasts; none knew how gentle they could be! . . .


  All things confess his strength. Through the cold mass   [his = man’s]

  Of marble and of color his dreams pass—

Bright threads whence mothers weave the robes their children wear;

  Language is a perpetual Orphic song,     [Orphic < Orpheus, first poet in Greek myth]

  Which rules with dædal harmony a throng                [daedal = winged, soaring]

Of thoughts and forms, which else senseless and shapeless were.


  The lightning is his slave; heaven's utmost deep

  Gives up her stars, and like a flock of sheep

They pass before his eye, are numbered, and roll on!                                  420

  The tempest is his steed, he strides the air;

  And the abyss shouts from her depth laid bare,

'Heaven, hast thou secrets? Man unveils me; I have none.'


THE MOON: The shadow of white death has passed

    From my path in heaven at last,

  A clinging shroud of solid frost and sleep;

    And through my newly woven bowers,

    Wander happy paramours . . . .                                        [paramours = lovers]


THE MOON: Thou art folded, thou art lying:                [addressing the Earth]

    In the light which is undying

  Of thine own joy, and heaven's smile divine;

    All suns and constellations shower                                                440

    On thee a light, a life, a power,

  Which doth array thy sphere; thou pourest thine

On mine, on mine!



I spin beneath my pyramid of night [pyramid = cone-like shadow of earth’s night-side]

  Which points into the heavens, dreaming delight,

Murmuring victorious joy in my enchanted sleep;

  As a youth lulled in love-dreams faintly sighing,

  Under the shadow of his beauty lying,

Which round his rest a watch of light and warmth doth keep.


THE MOON: As in the soft and sweet eclipse,                                           450

    When soul meets soul on lovers' lips,

  High hearts are calm, and brightest eyes are dull;

    So when thy shadow falls on me,

    Then am I mute and still, by thee

  Covered; of thy love, Orb most beautiful,

  Full, oh, too full!


    Thou art speeding round the sun,

    Brightest world of many a one;

    Green and azure sphere which shinest

    With a light which is divinest                                                                   460

    Among all the lamps of Heaven

    To whom life and light is given;

    I, thy crystal paramour,                                                    [paramour = lover]

    Borne beside thee by a power

    Like the polar Paradise,

    Magnet-like, of lovers' eyes;

    I, a most enamored maiden,                                [enamored = love-struck]

    Whose weak brain is overladen

    With the pleasure of her love,

    Maniac-like around thee move,

    Gazing, an insatiate bride,                                                                       470

    On thy form from every side . . . .


THE EARTH: And the weak day weeps

    That it should be so.

O gentle Moon, the voice of thy delight

Falls on me like thy clear and tender light

Soothing the seaman borne the summer night

  Through isles forever calm;

O gentle Moon, thy crystal accents pierce

The caverns of my pride's deep universe,                                                        500

Charming the tiger joy, whose tramplings fierce

  Made wounds which need thy balm. . . .


PANTHEA: Peace, peace! a mighty Power, which is as darkness,                  510

Is rising out of Earth, and from the sky

Is showered like night, and from within the air

Bursts, like eclipse which had been gathered up

Into the pores of sunlight; the bright visions,

Wherein the singing Spirits rode and shone,

Gleam like pale meteors through a watery night.


IONE: There is a sense of words upon mine ear.


PANTHEA: An universal sound like words: Oh, list!   [list = listen]


DEMOGORGON: Thou, Earth, calm empire of a happy soul,

  Sphere of divinest shapes and harmonies,                                                     520

Beautiful orb! gathering as thou dost roll

  The love which paves thy path along the skies:


THE EARTH: I hear: I am as a drop of dew that dies.


DEMOGORGON: Thou, Moon, which gazest on the nightly Earth

  With wonder, as it gazes upon thee;

Whilst each to men, and beasts, and the swift birth

Of birds, is beauty, love, calm, harmony:


THE MOON: I hear: I am a leaf shaken by thee.


DEMOGORGON: Ye kings of suns and stars, Dæmons and Gods,

  Ethereal Dominations , , , ,


A VOICE (from above): Our great Republic hears: we are blessed, and bless.


DEMOGORGON: Ye happy dead, whom beams of brightest verse

  Are clouds to hide, not colors to portray,

Whether your nature is that universe

  Which once ye saw and suffered—



Whom we have left, we change and pass away.


DEMOGORGON: Ye elemental Genii, who have homes     [Genii = virtues or spirits]

  From man's high mind even to the central stone                                           540

Of sullen lead; from Heaven's star-fretted domes

  To the dull weed some sea-worm battens on:


A CONFUSED VOICE: We hear: thy words waken Oblivion.


DEMOGORGON: Spirits, whose homes are flesh; ye beasts and birds,

  Ye worms and fish; ye living leaves and buds;

Lightning and wind; and ye untamable herds,

  Meteors and mists, which throng air's solitudes:


A VOICE: Thy voice to us is wind among still woods.


DEMOGORGON: Man, who wert once a despot and a slave . . .

  Through the dim night of this immortal day:


ALL: Speak: thy strong words may never pass away.


DEMOGORGON: This is the day which down the void abysm

At the Earth-born's spell yawns for Heaven's despotism,

  And Conquest is dragged captive through the deep;

Love, from its awful throne of patient power                               [awful = awesome]

In the wise heart, from the last giddy hour

  Of dread endurance, from the slippery, steep,

And narrow verge of crag-like agony, springs                                              560

And folds over the world its healing wings.


Gentleness, Virtue, Wisdom, and Endurance—

These are the seals of that most firm assurance

  Which bars the pit over Destruction's strength , , , ,


To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite;                                                   570

To forgive wrongs darker than death or night;

  To defy Power, which seems omnipotent;

To love, and bear; to hope till Hope creates

From its own wreck the thing it contemplates;

  Neither to change, nor falter, nor repent;

This, like thy glory, Titan, is to be

Good, great and joyous, beautiful and free;

This is alone Life; Joy, Empire, and Victory!














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