Shelley’s poem is adapted from Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Complete Poetical Works.
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.
Greek tragic playwright Aeschylus (5th
c BCE) is
traditionally credited with authorship of the tragedy
Bound, one of a trilogy whose other two
Prometheus Unbound and
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
arts of civilization (writing, mathematics,
agriculture, science, etc.). See
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:
<![if !supportLists]> · <![endif]> Imagination, metaphor, correspondence connect entities & share meaning
<![if !supportLists]> · <![endif]> Transcendence of everyday reality via semi-divine, semi-human characters
<![if !supportLists]> · <![endif]> Romance narrative as personal transformation, release from bondage
<![if !supportLists]> · <![endif]> The Sublime: grand visions of nature, changes in history, transformation
<![if !supportLists]> · <![endif]> The Gothic: Demogorgon’s early appearance underground
<![if !supportLists]> · <![endif]> 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
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
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].
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]
[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]
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]
THE SPIRIT OF THE EARTH.
THE SPIRIT OF THE MOON.
SPIRITS OF THE HOURS.
SPIRITS. ECHOES. FAUNS.
[fauns = men w/ horns & goat-tails]
[fauns = men w/ horns & goat-tails]
[spirits of vengeance or conscience]
[spirits of vengeance or conscience]
Act I, SCENE,
a Ravine of Icy Rocks in the Indian
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
They shall be told. Ere
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.]
PROMETHEUS: Ah woe!
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
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,
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
Hast thou forgotten one who watches thee
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!
. . . 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.
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?
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?
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;
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]
And follow, ere the voices fade away.
ACT II, SCENE II.
SEMICHORUS I OF SPIRITS
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.
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
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! . . .
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,
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
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.
ACT II, SCENE IV.—The
PANTHEA: What veilèd form sits on that ebon throne? [ebon = dark, deep black]
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.
DEMOGORGON: All things thou dar'st demand. [dar’st = darest]
That it contains? thought, passion, reason, will, 10
DEMOGORGON: God: Almighty God.
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.
Abandoned hope, and love that turns to hate;
And self-contempt . . .
And Hell, or the sharp fear of Hell?
DEMOGORGON: He reigns. [He = Jupiter]
Asks but his name; curses shall drag him down. 30
DEMOGORGON: He reigns.
DEMOGORGON: He reigns.
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 . . .
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.
DEMOGORGON: I spoke but as ye speak,
For Jove is the supreme of living things.
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
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?
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]
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]
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!
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
[Atlas Mountains in
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
pauses within a Cloud on the Top of a snowy Mountain.
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. . .
How thou art changed! I dare not look on
[thou, thee =
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
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
[Aegean sea, b/w
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. . . . ]
in the air, singing:
Life of Life, thy lips enkindle
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
[Child of Light =
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. . . .
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
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’
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
[Lucellus, poisoned in
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
[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?
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]
Gentle, and just, and dreadless, is he not
The monarch of the world? What then art thou?
No refuge! no appeal! . . .
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
. . . 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
ACT III, SCENE III.—
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.
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 . . .
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.'
Cease they to love, and move, and breathe, and speak,
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.
[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,
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
[Indus river on Indian subcontinent, now in
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
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
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]
THE SPIRIT OF THE EARTH:
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?
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. . . .
The SPIRIT OF THE HOUR enters
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
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: SCENE—A
part of the Forest near the
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
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. . . .
CHORUS OF SPIRITS AND HOURS:
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 infant—white [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
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—
A VOICE FROM BENEATH: Or, as they
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!
[ ] x