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Prometheus Bound


Available as PDF, epub, and Kindle ebook.

Tags: Classics » Drama

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Prometheus Bound is an Ancient Greek tragedy based on the myth of Prometheus, a Titan who defies the gods, and gifts humanity with fire, for which he is subjected to eternal punishment. At the beginning, Kratos, Bia, and Hephaestus chain Prometheus to a mountain in the Caucasus. A chorus of Oceanids appear, attempting to comfort Prometheus by conversing with him. Prometheus cryptically tells them that he knows of a potential marriage that would lead to Zeus's downfall. After a visit from Io, Hermes comes to him, demanding that Prometheus tells him who it is that threatens to overthrow Zeus. Prometheus refuses, and Zeus strikes him with a thunderbolt that plunges Prometheus into the abyss.

This book has 46 pages in the PDF version, and was originally written c.430 B.C. This translation by E. D. A. Morshead was published in 1908.

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Excerpt from 'Prometheus Bound'


In the beginning, Ouranos and Gaia held sway over Heaven and Earth. And manifold children were born unto them, of whom were Cronos, and Okeanos, and the Titans, and the Giants. But Cronos cast down his father Ouranos, and ruled in his stead, until Zeus his son cast him down in his turn, and became King of Gods and men. Then were the Titans divided, for some had good will unto Cronos, and others unto Zeus; until Prometheus, son of the Titan lapetos, by wise counsel, gave the victory to Zeus. But Zeus held the race of mortal men in scorn, and was fain to destroy them from the face of the earth; yet Prometheus loved them, and gave secretly to them the gift of fire, and arts whereby they could prosper upon the earth. Then was Zeus sorely angered with Prometheus, and bound him upon a mountain, and afterward overwhelmed him in an earthquake, and devised other torments against him for many ages; yet could he not slay Prometheus, for he was a God.



Scene—A rocky ravine in the mountains of Scythia.

Lo, the earth’s bound and limitary land,
The Scythian steppe, the waste untrod of men!
Look to it now, Hephaestus—thine it is,
Thy Sire obeying, this arch-thief to clench
Against the steep-down precipice of rock,
With stubborn links of adamantine chain.
Look thou: thy flower, the gleaming plastic fire,
He stole and lent to mortal man—a sin
That gods immortal make him rue to-day,
Lessoned hereby to own th’ omnipotence
Of Zeus, and to repent his love to man!

O Strength and Force, for you the best of Zeus
Stands all achieved, and nothing bars your will:
But I—I dare not bind to storm-vext cleft
One of our race, immortal as are we.
Yet, none the less, necessity constrains,
For Zeus, defied, is heavy in revenge!

O deep-devising child of Themis sage,
Small will have I to do, or thou to bear,
What yet we must. Beyond the haunt of man
Unto this rock, with fetters grimly forged,
I must transfix and shackle up thy limbs,
Where thou shalt mark no voice nor human form,
But, parching in the glow and glare of sun,
Thy body’s flower shall suffer a sky-change;
And gladly wilt thou hail the hour when Night
Shall in her starry robe invest the day,
Or when the Sun shall melt the morning rime.
But, day or night, for ever shall the load
Of wasting agony, that may not pass,
Wear thee away; for know, the womb of Time
Hath not conceived a power to set thee free.
Such meed thou hast, for love toward mankind
For thou, a god defying wrath of gods,
Beyond the ordinance didst champion men,
And for reward shalt keep a sleepless watch,
Stiff-kneed, erect, nailed to this dismal rock,
With manifold laments and useless cries
Against the will inexorable of Zeus.
Hard is the heart of fresh-usurpèd power!

Enough of useless ruth! why tarriest thou?
Why pitiest one whom all gods wholly hate,
One who to man gave o’er thy privilege?

Kinship and friendship wring my heart for him.

Ay—but how disregard our Sire’s command?
Is not thy pity weaker than thy fear?

Ruthless as ever, brutal to the full!

Tears can avail him nothing: strive not thou,
Nor waste thine efforts thus unaidingly.

Out on my cursed mastery of steel!

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