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ARGUMENT

Prometheus coming on earth to give fire to men appears before the palace of Inachus in Argos on a festival of Zeus. He interrupts the ceremony by announcing fire and persuades Inachus to dare the anger of Zeus and accept the gift. Inachus fetching Argeia his wife from the palace has in turn to quiet her fears. He asks a prophecy of Prometheus who foretells the fate of Io their daughter. Prometheus then setting flame to the altar and writing his own name thereon in the place of Zeus disappears.

The Chorus sing (1) a Hymn to Zeus with the stories of the birth of Zeus and the marriage of Hera with the dances of the Curetes and the Hesperides, (2) their anticipation of fire with an Ode on Wonder, (3) a Tragic Hymn on the lot of man, (4) a Fire-chorus, (5) a final Chorus in praise of Prometheus.

All the characters are good, Prometheus prologizes. He carries a long reed.

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ

PROMETHEUS.
INACHUS.
ARGEIA.
SERVANT.
10 (persona muta).
CHORUS: Youths and maidens of the house of

Inachus.

The SCENE is in ARGOS before the palace of Inachus,

An altar inscribed to Zeus is at the

centre of the stage.

PROMETHEUS
THE FIREGIVER

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PROMETHEUS.
From high Olympus and the ætherial courts,
Where mighty Zeus our angry king confirms
The Fates' decrees and bends the wills of the gods,
I come: and on the earth step with glad foot.

This variegated ocean-floor of the air,
The changeful circle of fair land, that lies
Heaven's dial, sisterly mirror of night and day:
The wide o'er-wandered plain, this nether world
My truant haunt is, when from jealous eyes
I steal, for hither 'tis I steal, and here
Unseen repair my joy : yet not unseen
Methinks, nor seen unguessed of him I seek.
Rather by swath or furrow, or where the path
Is walled with corn I am found, by trellised vine
Or olive set in banks or orchard trim :
I watch all toil and tilth, farm, field and fold,
And taste the mortal joy; since not in heaven
Among our easeful gods hath facile time
A touch so keen, to wake such love of life
As stirs the frail and careful being, who here,
The king of sorrows, melancholy man,
Bows at his labour, but in heart erect
A god stands, nor for any gift of god
Would barter his immortal-hearted prime.

Could I but win this world from Zeus for mine,
With not a god to vex my happy rule,
I would inhabit here and leave high heaven :
So much I love it and its race of men,

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Even as he hates them, hates both them, and me
For loving what he hates, and would destroy me,
Outcast in the scorn of all his cringing crew,
For daring but to save what he would slay :
And me must first destroy. Thus he denieth
My heart's wish, thus my counsel sets at naught,
Which him saved once, when all at stake he stood
Uprisen in rebellion to overthrow
The elderseated Titans, for I that day
Gave him the counsels which his foes despised.
Unhappy they, who had still their blissful seats
Preserved and their Olympian majesty,
Had they been one with me. Alas, my

kin!
But he, when he had taken the throne and chained
His foes in wasteful Tartarus, said no more
Where is Prometheus our wise counsellor ?
What saith Prometheus ? tell us, O Prometheus,
What Fate requires ! but waxing confident
And wanton, as a youth first tasting power,
He wrecked the timeless monuments of heaven,
The witness of the wisdom of the gods,
And making all about him new, beyond
Determined to destroy the race of men,
And that create afresh or else have none.

Then his vain mind imagined a device,
And at his bidding all the opposed winds
Blew, and the scattered clouds and furlèd snows,
From every part of heaven together flying,
He with brute hands in huge disorder heaped :
They with the winds' weight and his angry breath
Were thawed : in cataracts they fell, and earth
In darkness deep and whelmed tempest lay,
Drowned 'neath the waters. Yet on the mountain-tops
Some few escaped, and some, thus warned by me,
Made shift to live in vessels which outrode
The season and the fury of the flood.

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And when his rain was spent and from clear skies
Zeus looking down upon the watery world,
Beheld these few, the remnant of mankind,
Who yet stood up and breathed; he next withdrew
The seeds of fire, that else had still lain hid
In withered branch and the blue flakes of Alint
For man to exact and use, but these withdrawn,
Man with the brutes degraded would be man.
No more; and so the tyrant was content

But I, despised again, again upheld
The weak, and pitying them sent sweet Hope,
Bearer of dreams, enchantress fond and kind,
From heaven descending on the unhindered rays
Of every star, to cheer with visions fair
Their unamending pains. And now this day
Behold I come bearing the seal of all
Which Hope had promised : for within this reed
A prisoner I bring them stolen from heaven,
The flash of mastering fire, and it have borne
So swift to earth, that when yon noontide sun
Rose from the sea at morning I was by,
And unperceived of Helios plunged the point
I'the burning axle, and withdrew a tongue
Of breathing flame, which lives to leap on earth
For man the father of all fire to come.

And hither have I brought it even to Argos
Unto king Inachus, him having chosen
Above all mortals to receive my gift:
For he is hopeful, careful, wise, and brave.

He first, when first the floods left bare the land,
Grew warm with enterprise, and gathered men
Together, and disposed their various tasks
For common weal combined ; for soon were seen
The long straight channels dwindling on the plain,
Which slow from stagnant pool and wide morass
The pestilent waters to the rivers bore :

go

loo

Then in the ruined dwellings and old tombs
He dug, unbedding from the wormed ooze
Vessels and tools of trade and husbandry;
Wherewith, all seasonable works restored,
Oil made he and wine anew, and taught mankind
To live not brutally though without fire,
Tending their flocks and herds and weaving wool,
Living on fruit and milk and shepherds' fare,
Till time should bring back flame to smithy and hearth,
Or Zeus relent. Now at these gates I stand,
At this mid hour, when Inachus comes forth
To offer sacrifice unto his foe.
For never hath his faithful zeal forborne
To pay the power, though hard, that rules the world
The smokeless sacrifice; which first to-day
Shall smoke, and rise at heaven in flame to brave
The baffled god. See here a servant bears
For the cold altar ceremonial wood :
My shepherd's cloak will serve me for disguise.

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130

SERVANT
With much toil have I hewn these sapless logs.

Pr. But toil brings health, and health is happiness.

Serv. Here's one I know not—nay, how came he here Unseen by me? I pray thee, stranger, tell me What wouldst thou at the house of Inachus ?

Pr. Intruders, friend, and travellers have glib tongues, Silence will question such. Serv.

If 'tis a message, To-day is not thy day-who sent thee hither?

Pr. The business of my leisure was well guessed : But he that sent me hither is I that come.

Serv. I smell the matter—thou wouldst serve the house? PR. 'Twas for that very cause I fled my own.

131 Serv. From cruelty or fear of punishment ? Pr. Cruel was my master, for he slew his father.

(6)

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