Poetic versioning of Aeschelus’ powerful visionary drama.
POWER We have slid a long way down, to earth's end. Now we are in an arid gorge, close rocks Hem our freedoms and our bruised feet have reached The lowest place. Hephastos, turn your mind That forged the golden playthings of the gods To harsher endeavors; let invention Wither, and let love's meaningless surplus Be dried up. Have your ire flare again In residence where he's made your flames vanish, Putting out the light of goldenest craft To help sprouting man, who rankly weeds A gardened globe. Forge in violent fires Bellowed large again by your oppressed heart Thorned chains to lay him against these hard stones In unmoving misery. HEPHASTOS I do not Have a muscled heart to bind my brother In these abandoned crags, or close in stirrups of iron Feet equal to my feather. VIOLENCE Do not let Filial affection unleash what you must bind. HEPHASTOS The commandment of Zeus has found its voice In you, Power and Violence. In me, Its uncertain hand, that which would rather break Against itself that harm any dead hair Of Prometheus else.--- Here he comes dragged. [Enter Prometheus, dragged] I have come commanded to bind in pain His mobile spirit, which moves as a ductile flame In each instant of the wind, following icy shocks Of the chafing air with hot nuances of a mind All on fire with itself. See how slow now He comes to the cold lead of these chill slopes. [To Prometheus] Brother, my love is all by whetted sorrow nursed And throws large shadows over this stale work. When would it have been fresh? It stinks of old crime. What has fallen to our days and hands? Like Neglected fruit our poor duties lie rotting, Which, had they been picked fresh, and shared, and ate, Might have bulked us fat in feast, fat in love, Fat in everything that sifts in tenderest rains From Zeus' puffed perfection. Supine duty Now inhabits the ditch, and in grim famine bears All its teeth in hunger, none in love. VIOLENCE Generosity is not the want Of prerogative, which chooses what it gives. Prometheus betrayed your artist's trick Of shaping fire to those who kept the dark For all their light, and crept in dreams to day, Mere moles who nosed their barren track in dirt Without the bright aid of your rigorous flame. HEPHASTOS Neglected good has led us to these barren times Where larders stand disgorged of multiplicity And nature's rich display of choices shrinks, Winnowed thin by too strict conservation. POWER Your one secret now shifts shafts of day Into any peasant cave where two straws Are not yet rank with urine. Does it not offend? VIOLENCE That which drew perfect Venus like a moth To your cloven love and questioning shape All hunched above the blazon of you art As limping earth shadows the central sun Stealing its various greens from one white, He stole from you. HEPHASTOS Do not make such use of him. POWER Fear you not Zeus, who casts him in his state? Fear not that such anger overborne may spill And like the solitary volcano cracked Drown the least rat with the greatest vole, And so grant you a current way to death, Bedded in the pit with Prometheus? VIOLENCE Now shape your craft to the need; bind him close. HEPHASTOS It is done. The free man bound that was free. I've gone a long way to come round to hate. [Exit] POWER False prophecy has assigned its name to you Falsely. Portent of nothing, stale omen, You refuse to hear the bear's warning rustle In the bushes at your back. Freedom's telling lark Chained by enticing art to rock cannot bark. [Exit] [Enter the Daughters of Ocean, soaked] 1 DAUGHTER Egregious terror trines our ocean-hearts! 2 DAUGHTER Anemones all are drooped, and coral blanched That once held quiet communication With the soundless sea breeze. Swift sharks stood still That must die in pauses, and far above Came the venomed sound of iron beaten. And now we see how your restless hands are bound! 1 DAUGHTER How I long to comfort that brow, grief-distraught. 2 DAUGHTER Manta Rays flared in stillness with wantless mouths, Whales hung like sad mountains overhead, And all the ceaseless activity of the Yearning sea did to a remote slowness thud, Forced by a forged means. Hephastos' hammer, For what other ring of doom could charm waves, Bent our ears to silence--- Save the one sound. Sorrow has hung thick syrups on our eyes. 1 DAUGHTER And those restless hand wringing whirlwinds From the idealess dust, now warming short chains! 2 DAUGHTER Tell us why you have been punished, for you Have been punished. 1 DAUGHTER Tell us Zeus' reasons. 2 DAUGHTER Name the heedless crime. 1 DAUGHTER Tell us. BOTH Tell us. PROMETHEUS Do not think my penitential silence pride Or arrogant stubbornness. It is not. No, it is a consuming meditation That works in me when my mind considers The subtle hurts that load my outcast state, And of how in past time my estimation Showered ignorant honors on my jailers, Gilding their crimes before their doing of them. But enough; of what your hearts know how should I speak? Listen to mortal suffering,-- how I Spied them fumbling with their helpless wits, and helped. It is a tale briefly told. Not to scold Erring man, but to show how much his stature's grown. In their uncounciled sight first spread vain webs Of woven pride that gave far-seeing judgment Close cataracts, obscuring heinous crimes. And into their young hearing they had poured Not mellow summer songs gathered from the air, But stuffed deaf ears with brays of their own praises. They were not men, but instead resembled The shapes we see in dreams, mingling all. To their burrowing lives I broke some light That had been darker else. Like timid ants They lived and ate, and kept house in foul caves. Neither stars of winter nor the presaging scent Of springtime did they know by counting moons, Nor was laden summer by signs revealed. But every matter was pursued in ignorance, Full of wrong causes, false heads and false tails, Inverting logic until I came and gave Risen stars names and mapped their difficult settings. I ferreted out the art of numbers That put in the simple scope of man's discretion The control of nature, and lettered rude mouths With speech that made but oohs and ahs before, giving thus Discursive memory its mothering talk That nursed the nine. By my gentle bough Beasts came lowing to the yoke and plow To perform with docile thanks hard labor Men laid idly by. I made them love the rein Who move lordly chariots with prideful steps. And from the burning tongues of gods brought down Stolen fire. All these fool's arts I made for man alone Who can't glue together some salvation for himself. But when gods threat, saving devices perish And cleverness holds up stumps, not hands, to pluck This downcast body from its tortured state. [Enter OKEANOS on a winged beast] OKEANOS Enough of your hovering comforting! Brother, you cling to the heaving rock Of your own willfulness, but I have come Taming this dread beast by my thoughts alone To break you of bad habits. Come, let me help Who has no more dearly watered a love In all his submerged dominions than that love I have borne down these darkening airs to you. PROMETHEUS You have come to watch a vaulted heart crack That has not renewing waters' suavities To bear faults harmlessly, and repel Sinewed attacks like the geysering behemoth, Swallowing all. I am made of earth, A counter-realm to your own ocean, And must crumble, or blow like willess sand When weeded from the compacting rain That moistens all, lashing independence down. Dry frictions of the upper air tear me Apart at last, for I'll suck no more From Zeus' tap, whose bitter dregs swell contempt. You've come to watch and dive home to your conchs. OKEANOS It strains my spongelike affections to see You in such torture. Let me talk to Zeus. It was by right reason as much as force That he hurled Kronos from the throne. You must at least, since all do chorus it, Applaud his generalship. PROMETHEUS I'd rather laud The humidest dung with reeking laurel wreaths Than crown him thus. OKEANOS Ungrateful god, to say so! PROMETHEUS I have been his companion in these wars. I knocked Kronos to his knees that Zeus ascend To his present height on the conquered back. Now let him from that crooked pedestal survey Pestilent fields blacked by my bitterness; He shall find no edge to that horizon That commands all space, for my poor heart, Like a coal used and burst, has swollen Acres by his ingratitude. O, I've sopped Millions of hurts in his service Silent as a maid. OKEANOS Your jeweled wit Which was in Thetis' rich womb in-treasured Does but some gleam of His lightnings redirect And is not the cause of all. PROMETHEUS That's hard talk; And hard words make poor entreaty. [Aside] Perhaps he comes in good conscience and not As Zeus' spy to view my wreck, or pry My hidden prophecy from its safe place. Either way, if he's come to help or hurt I must whip him hence, for his own good And mine... Go, dog! Fly my anger! Your love is dust and advice a scourge That must lash like feathers against adamant, Uselessly. Go! I'll treat with you no more! OKEANOS That's hard talk. Have you all your gentle manner abandoned, And like the skulking cur beaten from its house Bark kind hands back, to spike me with such speech? PROMETHEUS O, yes, you're the one spiked and chained, not I. OKEANOS Do you make a tenant of your reason To throw him out thus when there's rent to pay? Your diamond arguments were once arrayed By a blazing mind. Now my substance weeps To see noble wits like paupers dressed And set stumbling in the streets. PROMETHEUS [Aside] Brother god! Your lashes sting me for my betterment. [To Okeanos] Nevertheless, if it is not your desire To see my frissioned death, it is your fate. For what other design could pepper hearts With a love that calls them from their rest to see That love's destruction, besides blank-eyed Fate Who, like the lanternfish, but with a fruit of mirrors, Gazes in herself to find our dates? Hopeful seeds must witness the vanquished flower's fall. [Aside] So you, who seeded friendship in my heart, Must watch cold roots break what nourished them. OKEANOS Beg sustenance from Zeus and all will be well; For he brews such stuff as will raise titans From discarded dolls. You know I love you well-- PROMETHEUS These words feed me well, who teems on discontent. Sway on, ocean. OKEANOS To move with the marrow Of a great strength shows no weakness in yourself. Brilliance is not all in solitary Leisure consummated, nor is obedience Any bodiless thing but a substance Of affection stuffed into a man Makes him loyal to God's descending prayer; For only those below have this power: To lift what's sacred higher than themselves. PROMETHEUS What's this? One god still loyal as a dog? [Aside ] Those below have this power... does he hint At overthrow? Surely what's tacked In the sky may be by good carpenters Dismantled. And what's Zeus but an uplifted image? OKEANOS The mightiest sword-hand that ever lived But obeyed its bones. Do the same yourself And thrive when times are direst. I'll talk Zeus out of his sternness; it is an affect Frowned upon him by your dark broods. PROMETHEUS [Aside] Whatever else you are, or yet may be, Your eye lies waterlogged by surging sleep To see me thus; you are not yet awake From Zeus' sea-dream of the perfect state. OKEANOS I'll talk, and with oceans of arguments Subdue his silhouetted heights to one calm. I'll talk, and let such a sea of speech Subsume his reason, he'll welcome back with banquets The despised prodigal, who banished found His way home to true love in foreign fields. And if all this does not settle him I'll infect his dreams with loving whispers That transform all the wild fancy of his mind To your belated praises. This I swear. And if with his lightnings he'll try the waves We'll dodge 'em! PROMETHEUS Brave Okeanos! O brave! Now my heart cracks in truth, to be so loved. Now shall I endure my trial as much In comfort as in terror; you've cozied My jolts with your gentleness. Look, my guards [Shaking chains] Shiver to behold a countenance So alive with friend's love. The stones are friendly For me by your example, and nearly Melt for my release, they are so deeply moved. You'll contest his trined lightnings with your own Thrown up by splashing water? Good brave god! But do not throw yourself in the chasm Of my cause. No, rather let me suffer My ordained ignominy as I must. For then will the mute chords of nature break And the stars like mourners torches be cast In deep waters; all order unhinge And the chaos that lies in things flow loosed Over the whole earth, to see such injustice! OKEANOS But let me speak what your countenance conveys--- PROMETHEUS If you'll not by Zeus' command be bound As this brave embassy proves, then be bound By mine to silence. Untongue yourself here And issue not your honest thoughts to Zeus ---He'll carve dwarves of them. Its God's firm habit To batter after what cannot be bartered for By threats and faces. Instead stand silent And stare high clouds down with that dignity Which does my soul soldier's service thus. OKEANOS But let me talk... PROMETHEUS Do not. A prophecy I hold close keeps me warm. Hold your teeming tongue. Do not speak, but go. [Exit Okeanos] I loved him ever. 1 DAUGHTER You say prophecy And then say silence. 2 DAUGHTER What's the mystery That feathers stone beds? BOTH Tell us. PROMETHEUS I know my immortal story. It was a gift beguiled before my birth--- [Enter IO, stumbling, beautiful] What loveliness is this that astounds the stage? Silence, ladies, it is my heart that stumbles. Her glance heals me all. She carries soft looks That sit cased in the face of Patience Who gazes miseries past their durance And makes my suffering small by looking on it. Who are you, soft creature? Why have you come? IO In truth, sir, I run from my troubles And am hunted by my own frailties, Which bay me to your company. PROMETHEUS Sweet girl, What are your troubles, who must not suffer Or prove the world too cruel to live upon That sweetens its hard tooth on such fresh life? Or, if true hurt, but suffer as the lamb Made sad by want of playmates. Say, innocence, What song you brother angels sing to catch you; Teach me those notes, and, by life, I'll lung them Back to heaven! Say, dear, what is your name. IO Oh, heavens that have cursed me with such a one! I had rather been blanked of hearing all Than know my name. PROMETHEUS Even so, you have one. IO Even so do spiteful breaths that say it Make me sail away, by their puffed impulse Repulsed. Do you still require my badge of me? Your silence implores it, which speaks you well. I have ever loved a quiet moping look. Even so came Zeus to my father's fields, Crowned by that affection eyes alone may speak. I knew him a king, and myself a woman Equal to a king's desires, and anon We joined while the hay shuffled; anon loved. PROMETHEUS Bickered to sin by jealous Hera's tongue? IO He lugged an obscure grudge from Hera's bed Into our talk, and I gave God my pity... Even so, to escape her haughty hate Was I stuffed into this rough cow-skin suit, Fenced with her beasts, and by Argus guarded Whose thousand eyes were trained on my disgrace Until Hermes in one swat shut them up. Since then I'm followed by this stumbling bug Who stings me fresh to new misfortunes. Now you've heard my story do you know my name? PROMETHEUS Even so. IO Even so, I am Io. PROMETHEUS Io! Sorrows ravens hover near you still. In truth, you're legended among gossips, And no ear escapes the buzz of your troubles. IO If I could drown disaster with a flood of tears Or tear vengeful Hera from her watchful post By cries inflicting lightnings like those Her husband owns, I'd do it. Though Nature swoon To be so usurped and have its queen Plummeted from still stars to the churning mud I'd do it. Zeus himself was the first strong arm To bruise the celestial order, which runs Corrected by his divine direction. Cannot a woman do it, whose swollen loins Drop kings into their kingdoms, and whose breasts Milk tyrants? To be so stung and beaten Makes me, like the dog caught in a hailstorm, Hate all that's above. PROMETHEUS You shall not do it. Although you make a nation's millions march Against the skies, you shall not do it. Although you stalk his crimson heart From the ladder of his ribs, and with a cannonade Of brass take aim, you shall not do it. Nothing in the empery of man or god would prove Arsenal enough for your objective; Sooner should grass crown kings and legions bear Feathers for their killing swords, than you should win. Almanac of all absurd desires, Pinnacle of impossibilities! IO But why? Why? PROMETHEUS My dreams herald against it. IO Then Zeus shall reign forever, and Hera Forever be his surmounting queen. PROMETHEUS Come here; let me whisper to you the truth. [She goes to him] IO [Breaking away] I can't stand it! I cannot stay. [Exit] PROMETHEUS Sweet girl. So truth drives beauty out, or mad with its stings. Perhaps I must lay me at fortune's foot Which rolls over all, and not from this mount Rehearse my troubles to the earless air That can no further than a coffin's silks Carry dead men's prayers. I'll lie quiet. Here in the dust, father and mother, Our indignities end. Let me lie simple as a butterfly, Pinned and grinning. Dulcet air invades these crags And must each enmity suffuse until its joy. The ground is not adverse, and harshness lessens. In his black mouth, the fox has brought a berry For the unkilled bird. Look, she dabbles in its gauds. Oh, I'll die singing now, seeing portents live. Every creature knows its secret brother In such sights, and by such seeing blessed. Let opposition perish. All must love. I'll rest. [Daughters of Ocean make a noise] Who's this stalks upon my meditation? 1 DAUGHTER Still, tell us how Zeus will be brought down, How by patient fate unpinned from the stars. PROMETHEUS Zeus amid his lusts will marry trammeled Io, And get my vengeance on her fertility. 1 DAUGHTER Zeus' son will undo him! 2 DAUGHTER Zeus will fall. PROMETHEUS I will outwit death. When pasturage gloms His blades, and the mower's skis are tongued in green, I will worm from my putrid root, shed death, And groan in glory toward the sun again. 1 DAUGHTER We must keep silent. 2 DAUGHTER Pray Zeus does not hear. PROMETHEUS It will be hard for Zeus to outrun My whispering words. He shall fall fated. 1 DAUGHTER Don't you tremble at your own daring? 2 DAUGHTER Bound down and roaring like the freest lion! PROMETHEUS My mouth speaks graves where Zeus plows but dead ground. 1 DAUGHTER Oh, quiet. Even blind gods can hear such curses. PROMETHEUS Then let him windmill daggers at my voice, Naught will drown it. Let him rage his white skies An eternal red, and it shall stain me No more than colored glass in the chapel May pierce a baby's sleeping cheek. I'm not fated. [Enter Hephastos] HEPHASTOS Zeus has heard everything. You must now say What will come dismembering Zeus as night The softest yellow body of day consumes. PROMETHEUS You come bearing the vengeful cup of Zeus All muddy now with blood. Dictatorship Speaks weak words through confident megaphones That boom the shouting opposition down And drowns the quiet censure of its victims. HEPHASTOS Unlock your prophecy. PROMETHEUS Never, never Will I go throwing gold to my starving foes That they may banquet fatly at my defeat. HEPHASTOS Have you nothing for you father then? PROMETHEUS I stand wounded in his debt, who has taught Such tough lessons that I can only wish To answer with repayment. HEPHASTOS Do not mock You last hope out of hearing, Prometheus. Wise words tell wise acts what to do. PROMETHEUS Then why Have your parrot words not puffed you upwards To out-size Zeus? Are they not his swelled thoughts, His din of instructions, that you sound here? Is it any other voice that carps aloud His squeaking pleas? "O, Prometheus, say What is in your mind that we cannot guess." Say what you cannot guess? Surely my thought Is less wise than that you high gods possess. Say my mind? It would gainsay all you have Pronounced, and be most unholy. HEPHASTOS None of this helps. Will you go against God and rave forever? What sweetness can be heard in one's own voice Dropped in an unechoing void? PROMETHEUS My case was looked into and verdict passed long ago. HEPHASTOS But frame your answers to your miseries And you can go as free as any prideless bird. PROMETHEUS Your words crest and break against me lightly. They beat in vain against decided stone That shall not loosen. No small moss of fear Creeps into my heart to dislodge courage From determination. I was not made To shatter at any asking, or turn Bound hands up begging mutinous mercy To release pensive chains from straining wrists. HEPHASTOS I do not love a hot rebuke. But show Some contrite design in the words you use, Saying "Pardon..." or "I forgot myself..." ---But let your tongue display some modest flavor As when a strutting peacock nods to get Progeny on his mistress, relaxing In the sweet summer air his strenuous song And I will melt. Zeus withholds judgment yet; Remain untoward and our contrasts must yield As a furious star into the thick Ocean fallen, nothing but blind fogs and steams. PROMETHEUS This world passes like a prayer in the dark. HEPHASTOS I do not wish my ill success in this, or wish My prayers to crawl like a crying worm Into deaf ears that feel only the nearest trumpet, Insensible to all else. But you are hard... PROMETHEUS Chop and prate with me as you wish to will, You shall not hew my meaning to your ends. 1 DAUGHTER Unless fierce interchange swap gods and men And men show more of gratitude than sharp nature Points them to already, you are eternally cursed. HEPHASTOS Then hear how you shall suffer. Hurricanes Of God's ill will shall come dashing lights Against these hard rocks in hungry strokes And eat up their solidity. But that Won't lard our Zeus whose righteous anger Keeps him trim as the vital viper. For then He'll throw such thunders at the earth Every stony crag shall abate its toughness And obedient tons of earth liquefy To drown rebellion. Then... Then you will fall More black years than you have already lived Recounting your crimes in meditation Until you crash to the appointed place. 2 DAUGHTER Shall the sinner there have hope of rest? HEPHASTOS None. But, after a while, light will come circling back, Though you will not see Zeus come reproaching you With blows, he will send his loyal dog to feast On your chained liver. Out of the dawn sky Each day His loved vulture's abhorrent head Will slide thirstily down on buffeting wings And tap you to the marrow. When painful night Stitches up your severest wounds to Fresh bruises once again, and you sit plumped Like a rich raspberry in the sun That bleeds its virgin ripe to the first hand, God's bald vulture, renewed by hunger, will return With his fingering beak. 1 DAUGHTER Will you show no mercy for this perfect Creature? Prometheus, bow down your head. Haughtiest power forgives such obedience. HEPHASTOS Do not dream that this will ever end. No god will change his bracelets for your chains. No man will trade his own disasters For another's. God's mouth cannot say Other than what is, and His every word must break In action, or have no living meaning. Decide how best to unwind your brash fate Before the dizzy clock must terminate. BOTH Prometheus, repent! We must go. [Exeunt] PROMETHEUS Words at last have made the earth convulse. Thunder shivers the dust from these rocks, Light flashes out, as if the thought Of some terrible mind issued itself in fire. Air shreds. Boulders leap like hares from the sling. Sea and earth are confounded to black mud. See him, a tongue of tinfoil in his Tiny chariot, raised by obedient winds Above the argument of the storm? Fire licks the wheels. I think, when my heart stops for a minute, I can make out the pinched shadow of his frown. [Disappearing beneath stage] O blue earth, O blue mother, love me And see me suffer.