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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Complaint of Prometheus

By Æschylus (c. 525–456 B.C.)

From Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Translation of ‘Prometheus’

O HOLY Æther, and swift-winged Winds,

And River-wells, and laughter innumerous

Of yon Sea-waves! Earth, mother of us all,

And all-viewing cyclic Sun, I cry on you,—

Behold me a god, what I endure from gods!

Behold, with throe on throe,

How, wasted by this woe,

I wrestle down the myriad years of Time!

Behold, how fast around me

The new King of the happy ones sublime

Has flung the chain he forged, has shamed and bound me!

Woe, woe! to-day’s woe and the coming morrow’s

I cover with one groan. And where is found me

A limit to these sorrows?

And yet what word do I say? I have foreknown

Clearly all things that should be; nothing done

Comes sudden to my soul—and I must bear

What is ordained with patience, being aware

Necessity doth front the universe

With an invincible gesture. Yet this curse

Which strikes me now, I find it hard to brave

In silence or in speech. Because I gave

Honor to mortals, I have yoked my soul

To this compelling fate. Because I stole

The secret fount of fire, whose bubbles went

Over the ferrule’s brim, and manward sent

Art’s mighty means and perfect rudiment,

That sin I expiate in this agony,

Hung here in fetters, ’neath the blanching sky.

Ah, ah me! what a sound,

What a fragrance sweeps up from a pinion unseen

Of a god, or a mortal, or nature between,

Sweeping up to this rock where the earth has her bound,

To have sight of my pangs, or some guerdon obtain—

Lo, a god in the anguish, a god in the chain!

The god Zeus hateth sore,

And his gods hate again,

As many as tread on his glorified floor,

Because I loved mortals too much evermore.

Alas me! what a murmur and motion I hear,

As of birds flying near!

And the air undersings

The light stroke of their wings—

And all life that approaches I wait for in fear.