PROMETHEUS BOUND – Monologue (Prometheus)

A monologue from the play by Aeschylus

NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from The Dramas of Aeschylus. Trans. Anna Swanwick. London: George Bell and Sons, 1907.


Think not that I through pride or stubbornness
Keep silence; nay, my brooding heart is gnawed
Seeing myself thus marred with contumely;
And yet what other but myself marked out
To these new gods their full prerogatives?
But I refrain; for, nought my tongue would tell
Save what ye know. But rather list the ills
Of mortal men, how being babes before,
I made them wise and masters of their wits.
This will I tell, not as in blame of men,
But showing how from kindness flow’d my gifts.
For they, at first, though seeing, saw in vain;
Hearing they heard not, but, like shapes in dreams.
Through the long time all things at random mixed;
Of brick-wove houses, sunward-turn’d, nought knew,
Nor joiner’s craft, but burrowing they dwelt
Like puny ants, in cavern’s depths unsunned.
Neither of winter, nor of spring flower-strewn,
Nor fruitful summer, had they certain sign,
But without judgment everything they wrought,
Till I to them the risings of the stars
Discovered, and their settings hard to scan.
Nay, also Number, art supreme, for them
I found, and marshalling of written signs,
Handmaid to memory, mother of the Muse.
And I in traces first brute creatures yok’d,
Subject to harness, with vicarious strength
Bearing in mortals’ stead their heaviest toils.
Hearken the rest, and thou wilt marvel more
What arts and what resources I devised.
This chief of all; if any one fell sick,
No help there was, diet nor liniment,
Nor healing draught; but men, for lack of drugs
Wasted away, till I to them revealed
Commixtures of assuaging remedies
Which may disorders manifold repel.
Of prophecies the various modes I fixed,
And among dreams did first discriminate
The truthful vision. Voices ominous,
Hard to interpret, I to them made known:
And way-side auguries, the flight of birds
With crooked talons, clearly I defined;
Showed by their nature which auspicious are,
And which ill-omened–taught the modes of life
Native to each, and what, among themselves
Their feuds, affections, and confederacies.
Touching the smoothness of the vital parts,
And what the hue most pleasing to the gods,
I taught them, and the mottled symmetry
Of gall and liver. Thighs encased in fat
With the long chine I burnt, and mortals guided
To a mysterious art; of fire-eyed signs,
I purged the vision, over-filmed before.
Such were the boons I gave; and ‘neath the earth
Those other helps to men, concealed which lie,
Brass, iron, silver, gold, who dares affirm
That before me he had discovered them?
No one, I know, but who would idly vaunt.
The sum of all learn thou in one brief word;
All arts to mortals from Prometheus came.
Such cunning works for mortals I contrived,
Yet, hapless, for myself find no device
To free me from this present agony.

Read the play here

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