PROMETHEUS, HERCULES, IONE, THE EARTH, SPIRITS, ASIA, AND PANTHEA, BORNE IN THE CAR WITH THE SPIRIT OF THE HOUR.
HERCULES UNBINDS PROMETHEUS, WHO DESCENDS.
HERCULES: Most glorious among Spirits, thus doth strength To wisdom, courage, and long-suffering love, And thee, who art the form they animate, Minister like a slave.
PROMETHEUS: Thy gentle words Are sweeter even than freedom long desired And long delayed. Asia, thou light of life, Shadow of beauty unbeheld: and ye, Fair sister nymphs, who made long years of pain Sweet to remember, through your love and care: Henceforth we will not part. There is a cave, All overgrown with trailing odorous plants, Which curtain out the day with leaves and flowers, And paved with veined emerald, and a fountain Leaps in the midst with an awakening sound. From its curved roof the mountain's frozen tears Like snow, or silver, or long diamond spires, Hang downward, raining forth a doubtful light: And there is heard the ever-moving air, Whispering without from tree to tree, and birds, And bees; and all around are mossy seats, And the rough walls are clothed with long soft grass; A simple dwelling, which shall be our own; Where we will sit and talk of time and change, As the world ebbs and flows, ourselves unchanged. What can hide man from mutability? And if ye sigh, then I will smile; and thou, Ione, shalt chant fragments of sea-music, Until I weep, when ye shall smile away The tears she brought, which yet were sweet to shed. We will entangle buds and flowers and beams Which twinkle on the fountain's brim, and make Strange combinations out of common things, Like human babes in their brief innocence; And we will search, with looks and words of love, For hidden thoughts, each lovelier than the last, Our unexhausted spirits; and like lutes Touched by the skill of the enamoured wind, Weave harmonies divine, yet ever new, From difference sweet where discord cannot be; And hither come, sped on the charmed winds, Which meet from all the points of heaven, as bees From every flower aereal Enna feeds, At their known island-homes in Himera, The echoes of the human world, which tell Of the low voice of love, almost unheard, And dove-eyed pity's murmured pain, and music, Itself the echo of the heart, and all That tempers or improves man's life, now free; And lovely apparitions,—dim at first, Then radiant, as the mind, arising bright From the embrace of beauty (whence the forms Of which these are the phantoms) casts on them The gathered rays which are reality— Shall visit us, the progeny immortal Of Painting, Sculpture, and rapt Poesy, And arts, though unimagined, yet to be. The wandering voices and the shadows these Of all that man becomes, the mediators Of that best worship love, by him and us Given and returned; swift shapes and sounds, which grow More fair and soft as man grows wise and kind, And, veil by veil, evil and error fall: Such virtue has the cave and place around. [TURNING TO THE SPIRIT OF THE HOUR.] For thee, fair Spirit, one toil remains. Ione, Give her that curved shell, which Proteus old Made Asia's nuptial boon, breathing within it A voice to be accomplished, and which thou Didst hide in grass under the hollow rock.
IONE: Thou most desired Hour, more loved and lovely Than all thy sisters, this is the mystic shell; See the pale azure fading into silver Lining it with a soft yet glowing light: Looks it not like lulled music sleeping there?
SPIRIT: It seems in truth the fairest shell of Ocean: Its sound must be at once both sweet and strange.
PROMETHEUS: Go, borne over the cities of mankind On whirlwind-footed coursers: once again Outspeed the sun around the orbed world; And as thy chariot cleaves the kindling air, Thou breathe into the many-folded shell, Loosening its mighty music; it shall be As thunder mingled with clear echoes: then Return; and thou shalt dwell beside our cave. And thou, O Mother Earth!—
THE EARTH: I hear, I feel; Thy lips are on me, and thy touch runs down Even to the adamantine central gloom Along these marble nerves; 'tis life, 'tis joy, And, through my withered, old, and icy frame The warmth of an immortal youth shoots down Circling. Henceforth the many children fair Folded in my sustaining arms; all plants, And creeping forms, and insects rainbow-winged, And birds, and beasts, and fish, and human shapes, Which drew disease and pain from my wan bosom, Draining the poison of despair, shall take And interchange sweet nutriment; to me Shall they become like sister-antelopes By one fair dam, snow-white and swift as wind, Nursed among lilies near a brimming stream. The dew-mists of my sunless sleep shall float Under the stars like balm: night-folded flowers Shall suck unwithering hues in their repose: And men and beasts in happy dreams shall gather Strength for the coming day, and all its joy: And death shall be the last embrace of her Who takes the life she gave, even as a mother, Folding her child, says, 'Leave me not again.'
ASIA: Oh, mother! wherefore speak the name of death? Cease they to love, and move, and breathe, and speak, Who die?
THE EARTH: It would avail not to reply: Thou art immortal, and this tongue is known But to the uncommunicating dead. Death is the veil which those who live call life: They sleep, and it is lifted: and meanwhile In mild variety the seasons mild With rainbow-skirted showers, and odorous winds, And long blue meteors cleansing the dull night, And the life-kindling shafts of the keen sun's All-piercing bow, and the dew-mingled rain Of the calm moonbeams, a soft influence mild, Shall clothe the forests and the fields, ay, even The crag-built deserts of the barren deep, With ever-living leaves, and fruits, and flowers. And thou! There is a cavern where my spirit Was panted forth in anguish whilst thy pain Made my heart mad, and those who did inhale it Became mad too, and built a temple there, And spoke, and were oracular, and lured The erring nations round to mutual war, And faithless faith, such as Jove kept with thee; Which breath now rises, as amongst tall weeds A violet's exhalation, and it fills With a serener light and crimson air Intense, yet soft, the rocks and woods around; It feeds the quick growth of the serpent vine, And the dark linked ivy tangling wild, And budding, blown, or odour-faded blooms Which star the winds with points of coloured light, As they rain through them, and bright golden globes Of fruit, suspended in their own green heaven, And through their veined leaves and amber stems The flowers whose purple and translucid bowls Stand ever mantling with aereal dew, The drink of spirits: and it circles round, Like the soft waving wings of noonday dreams, Inspiring calm and happy thoughts, like mine, Now thou art thus restored. This cave is thine. Arise! Appear! [A SPIRIT RISES IN THE LIKENESS OF A WINGED CHILD.] This is my torch-bearer; Who let his lamp out in old time with gazing On eyes from which he kindled it anew With love, which is as fire, sweet daughter mine, For such is that within thine own. Run, wayward, And guide this company beyond the peak Of Bacchic Nysa, Maenad-haunted mountain, And beyond Indus and its tribute rivers, Trampling the torrent streams and glassy lakes With feet unwet, unwearied, undelaying, And up the green ravine, across the vale, Beside the windless and crystalline pool, Where ever lies, on unerasing waves, The image of a temple, built above, Distinct with column, arch, and architrave, And palm-like capital, and over-wrought, And populous with most living imagery, Praxitelean shapes, whose marble smiles Fill the hushed air with everlasting love. It is deserted now, but once it bore Thy name, Prometheus; there the emulous youths Bore to thy honour through the divine gloom The lamp which was thine emblem; even as those Who bear the untransmitted torch of hope Into the grave, across the night of life, As thou hast borne it most triumphantly To this far goal of Time. Depart, farewell. Beside that temple is the destined cave.