A FOREST. IN THE BACKGROUND A CAVE.
PROMETHEUS, ASIA, PANTHEA, IONE, AND THE SPIRIT OF THE EARTH.
IONE: Sister, it is not earthly: how it glides Under the leaves! how on its head there burns A light, like a green star, whose emerald beams Are twined with its fair hair! how, as it moves, The splendour drops in flakes upon the grass! Knowest thou it?
PANTHEA: It is the delicate spirit That guides the earth through heaven. From afar The populous constellations call that light The loveliest of the planets; and sometimes It floats along the spray of the salt sea, Or makes its chariot of a foggy cloud, Or walks through fields or cities while men sleep, Or o'er the mountain tops, or down the rivers, Or through the green waste wilderness, as now, Wondering at all it sees. Before Jove reigned It loved our sister Asia, and it came Each leisure hour to drink the liquid light Out of her eyes, for which it said it thirsted As one bit by a dipsas, and with her It made its childish confidence, and told her All it had known or seen, for it saw much, Yet idly reasoned what it saw; and called her— For whence it sprung it knew not, nor do I— Mother, dear mother.
THE SPIRIT OF THE EARTH [RUNNING TO ASIA]: Mother, dearest mother; May I then talk with thee as I was wont? May I then hide my eyes in thy soft arms, After thy looks have made them tired of joy? May I then play beside thee the long noons, When work is none in the bright silent air?
ASIA: I love thee, gentlest being, and henceforth Can cherish thee unenvied: speak, I pray: Thy simple talk once solaced, now delights.
SPIRIT OF THE EARTH: Mother, I am grown wiser, though a child Cannot be wise like thee, within this day; And happier too; happier and wiser both. Thou knowest that toads, and snakes, and loathly worms, And venomous and malicious beasts, and boughs That bore ill berries in the woods, were ever An hindrance to my walks o'er the green world: And that, among the haunts of humankind, Hard-featured men, or with proud, angry looks, Or cold, staid gait, or false and hollow smiles, Or the dull sneer of self-loved ignorance, Or other such foul masks, with which ill thoughts Hide that fair being whom we spirits call man; And women too, ugliest of all things evil, (Though fair, even in a world where thou art fair, When good and kind, free and sincere like thee) When false or frowning made me sick at heart To pass them, though they slept, and I unseen. Well, my path lately lay through a great city Into the woody hills surrounding it: A sentinel was sleeping at the gate: When there was heard a sound, so loud, it shook The towers amid the moonlight, yet more sweet Than any voice but thine, sweetest of all; A long, long sound, as it would never end: And all the inhabitants leaped suddenly Out of their rest, and gathered in the streets, Looking in wonder up to Heaven, while yet The music pealed along. I hid myself Within a fountain in the public square, Where I lay like the reflex of the moon Seen in a wave under green leaves; and soon Those ugly human shapes and visages Of which I spoke as having wrought me pain, Passed floating through the air, and fading still Into the winds that scattered them; and those From whom they passed seemed mild and lovely forms After some foul disguise had fallen, and all Were somewhat changed, and after brief surprise And greetings of delighted wonder, all Went to their sleep again: and when the dawn Came, wouldst thou think that toads, and snakes, and efts, Could e'er be beautiful? yet so they were, And that with little change of shape or hue: All things had put their evil nature off: I cannot tell my joy, when o'er a lake, Upon a drooping bough with nightshade twined, I saw two azure halcyons clinging downward And thinning one bright bunch of amber berries, With quick long beaks, and in the deep there lay Those lovely forms imaged as in a sky; So, with my thoughts full of these happy changes, We meet again, the happiest change of all.
ASIA: And never will we part, till thy chaste sister Who guides the frozen and inconstant moon Will look on thy more warm and equal light Till her heart thaw like flakes of April snow And love thee.
SPIRIT OF THE EARTH: What! as Asia loves Prometheus?
ASIA: Peace, wanton, thou art yet not old enough. Think ye by gazing on each other's eyes To multiply your lovely selves, and fill With sphered fires the interlunar air?
SPIRIT OF THE EARTH: Nay, mother, while my sister trims her lamp 'Tis hard I should go darkling.
ASIA: Listen; look!
[THE SPIRIT OF THE HOUR ENTERS.]
PROMETHEUS: We feel what thou hast heard and seen: yet speak.
SPIRIT OF THE HOUR: Soon as the sound had ceased whose thunder filled The abysses of the sky and the wide earth, There was a change: the impalpable thin air And the all-circling sunlight were transformed, As if the sense of love dissolved in them Had folded itself round the sphered world. My vision then grew clear, and I could see Into the mysteries of the universe: Dizzy as with delight I floated down, Winnowing the lightsome air with languid plumes, My coursers sought their birthplace in the sun, Where they henceforth will live exempt from toil, Pasturing flowers of vegetable fire; And where my moonlike car will stand within A temple, gazed upon by Phidian forms Of thee, and Asia, and the Earth, and me, And you fair nymphs looking the love we feel,— In memory of the tidings it has borne,— Beneath a dome fretted with graven flowers, Poised on twelve columns of resplendent stone, And open to the bright and liquid sky. Yoked to it by an amphisbaenic snake The likeness of those winged steeds will mock The flight from which they find repose. Alas, Whither has wandered now my partial tongue When all remains untold which ye would hear? As I have said, I floated to the earth: It was, as it is still, the pain of bliss To move, to breathe, to be. I wandering went Among the haunts and dwellings of mankind, And first was disappointed not to see Such mighty change as I had felt within Expressed in outward things; but soon I looked, And behold, thrones were kingless, and men walked One with the other even as spirits do, None fawned, none trampled; hate, disdain, or fear, Self-love or self-contempt, on human brows No more inscribed, as o'er the gate of hell, 'All hope abandon ye who enter here;' None frowned, none trembled, none with eager fear Gazed on another's eye of cold command, Until the subject of a tyrant's will Became, worse fate, the abject of his own, Which spurred him, like an outspent horse, to death. None wrought his lips in truth-entangling lines Which smiled the lie his tongue disdained to speak; None, with firm sneer, trod out in his own heart The sparks of love and hope till there remained Those bitter ashes, a soul self-consumed, And the wretch crept a vampire among men, Infecting all with his own hideous ill; None talked that common, false, cold, hollow talk Which makes the heart deny the "yes" it breathes, Yet question that unmeant hypocrisy With such a self-mistrust as has no name. And women, too, frank, beautiful, and kind As the free heaven which rains fresh light and dew On the wide earth, past; gentle radiant forms, From custom's evil taint exempt and pure; Speaking the wisdom once they could not think, Looking emotions once they feared to feel, And changed to all which once they dared not be, Yet being now, made earth like heaven; nor pride, Nor jealousy, nor envy, nor ill shame, The bitterest of those drops of treasured gall, Spoiled the sweet taste of the nepenthe, love.
Thrones, altars, judgement-seats, and prisons; wherein, And beside which, by wretched men were borne Sceptres, tiaras, swords, and chains, and tomes Of reasoned wrong, glozed on by ignorance, Were like those monstrous and barbaric shapes, The ghosts of a no-more-remembered fame, Which, from their unworn obelisks, look forth In triumph o'er the palaces and tombs Of those who were their conquerors: mouldering round, These imaged to the pride of kings and priests A dark yet mighty faith, a power as wide As is the world it wasted, and are now But an astonishment; even so the tools And emblems of its last captivity, Amid the dwellings of the peopled earth, Stand, not o'erthrown, but unregarded now. And those foul shapes, abhorred by god and man,— Which, under many a name and many a form Strange, savage, ghastly, dark and execrable, Were Jupiter, the tyrant of the world; And which the nations, panic-stricken, served With blood, and hearts broken by long hope, and love Dragged to his altars soiled and garlandless, And slain among men's unreclaiming tears, Flattering the thing they feared, which fear was hate,— Frown, mouldering fast, o'er their abandoned shrines: The painted veil, by those who were, called life, Which mimicked, as with colours idly spread, All men believed and hoped, is torn aside; The loathsome mask has fallen, the man remains Sceptreless, free, uncircumscribed, but man Equal, unclassed, tribeless, and nationless, Exempt from awe, worship, degree, the king Over himself; just, gentle, wise; but man Passionless?—no, yet free from guilt or pain, Which were, for his will made or suffered them, Nor yet exempt, though ruling them like slaves, From chance, and death, and mutability, The clogs of that which else might oversoar The loftiest star of unascended heaven, Pinnacled dim in the intense inane.
END OF ACT 3.