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Prometheus Unbound

By Percy Bysshe Shelley

Act IV

SCENE-- A part of the Forest near the Cave of PROMETHEUS. PANTHEA and IONE are sleeping: they awaken gradually during the first Song.
          THE pale stars are gone!
          For the sun, their swift shepherd
          To their folds them compelling,
          In the depths of the dawn,
      Hastes, in meteor-eclipsing array, and they flee
          Beyond his blue dwelling,
          As fawns flee the leopard,
            But where are ye?

[A Train of dark Forms and Shadows passes by confusedly, singing.] 

          Here, oh, here!
          We bear the bier                                            10
      Of the father of many a cancelled year!
          Spectres we
          Of the dead Hours be;
      We bear Time to his tomb in eternity.

          Strew, oh, strew
          Hair, not yew!
      Wet the dusty pall with tears, not dew!
          Be the faded flowers
          Of Death's bare bowers
      Spread on the corpse of the King of Hours!                      20

          Haste, oh, haste!
          As shades are chased,
      Trembling, by day, from heaven's blue waste,
          We melt away,
          Like dissolving spray,
      From the children of a diviner day,
          With the lullaby
          Of winds that die
      On the bosom of their own harmony!

      What dark forms were they?                                      30

      The past Hours weak and gray,
      With the spoil which their toil
        Raked together
      From the conquest but One could foil.

      Have they passed?

                         They have passed;
      They outspeeded the blast,
      While 't is said, they are fled!

          Whither, oh, whither?

      To the dark, to the past, to the dead.

          Bright clouds float in heaven,                              40
          Dew-stars gleam on earth,
          Waves assemble on ocean,
          They are gathered and driven
      By the storm of delight, by the panic of glee!
          They shake with emotion,
          They dance in their mirth.
            But where are ye?

          The pine boughs are singing
          Old songs with new gladness,
          The billows and fountains                                   50
          Fresh music are flinging,
      Like the notes of a spirit from land and from sea;
          The storms mock the mountains
          With the thunder of gladness,
            But where are ye?

      What charioteers are these?

                                   Where are their chariots?

      The voice of the Spirits of Air and of Earth
        Has drawn back the figured curtain of sleep,
      Which covered our being and darkened our birth
        In the deep.

                      In the deep?

                                    Oh! below the deep.               60

      An hundred ages we had been kept
        Cradled in visions of hate and care,
      And each one who waked as his brother slept
        Found the truth--

                           Worse than his visions were!

      We have heard the lute of Hope in sleep;
        We have known the voice of Love in dreams;
      We have felt the wand of Power, and leap--

        As the billows leap in the morning beams!

      Weave the dance on the floor of the breeze,
        Pierce with song heaven's silent light,                       70
      Enchant the day that too swiftly flees,
        To check its flight ere the cave of night.

      Once the hungry Hours were hounds
        Which chased the day like a bleeding deer,
      And it limped and stumbled with many wounds
        Through the nightly dells of the desert year.

      But now, oh, weave the mystic measure
        Of music, and dance, and shapes of light,
      Let the Hours, and the Spirits of might and pleasure,
        Like the clouds and sunbeams, unite--

                                              Unite!                  80

      See, where the Spirits of the human mind,
      Wrapped in sweet sounds, as in bright veils, approach.

            We join the throng
            Of the dance and the song,
      By the whirlwind of gladness borne along;
            As the flying-fish leap
            From the Indian deep
      And mix with the sea-birds half-asleep.

      Whence come ye, so wild and so fleet,
      For sandals of lightning are on your feet,                      90
      And your wings are soft and swift as thought,
      And your eyes are as love which is veiled not?

            We come from the mind
            Of humankind,
      Which was late so dusk, and obscene, and blind;
            Now 't is an ocean
            Of clear emotion,
      A heaven of serene and mighty motion.

            From that deep abyss
            Of wonder and bliss,                                     100
      Whose caverns are crystal palaces;
            From those skyey towers
            Where Thought's crowned powers
      Sit watching your dance, ye happy Hours!

            From the dim recesses
            Of woven caresses,
      Where lovers catch ye by your loose tresses;
            From the azure isles,
            Where sweet Wisdom smiles,
      Delaying your ships with her siren wiles.                      110

            From the temples high
            Of Man's ear and eye,
      Roofed over Sculpture and Poesy;
            From the murmurings
            Of the unsealed springs,
      Where Science bedews his dædal wings.

            Years after years,
            Through blood, and tears,
      And a thick hell of hatreds, and hopes, and fears,
            We waded and flew,                                       120
            And the islets were few
      Where the bud-blighted flowers of happiness grew.

            Our feet now, every palm,
            Are sandalled with calm,
      And the dew of our wings is a rain of balm;
            And, beyond our eyes,
            The human love lies,
      Which makes all it gazes on Paradise.

      Then weave the web of the mystic measure;
        From the depths of the sky and the ends of the earth,        130
      Come, swift Spirits of might and of pleasure,
        Fill the dance and the music of mirth,
      As the waves of a thousand streams rush by
      To an ocean of splendor and harmony!

            Our spoil is won,
            Our task is done,
      We are free to dive, or soar, or run;
            Beyond and around,
            Or within the bound
      Which clips the world with darkness round.                     140

            We'll pass the eyes
            Of the starry skies
      Into the hoar deep to colonize;
            Death, Chaos and Night,
            From the sound of our flight,
      Shall flee, like mist from a tempest's might.

            And Earth, Air and Light,
            And the Spirit of Might,
      Which drives round the stars in their fiery flight;
            And Love, Thought and Breath,                            150
            The powers that quell Death,
      Wherever we soar shall assemble beneath.

            And our singing shall build
            In the void's loose field
      A world for the Spirit of Wisdom to wield;
            We will take our plan
            From the new world of man,
      And our work shall be called the Promethean.

        Break the dance, and scatter the song;
          Let some depart, and some remain;                          160

        We, beyond heaven, are driven along;

          Us the enchantments of earth retain;

      Ceaseless, and rapid, and fierce, and free,
      With the Spirits which build a new earth and sea,
      And a heaven where yet heaven could never be;

      Solemn, and slow, and serene, and bright,
      Leading the Day, and outspeeding the Night,
      With the powers of a world of perfect light;

      We whirl, singing loud, round the gathering sphere,
      Till the trees, and the beasts, and the clouds appear          170
      From its chaos made calm by love, not fear;

      We encircle the ocean and mountains of earth,
      And the happy forms of its death and birth
      Change to the music of our sweet mirth.

      Break the dance, and scatter the song;
        Let some depart, and some remain;
      Wherever we fly we lead along
      In leashes, like star-beams, soft yet strong,
        The clouds that are heavy with love's sweet rain.

      Ha! they are gone!

                          Yet feel you no delight                    180
      From the past sweetness?

                                As the bare green hill,
      When some soft cloud vanishes into rain,
      Laughs with a thousand drops of sunny water
      To the unpavilioned sky!

                                Even whilst we speak
      New notes arise. What is that awful sound?

      'T is the deep music of the rolling world,
      Kindling within the strings of the waved air
      Aeolian modulations.

                            Listen too,
      How every pause is filled with under-notes,
      Clear, silver, icy, keen awakening tones,                      190
      Which pierce the sense, and live within the soul,
      As the sharp stars pierce winter's crystal air
      And gaze upon themselves within the sea.

      But see where, through two openings in the forest
      Which hanging branches overcanopy,
      And where two runnels of a rivulet,
      Between the close moss violet-inwoven,
      Have made their path of melody, like sisters
      Who part with sighs that they may meet in smiles,
      Turning their dear disunion to an isle                         200
      Of lovely grief, a wood of sweet sad thoughts;
      Two visions of strange radiance float upon
      The ocean-like enchantment of strong sound,
      Which flows intenser, keener, deeper yet,
      Under the ground and through the windless air.

      I see a chariot like that thinnest boat
      In which the mother of the months is borne
      By ebbing night into her western cave,
      When she upsprings from interlunar dreams;
      O'er which is curved an orb-like canopy                        210
      Of gentle darkness, and the hills and woods,
      Distinctly seen through that dusk airy veil,
      Regard like shapes in an enchanter's glass;
      Its wheels are solid clouds, azure and gold,
      Such as the genii of the thunder-storm
      Pile on the floor of the illumined sea
      When the sun rushes under it; they roll
      And move and grow as with an inward wind;
      Within it sits a winged infant--white
      Its countenance, like the whiteness of bright snow,            220
      Its plumes are as feathers of sunny frost,
      Its limbs gleam white, through the wind-flowing folds
      Of its white robe, woof of ethereal pearl,
      Its hair is white, the brightness of white light
      Scattered in strings; yet its two eyes are heavens
      Of liquid darkness, which the Deity
      Within seems pouring, as a storm is poured
      From jagged clouds, out of their arrowy lashes,
      Tempering the cold and radiant air around
      With fire that is not brightness; in its hand                  230
      It sways a quivering moonbeam, from whose point
      A guiding power directs the chariot's prow
      Over its wheeled clouds, which as they roll
      Over the grass, and flowers, and waves, wake sounds,
      Sweet as a singing rain of silver dew.

      And from the other opening in the wood
      Rushes, with loud and whirlwind harmony,
      A sphere, which is as many thousand spheres;
      Solid as crystal, yet through all its mass
      Flow, as through empty space, music and light;                 240
      Ten thousand orbs involving and involved,
      Purple and azure, white, green and golden,
      Sphere within sphere; and every space between
      Peopled with unimaginable shapes,
      Such as ghosts dream dwell in the lampless deep;
      Yet each inter-transpicuous; and they whirl
      Over each other with a thousand motions,
      Upon a thousand sightless axles spinning,
      And with the force of self-destroying swiftness,
      Intensely, slowly, solemnly, roll on,                          250
      Kindling with mingled sounds, and many tones,
      Intelligible words and music wild.
      With mighty whirl the multitudinous orb
      Grinds the bright brook into an azure mist
      Of elemental subtlety, like light;
      And the wild odor of the forest flowers,
      The music of the living grass and air,
      The emerald light of leaf-entangled beams,
      Round its intense yet self-conflicting speed
      Seem kneaded into one aerial mass				     260
      Which drowns the sense. Within the orb itself,
      Pillowed upon its alabaster arms,
      Like to a child o'erwearied with sweet toil,
      On its own folded wings and wavy hair
      The Spirit of the Earth is laid asleep,
      And you can see its little lips are moving,
      Amid the changing light of their own smiles,
      Like one who talks of what he loves in dream.

      'T is only mocking the orb's harmony.

      And from a star upon its forehead shoot,                       270
      Like swords of azure fire or golden spears
      With tyrant-quelling myrtle overtwined,
      Embleming heaven and earth united now,
      Vast beams like spokes of some invisible wheel
      Which whirl as the orb whirls, swifter than thought,
      Filling the abyss with sun-like lightnings,
      And perpendicular now, and now transverse,
      Pierce the dark soil, and as they pierce and pass
      Make bare the secrets of the earth's deep heart;
      Infinite mine of adamant and gold,                             280
      Valueless stones, and unimagined gems,
      And caverns on crystalline columns poised
      With vegetable silver overspread;
      Wells of unfathomed fire, and water-springs
      Whence the great sea even as a child is fed,
      Whose vapors clothe earth's monarch mountain-tops
      With kingly, ermine snow. The beams flash on
      And make appear the melancholy ruins
      Of cancelled cycles; anchors, beaks of ships;
      Planks turned to marble; quivers, helms, and spears,           290
      And gorgon-headed targes, and the wheels
      Of scyth'd chariots, and the emblazonry
      Of trophies, standards, and armorial beasts,
      Round which death laughed, sepulchred emblems
      Of dead destruction, ruin within ruin!
      The wrecks beside of many a city vast,
      Whose population which the earth grew over
      Was mortal, but not human; see, they lie,
      Their monstrous works, and uncouth skeletons,
      Their statues, homes and fanes; prodigious shapes              300
      Huddled in gray annihilation, split,
      Jammed in the hard, black deep; and over these,
      The anatomies of unknown wing'd things,
      And fishes which were isles of living scale,
      And serpents, bony chains, twisted around
      The iron crags, or within heaps of dust
      To which the tortuous strength of their last pangs
      Had crushed the iron crags; and over these
      The jagged alligator, and the might
      Of earth-convulsing behemoth, which once                       310
      Were monarch beasts, and on the slimy shores,
      And weed-overgrown continents of earth,
      Increased and multiplied like summer worms
      On an abandoned corpse, till the blue globe
      Wrapped deluge round it like a cloak, and they
      Yelled, gasped, and were abolished; or some God,
      Whose throne was in a comet, passed, and cried,
      Be not! and like my words they were no more.

      The joy, the triumph, the delight, the madness!
      The boundless, overflowing, bursting gladness,                 320
      The vaporous exultation not to be confined!
        Ha! ha! the animation of delight
        Which wraps me, like an atmosphere of light,
      And bears me as a cloud is borne by its own wind.

        Brother mine, calm wanderer,
        Happy globe of land and air,
      Some Spirit is darted like a beam from thee,
        Which penetrates my frozen frame,
        And passes with the warmth of flame,
      With love, and odor, and deep melody                           330
          Through me, through me!

        Ha! ha! the caverns of my hollow mountains,
        My cloven fire-crags, sound-exulting fountains,
      Laugh with a vast and inextinguishable laughter.
        The oceans, and the deserts, and the abysses,
        And the deep air's unmeasured wildernesses,
      Answer from all their clouds and billows, echoing after.

        They cry aloud as I do. Sceptred curse,
        Who all our green and azure universe
      Threatenedst to muffle round with black destruction, sending   340
        A solid cloud to rain hot thunder-stones
        And splinter and knead down my children's bones,
      All I bring forth, to one void mass battering and blending,

        Until each crag-like tower, and storied column,
        Palace, and obelisk, and temple solemn,
      My imperial mountains crowned with cloud, and snow, and fire,
        My sea-like forests, every blade and blossom
        Which finds a grave or cradle in my bosom,
      Were stamped by thy strong hate into a lifeless mire:

        How art thou sunk, withdrawn, covered, drunk up              350
        By thirsty nothing, as the brackish cup
      Drained by a desert-troop, a little drop for all;
        And from beneath, around, within, above,
        Filling thy void annihilation, love
      Bursts in like light on caves cloven by the thunder-ball!

        The snow upon my lifeless mountains
        Is loosened into living fountains,
      My solid oceans flow, and sing and shine;
        A spirit from my heart bursts forth,
        It clothes with unexpected birth                             360
      My cold bare bosom. Oh, it must be thine
                On mine, on mine!

        Gazing on thee I feel, I know,
        Green stalks burst forth, and bright flowers grow,
      And living shapes upon my bosom move;
        Music is in the sea and air,
        Wing'd clouds soar here and there
      Dark with the rain new buds are dreaming of:
                'T is love, all love!

        It interpenetrates my granite mass,                          370
        Through tangled roots and trodden clay doth pass
      Into the utmost leaves and delicatest flowers;
        Upon the winds, among the clouds 't is spread,
        It wakes a life in the forgotten dead,--
      They breathe a spirit up from their obscurest bowers;

        And like a storm bursting its cloudy prison
        With thunder, and with whirlwind, has arisen
      Out of the lampless caves of unimagined being;
        With earthquake shock and swiftness making shiver
        Thought's stagnant chaos, unremoved forever,                 380
      Till hate, and fear, and pain, light-vanquished shadows, fleeing,

        Leave Man, who was a many-sided mirror
        Which could distort to many a shape of error
      This true fair world of things, a sea reflecting love;
        Which over all his kind, as the sun's heaven
        Gliding o'er ocean, smooth, serene, and even,
      Darting from starry depths radiance and life doth move:

        Leave Man even as a leprous child is left,
        Who follows a sick beast to some warm cleft
      Of rocks, through which the might of healing springs is 
            poured;                                                  390
        Then when it wanders home with rosy smile,
        Unconscious, and its mother fears awhile
      It is a spirit, then weeps on her child restored:

        Man, oh, not men! a chain of linked thought,
        Of love and might to be divided not,
      Compelling the elements with adamantine stress;
        As the sun rules even with a tyrant's gaze
        The unquiet republic of the maze
      Of planets, struggling fierce towards heaven's free wilderness:

        Man, one harmonious soul of many a soul,		       400
        Whose nature is its own divine control,
      Where all things flow to all, as rivers to the sea;
        Familiar acts are beautiful through love;
        Labor, and pain, and grief, in life's green grove
      Sport like tame beasts; none knew how gentle they could be!

        His will, with all mean passions, bad delights,
        And selfish cares, its trembling satellites,
      A spirit ill to guide, but mighty to obey,
        Is as a tempest-winged ship, whose helm
        Love rules, through waves which dare not overwhelm,          410
      Forcing life's wildest shores to own its sovereign sway.

        All things confess his strength. Through the cold mass
        Of marble and of color his dreams pass--
      Bright threads whence mothers weave the robes their children wear;
        Language is a perpetual Orphic song,
        Which rules with dædal harmony a throng
      Of thoughts and forms, which else senseless and shapeless were.

        The lightning is his slave; heaven's utmost deep
        Gives up her stars, and like a flock of sheep
      They pass before his eye, are numbered, and roll on!           420
        The tempest is his steed, he strides the air;
        And the abyss shouts from her depth laid bare,
      'Heaven, hast thou secrets? Man unveils me; I have none.'

          The shadow of white death has passed
          From my path in heaven at last,
        A clinging shroud of solid frost and sleep;
          And through my newly woven bowers,
          Wander happy paramours,
        Less mighty, but as mild as those who keep
              Thy vales more deep.                                   430

        As the dissolving warmth of dawn may fold
        A half unfrozen dew-globe, green, and gold,
      And crystalline, till it becomes a winged mist,
        And wanders up the vault of the blue day,
      Outlives the noon, and on the sun's last ray
      Hangs o'er the sea, a fleece of fire and amethyst.

          Thou art folded, thou art lying
          In the light which is undying
        Of thine own joy, and heaven's smile divine;
          All suns and constellations shower                         440
          On thee a light, a life, a power,
        Which doth array thy sphere; thou pourest thine
            On mine, on mine!

        I spin beneath my pyramid of night
        Which points into the heavens, dreaming delight,
      Murmuring victorious joy in my enchanted sleep;
        As a youth lulled in love-dreams faintly sighing,
        Under the shadow of his beauty lying,
      Which round his rest a watch of light and warmth doth keep.

          As in the soft and sweet eclipse,                          450
          When soul meets soul on lovers' lips,
        High hearts are calm, and brightest eyes are dull;
          So when thy shadow falls on me,
          Then am I mute and still, by thee
        Covered; of thy love, Orb most beautiful,
              Full, oh, too full!

          Thou art speeding round the sun,
          Brightest world of many a one;
          Green and azure sphere which shinest
          With a light which is divinest                             460
          Among all the lamps of Heaven
          To whom life and light is given;
          I, thy crystal paramour,
          Borne beside thee by a power
          Like the polar Paradise,
          Magnet-like, of lovers' eyes;
          I, a most enamoured maiden,
          Whose weak brain is overladen
          With the pleasure of her love,
          Maniac-like around thee move,
          Gazing, an insatiate bride,                                470
          On thy form from every side,
          Like a Mænad round the cup
          Which Agave lifted up
          In the weird Cadmean forest.
          Brother, wheresoe'er thou soarest
          I must hurry, whirl and follow
          Through the heavens wide and hollow,
          Sheltered by the warm embrace
          Of thy soul from hungry space,                             480
          Drinking from thy sense and sight
          Beauty, majesty and might,
          As a lover or a chameleon
          Grows like what it looks upon,
          As a violet's gentle eye
          Gazes on the azure sky
        Until its hue grows like what it beholds,
          As a gray and watery mist
          Glows like solid amethyst
        Athwart the western mountain it enfolds,                     490
          When the sunset sleeps
            Upon its snow.

        And the weak day weeps
          That it should be so.
      O gentle Moon, the voice of thy delight
      Falls on me like thy clear and tender light
      Soothing the seaman borne the summer night
        Through isles forever calm;
      O gentle Moon, thy crystal accents pierce
      The caverns of my pride's deep universe,                       500
      Charming the tiger joy, whose tramplings fierce
        Made wounds which need thy balm.

      I rise as from a bath of sparkling water,
      A bath of azure light, among dark rocks,
      Out of the stream of sound.

                                   Ah me! sweet sister,
      The stream of sound has ebbed away from us,
      And you pretend to rise out of its wave,
      Because your words fall like the clear soft dew
      Shaken from a bathing wood-nymph's limbs and hair.

      Peace, peace! a mighty Power, which is as darkness,            510
      Is rising out of Earth, and from the sky
      Is showered like night, and from within the air
      Bursts, like eclipse which had been gathered up
      Into the pores of sunlight; the bright visions,
      Wherein the singing Spirits rode and shone,
      Gleam like pale meteors through a watery night.

      There is a sense of words upon mine ear.

      An universal sound like words: Oh, list!

      Thou, Earth, calm empire of a happy soul,
        Sphere of divinest shapes and harmonies,                     520
      Beautiful orb! gathering as thou dost roll
        The love which paves thy path along the skies:

      I hear: I am as a drop of dew that dies.

      Thou, Moon, which gazest on the nightly Earth
        With wonder, as it gazes upon thee;
      Whilst each to men, and beasts, and the swift birth
      Of birds, is beauty, love, calm, harmony:

      I hear: I am a leaf shaken by thee.

      Ye kings of suns and stars, Dæmons and Gods,
        Ethereal Dominations, who possess                            530
      Elysian, windless, fortunate abodes
        Beyond Heaven's constellated wilderness:

A VOICE (from above )
      Our great Republic hears: we are blessed, and bless.

      Ye happy dead, whom beams of brightest verse
        Are clouds to hide, not colors to portray,
      Whether your nature is that universe
        Which once ye saw and suffered--

                                          Or, as they
      Whom we have left, we change and pass away.

      Ye elemental Genii, who have homes
        From man's high mind even to the central stone               540
      Of sullen lead; from Heaven's star-fretted domes
        To the dull weed some sea-worm battens on:

      We hear: thy words waken Oblivion.

      Spirits, whose homes are flesh; ye beasts and birds,
        Ye worms and fish; ye living leaves and buds;
      Lightning and wind; and ye untamable herds,
        Meteors and mists, which throng air's solitudes:

      Thy voice to us is wind among still woods.

      Man, who wert once a despot and a slave,
        A dupe and a deceiver! a decay,                              550
      A traveller from the cradle to the grave
        Through the dim night of this immortal day:

      Speak: thy strong words may never pass away.

      This is the day which down the void abysm
      At the Earth-born's spell yawns for Heaven's despotism,
        And Conquest is dragged captive through the deep;
      Love, from its awful throne of patient power
      In the wise heart, from the last giddy hour
        Of dread endurance, from the slippery, steep,
      And narrow verge of crag-like agony, springs                   560
      And folds over the world its healing wings.

      Gentleness, Virtue, Wisdom, and Endurance--
      These are the seals of that most firm assurance
        Which bars the pit over Destruction's strength;
      And if, with infirm hand, Eternity,
      Mother of many acts and hours, should free
        The serpent that would clasp her with his length,
      These are the spells by which to reassume
      An empire o'er the disentangled doom.

      To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite;                     570
      To forgive wrongs darker than death or night;
        To defy Power, which seems omnipotent;
      To love, and bear; to hope till Hope creates
      From its own wreck the thing it contemplates;
        Neither to change, nor falter, nor repent;
      This, like thy glory, Titan, is to be
      Good, great and joyous, beautiful and free;
      This is alone Life; Joy, Empire, and Victory!