Prometheus

Original Text: 
Byron, Works, 17 vols. (London: John Murray, 1832-33). PR 4351 M6 1832 ROBA.
2      The sufferings of mortality,
3      Seen in their sad reality,
4Were not as things that gods despise;
5What was thy pity's recompense?
6A silent suffering, and intense;
7The rock, the vulture, and the chain,
8All that the proud can feel of pain,
9The agony they do not show,
10The suffocating sense of woe,
11      Which speaks but in its loneliness,
12And then is jealous lest the sky
13Should have a listener, nor will sigh
14      Until its voice is echoless.
15Titan! to thee the strife was given
16      Between the suffering and the will,
17      Which torture where they cannot kill;
18And the inexorable Heaven,
19And the deaf tyranny of Fate,
20The ruling principle of Hate,
21Which for its pleasure doth create
22The things it may annihilate,
23Refus'd thee even the boon to die:
24The wretched gift Eternity
25Was thine--and thou hast borne it well.
26All that the Thunderer wrung from thee
27Was but the menace which flung back
28On him the torments of thy rack;
29The fate thou didst so well foresee,
30But would not to appease him tell;
31And in thy Silence was his Sentence,
32And in his Soul a vain repentance,
33And evil dread so ill dissembled,
34That in his hand the lightnings trembled.
35Thy Godlike crime was to be kind,
36      To render with thy precepts less
37      The sum of human wretchedness,
38And strengthen Man with his own mind;
39But baffled as thou wert from high,
40Still in thy patient energy,
41In the endurance, and repulse
42      Of thine impenetrable Spirit,
43Which Earth and Heaven could not convulse,
44      A mighty lesson we inherit:
45Thou art a symbol and a sign
46      To Mortals of their fate and force;
47Like thee, Man is in part divine,
48      A troubled stream from a pure source;
49And Man in portions can foresee
50His own funereal destiny;
51His wretchedness, and his resistance,
52And his sad unallied existence:
53To which his Spirit may oppose
54Itself--and equal to all woes,
55      And a firm will, and a deep sense,
56Which even in torture can descry
57      Its own concenter'd recompense,
58Triumphant where it dares defy,
59And making Death a Victory.

Notes

1] The Prometheus Bound of Aeschylus, in which Prometheus, chained to the Caucasian mountains and fed on by a vulture, suffers for his gift of fire to man and his defiance of Zeus, was one of Byron's favourite books.
Titan. The Titans belonged to the faction of Saturn, whom his son Zeus replaced as chief of the gods. Defeated but unsubmissive, the Titans (and Prometheus in particular) were popular in the nineteenth century as symbols of revolution or resistance to tyranny. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1816
RPO poem Editors: 
M. T. Wilson
RPO Edition: 
3RP 2.495.