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Prometheus Unbound: Act I (excerpt)

SCENE.--A Ravine of Icy Rocks in the Indian Caucasus. Prometheus is discovered bound to the Precipice. Panthea and Ione areseated at his feet. Time, night. During the Scene, morning slowly breaks.
  Monarch of Gods and Dæmons, and all Spirits
  But One, who throng those bright and rolling worlds
  Which Thou and I alone of living things
  Behold with sleepless eyes! regard this Earth
  Made multitudinous with thy slaves, whom thou
  Requitest for knee-worship, prayer, and praise,
  And toil, and hecatombs of broken hearts,
  With fear and self-contempt and barren hope.
  Whilst me, who am thy foe, eyeless in hate,
  Hast thou made reign and triumph, to thy scorn,
  O'er mine own misery and thy vain revenge.
  Three thousand years of sleep-unsheltered hours,
  And moments aye divided by keen pangs
  Till they seemed years, torture and solitude,
  Scorn and despair,--these are mine empire:--
  More glorious far than that which thou surveyest
  From thine unenvied throne, O Mighty God!
  Almighty, had I deigned to share the shame
  Of thine ill tyranny, and hung not here
  Nailed to this wall of eagle-baffling mountain,
  Black, wintry, dead, unmeasured; without herb,
  Insect, or beast, or shape or sound of life.
  Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, for ever!

  No change, no pause, no hope! Yet I endure.
  I ask the Earth, have not the mountains felt?
  I ask yon Heaven, the all-beholding Sun,
  Has it not seen? The Sea, in storm or calm,
  Heaven's ever-changing Shadow, spread below,
  Have its deaf waves not heard my agony?
  Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, for ever!

  The crawling glaciers pierce me with the spears
  Of their moon-freezing crystals, the bright chains
  Eat with their burning cold into my bones.
  Heaven's wingèd hound, polluting from thy lips
  His beak in poison not his own, tears up
  My heart; and shapeless sights come wandering by,
  The ghastly people of the realm of dream,
  Mocking me: and the Earthquake-fiends are charged
  To wrench the rivets from my quivering wounds
  When the rocks split and close again behind:
  While from their loud abysses howling throng
  The genii of the storm, urging the rage
  Of whirlwind, and afflict me with keen hail.
  And yet to me welcome is day and night,
  Whether one breaks the hoar frost of the morn,
  Or starry, dim, and slow, the other climbs
  The leaden-coloured east; for then they lead
  The wingless, crawling hours, one among whom
  --As some dark Priest hales the reluctant victim--
  Shall drag thee, cruel King, to kiss the blood
  From these pale feet, which then might trample thee
  If they disdained not such a prostrate slave.
  Disdain! Ah no! I pity thee. What ruin
  Will hunt thee undefended through wide Heaven!
  How will thy soul, cloven to its depth with terror,
  Gape like a hell within! I speak in grief,
  Not exultation, for I hate no more,
  As then ere misery made me wise. The curse
  Once breathed on thee I would recall. Ye Mountains,
  Whose many-voicèd Echoes, through the mist
  Of cataracts, flung the thunder of that spell!
  Ye icy Springs, stagnant with wrinkling frost,
  Which vibrated to hear me, and then crept
  Shuddering through India! Thou serenest Air,
  Through which the Sun walks burning without beams!
  And ye swift Whirlwinds, who on poisèd wings
  Hung mute and moveless o'er yon hushed abyss,
  As thunder, louder than your own, made rock
  The orbèd world! If then my words had power,
  Though I am changed so that aught evil wish
  Is dead within; although no memory be
  Of what is hate, let them not lose it now!
  What was that curse? for ye all heard me speak....

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:04 min read

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Percy Bysshe Shelley was one of the major English Romantic poets and is regarded by critics as among the finest lyric poets in the English language. more…

All Percy Bysshe Shelley poems | Percy Bysshe Shelley Books

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