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Still nigh the shaded ditch that bounds
But we, unable here to stay,
Yet come what will hereafter, stay,
* For the information of country friends, it may be right to state that no satire is here intended : King's College men do not try for Mathematical honors, because, owing to a peculiar composition between their College and the University, they are admitted to their B.A. degree without any University examination.
THE PROMETHEUS BOUND.
PROMETHEUS must be regarded as a type of humanity, or rather as the collective spirit, as the symbol and product of all the combined powers of the human mind. We are taught that in the beginning the Titanic Powers were the kings of heaven and of earth, and of the invisible realms under the earth. These were the primæval principles of nature, undirected by order or by law; these were the indomitable and fiery passions of the heart, ere reason had caused her light to shine on the chaotic waters of the moral world.
In the Grecian Mythology we have a golden age, corresponding to the period of innocence and happiness enjoyed by the primal parents of our race, during their sojourn in the Garden of Eden,-in the Mosaic history. Man fell: hence sin originant in the scheme of revelation. Man fell : hence the fable of Pandora, and the return to heaven of the virgin Astræa in the Heathen Mythology: hence too, in a later age, the acknowledgment by the Grecian intellect of this grand tradition of humanity-the tradition of Original Sin. In the invention of the Mythos of Psyche and Eros, the doctrine was fully recognized. Here Grecian Mythology was exhausted. It had done its duty. Its power passed away Kronos, or Saturn, was the arch-divinity of a real or imaginary state of innocence and happiness,—he succeeded to the heaven and the earth. Under his sway man enjoyed a pleasurable existence indeed, but one little superior to that of the merely animal tribes of earth
“ for he refused
Which pierces this dim universe like light.”
And now a brighter period seemed to await the “race of Ephemerals." There was a gathering among the nations—there was a vast convulsion of our moral and intellectual nature the collected cloud of mind discharged its lightning-humanity struggled forward in the road towards perfection. It is of humanity in this stage that Prometheus is the type: Zeus is indicative of the ruling power of the time; he is the symbol of that portion of the spirit of the age which was absolutely and necessarily opposed to all improvement,—because improvement implied change, and to authorize change would be to confess its own weakness, and the imperfection of its own laws and ordinances. Yet was the empire given to Zeus, and for a short while the spirit of humanity typified in Prometheus imagined that the goal was attained, and that happiness was won. Too soon experience convinced him of his error: in vain was Saturn overthrown-in vain was Zeus clothed with the dominion of wide heaven; he kept no faith with man~he used his power only to oppress. Then first rose famine, and fear, and mur
der, and fraud, and the whole host of moral and physical ills to which our race is heir; and men curst the day in which they had exchanged the sceptre of Kronos for that of Zeus. But the march towards perfection had begun, and none could stay its progress; none could be found daring enough, or foolish enough, to arrest humanity in its everlasting march towards the infinite good and the infinite beautiful,
“ thus far shalt thou go, and no farther.” The spirit - the Prometheus of man was not dead, but sleeping. Ages past by, and lo, another convulsion of mind ! and like a giant refreshed with slumber, Prometheus again awoke. Then first the legion of hopes which people the heart of man, budded and bore fruit. Then first language acquired beauty and strength. Then first art and science took man by the hand, and led him through their serene and beautiful dominions. Then first Poesy, with the brightful eyes of her early childhood, leapt from her cradle to subdue the wild passions of man's nature, and to call forth all the sweet and holy feelings--all the delicacies, and gentlenesses, and patiences, which the mighty mother had garnered in his heart; and then—oh, blessed and most royal climax!—then first Poesy, in co-operation with her elder sister Reason, taught Humanity
“Self-empire, and the majesty of love." Alas that Zeus, who should have been the father, as well as the king of the children of earth, nourished only hatred and vengeance against them! Absolute dominion was all he aimed at, and in the fierce pride of his heart he took council how he might wholly destroy the human race. At this crisis the great champion again stood forth: gentle, and mild, and loving as he was, he rose indignantly against the tyrant. He had already offended him and the allied sovrans of heaven and earth, by the theft of fire-the emblem of wisdom or knowledge, which is power. Then war commenced between the oppressors and the opprest: the victory was dubious—the human race was redeemed from destruction, but the spirit of Humanity was overpowered,—yet, only for a time.
It is at this era in the history of man, that the tragedy of Æschylus dates.
We will now proceed to give some faint idea of this marvellous triumph of the human intellect, by placing before the reader some passages selected from an original translation of the Chained Prometheus. In the very verge of the world, full of all sounds and sights of fear—in a ravine of icy rocks, Prometheus is discovered bound. While the operation was proceeding under the agency of Hephæstus and his Satellites, Strength and Force, not one syllable of expostulation, not one prayer
fell from his lips: once only a “low but dreadful groan," wrung forth by intensest agony, “tore up the heart of the good Titan.” But now that his persecutors are gone—now that there is none to overhear him, he pours forth the long-suppressed feelings of his soul in the following indignant and impassioned appeal to the elements :
“ Air, holy air ! winds poised on swiftest wings,
Imperial fountains of ten thousand rivers,
And thou, triumphant sun! whose golden eye
See what tortures wake my scorn,
I must wrestle with my fate,
By the jealous tyrant's hate.
The goals of misery, where are they?
Ah! what sound the silence breaketh ?
Is floating thro' the enchanted air ?
Or prophesy of mortal fair ?
The scorn of all the gods of story,
In the pavilions of his glory!
What can it be?_it seems to me
All that cometh brings me fear !” But Prometheus had little cause to fear. The gentle and affectionate Sea-nymphs had heard the echo of the steel when the hero was chained to the rock,-far, far below, in “ the glaucous caverns of Old Ocean;" and now they have come to console him with sweet and comfortable words, and with soft and silvery songs. Prometheus tells them his story: the eyes of the loving and tender-hearted sisters are filled with tears as they sing
“ Only one other god we've known,
In adamantine fetters groan ;
And the surges hiss
In their black abyss,
And the gloomy cell
Of the spectral hell,
Shouts forth in a voice of thunder !" We quote the following passage from a hymn, which commences with an address to Zeus, to illustrate the simple, yet beautiful piety of these fair young spirits of the ocean :
“Lord of Life! enthroned on high,
Lord of Earth, Air, Sea, and Sky!
Will hold a festal day,
Are at their ceaseless play!
Nor glide froin out my spirit's shrine.”