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58 24. The Silver Age came next, inferior to the golden. Jupiter shortened the spring, and divided the year into seasons. Then, first, men suffered the extremes of heat and cold, and houses became necessary. ) Caves were their dwellings, - and leafy coverts of the woods, and huts woven of twigs. Crops would no longer grow without planting. The farmer was constrained to sow the seed, and the ox to draw the plough. This was a race of manly men, but insolent and impious. And when they died, Jupiter made them ghosts of the underworld, but withheld the privilege of immortal life. V p 4 for E. "§ 25. Prometheus, Champion of Man. — During this age when, as Hesiod says, the altars of the blessed were neglected, and the gods were denied their due, Prometheus stood forth — the champion of man against the Olympians. For the son of Cronus had grudged mortals the use of fire, and was, in fact, contemplating their annihilation and the creation of a new race. Therefore, once upon a time, when gods and men were in dispute at Sicyon concerning the prerogatives of each, Prometheus, by an ingenious trick, attempted to settle the question in favor of man. Dividing into two portions a sacrificial bull, he wrapped all the eatable parts in the skin, cunningly surmounted with uninviting entrails; but the bones he garnished with a plausible mass of fat. He then offered Jupiter his choice. The king of Heaven, although he perceived the intended fraud, took the heap of bones and fat, and, forthwith availing himself of this insult as an excuse for punishing mankind, deprived the race of fire. But Prometheus regained the treasure, stealing it from Heaven in a hollow tube.
Pandora. — Doubly enraged, Jupiter, in his turn, had recourse to stratagem. He is declared to have planned for man a curse in the shape of woman. How the race had persisted hitherto without woman is a mystery ; but that it had done so, with no slight degree of happiness, the experience of the Golden Age would seem to prove. However, the bewitching evil was fash
1 There is uncertainty as to the mythical period of these events. The order here given seems to me well grounded. Hes. Works and Days, 180; Theog., 790-910.
ioned, - in Heaven, properly enough, — and every god and goddess contributed something to her perfection. One gave her beauty, another persuasive charm, a third the faculty of music. And they named her Pandora, “the gift of all the gods.” Thus equipped, she was conveyed to earth, and presented to Epimetheus, who, without hesitation, accepted the gift, though cautioned by his brother to beware of Jupiter and all his ways. And the caution was not groundless. In the hand of Pandora had been placed by the immortals a casket or vase which she was forbidden to open. Overcome by an unaccountable curiosity to know what this vessel contained, she one day lifted the cover and looked in. Forthwith there escaped a multitude of plagues for hapless man - gout, rheumatism, and colic for his body; envy, spite, and revenge for his mind -- and scattered themselves far and wide. Pandora hastened to replace the lid ; but one thing only remained in the casket, and that was hope.
Because of his unselfish devotion to the cause of humanity, Prometheus drew down on himself the anger of Olympian Jove, by whose order he was chained to a rock on Mount Caucasus, and subjected to the attack of a vulture which, for ages, preyed upon his liver, yet succeeded not in consuming it. This state of torment might have been brought to an end at any time by Prometheus, if he had been willing to submit to his oppressor; for he possessed a secret which involved the stability of Jove's throne. But to reveal his secret he disdained. In this steadfastness he was supported by the knowledge that in the thirteenth generation there should arrive a hero, - a son of the mighty Jove - to release him. By his demeanor Prometheus has become the ensample of magnanimous endurance, and of resistance to oppression.
“Titan! to whose immortal eyes'
The sufferings of mortality, 4
Seen in their sad reality,
1 See Commentary, § 25.
What was thy pity's recompense ? ?
Until its voice is echoless. . :
To render with thy precepts less
The sum of human wretchedness,
Of thine impenetrable spirit,
A mighty lesson we inherit."1..
§ 26. A happy application of the story of Prometheus is made by Longfellow in the following verses : 2 —
' “Of Prometheus, how undaunted by a
1 “Beautiful is the tradition
Of that flight through heavenly portals,
Of the fire of the Immortals !
“First the deed of noble daring,
Born of heavenward aspiration,
1 From Byron's Prometheus. See also his translation from the Prometheus Vinctus of Æschylus, and his Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte.
2 Prometheus, or The Poet's Forethought. See Commentary, § 26.
Then the fire with mortals sharing,
Cry of pain on crags Caucasian. " All is but a symbol painted
Of the Poet, Prophet, Seer;
Making nations nobler, freer. “In their feverish exultations,
In their triumph and their yearning,
The Promethean fire is burning. “Shall it, then, be unavailing,
All this toil for human culture?
O'er life's barren crags the vulture? ** Such a fate as this was Dante's,
By defeat and exile maddened; Thus were Milton and Cervantes, Nature's priests and Corybantes,
By affliction touched and saddened.
“But the glories so transcendent
That around their memories cluster, And, on all their steps attendant, Make their darkened lives resplendent
With such gleams of inward lustre!
“ All the melodies mysterious,
Through the dreary darkness chanted;
Words that whispered, songs that haunted! “All the soul in rapt suspension,
All the quivering, palpitating Chords of life in utmost tension, With the fervor of invention,
With the rapture of creating !
“Ah, Prometheus! heaven-scaling!
In such hours of exultation
Round the cloudy crags Caucasian!
Strength for such sublime endeavor,
All the hearts of men forever;
Honor and believe the presage,
As they onward bear the message!" $ 27. Next to the Age of Silver came the Brazen Age,' more savage of temper and readier for the strife of arms, yet pot altogether wicked.
$ 28. Last came the hardest age and worst, the Age of Iron. Crime burst in like a flood; modesty, truth, and honor fed. The gifts of the earth were put only to nefarious uses. Fraud, violence, war at home and abroad were rife. The world was wet with slaughter; and the gods, one by one, abandoned it, Astræa, following last, goddess of innocence and purity.
The Flood. — Jupiter, observing the condition of things, burned with anger. He summoned the gods to council. Obeying the call, they travelled the Milky Way to the palace of Heaven. There, Jupiter set forth to the assembly the frightful condition of the earth, and announced his intention of destroying its inhabitants, and providing a new race, unlike the present, which should be worthier of life, and more reverent toward the gods. Fearing lest a conflagration might set Heaven itself on fire, he proceeded to drown the world. Not satisfied with his own waters, he called his brother Neptune to his aid. Speedily the race of men, and their possessions, were swept away by the deluge.
1 Compare Byron's political satire, The Age of Bronze.