John Stuart Blackie: Lays and Legends of Ancient Greece (1880) - PANDORA

John Stuart Blackie: Lays and Legends of Ancient Greece (1880) - PANDORA

Posted June 12th, 2007 by webmaster





John Stuart Blackie

Lays and Legends of Ancient Greece




Prometheus was a famous moulder

In the Greek time,

Ere the blind Smyrnean minstrel

Wove his pictured rhyme.

Sprung from oldest Earth and Heaven’s

Titan progeny,

Hardly-limbed, and sturdy labour’s

Primal type was he.

One day, ’neath the slanting chariot

Of the cooler sun,

He did sweat, his task to finish

Ere the day was done.

With the finely plastic finger’s

Soft-subduing sway,

He did shape the breathing feature

From the senseless clay,

Like a god: and therefore jealous

Of such godlike skill,

Mighty Jove the purpose nursed

To break his hardy will.

Vainly; for Jove’s fire then Titan

In a smoking reed,

From the glowing empyrean

Drew with furtive speed;

And by might of all subduing

Chymick fire had taught

Arts to crudest-witted mortals

From wild wanderings brought.

Him and them the harsh Olympian

From his throne sublime,

Feared, lest they with strong invention

To the stars should climb

And mar his new dominion. Wherefore

He to daze the sight

Of the Titan wise prepares,

With sensuous splendour bright.

With Apollo’s slanting chariot,

And the cooler ray.

He hath sent his minion Hermes,

Winged with speed to-day,

Shod with guile to where the Titan

Kneads the pliant clay.

Lo! he comes, the nimble-sandalled

Airy-footed god,

And with softly-soothing motion

Waves his golden rod.

Nor comes alone: behind him breathing

Rosy beauty warm,

Veiled with glory iridescent,

Floats a gentle form.

Oh, she is fair beyond compare!

Her the thunder high

With all beauty’s bravery pranked

To trick the Titan’s eye.

Her thy forging wit, Hephaestus,

Cunningly did frame;

Every god his virtue gave

To make a perfect dame.

With soft swelling smoothness Venus

Rounded every limb,

And her full deep eye cerulean

Dashed with wanton whim.

Round her chiselled mouth the Graces

Wove their wreathings rare,

And his sunny radiance Phoebus

Showered upon her hair.

Juno gave the lofty stature

That trips the springy green.

Tuned her throat the grace of Muses

To the perfect bird;

Hermes from her tongue sweet-suasive

Winged the witching word.

With a various pictured vesture,

Woven thin and fine,

From subtle-threaded loom Athena

Clad the shape divine.

Thus with gifts well-dowered, Pandora,,

Now by Hermes led,

With a sudden beauty glorious,

Floods the sober shed

Where the patient Titan labours;

Him in wonder lost

Thus with glib address Jive’s courier

Smartly doth accost:

Son of Themis, lofty-counselled,

This from Hermes know,

Jove the patient cunning honouring

Of his whilom foe,

Sends for solace of thy labour,

And thy thanks to claim,

Gift of gods this glory-garnished

Beauty-breathing dame.

Shake the dust from off thy vesture;

Pleasure after pain,

The just meed that virtue merits,

Clears the cloudy brain.”

Thus the god; but wise Prometheus

Turns his face away,

And with cool design deep-thoughted

Kneads the yielding clay:

Nay, quoth Hermes, surely madness

Makes the wise her own,

Or he to stony labour used

Himself is grown a stone!

Charm his ear attendant Muses,

With quick rapture thrill

Every life-string! mighty Music

Tames the stoutest will.

Spake the god; and like bright wavelets

Of the sounding sea

Filled the Titan’s ear a gentle

Rush of melody;

Sounds as when the quire of Phoebus

Trip with tinkling feet

Round thy fair fount, Aganippe,

Singing clear and sweet;

Sounds as when goat-footed Faunus

In a mossy nook

Pipes his drowsy reed at noon-day

To the murmuring brook;

Sounds so rare as Jove Olympian

Drinks with ravished ears

When he hears the beat canorous

Of the travelling spheres;

Every sound that voiceful April

Lends the floating breeze,

Laden with the fragrant burden

From the fresh-tipt trees:

With such sweet assailing voices

Cunning Hermes plied

Wise Prometheus; but the Titan

The strong spell defied.

Eye and ear soft seducement

Stern he turned away,

Till his faithful hand had ended

With its task the day.


On a grassy slope recumbent,

Epimetheus lies;

Epimetheus, witless brother

Of Prometheus wise.

In the pleasant sun he basketh,

And with dreamful eyes,

Weeting half, and half unweeting,

Follows, as it flies,

Every shade that sweeps the meadow;

And with cradled ear,

The mingled hum of summer voices

Drowsily doth hear.

Thus at ease supine he lieth,

Nursing fancies vain,

Every frothy thought that bubbles

From an idle brain,

Every wish that fond belief

May shape into a creed,

Every floating loose ideal

That begets no deed,

Thoughts of light and cloudy tissue,

Thoughts of sunbeams wove,

Thoughts of rapture more than earthly,

Thoughts of rosy love.

Him thus in luxurious musing

Cunning Hermes found,

From his airy pathway lighting

With a nimble bound,

And with him the fair Pandora;

By the wise rejected,

On the witless now she beams

With beauty unexpected,

And veiled in rosy splendour glorious.

Epimetheus gazes

On the fair with blank emotion;

While with smooth-trimmed phrases,

Thus the courier speaks –“Brave Titan,

This, whom thy proud brother vainly

Deems the Titan’s foe,

Sends me here on blissful mission

Gracious to impart

Fruitage to the fairest dreams

That stir thy lofty heart.

Earth-born thou, but not for earthy

Plodding wert thou born,

With axe and spade to drudge inglorious

From the mist-wreathed morn

To the grey-veiled eve; thy spirit’s

Climate is the sky;

Traitor to himself who feareth

Where it points to fly.

Flesh and blood with bread he feedeth,

But immortal Jove

Feeds the soul that pants for beauty

With immortal love.

Lo! thy heart’s divinely thirsting

Fever to abate,

He hath sent this glory-garnished,

Beauty-breathing mate.”

Mute the spell-struck Epimetheus

Eyed the wonder rare,

Heedless of what wiles Kronion

Screened beneath the fair.

And in tranceful adoration

Kissed his knees the ground;

While from rapture-glowing breast

He poured the vow profound –

Bless thee, bless thee, gentle Hermes!

Once I sinned and strove

Vainly, with my haughty brother,

Gainst Olympian Jove.

Now my doubts his love hath vanquished;

Evil knows not he

Whose free-streaming grace prepared

Such gift of gods for me.

Henceforth I and fair Pandora,

Joined in holy love,

Only one in Heaven will worship,

Cloud-compelling Jove.”

Thus he; and from the god received

The glorious gift of Jove,

And with fond embracement clasped her,

Thrilled by potent love;

And in loving dalliance with her

Lived from day to day,

While her bounteous smiles diffusive

Scared dull care away.

By the mountain, by the river,

Neath the shaggy pine,

By the cool and mossy fountain

Where clear waters shine,

He with her did lightly stray

Or softly did recline,

Drinking sweet intoxication

From that form divine.

One day when the moon had wheeled

Four honeyed weeks away,

From her chamber came Pandora

Decked with trappings gay,

And before fond Epimetheus

Fondly she did stand,

A box all bright with lucid opal

In her smooth white hand.

Dainty box! cried Epimetheus,

Dainty well may’t be,

Quoth Pandora, – curious Vulcan

Framed it cunningly;

Jove bestowed it in my dowry:

Like bright Phoebus’ ray,

It shines without; within what wealth

I know not to this day.

Let me see, quoth Epimetheus,

What my touch can do!

And swiftly to his finger’s call

The box wide open flew

O Heaven! o Hell! what Pandemonium

In the pouncet dwells!

How it quakes, and how it quivers!

How it seethes and swells!

Steams in snaky twine upwreathing,

Wave on wave is spread!

Like a charnel-vault ’tis breathing

Vapours of the dead!

Fumes on fumes as from a throat

Of sooty Vulcan rise,

Clouds out the skies.

And the air with noisome stenches,

As from things that rot,

Chokes the breather, – exhalations

From the infernal pot,

And amid the writhing vapours

Ghastly shapes I see

Of dire diseases, Epimetheus,

Launched on Earth by thee;

A loathsome crew! some lean and dwindled,

Some with boils and blains

Blistered, some with tumours swollen,

And water in the veins.

Some with purple blotches bloated,

Some with humours flowing

Putrid, some with creeping tetter

Like a lichen growing

O’er the dry skin scaly-crusted;

Some with twisted spine

Dwarfing low with torture slow

The human form divine:

Limping some, some limbless lying;

Fever with frantic air,

And pale consumption veiling death

With looks serenely fair.

All the troops of cureless evils

Rushing reinless forth

From thy damned box, Pandora,

Seize the tainted Earth;

And to lay the marshalled legions

Pf the fiendish pains,

Hope alone, a sorry charmer,

In the box remains.

Epimetheus knew the dolours,

But he knew too late;

Jealous Jove himself now vainly

Would revoke the Fate.

And he cursed the fair Pandora,

But he cursed in vain;

Still to fools the fleeting pleasure

Buys the lasting pain