Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE SHRIEK OF PROMETHEUS, by HORACE SMITH



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THE SHRIEK OF PROMETHEUS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Fresh was the breeze and the rowers plied
Last Line: Those throbbing hearts along the pontic shore.
Alternate Author Name(s): Smith, Horatio
Subject(s): Argo (Ship); Jason; Music & Musicians; Mythology; Prometheus


FRESH was the breeze and the rowers plied
Their oars with simultaneous motion,
When the Argo sailed in her stately pride
By the laurelled shores of the Pontic Ocean.

The island of Mars with its palmy coves,
The Sacred Mount, and Aretia's strands,
And Philyra's Isle with its linden groves,
And Ophir's flood with its shelly sands,

Swiftly they passed -- till, stretching far,
On their right Bechiria's coast appears,
Where painted Sapirians, fierce in war,
Bristle the beach with bows and spears.

At distance they saw the sunbeams quiver
Where the long-sought towers of Colchis stood,
And marked the foam of the Phasis river,
As it flung from its rocky mouth the flood.

The Argonauts gaze with hungry eyes
On the land enriched by the Golden Fleece,
Already in fancy they grasp the prize,
And hear the shouts of applauding Greece.

Jason looked out with a proud delight,
Castor and Pollux stood hand in hand,
Showing each other the welcome sight;
While fierce Meleager unsheathed his brand.

Laocoon bade the rowers check
Their oars, as the sun to the water slanted,
For Orpheus sate with his harp on the deck,
And sweetly the hymn of evening chanted,

While the heroes around, at each pause of sound,
Stretched their right hands to the god of day,
And fervently joined in the choral lay.

THE HYMN OF ORPHEUS.

Twin-born with Dian in the Delos isle,
Which after the Ogygian deluge thou
Didst first illume with renovating smile,
Apollo! deign to hear our evening vow.

CHORUS.

When thou'rt dim, our harp and hymn
Thy downward course shall follow:
Hail to thee! -- hail to thee!
Hail to thee, Apollo!

God of the art that heals the shattered frame,
And poetry that soothes the wounded mind,
Ten thousand temples, honoured with thy name,
Attest thy ceaseless blessings to mankind.

CHORUS.

When thou'rt dim, our harp and hymn
Thy downward course shall follow:
Hail to thee! -- hail to thee!
Hail to thee, Apollo!

Thy golden bow emits a gushing strain
Of music when the Pythian serpent dies:
His eyes flash fire -- his writhings plough the plain:
Hissing he leaps aloft -- then lifeless lies.

CHORUS.

When thou'rt dim, our harp and hymn
Thy downward course shall follow:
Hail to thee! -- hail to thee!
Hail to thee, Apollo!

Pan of his pipe and rural science proud,
Dreamt that his music might with thine aspire;
The mountain Tmolus was the judge -- and bowed
His nodding woods in homage to thy lyre.

CHORUS.

When thou'rt dim, with harp and hymn
Thy downward course we follow:
Hail to thee! -- hail to thee!
Hail to thee, Apollo!

From bowers of Daphne on Parnassus' Mount,
While Delphic girls their Io Paeans sing,
The gifted Muses by Castalia's Fount
With choral symphonies salute their king.

CHORUS.

When thou'rt dim, with harp and hymn
Thy downward course we follow:
Hail to thee! -- hail to thee!
Hail to thee Apollo!

God of the golden lyre and laurel wreath,
To thee each poet turns with yearning heart
And thoughtful eyes, invoking thee to breathe
Thine inspiration --

With a start
The minstrel ceased -- for over all the bark
A baleful shadow on a sudden spread!
The Argonauts looked up, and saw a dark
And monstrous eagle hovering o'er their head;
So vast and fearful, that transfixed and pale
They stood, with wild amaze o'ertaken: --
The vessel trembles, and the shivering sail
Flaps as if with terror shaken.
Entranced they gazed -- and silent till
Philas, the son of Bacchus, seized his bow,
And would have aimed it at the feathered foe,
But Mopsus, gifted with an augur's skill,
Gently held back his arm, and bade him wait
This dread portent -- pronounce no word,
Nor dare to challenge Jove's own bird,
The minister of unrelenting fate.

Extending now his oar-like wings,
Twice round the ship the monster swings,
As if prepared to pounce upon his prey;
His eyes from forth his sable shroud
Shot fire, like lightning from a cloud;
But with a sudden dart he rushed away,
And clove the northward distance, where
The heights of Caucasus their barrier throw,
Where crag on crag, chaotic giants bare
Their granite foreheads to the sky, and sit
In desolate state beneath their crowns of snow.
Within these topmost peaks, there is a pit --
A dizzy, gaunt, precipitous ravine,
Upon whose rocky floor environed round
With walls of ice -- by every eye unseen,
With adamantine chains Prometheus lies bound.

Thither the ravenous wonder winged his flight --
They saw him clear the intervening height,
And sink behind it: -- every eye
Is fixed upon the spot, and every heart
Throbs with expectant agony. --
But naught is seen -- no sounds impart
The secret of that dread abyss: --
Still do they gaze half-willing to dismiss
Their fears and hopes, for over plain and hill,
And smiling ocean -- all is hushed and still.

Gracious God, what a shriek!
The monster with his beak
Is tearing out his victim's heart!
Lo! as that desolating cry
Echoes from the mountains high,
And throws its fear afar, a start
Of horror seems to darken nature's face. --
Athwart the quaking deep,
Revolting shudders creep,
Earth trembles to her very base --
Air seems to swoon -- the sky to frown --
The sun with ghastly glare sinks faster down. --
Hark! what a furious clash of chains!
Victim! thou never canst unlock
The brazen bolts that root thee to the rock;
Vain are thy struggles and convulsive strains.
Ah me! what dreadful groans are those
Wrung from the very depths of agonies; --
Now weaker moanings rise, till, worn with woes,
The fainting wretch exhausted lies,
And all again is grim repose.

But still with throbbing breasts and steadfast eyes
The heroes gazed upon the mountain's peak,
Till gorged with gore they saw the monster rise
With blood-stained claws, and breast, and beak:
And as above them he resumed his flight,
The arrested vessel shakes,
The flapping main-sail quakes,
And all seemed turned to statues at the sight,
All but the son of Bacchus, who
With flashing eyes and visage red,
Again upreared his bow and drew
His longest arrow to the head --
When from the eagle's beak a drop of gore,
(The heart's blood of Prometheus) fell
Warm on his hand! upon the vessel's floor
Down falls his bow; -- with shuddering yell,
And haggard eyes still staring on the drop,
He staggers back, clasping the mast to prop
His fainting limbs. Upon the pilot's forehead
The dews of terror stood,
And all in awe-struck mood
Pondered in silence on that omen horrid.

The sun went down, and far into the gloom
The monster shot away -- but none
Of the bewildered Argonauts resume
The vessel's guidance as her way she won. --
None spake -- none moved -- all sate in blank dismay,
Revolving in their minds this dread portent;
And thus, abandoned to the sway
Of the blind wind and watery element,
Through the whole night the Argo bore
Those throbbing hearts along the Pontic shore.





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