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Quotations about Liberty and Power

About this Quotation:

Prometheus’ fiery denunciation of kingly injustice has spoken to many generations since it was penned in the 5th century BC. But is spoke most clearly to the generation who lived in the revolutionary decades of the late 18th and early 19th centuries when popular movements toppled kings, new countries seceded from empires, and popular constituencies created new political arrangements which were more accountable to the people.

Other quotes about Literature & Music:

24 October, 2005

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Aeschylus has Prometheus denounce the lord of heaven for unjustly punishing him for giving mankind the gift of fire (5thC BC)

Read the full quote in context here.

Prometheus has become a symbol of resistance to injustice and the deprivation of liberty. In the words of the Greek playwright Aeschylus, Prometheus defies the gods thusly:

By my Titan soul, I swear it!
Though with harsh chains now he mocks me,
Even now the hour is ripening,
When this haughty lord of Heaven
Shall embrace my knees, beseeching
Me to unveil the new-forged counsels
That shall hurl him from his throne.
But no honey-tongued persuasion,
No smooth words of artful charming,
No stout threats shall loose my tongue,
Till he loose these bonds of insult,
And himself make just atonement
For injustice done to me.

The full passage from which this quotation was taken can be be viewed below (front page quote in bold):

STROPHE I.
Chorus.
Fear nothing; for a friendly band approaches;
Fleet rivalry of wings
Oar’d us to this far height, with hard consent
Wrung from our careful sire
The winds swift-sweeping bore me: for I heard
The harsh hammer’s note deep deep in ocean caves,
And, throwing virgin shame aside, unshod
The winged car I mounted.

Prom.
Ah! ah!
Daughters of prolific Tethys,
And of ancient father Ocean,
With his sleepless current whirling
Round the firm ball of the globe
Look! with rueful eyes behold me
Nailed by adamantine rivets,
Keeping weary watch unenvied
On this tempest-rifted rock!

ANTISTROPHE I.
Chorus.
I look, Prometheus, and a tearful cloud
My woeful sight bedims,
To see thy goodliest form with insult chained,
In adamantine bonds,
To this bare crag, where pinching airs shall blast thee.
New gods now hold the helm of Heaven; new laws
Mark Jove’s unrighteous rule; the giant trace
Of Titan times hath vanished.

Prom.
Deep in death-receiving Hades
Had he bound me, had he whelmed me
In Tartarean pit, unfathomed,
Fettered with unyielding bonds!
Then nor god nor man had feasted
Eyes of triumph on my wrongs,
Nor I, thus swung in middle ether,
Moved the laughter of my foes.

STROPHE II.
Chorus.
Which of the gods hath heart so hard
To mock thy woes? Who will withhold
The fellow-feeling and the tear,
Save only Jove But he doth nurse
Strong wrath within his stubborn breast,
And holds all Heaven in awe.
Nor will he cease till his hot rage is glutted,
Or some new venture shakes his stable throne.

Prom.
By my Titan soul, I swear it!
Though with harsh chains now he mocks me,
Even now the hour is ripening,
When this haughty lord of Heaven
Shall embrace my knees, beseeching
Me to unveil the new-forged counsels
That shall hurl him from his throne.
But no honey-tongued persuasion,
No smooth words of artful charming,
No stout threats shall loose my tongue,
Till he loose these bonds of insult,
And himself make just atonement
For injustice done to me.

[More works by Aeschylus (525 BC – 456 BC)]