Alcmene’s son. Across the Caucasus
Your tread and bearing like a son of Zeus
Far wandering. Nemean lion skin
Clothing your frame well fit for walking in.
Your club at rest upon your shoulder bourn
You stopped, amazed, at what you saw that morn.
You’d heard – of course – that somewhere here he lay
That Titan dear to all mankind. They say
He laboured, teaching over many years
To men, and raising up inspired seers
To see ahead, lead men in worship true
Such knowledge gained. And all of this you knew
How too this Titan from Olympus stole
Some holy fire in a fennel bole
And brought it down into abodes of men
To gift them with its secret to their ken.
He paid a heavy price for bearding Zeus –
The father of the gods. As tells the muse
Olympus’ King him never did forgive
And with Hephaestus: made Pandora live
And by her charms Zeus wrought his evil curse
Upon the men loved by Prometheus.
Pandora’s ills they suffer till this day
And realise bitterly they are but clay.
You stood and gazed upon that noble form
Stretched out for ells upon the ground that morn
For it was early still. And from the skies
Began the shrieks and strangely shrilling cries
Of a great eagle circling round its prey
The bird of Jove coming to feast today
Upon its morning meat: fresh liver torn
From living Titan flesh, each day reborn –
For Titan’s bodies heal themselves anew:
Immortal bodies are supposed to do.
The Titan sighed: he had not seen the man.
But Hercules, with arrow sharp, began
Sighting his target winging through the sky
His bowstring hummed! The eagle screeched reply
And agonising death-throes whirled it round
To land it lifeless on the stony ground.
The large and feathered carcass stilly lay.
Surprised, the Titan then begins to say
Some startled sounds – and then he silent falls
Still looking: trying to discern the cause
How Jove’s eagle did die. Next Hercules
Approaching by a path the Titan’s knees
Comes near to the first ankle-chain and strives
To smash it. Smilingly, the Titan wise
Begins to tell the man to let it be –
Such chains were surely much too strong for thee –
But silenced: for then Hercules had broke
The first chain with another mighty stroke
With hands which one day would support the world –
The second chain upon the first next hurled.
The Titan speechless gazed upon this man
Whose strength surpassed his own as surely can
A man’s surpass a babe’s. His Titan strength
Availed him nought against the chains his length
Had stretched for many years against the rock:
To see this man now free him was a shock!
The Titan absent-minded looks with awe
Upon this man he’d never seen before.
But – yes! Prometheus remembers now
A time his second-sight predicted how
A son of Zeus would come and then free
Him from his bonds. And so: this man was he!
Then slowly on his mighty feet he stood
That Titan-god, as one of those who would
Have turned Olympus upside down had he
Been on the winning side. Thus sensibly
He dwarfed demi-god. It might appear
His fist would crush that man still standing near.
For down his hand approached his rescuer
To Hercules. And slowly it came nearer
To touch the man – but with a gentle stroke
And friendship fast between them soon awoke.
The Titan first upon his knees besought
To thank the man who his deliverance wrought.
But Hercules restrained him: gently spake
With quiet words: bid him his freedom take.
At last they parted: talking through the night
Of times long past. How Titans gods did fight
And elder orders of the sons of man
And how the worlds and everything began.
With courtesy, after the friendly talk
The Titan – taking leave – began to walk
In steady strides and soon was leagues away
To seek a place afar for his safety.
When this was all related and retold
In Zeus’ court: Hera began to scold
To demand punishment. Zeus ignored
His wife, his son preferring. And his word
Was law in theory. But then Hera’s ire
Was stoked into a frenzied, jealous fire
To hate and persecute Zeus’ bastard son
And to his downfall soon her plots begun.