The god of thunder pierced the clouds with his electric riff.
Prometheus though chained, unbowed, saw lightning strike the cliff
and form a crater near its base. The smoke took time to clear.
A figure bearing Zeus’ face did finally appear:
“Well, have you learned your lesson, mutt? Will you deny me still?
Or did that raptor at your gut relax your stubborn will?”
The titan, managing a grin, replied without a pause.
“That little bird? It breaks the skin, I’d ask you for a gauze.
But you’re not here to see me yield, you know me better, Zeus.
If I were willing to be heeled and to accept your noose,
I would have done so long ago, but I so like the view.
So leave me to your servile crow, it’s just begun to chew.”
At this the mighty eagle broke from its macabre feast,
and with a bloodied beak it spoke. The terrifying beast
said: “Titan, do not tempt me so, for I may surely dread
our king’s displeasure, but you know, I’d love to see you dead.
Dear Zeus please let me strike his heart or his contemptuous brow.
You wish him dead then act the part, no better time than now.”
“Be silent!” Zeus demanded, and, with a collapsing breath,
the raptor swallowed its intent; its eyes no longer death.
“You know me well, my fire thief”, said the reluctant god.
“Your sorry end won’t bring me grief. The bird awaits my nod,
and its ferocious beak would pierce your heart, so full of pride,
and gone forever would be fierce Prometheus, the guide.
But as it happens, not today, today won’t be your last
I’ll keep the winged beast at bay, your die has not been cast,
and more! I offer a reprieve from your eternal pain — “
“– Oh, what a tangled web you weave, what do you seek to gain?”
Thus did Prometheus exclaim to interrupt this speech.
And Zeus proceeded with his game, his voice almost a screech:
“You’d be here for ten thousand years and I would keep you chained.
I wouldn’t shed a single tear were nothing to be gained.
But your disciples, as I feared, have lit a thousand fires.
They’re on the slopes, and by my beard, intend to light our pyres.
I know you care not for our fate, Olympus leaves you cold.
But will Prometheus the Great watch as his friends of old,
burn as my lightning strikes their camps, their women shrieking, mad.
They dare assemble puny ramps to take Olympus, had
their stubborn hero not foreseen that this was bound to pass?
He gave them fire, set them free, Prometheus, the ass.
I offer this to you, ingrate: I will release you if
you bid the rabble tempting fate to step back from the cliff.
Go back to their mundane affairs, extinguishing their torch.
Then I might listen to their prayers, or else I mean to scorch
the very land on which they stand and every nook and fold,
and memories of this sorry band, the youngest and the old,
will burn forever in the mind of those who dare attempt
to challenge me, and my own kind, or risk their god’s contempt.
And yet, I care for them, t’was I created them from dirt
and now they spit me in the eye and with disaster flirt.
I bid thee, titan, speak to them and I shall spare their lives
Or I shall break them at the stem so not a babe survives.”
The titan spoke at last and said: “Old Zeus, I know your fear.
You boast and holler, but you dread their torches drawing near.
You need their prayers to sustain your absolute regime.
It’s for this day I bear this pain, for this I stole your beam.
I knew they’d question your resolve, and with good reason too.
Their understanding does evolve, they’re not afraid of you.
So scorch the earth, invoke their hate, I will not snuff their fire.
I long to see them through the gate, that is my one desire.”
“Enough!” Zeus bellowed as he aimed his fearsome thunderbolt
as if to strike the one he blamed for the profane revolt.
“Enough!” But to Prometheus his rage was sweet as mead.
“Or what, or you won’t pity us?” He mocked, though he might bleed.
“I may be chained, but I am free and you are but a guard
that beats his charge in reverie, your heart forever scarred
by cruel and sadistic deeds. A liver eating bird?
Is that the best your noble breed can do? You are absurd.
Pursuing maidens like a fool, have you no shame, old goat?
No doubt they revel in your drool, they positively dote…
You claim their children as your own, is that for them, your bolt?
Or for their mothers? Does your bone necessitate a jolt?”
At this deliberate insult Zeus almost lost control.
The titan’s purposeful abuse nearly achieved its goal.
But then the rage fled from his eyes, his mighty shoulders slumped.
And Zeus, the master of the skies, was just an old man, stumped.
“Prometheus, am I so vile that you would so disdain
my offer, does your putrid bile, your hatred of my reign
blind your sharp eyes to Man’s desire to decimate our race.
You sought, I know, to give them fire, but hardly to erase
all that we’ve done, all that we’ve built, our temples and our cults.
I cannot let these men of silt defeat my thunderbolts.
So if you will not intercede and tell them to retreat,
yes, I will murder my own seed. They must accept defeat.”
The titan, for a moment stirred by the old god’s refrain,
considered carefully his word, then spoke thus to his bane:
“Zeus, I will not. Do as you must, I will not help your cause.
I do not care to save your busts, nor do I seek applause.
You’re finished, though you know it not, and nothing I could say
will in the end be but a dot on your ignoble stay.
Your power stems from their belief and they have seen the light.
Now go, and leave me to my grief, however you delight.”
The god recovered from his trance, drew up his mighty form,
gave staunch Prometheus a glance and launched into the storm.
Perhaps he bears down, even now, to scorch the very land
Perhaps the titan’s simple vow had made Zeus understand.
The eagle did resume its feast but though the titan winced,
he did not cry, nor did the beast delay its blows, or minced,
the strength of its ferocious beak. The titan and the bird
appear as one chimeric freak, attached by god, and spurred
Into a terrifying dance of wounds and wings and claws.
No, not a coupling, romance was not the Thunder’s cause.
Thus interwoven, they remain atop that stony rock.
The titan and his ancient pain, the key is under lock.
Were you to gaze upon his form, he might repulse you. Still,
look at that flame keeping you warm, the titan’s iron will.
No matter that he may be cuffed, he perseveres, inspires.
Prometheus cannot be snuffed; his soul is in our fires.
© 2021 Arthur Gee