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would not suffer him to drink, but upon condition of receiving the burden he carried, whatever it should be. The silly ass complied, and thus the perpetual renewal of youth was, for a drop of water, transferred from men to the race of serpents.
Prometheus, not desisting from his unwarrantable practices, though now reconciled to mankind, after they were thus tricked of their present, but still continuing inveterate against Jupiter, had the boldness to attempt deceit, even in a sacrifice, and is said to have once offered up two bulls to Jupiter, but so as in the hide of one of them to wrap all the flesh and fat of both, and stuffing out the other hide only with the bones; then, in a religious and devout manner, gave Jupiter his choice of the two. Jupiter, detesting this sly fraud and hypocrisy, but having thus an opportunity of punishing the offender, purposely chose the mock bull.
And now giving way to revenge, but finding he could not chastise the insolence of Prometheus without afflicting the human race, (in the production whereof Prometheus had strangely and insufferably prided himself,) he commanded Vulcan to form a beautiful and graceful woman, to whom every god presented a certain gift, whence she was called Pandora.1 They put into her hands an elegant box, containing all sorts of miseries and misfortunes; but Hope was placed at the bottom of it. With this box she first goes to Prometheus, to try if she could prevail upon him to receive and open it; but he being upon his guard, warily refused the offer. Upon this refusul, she comes to his brother Epimetheus, a man of a very different
temper, who rashly and inconsiderately opens the box. When finding all kinds of miseries and misfortunes issued out of it, he grew wise too late, and with great hurry and struggle endeavored to clap the cover on again; but with all his endeavor could scarce keep in Hope, which lay at the bottom.
Lastly, Jupiter arraigned Prometheus of many heinous crimes; as that he formerly stole fire from heaven; that he contemptuously and deceitfully mocked him by a sacrifice of bones; that he despised his present,1 adding withal a new crime, that he attempted to ravish Pallas; for all which, he was sentenced to be bound in chains, and doomed to perpetual torments. Accordingly, by Jupiter's command, he was brought to Mount Caucasus, and there fastened to a pillar, so firmly that he could no way stir. A vulture or eagle stood by him, which in the daytime gnawed and consumed his liver; but in the night the wasted parts were supplied again; whence matter for his pain was never wanting.
They relate, however, that his punishment had an end; for Hercules sailing the ocean, in a cup, or pitcher, presented him by the Sun, came at length to Caucasus, shot the eagle with his arrows, and set Prometheus free. In certain nations, also, there were instituted particular games of the torch, to the honor of Prometheus, in which they who ran for the prize carried lighted torches; and as any one of these torches happened to go out, the bearer withdrew himself, and gave way to the next; and that person was allowed to win the prize, who first brought in his lighted torch to the goal.
EXPLANATION. This fable contains and en
1 Viz: that by Pandora.
forces many just and serious considerations; some whereof have been long since well observed, but some again remain perfectly untouched. Prometheus clearly and expressly signifies Providence; for of all the things in nature, the formation and endowment of man was singled out by the ancients, and esteemed the peculiar work of Providence. The reason hereof seems, 1. That the nature of man includes a mind and understanding, which is the seat of Providence. 2. That it is harsh and incredible to suppose reason and mind should be raised, and drawn out of senseless and irrational principles; whence it becomes almost inevitable, that providence is implanted in the human mind in conformity with, and by the direction and the design of the greater overruling Providence. But, 3. The principal cause is this: that man seems to be the thing in which the whole world centres, with respect to final causes; so that if he were away, all other things would stray and fluctuate, without end or intention, or become perfectly disjointed, and out of frame; for all things are made subservient to man, and he receives use and benefit from them all. Thus the revolutions, places, and periods, of the celestial bodies, serve him for distinguishing times and seasons, and for dividing the world into different regions; the meteors afford him prognostications of the weather; the winds sail our ships, drive our mills, and move our machines; and the vegetables and animals of all kinds either afford us matter for houses and habitations, clothing, food, physic; or tend to ease, or delight, to support, or refresh us; so that every thing in nature seems not made for itself, but for man.
And it is not without reason added, that the mass of matter whereof man was formed, should be mixed up with particles taken from different animals, and
wrought in with the clay, because it is certain, that of all things in the universe, man is the most compounded and recompounded body; so that the ancients, not improperly, styled him a Microcosm, or little world within himself. For although the chemists have absurdly, and too literally, wrested and perverted the elegance of the term microcosm, whilst they pretend to find all kind of mineral and vegetable matters, or something corresponding to them, in man, yet it remains firm and unshaken, that the human body is, of all substances, the most mixed and organical; whence it has surprising powers and faculties; for the powers of simple bodies are but few, though certain and quick; as being little broken, or weakened, and not counterbalanced by mixture; but excellence and quantity of energy reside in mixture and composition.
Man, however, in his first origin, seems to be a defenceless, naked creature, slow in assisting himself, and standing in need of numerous things. Prometheus, therefore, hastened to the invention of fire, which supplies and administers to nearly all human uses and necessities, insomuch that, if the soul may be called the form of forms, if the hand may be called the instrument of instruments, fire may, as properly, be called the assistant of assistants, or the helper of helps; for hence proceed numberless operations, hence all the mechanic arts, and hence infinite assistances are afforded to the sciences themselves.
The manner wherein Prometheus stole this fire is properly described from the nature of the thing; he being said to have done it by applying a rod of birch to the chariot of the Sun; for birch is used in striking and beating, which clearly denotes the generation of fire to be from the violent percussions
and collisions of bodies; whereby the matters struck are subtilized, rarefied, put into motion, and so prepared to receive the heat of the celestial bodies; whence they, in a clandestine and secret manner, collect and snatch fire, as it were by stealth, from the chariot of the Sun.
The next is a remarkable part of the fable, which represents that men, instead of gratitude and thanks, fell into indignation and expostulation, accusing both Prometheus and his fire to Jupiter, and yet the accusation proved highly pleasing to Jupiter; so that he, for this reason, crowned these benefits of mankind with a new bounty. Here it may seem. strange that the sin of ingratitude to a creator and benefactor, a sin so heinous as to include almost all others, should meet with approbation and reward. But the allegory has another view, and denotes, that the accusation and arraignment, both of human nature and human art among mankind, proceeds from a most noble and laudable temper of the mind, and tends to a very good purpose; whereas the con-trary temper is odious to the gods, and unbeneficial in itself. For they who break into extravagant praises of human nature, and the arts in vogue, and who lay themselves out in admiring the things they already possess, and will needs have the sciences. cultivated among them, to be thought absolutely perfect and complete, in the first place, show little regard to the divine nature, whilst they extol their own inventions almost as high as his perfection. In the next place, men of this temper are unserviceable and prejudicial in life, whilst they imagine them-selves already got to the top of things, and there rest, without further inquiry. On the contrary, they who arraign and accuse both nature and art,. and are always full of complaints against them, not