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"Ere Babylon Was Dust"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In this drama, Shelley gives his own version of the story of the Titan Prometheus, whom the poet considered to be "the type of the highest perfection of moral and intellectual nature." In Prometheus Bound, Aeschylus had shown the Titan as punished by Zeus for having given man the gift of fire contrary to the god's command. In the mind of a romantic revolutionary like Shelley, Zeus becomes the symbol of tyranny and Prometheus of the revolt of man against the tyrant. It is Prometheus alone who knows the secret of the eventual downfall of Zeus; this drama is the story of that downfall, of the release of Prometheus, and of a new age of love. Early in the work, Earth, the mother of Prometheus, explains that there are "two worlds of life and death," one of which we see; the other is "underneath the grave." All beings have two forms: the one that is seen on earth, the other that inhabits the world below the grave. Only one man has ever seen both his living form and his shade, or other self.

Ere Babylon was dust,
The Magus Zoroaster, my dead child,
Met his own image walking in the garden.
That apparition, sole of men, he saw.