Prometheus the Forethinker had a brother who was named Epimetheus the Afterthinker. He was slow-witted and scatter-brained. His wise brother once sent him a message bidding him beware of the gifts that Zeus might send him. Epimetheus heard, but he did not heed the warning; thereby he brought upon the race of men troubles and cares.
Zeus was wroth with men now because fire, stolen from him, had been given them; he was wroth with the race of Titans, too, and he pondered in his heart how he might injure men, and how he might use Epimetheus, the mindless Titan, to further his plan.
While he pondered there was a bush on high Olympos, the mountain of the Gods. Then Zeus called upon the artisan of the Gods, lame Hephæstos, and he commanded him to make a being out of clay who
would have the likeness of a lovely maiden. With joy and pride Hephæstos worked at the task that had been given him, and he fashioned a being that had the likeness of a lovely maiden, and he brought the thing of his making before the Gods and Goddesses.
All strove to add a grace or a beauty to the work of Hephæstos. Zeus granted that the maiden should see and feel. Athene dressed her in garments that were as lovely as flowers. Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, put a charm on her lips and in her eyes. The Graces put neck. laces around her neck and set a golden crown upon her head. The Hours brought her a girdle of spring flowers. Then the herald of the Gods gave her speech that was sweet and flowing. All the Gods and Goddesses had given gifts to her, and for that reason the maiden of Hephæstos's making was called Pandora, the All-endowed.
She was lovely, the Gods knew; not beautiful as they themselves are, who have a beauty that awakens reverence rather than love, but lovely as flowers and bright waters and earthly maidens are lovely, Zeus smiled to himself when he looked upon her; he called to Hermes who knew all the ways of the earth, and he put her into the charge of Hermes. Also he gave Hermes a great jar to take along; this jar was Pandora's dower.
Epimetheus lived in a deep-sunken valley. Now one day, as he was sitting on a fallen pillar in the ruined palace that was now forsaken by the rest of the Titans, he saw a pair coming towards him. One had wings, and he knew him to be Hermes, the messenger of the Gods. The other was a maiden. Epimetheus marvelled at the crown upon her head and at her lovely garments. There was a glint of gold all around her. He rose from where he sat upon the broken pillar and he stood to watch the pair. Hermes, he saw, was carrying by its handle a great jar. In wonder and delight, Epimetheus looked upon the maiden. He had seen no lovely thing for ages. Wonderful, indeed, was this Golden Maid, and as she came near him the charm that was on her lips and in her eyes came to the Earth-born One, and he smiled with more and more delight.
Hermes came and stood before him. He also smiled, but his smile had something baleful in it. He put the hands of the Golden Maid into the great soft hand of the Titan, and he said, "O Epimetheus, Father
[paragraph continues] Zeus would be reconciled with thee, and as a token of his good will he sends thee this lovely Goddess to be thy companion."
Oh, very foolish was Epimetheus the Earth-born One! As he looked upon the Golden Maid who was sent by Zeus he lost memory of the wars that Zeus had made upon the Titans and the elder Gods; he lost the memory of his brother chained to the highest, blackest peak of Caucasus; he lost memory of the warning that his brother, the wisest of all beings, had sent him. He took the hands of Pandora, and he thought of nothing in the world but her. Very far away seemed the voice of Hermes, saying, "This jar, too, is from Olympos; it has in it Pandora's dower."
For long it stood forgotten, this jar, and green plants grew over it while Epimetheus walked in the garden with the Golden Maid, or watched her while she gazed on herself in the stream, or searched in the untended places for fruits that the elder Gods would eat when they feasted with the Titans in the old days ere Zeus had come to his power. Lost to Epimetheus was the memory of his brother now suffering upon the rock because of the gift he had given men.
And Pandora, knowing nothing except the brightness of the sunshine and the lovely shapes and colours of things and the sweet taste of the fruits that Epimetheus brought her, could have stayed forever in the garden. But one day Epimetheus took her by the hand, and brought her out of that garden, and out of that deep-lying valley, and towards the homes of men. He did not forget the jar that Hermes had left with her. All things that belonged to the Golden Maid were precious, and Epimetheus took the jar along.
The race of men at that time were simple and content. Their days were passed in toil, but now, since Prometheus had given them fire, they had good fruit of their toil. They had well-shaped tools with which to dig the earth and build houses. Their homes were warmed with fire, and fire burned upon the altars that were upon their ways.
Greatly they reverenced Prometheus who had given them fire, and greatly they reverenced the race of the Titans. So when Epimetheus came amongst them, tall as a man walking upon stilts, they welcomed him, and brought him and the Golden Maid to their hearths. And Epimetheus showed Pandora the wonderful element that his brother had
given men; she rejoiced to see the fire, clapping her hands with delight. The jar that Epimetheus brought be left in an open space.
In carrying it up the rough ways out of the valley Epimetheus may have knocked the jar about, for the lid that had been tight upon it now fitted very loosely. But no one gave heed to the jar as it stood in the open space where Epimetheus had left it.
At first the men and women looked upon the beauty of Pandora, upon her lovely dresses, and her golden crown, and her girdle of flowers, with wonder and delight. Epimetheus would have everyone admire and praise her. And this they did for a while. The men would leave off working in the fields, or hammering on iron, or building houses, and the women would leave off spinning and weaving, and come at his call, and stand about and admire the Golden Maid. But as time went by a change came upon the women: one woman would weep, and another would look angry, and a third would go back sullenly to her work when Pandora was admired or praised.
Once when the women were gathered together one who was the wisest amongst them said, "We used not to think about ourselves; we used to be content with what we are and what we have. But now we think about ourselves, and we say to ourselves that we are harsh and ill-favoured, indeed, compared to the Golden Maid that the Titan is so enchanted with. And we hate to see our own men praise and admire her, and often, in our hearts, we would destroy her if we could."
"That is true," the women said. And then a young woman cried out in a most yearnful voice, "O tell us, you who are wise, how can we make ourselves as beautiful as Pandora?"
Then the woman who was thought to be wise said, "This Golden Maid is lovely to look upon because she has lovely apparel and all the means of keeping herself lovely. The Gods have given her the ways, and so her skin remains fair, and her hair keeps its gold, and her lips are ever red and her eyes shining. And I think that the means of keeping lovely are all in that jar that Epimetheus brought with her."
When the woman who was thought to be wise said this, those around her were silent for a while. But then one rose and another rose, and they stood and whispered together, one saying to the other that they should go to the place where the jar had been left by Epimetheus, and
that they should take out of it the salves, the charms, and the washes that would make them as beautiful as Pandora.
The women went to that place. On their way they stopped at a pool and they bent over to see themselves mirrored in it, and they saw themselves with dusty and unkempt hair, with large and knotted hands, with troubled eyes, and with anxious months. They frowned as they looked upon their images, and they said in harsh voices that in a while they would have ways of making themselves as lovely as the Golden Maid.
And as they went on they saw Pandora. She was playing in a flowering field, while Epimetheus, high as a man upon stilts, went gathering the blossoms off the bushes for her. They went on, and they came at last to the place where Epimetheus had left the jar that held Pandora's dower.
A great stone jar it was; there was no bird, nor flower, nor branch painted upon it. It stood high as a woman's shoulder. And as the women looked upon it they thought that there were things enough in it to keep them beautiful for all the days of their lives. But each one thought that she should not be the last to get her hands into it.
The lid, once tightly fixed down, had been shifted a little. As the hands of the women grasped it to take off the lid, the jar was cast down; the things that were inside spilled themselves forth.
They were black and grey and red; they were crawling and flying things. And, as the women looked on, the things spread themselves abroad or fastened themselves upon them.
The jar, like Pandora herself, had been made and filled out of the ill-will of Zeus. And it had been filled, not with salves and charms and washes, as the women thought, but with Cares and Troubles. Before the women had come to it one Trouble had already come forth from the jar--Self-thought that was upon the top of the heap. It was Self-thought that had afflicted the women, making them troubled about their own looks, and envious of the graces of the Golden Maid.
And now the others spread themselves out--Sickness and War and Strife between friends. They spread themselves abroad and entered the houses, while Epimetheus, the mindless Titan, gathered flowers for Pandora, the Golden Maid.
Lest she should weary of her play he called to her. He would take
her into the houses of men. As they drew near to the houses they saw a woman seated on the ground, weeping; her husband had suddenly become harsh to her, and had shut the door on her face. They came, upon a child crying because of a pain that he could not understand. And then they found two men struggling, their strife being on account of a possession that they had shared peaceably before.
In every house they went into Epimetheus would say, "I am the brother of Prometheus who gave you the gift of fire." But instead of giving them a welcome the men would say, "We know nothing about your relation with Prometheus. We see you as a foolish man upon stilts."
Epimetheus was troubled by the hard looks and the cold words of the men who had once reverenced him. He turned from the houses and went away. In a quiet place he sat down, and for a while he lost sight of Pandora. And then it seemed to him that he heard the voice of his wise and suffering brother saying, "Do not accept any gift that Zeus may send you."
He rose up and he hurried away from that place, leaving Pandora playing by herself. There came into his scattered mind Regret and Fear. As he went on he stumbled. He fell from the edge of a cliff, and the sea washed away the body of the mindless brother of Prometheus.
Not everything had been spilled out of the jar that had been brought with Pandora into the world of men. A beautiful living thing was in the jar also. This was Hope. And this beautiful living thing had got caught under the rim of the jar and had not come forth with the others. Under the rim of Pandora's jar a weeping woman one day found Hope; she brought this living thing into the houses of men. And now because of Hope they could see an end to their troubles. The men and women roused themselves in the midst of their afflictions; they looked towards gladness. Hope, that had been caught under the rim of the jar, stayed behind the thresholds of their houses.
As for Pandora, the Golden Maid, she played on, knowing only the brightness of the sunshine and the lovely shapes of things. Beautiful would she have seemed to any being who saw her. But now she was strayed away from the houses of men and Epimetheus was not there to look upon her. Then Hephæstos, the lame artisan of the Gods, put down his tools and went to seek her. He found Pandora; he took her
back to Olympos. And in his brazen house she stays, though sometimes, at the will of Zeus, she goes down into the world of men.