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the individual man renounce his race’s habits and commandments for the sake of that secret treasure and torment, his own conscience. Sacrifice such as this is, as you rightly say, of profit. But in so far it is no sacrifice, but mere postponement or exchange of desired things. Satan disdains such barter of good for better; he claims absolute oblation. My sacrifice is sheer loss; and the offering to my essential godhead, is waste. A pause: the MUsE does not know what she is expected to answer and murmurs merely, “ T o be sure ./ Of course !”
SATAN. Thus all true sacrifice is to the Power of Evil. And I may add, oftenest obtained by my twin servants Delusion and Confusion; or in other words, Passion seeing everything through its own likes and dislikes, and Dullness never seeing anything at all. It is most interesting to watch them at their work, heading mankind away from mankind’s only efficacious helper, the harsh, responsive Reality of Things.
Thanks largely to this incomparable pair of innocent liars, I may say, without lack of modesty, that of all gods I am the one who has received the hugest holocausts of wasted virtue, hecatombs compared with which all the bulls and rams offered in Solomon’s temple, all the superb butchery which smirched the marble fairness of the antique world, are of no more account than the minutest grain of incense which a village acolyte throws on the live coals in his tinsel censer.
THE MUsE. But, at that rate-Forgive me, dear Lord Satan, but History has to run the gauntlet of much impertinent why and wherefore—but, at that rate, how explain that this small world still contains something-—-life, wealth or virtue—-which has not yet been wasted in your rites ?
SATAN. The question is legitimate; and, alas ! contains an answer fatal to my greatness. Waste, dear Clio, by an inconvenient so-called law of nature, tends in its very essence to waste itself away. And then there was a sacrifice in which, well planned though it was and daringly attempted, Satan did not succeed. You recollect the business of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil ?
THE MUsE. Recollect it ? Why, I recorded not one, but several conflicting accounts of the occurrence, especially the one now authorized, and the older one oflicial among the Chaldees, from whom our enterprising Jewish plagiarists took it, but merely to change its bearing, as so often happens when men of letters and theologians work on each other’s copy. And since you have alluded to this justly popular story, I can’t resist the opportunity of ascertaining, once for all, what precisely, among such conflicting versions, really was your Lordship’s part in that—shall we say ?—bad business.
SATAN. Bad certainly for me, dear Clio !
THE MUse. Was it so bad for you, my Lord? Perhaps not all you aimed at. But surely you scored something: “ brought death into the world and all our woe,” etc. That was not to be despised.
SATAN. Of course not. And moreover, brought me—as is figured in that mediaaval legend which makes that self-same Tree serve for the wood of the True Cross—brought me, though unsuccessful, the sublimest sacrifice my altars ever gloried in.
THE MUsE (knowingly). That has long since been my view ; and sundry early Christian theologians nearer the sources, but since branded as heretical, went so far as to declare that it was to your Lordship that the Deity found Himself obliged, like the Patriarch Abraham, to offer up His Son. This circumstance has indeed made me suspect that the Tree in question could not have really been planted by the Creator, like some horticultural exhibit intended to be looked at but not eaten of.
T he MUsE hesitates, looking at SATAN with the embarrassment o)‘ a person not certain o/‘ having guessed the truth, and still less certain whether the truth will be welcome.
SATAN (contemptuously). God neither planted nor forbade its use. So far your guess is right.
THE MUsE (delighted). I thought as much! Then . . . your Lordship must forgive my indiscretion, but History’s greatest joy is, after all, that of an occasional shrewd look through a millstone---then, since such really was the case, I mean that Tree not being planted by God, it must have been planted by . . . (The MUsE looks at SATAN as much as to ask “ by you P ”) in short . . . in other words . . . it was planted
by . . .
SATAN (suddenly to the MUsE’s amazement and almost cansternation). By Man, and Man’s wife, Woman. The AllCreator gave the seed. But like His other seeds, the original multifold Power scattered it broadcast to lie dormant, or quicken, or perish, as might be. Man saved it from the vast indifferent lavishness, and, like the ear of wild wheat, put it into chosen soil, watering and cherishing it as it sprouted, that he might eat its fruit and his children shelter in its shade.
THE MUsE. To be sure! The precise particulars had somehow escaped my memory. History has really too many things to remember !
SATAN. You were not there, my dear. I was. So I will give History a little lesson in her own subject.
THE MUsE (nettled but inquisitive). Your Lordship’s conversation cannot fail to be instructive.
SATAN. Well then! This is the story of the Tree of Knowledge. In the beginning which had no beginning, mere timeless, aimless Chaos and Old Night, Creation stirred, creating its own powers, the multifold of quickening forces making for shape from substance and for soul from motion. I was not born yet.
THE MUsE (still irritated). That much is not unknown.
SATAN. Not a rebel, Clio. But like many who pass for such, a staunch Conservative. I opposed the coming change, loyal to the Chaos and Darkness who had given me birth. I resolved to turn this new-fangled order into anarchy. So, when soul quickened within body, I saw to clogging it by body’s clinging habits, and, in return, unsettled secure instincts with half-fledged reason. Man was not yet ; hence neither good nor evil. But in the lowest brutes already pain and pleasure emerged, the great creative poles determining life’s tides. And at once I seized upon them for my purpose, employing pleasure to increase pain. Then, as your Milton put it, I sought in good the means to evil, so soon as good and evil came along with Man. And to this purpose I sought to turn that Tree planted from God’s seed in God’s great park : warping its growth, and when it grew despite me, filling its fruitful branches with chimzeras and harpies of all foul kinds.
THE MUsE. That is truly interesting ! But may I point out that your Lordship’s nomenclature lacks a trifle in precision. At one moment, you call the Tree in question “ Tree of Knowledge,” at another “ Tree of Good and Evil.”
SATAN. They are the same. For, unknown, good is not good, nor evil, evil; words betokening Man’s choice, and answering to Man’s needs.
THE MUsE. I see! That would account for Man’s planting that particular Tree, instead of z . . well ! Your Lordship.
SATAN (looks at the MUsE in amazement). Instead of Me! Of Me, dear Clio? 0 History, you are a greater goose than I had ever guessed ! Why that Tree’s planting meant my doom, however long postponed by my manifold arts. That Tree! Why I’ve attacked it with hundred-fold devices :B
droughts, hurricanes, and loathsome parasites and the obscene snouts of devils turned to swine. I’ve bled its sap ; stripped of f its bark and sered roots and branches with frost and fire ; urged Man to cut it down, lest it should prove a upas and strangle all his children in its growth. I’ve borrowed all Jove’s oflicial lightnings to blast it. I have seen it parch and wither, branch drop off after branch, crop mildew after crop. But alas ! only to note with anguish new blossoms and ever unexpected shoots. I, Satan, plant that hateful holy Tree? 0 Clio, Clio, that even you could think . . . Why that Tree, which clasps with a hundred branches the willing heavens, is at the same time delving its million roots and rootlets deeper and further into Chaos and Darkness, narrowing and squeezing this Hell of mine till it become no bigger than this pretty little hand of yours. I will tell you a secret, Clio : Absurd as it at present sounds, some day there will be no more room for Satan.
TH}: MUse. Indeed ! That is I own a most disheartening supposition, and accounts for a slight vein of, mayI call it ?——morbidness, which I have grieved to notice in your Lordship’s previous remarks. I must not, however, hide from‘you that there have been rumours to the effect of Satan being . . . Well ! more correctly described as longlived than as immortal in the literal sense. If this be true, let me remind you of the saying of that enlightened ruler Sardanapalus : “ Eat, drink and be merry ; the rest is not worth a fig ! ”
THE MUsE. And think what opportunities you still have before you ! Although you have made clear to me that it is a case, as the poet so charmingly puts it, of gathering your rosebuds while you may. A European war lasting for years may surely be accounted such. Forthat, if I am correctly