Page images


To the most gross and petty paltry wants,
All foul and fulsome, and the very best
Of thine enjoyments a sweet degradation,
A most enervating and filthy cheat
To lure thee on to the renewal of
Fresh souls and bo all foredoom'd to be
As frail, and few so happy-
Spirit! I

Know nought of death, save as a dreadful thing
Of which I have heard my parents speak, as of
A hideous heritage I owe to them
No less than life; a heritage not happy,
If I may judge, till now. But, spirit! if
It be as thou hast said (and I within
Feel the prophetic torture of its truth),
Here let me die: for to give birth to those
Who can but suffer many years, and die,
Methinks is merely propagating death,
And multiplying murder.

Thou canst not
All die—there is what must survive.

The Other
Spake not of this unto my father, when
He shut him forth from Paradise, with death
Written upon his forehead. But at least
Let what is mortal of me perish, that
I may be in the rest as angels are.

Lucifer. I am angelic: wouldst thou be as I am ?

Cain. I know not what thou art : I see thy power,
And see thou show'st me things beyond my power, 80
Beyond all power of my born faculties,
Although inferior still to my desires
And my conceptions.

What are they which dwell
So humbly in their pride, as to sojourn
With worms in clay?

And what art thou who dwellest

So haughtily in spirit, and canst range
Nature and immortality—and yet
Seem'st sorrowful ?

I seem that which I am;
And therefore do I ask of thee, if thou
Wouldst be immortal ?

Thou hast said, I must be 90
Immortal in despite of me. I knew not
This until lately—but since it must be,
Let me, or happy or unhappy, learn
To anticipate my immortality.

Lucifer. Thou didst before I came upon thee.

Lucifer. By suffering.

And must torture be immortal ?
Lucifer. We and thy sons will try. But now, behold !
Is it not glorious ?

Oh, thou beautiful
And unimaginable ether! and
Ye multiplying masses of increased
And still increasing lights! what are ye? what
Is this blue wilderness of interminable
Air, where ye roll along, as I have seen
The leaves along the limpid streams of Eden?
Is your course measured for ye? Or do ye
Sweep on in your unbounded revelry
Through an aerial universe of endless
Expansion—at which my soul aches to think-
Intoxicated with eternity ?
O God! O Gods! or whatsoe'er ye are !
How beautiful ye are ! how beautiful
Your works, or accidents, or whatsoe'er
They may be! Let me die, as atoms die
(If that they die), or know ye in your might
And knowledge! My thoughts are not in this hour
Unworthy what I see, though my dust is.
Spirit ! let me expire, or see them nearer.

100 I20


Lucifer. Art thou not nearer ? Look back to thine

earth !
Cain. Where is it? I see nothing save a mass
Of most innumerable lights.

Look there!
Cain, I cannot see it.

Yet it sparkles still.
Cain. That yonder !


And wilt thou tell me so ? Why, I have seen the fire-flies and fire-worms Sprinkle the dusky groves and the green banks In the dim twilight, brighter than yon world Which bears them,

Lucifer. Thou hast seen both worms and worlds,
Each bright and sparkling-what dost think of them ?

Cain. That they are beautiful in their own sphere,
And that the night, which makes both beautiful,
The little shining fire-fly in its flight,
And the immortal star in its great course,
Must both be guided.

But by whom or what?
Cain. Show me.

Dar'st thou behold ?

How know I what I dare behold? As yet thou hast shown nought I dare not gaze on further. Lucifer

On, then, with me.
Wouldst thou behold things mortal or immortal ?

Cain. Why, what are things ?

Both partly ; but what doth
Sit next thy heart?

The things I see.

But what
Sate nearest it?

The things I have not seen,
Nor ever shall—the mysteries of death.


140 150

Lucifer. What, if I show to thee things which have

As I have shown thee much which cannot die ?

Cain. Do so.
Lucifer. Away, then, on our mighty wings.
Cain. Oh, how we cleave the blue ! The stars fade

from us !
The earth! where is my earth ? Let me look on it,
For I was made of it.

'Tis now beyond thee,
Less, in the universe, than thou in it ;
Yet deem not that thou canst escape it : thou
Shalt soon return to earth and all its dust :
'Tis part of thy eternity, and mine.

Cain. Where dost thou lead me?

To what was before thee
The phantasm of the world; of which thy world
Is but the wreck.

What! is it not then new ? Lucifer. No more than life is; and that was ere thou Or I were, or the things which seem to us Greater than either : many things will have No end; and some, which would pretend to have Had no beginning, have had one as mean As thou; and mightier things have been extinct

To make way for much meaner than we can
Surmise ; for moments only and the space
Have been and must be all unchangeable.
But changes make not death, except to clay :
But thou art clay—and canst but comprehend
That which was clay; and such thou shalt behold.

Cain. Clay, spirit! what thou wilt, I can survey.
Lucifer. Away, then!

But the lights fade from me fast,
And some till now grew larger as we approach'd,
And wore the look of worlds.

And such they are.


Cain. And Edens in them?

It may be.

And men ?
Lucifer. Yea, or things higher.

Ay! and serpents too ? Lucifer. Wouldst thou have men without them? must

no reptiles Breathe save the erect ones? Cain.

How the lights recede ! Where fly we ?

Lucifer. To the world of phantoms, which
Are beings past, and shadows still to come.

Cain. But it grows dark, and dark—the stars are gone!
Lucifer. And yet thou seest.

'Tis a fearful light !
No sun, no moon, no lights innumerable.
The very blue of the empurpled night

180 Fades to a dreary twilight, yet I see Huge dusky masses: but unlike the worlds We were approaching, which, begirt with light, Seem'd full of life even when their atmosphere Of light gave way, and show'd them taking shapes Unequal, of deep valleys and vast mountains ; And some emitting sparks, and some displaying Enormous liquid plains, and some begirt With luminous belts, and floating moons, which took, Like them, the features of fair earth :-instead,

190 All here seems dark and dreadful. Lucifer.

But distinct.
Thou seekest to behold death and dead things?

Cain. I seek it not: but as I know there are
Such, and that my sire's sin makes him and me,
And all that we inherit, liable
To such, I would behold at once, what I
Must one day see perforce.

Behold. Cain.

'Tis darkness.

« PreviousContinue »