A barren, mountainous landscape, covered in snow and ice. The sun stands still among wreaths of mist, a blood-coloured sphere that gives out no rays. The light is dim. In the foreground we see a few stunted birches, and, between a juniper and a dwarf pine, an Eskimo hut. ADAM, a broken old man, descends from the hill, with the aid of a walking stick, accompanied by LUCIFER.

Why must we roam this endless world of snow
Where death looks out at us with empty eyes,
And only a seal or two disturbs the silence,
Diving beneath the waves when startled by
Our steps; where even plants are too exhausted
To strive for life and stunted bushes sway
Among the lichen, and the red-faced moon
Glares behind fog like a lantern in a grave? -
Lead me there where palms grow, that paradise
Of sunshine and sweet fragrance, where man’s soul
Is fully conscious of its latent power. -

That’s where we are. That ball of blood is your sun.
Directly beneath our feet is the Equator.
Science has finally destroyed itself.

A dreadful world!-The best thing is to die.
I won’t regret the world I leave behind.
Ah Lucifer! That I who once stood beside
The cradle of humanity and knew
What mighty hopes attended on his rocking,
Who fought beside him in his every battle,
That I should now survey this monstrous grave
Which nature has entangled in her shroud!
I, then the first, and now the last of men,
Would like to know the manner of our going.
Did we die bravely, fighting to the last
Or miserably shrink from post to post,
Undignified, unworthy of lament?

How vain you are about your “mighty” soul -
As you will keep referring to that power
Which sends the blood careering through the veins,
And swells a young man’s breast with high ideals:
Do not desire to linger to the end
As witness at your own death-bed. This is
A marvellous hour for auditing accounts
Prepared in the master’s absence. The delirium
Will put to flight the mirages produced
By life’s own fever. Who’ll know what was real then?
That final feeble rattle in the throat
Is the roar of mockery at all our battles.

O why did I not perish at my peak,
In full control of all my faculties,
Body and soul, rather than hear my own
Epitaph indifferently spoken
By one whose spirit is cold, who has no share
In either my battles or in my demise. -

Again, to me these tears betray your species,
And accompany your waking from a fond
Illusion to the harsh reality.
But rest assured, your species still survives.
Look there, there stands a human habitation,
And see, its owner has just come through the door.
An ESKIMO steps from his but, dressed for a seal-hunt

This stunted shape, this strange deformity,
Is he the heir to my estate?
Why show me such things, Lucifer!
The cure is worse than the disease.

And do the gods still live above?
Here they stand now, in the flesh.
Are they good or evil though?
I’ll play it safe and run away.
He makes to flee

Wait! A word with you!

ESKIMO falling to his knees
      Have mercy on me!
I promise I will sacrifice to you
The first seal that I catch, if you don’t hurt me.

What right have you to sacrifice the life
Of Chat poor seal in order to save your own?

Because I’m stronger; I look around
And see the fish consume the worm,
Seal eat the fish, and I the seal.

And the great spirit in turn will feed on you.

I know, the little time he lets
Me in his mercy have, I buy
With blood of sacrifice.

      How cowardly!

You think you would have acted otherwise?
Between you two there is a single difference:
He sacrifices seals and you live men,
You to a god created in your image
And he to one in his.

      I see you’re angry,
I think I know why. In my need
I called the kind god of the sun
Who asks for nothing, but gives all,
And who, as the old stories tell,
Was once the ruler here. But pardon,
I’ll curse him for your sake for ever.

Behold, O mighty God, look down and blush
To see how wretched man is, he whom You
Intended to be the wonder of the world! -

Your friend is angry. Is he hungry too?

It is just because he’s not that he is angry.

Why must you joke at such an awful time!

It’s no joke but the truth. Your reasoning
Is typical of a full stomach - his
Is the philosophy of one that’s empty.
You’ll not convince each other with your reasons,
But you would soon see eye to eye with him
If you were hungry or if he had eaten. -
Oh yes, whatever you choose to imagine,
The animal in you takes precedence,
And only once he satisfies the beast
Does man begin contemptuously to think
Of abandoning his primal character.

That speech was quite in character for you,
You like debasing all things that are sacred.
So all our high ideals and noble deeds
Are nothing but the steam of primal kitchens,
Or a lumpen sum of circumstantial forces
Disposing every element according
To laws that govern rudimentary matter?

But are there others? Do you then believe
Leonidas would have perished in the pass
If only instead of supping on brown soup
In a penniless democracy, he’d lounged
In a villa and dabbled in all the pleasures
And intoxications that the East could offer?
Would Brutus have died if he had hurried home
To lovely Portia and after a sound meal
Slept off the hot excitement of his battle?
Where are vice and majesty both bred?
Though one is born in stinking poverty
Another one in sunlight and in freedom,
Do not both perpetuate their character
In spirit and in body through their children?
How many have said they’ve rendered their accounts
And strung themselves up on a handy branch,
But when some unforeseen blade cut the rope
The new life quickened in them and they left
Accountancy? If Hunyadi were born
Not in his proper home, but found his cradle
Rocked in the shadow of a Saracen tent
Would we have gained the first of Christian heroes?
What if Luther had chanced to be the Pope
And Leo a teacher in a German college:
Who knows, the latter might have turned reformer
And the first cast his anathema against
The turbulent rebel. Take Napoleon,
What if his path had not been straightened by
The blood of a whole nation? He might have
Mouldered away in a stinking barrack-room. -

ADAM clapping his hand over LUCIFER’s mouth
Enough! - since every issue you expound
Appears so plain and irrefutable
It’s all the more pernicious. - Superstition
Blinds only those fools who in any case
Are blind to the spirit moving in us all;
But finer men might recognize their brothers
If your cold doctrine did not kill them first. -

Then speak with your fellow here. A little lesson
In self-knowledge will not come amiss.

Are many of you living in this district?

Oh many indeed, more than I could count
On all my fingers. But even though I beat
My neighbours’ heads in, it is pointless,
New settlers will keep coming, seals are few.
If god you are, I beg you, do this for me,
Let there be less of men and more of seals. -

Oh Lucifer, let’s go, I’ve had enough!

But let us at least meet the fellow’s wife.

I’ve no desire to meet her. When man has touched
The depths, the very sight offends our eyes -
There’s nothing but contempt left in our hearts.
But woman, that ideal, that poetry
Made tangible, when she descends so low,
Becomes deformed and monstrous to behold.
Let us go. I have no wish to see her.
In the meantime LUCIFER bas been dragging ADAM towards the hut and as he ends his speech, kicks in the door, where we find EVE as the Eskimo’s life. ADAM stands at the threshold, quite transfixed

Don’t you recognize an old acquaintance?
Embrace her, it’s the proper thing to do,
Her husband would take grave offence if you
Were not to show such courtesy to his wife.

Embrace her, I, who held Aspasia
In my arms! This thing whose features hint
At some resemblance so contorted that
Somehow, in the very act of kissing
She’s sure to be transformed into a beast.

ESKIMO stepping into the hut
Guests, woman, be nice and friendly to them.
EVE falls into ADAM’s arms and pulls him into the hut.

You’re welcome, stranger, come and rest.

ADAM disentangling himself
Help me, Lucifer! Away from here,
Lead me from the future to the present,
Let me see no more of my harsh fate:
This useless struggle. Let me think it over
If I should I still take issue with God’s will. -

Wake then, Adam! Your dream is at an end.