SCENE XV

The scene changes to that of SCENE III. A landscape with palm-trees. ADAM again as a youth, still heavy with sleep, comes out of the hut, and gazes around in amazement. EVE slumbers within, LUCIFER stands in the centre. Bright sunlight.

ADAM
O dreadful visions, whither are ye fled?
Around me all things live and smile as when
I left them. Broken is my heart alone!

LUCIFER
Vain mortal! Wouldst thou then that Nature’s rule
Should fall asunder, that athwart the sky
A comet new should glare, or earth should quake,
Because a worm doth perish in the dust?

ADAM
Did I but dream, or is it now I dream?
Is more than dream, forsooth, existence, which
Upon dead matter, for a moment, lights,
And then, with matter, perisheth itself?
Why this one flash of fleeting consciousness,
The horror of non-existence to view?

LUCIFER
Lamentest thou? A craven only, he
Who doth receive, whithout a fight, the blow
Which he has still the power to escape.
But he who gazeth calm and undismayed
Upon the letters destiny doth trace,
Unmurmuring, in silence, he is strong,
That yet he stand unbowed beneath their weight.
Such destiny stands history above.
Thou art the tool alone of destiny.

ADAM
Nay, nay, ’tis false, the will of man is free,
That liberty I verily have earned,
And did, for freedom, Paradise renounce.
Much have I learned from visions of my dreams;
Of much been undeceived. But now alone
On me dependeth it my course to change.

LUCIFER
Yea, if forgetfulness, eternal hope
Were not the twin ally of destiny,
That while the one doth cicatrize the wound,
The other one a carpet doth spread forth
Athwart the gulf, and bid thee courage take,
That though a hundred fall, thou shalt leap o’er!
But thou, amongst a host of creatures strange,
Hast surely, in thy studies, known that worm
Which in a hawk or cat alone may live.
And yet before that it be fully grown
Must dwell within the body of a mouse.
No one or other mouse is marked as prey
For cat or hawk; the prudent may escape,
And, aged, die within its hidden lair.
But yet a law unbroken doth require
So many mice shall be food for their foes
As needs must be, for molluscs yet to live
Upon the earth when centuries have passed.
No one or other man is fettered fast,
But the whole race of man doth bear its chains;
Enthusiasm sweeps him on its tide;
To-day one cause doth fire him, and next day,
Another hope ariseth in his heart.
Still are there they who perish at the stake,
Still are there they who mock their sacrifice.
And he who doth the numbers count and weigh
May the consistency of Fate admire,
That marriage, death, vice, virtue, measures in
Due portion; yea, faith, madness, suicide. -

ADAM
Enough! What thought has flashed athwart my brain?
Thee may I yet, o mighty God, defy.
Cry fate a hundred times: ‘Thus far yet live,’
I laugh aloud, for if I will, I die.
Am I not now alone upon this world?
Before me is this cliff - beneath, the deep.
One leap, one final act - then may I say:
The comedy is ended!
ADAM advances towards the cliff. EVE comes out of the door of the hut.

LUCIFER
      Ended, nay!
What folly speakest thou, dost thou not know
Each moment a beginning is and end?
Thousands of years thou hast seen; and for this?

EVE
Adam, why hast thou stolen thus away?
So cold the last embrace thou gavest me;
And in thy face doth care or anger show,
I fear thee now.

ADAM advancing further
      Why followest thou me?
Why dost thou watch the every step I take?
Man, ruler of the earth, hath greater things
Than rest at ease in idle dalliance.
This understandeth not a woman’s heart;
Nought is she but a shackle on his feet.
tenderly
Why didst thou not yet slumber for a while?
For now the sacrifice harder be,
That I must offer to the future age.

EVE
If thou wouldst hear, ’twere easier perchance.
For that which hitherto hath lain in doubt
Stands now assured, the future of mankind.

ADAM
How meanest thou?

EVE
      I know thy face will smile,
If I do whisper it. Come closer yet.
I am to be the mother of our child!

ADAM falling on his knees
Lord thou hast conquered; in the dust I lie.
Without Thee, and against Thee, vain my fight,
Raise me or strike me down. I bare my breast.

LUCIFER
Worm, hast thou then thy greatness so forgot,
That thou dost owe to me?

ADAM
      I cast it off!
It was a vain illusion. This is peace!

LUCIFER
Thou, foolish woman, wherefor dost thou boast?
Thy son in Eden was in sin conceived,
And shall upon the earth bring sin and grief.

EVE
If God so will, a second shall be born
In sorrow, who shall wash them both away,
And bring upon this wide world, brotherhood.

LUCIFER
Slave! Dost thou dare rebellion against me?
Rise from the dust, brute beast!
ADAM rises. The heavens open. THE LORD appears in glory, surrounded by ANGELS.

THE LORD
      Seek thou the dust,
O Spirit! None is great before my face.

LUCIFER bowed down
My curse, my bitter curse, my bitter curse!

THE LORD
Rise, Adam; be no more cast down, for now
Thou seest I have restored thee to my grace.

LUCIFER aside
A family idyll seems now in sight;
A pretty scene for sentiment perchance,
But for my mind exceeding wearisome.
’Twere best I slipped away now.
He prepares to go.

THE LORD
      Lucifer!
I have for thee a word. Do thou remain.
to Adam
Speak now, my son, what cause doth grieve thee so?

ADAM
My Lord, dread visions have tormented me.
I know not what of truth within them lie.
O speak, tell me what fate awaiteth me;
Is this brief span of life all that I have,
In which my soul doth fight and, therein strained,
Like wine, that, when at length ’tis purified,
It be poured on the earth to slake the dust?
Or hast Thou for the wine a nobler use?
And shall man yet press on to greater heights
That, nobler grown, Thy throne he may draw near?
Or weary, die like beasts that turn a mill,
And never break the circle that they tread?
Is there a recompense for lofty souls,
Whom, for the blood they shed, the crowd doth mock?
O lift the veil, and I with thankfulness
Will bear whatever destiny is mine.
Nought can I lose by knowledge, for the doubt
That doth torment my soul is nether hell.

THE LORD
Seek not to pierce the veil the hand of God
In mercy draws across thy longing eyes.
If thou shouldst see, thy soul upon the earth
Rests but a little while, and there beyond
Eternity awaits it. Here no more
A virtue were it suffering to bear.
If thou shouldst see, the dust would drink thy soul.
What spurreth thee, because of high resolve,
The pleasure of the moment to renounce?
While now, thy future shining through the mist,
If thou beneath the weight of this short life
Be bowed, the feeling of eternity
Shall raise thee up from thy despondency.
But if thereby thou growest overproud,
This transient brief life shall set thee bounds.
Greatness and virtue, both shall stand secure.

LUCIFER laughing
Wondrous in truth the road that thou dost tread.
Greatness and virtue, so, shall be thy guide;
Twin names that have reality alone
If superstition, folly, prejudice
With ignorance stand not guard over them.
Why strove I greatness to achieve in Man,
Who kneaded is of sunlight and of dust,
A dwarf in knowledge, and in blindness great.

ADAM
Mock not, o Lucifer! Ah, do not mock!
The clear creation of thy knowledge I
Have seen, and cold it has been to my heart.
But, o my Lord, who shall sustain me now,
That from the road I stray not, lost and faint?
Thou hast withdrawn thy guiding hand from me,
When of the Fruit of Knowledge I did taste.

THE LORD
Thine arm is strong, and lofty is thy heart:
A boundless field doth for thy labour call,
And if thou listenest, a voice shall sound
That shall not fail to warn thee and uplift.
Heark to that voice; but if, amid the stir
Of life the voice of heaven be not heard,
Yet hath this woman weak a purer soul,
And further from the taint of selfishness.
Lo, she shall hear the voice, and in her heart
It shall to melody and song be turned.
Twin gifts hath she and shall for ever stand
Beside thee in thy grief and happiness,
And smile on thee and bid thee courage take.
And thou too, Lucifer, art yet a link
Within my universe. Work on, work on!
Thy fond denial and thy knowledge cold
Shall be the leaven in the mind of man,
And though he stray a brief space from the road,
It matters not, he shall return to it.
But this shall be eternal punishment
For thee, that thou shalt see unceasingly
What thou dost seek to ruin and destroy,
Live, the new seed of beauty, nobleness.

THE CHOIR OF ANGELS
Freely to choose ’twixt good and ill,
      How great the thought revealed,
To know too, that God’s mercy doth
      Protect us as a shield.
Then boldly work, and grieve not, though
      The multitude thee scorn,
Strive not for praise the world doth give:
      Be high thy standard borne.
Esteem thyself, and feel thou shame
      If thou do otherwise.
Such shame the vile to earth shall bind;
      Lift brave hearts to the skies.
Yet in the glory of thy road,
      Let not the thought thee blind
That what thou dost in praise of God
      Is wrought of human mind.
Think not the Lord hath need of thee
      His purpose to fulfil,
And thou receivest from Him grace,
      If thou mayst work his will.

EVE
My heart doth know the meaning of the song.

ADAM
I feel its meaning too: be it my guide!
      But, ah, the end; if I could that forget!

THE LORD
O Man, strive on, strive on, have faith; and trust!


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