Poems and Prose Remains, Vol II

Fragments of the Mystery of the Fall 1

Arthur Hugh Clough


Adam and Eve.

    Adam. Since that last evening we have fallen indeed!
Yes, we have fallen, my Eve! O yes!—
One, two, and three, and four;—the Appetite,
The Enjoyment, the aftervoid, the thinking of it—
Specially the latter two, most specially the last.
There, in synopsis, see, you have it all:
Come, let us go and work!
                                        Is it not enough?
What, is there three, four, five?

    Eve.                                Oh, guilt, guilt, guilt!

    Adam. Be comforted; muddle not your soul with doubt.
’Tis done, it was to be done; if, indeed,
Other way than this there was, I cannot say:
This was one way, and a way was needs to be found.
That which we were we could no more remain
Than in the moist provocative vernal mould
A seed its suckers close and rest a seed;
We were to grow. Necessity on us lay
This way or that to move; necessity, too,
Not to be over careful this or that,
So only move we should.
                                        Come, my wife,
We were to grow, and grow I think we may,
And yet bear goodly fruit.

    Eve.                                Oh, guilt! oh, guilt!

    Adam. You weary me with your ‘Oh, guilt! oh, guilt!’
Peace to the senseless iteration. What!
Because I plucked an apple from a twig
Be damned to death eterne! parted from Good,
Enchained to Ill! No, by the God of gods;
No, by the living will within my breast,
It cannot be, and shall not; and if this,
This guilt of your distracted fantasy,
Be our experiment’s sum, thank God for guilt,
Which makes me free!
    But thou, poor wife! poor mother, shall I say?
Big with the first maternity of man,
Draw’st from thy teeming womb thick fancies fond,
That with confusion mix thy delicate brain;
Fondest of which and cloudiest call the dream
(Yea, my beloved, hear me, it is a dream)
Of the serpent, and the apple, and the curse:
Fondest of dreams and cloudiest of clouds.
    Well I remember, in our marriage bower,
How in the dewiest balminess of rest,
Inarmèd as we lay, sudden at once
Up from my side you started, screaming ‘Guilt!’
And ‘Lost! lost! lost!’ I on my elbow rose,
And rubbed unwilling eyes, and cried, ‘Eve! Eve!
My love! my wife!’ and knit anew the embrace,
And drew thee to me close, and calmed thy fear,
And wooed thee back to sleep. In vain; for soon
I felt thee gone, and opening widest eyes,
Beheld thee kneeling on the turf, hands now
Clenched and uplifted high, now vainly outspread
To hide a burning face and streaming eyes
And pale small lips that muttered faintly, ‘Death.’
And thou would’st fain depart; thou said’st the place
Was for the like of us too good: we left
The pleasant woodland shades, and passed abroad
Into this naked Champaign—glorious soil
For digging and for delving, but indeed,
Until I killed a beast or two, and spread
Skins upon sticks to make our palace here,
A residence sadly exposed to wind and rain.
But I in all submit to you; and then
I turned out too, and trudged a furlong’s space,
Till you fell tired and fain would wait for morn.
So as our nightly journey we began,
Because the autumnal fruitage that had fallen
From trees whereunder we had slept, lay thick,
And we had eaten overnight, and seen,
And saw again by starlight when you woke me,
A sly and harmless snake glide by our couch;
And because, some few hours before, a lamb
Fell from a rock and broke its neck, and I
Had answered, to your wonder, that ’twas dead,
Forsooth the molten lava of your fright
Forth from your brain, its crater, hurrying down,
Took the chance mould; the vapour blowing by
Caught and reflected back some random shapes.
A vague and queasy dream was obstinate
In waking thoughts to find itself renewed,
And to! the mighty Mythus of the Fall!
Nay, smile with me, sweet mother!

    Eve.                                Guilt! oh, guilt!

    Adam. Peace, woman, peace; I go.

    Eve.                                Nay, Adam, nay;
Hear me,—I am not dreaming, am not crazed.
Did not yourself confess that we are changed?
Do not you too?

    Adam.                            Do not I too? Well, well,
Listen! I too when homeward, weary of toil,
Through the dark night I have wandered in rain and wind,
Bewildered, haply scared, I too have lost heart,
And deemed all space with angry power replete,
Angry, almighty-and panic-stricken have cried,
‘What have I done?’ ‘What wilt thou do to me?’
Or with the coward’s ‘No, I did not, I will not,’
Belied my own soul’s self. I too have heard,
And listened, too, to a voice that in my ear
Hissed the temptation to curse God, or worse,
And yet more frequent, curse myself and die;
Until, in fine, I have begun to half believe
Your dream my dream too, and the dream of both
No dream but dread reality; have shared
Your fright: e’en so share thou, sweet life, my hope;
I too, again, when weeds with growth perverse
Have choked my corn and marred a season’s toil,
Have deemed I heard in heaven abroad a cry,
‘Cursed is the ground for thy sake; thou art cursed.’
But oftener far, and stronger also far,
In consonance with all things out and in,
I hear a voice more searching bid me, ‘On!
On! on! it is the folly of the child
To choose his path and straightway think it wrong,
And turn right back and lie on the ground to weep.
Forward! go, conquer! work and live! ‘Withal
A word comes, half command, half prophecy,
Forgetting things behind thee, onward press
Unto the mark of your high calling.’ Yea,
And voices, too, in woods and flowery fields
Speak confidence from budding banks and boughs,
And tell me, ‘Live and grow,’ and say, ‘Look still
Upward, spread outward, trust, be patient, live;’
Therefore, if weakness bid me curse and die,
I answer, No! I will not curse myself,
Nor aught beside; I shall not die, but live.

    Eve.                                Ah, me! alas! alas
More dismally in my face stares the doubt,
More heavily on my heart weighs the world.
The questionings of ages yet to be,
The thinkings and cross-thinkings, self-contempts,
Self-horror; all despondencies, despairs
Of multitudinous souls on souls to come,
In me imprisoned fight, complain and cry.
Mystery, mystery, mystery evermore.



Adam, alone.

    Adam. Misery, oh my misery! O God, God!
How could I ever, ever, could I do it?
Whither am I come? where am I? O me, miserable
My God, my God, that I were back with Thee!
O fool! O fool! O irretrievable act!
    Irretrievable what, I should like to know?
What act, I wonder? What is it I mean?
    O heaven! the spirit holds me; I must yield;
Up in the air he lifts me, casts me down;
I writhe in vain, with limbs convulsed, in the void.
Well, well I go idle words, babble your will;
I think the fit will leave me ere I die.
    Fool, fool! where am I? O my God! Fool, fool!
Why did we do ’t? Eve, Eve! where are You? quick!
His tread is in the garden! hither it comes
Hide us, O bushes! and ye thick trees, hide!
He comes, on, on. Alack, and all these leaves,
These petty, quivering and illusive blinds,
Avail us nought: the light comes in and in;
Displays us to ourselves; displays—ah, shame—
Unto the inquisitive day our nakedness.
He comes; He calls. The large eye of His truth,
His full, severe, all-comprehending view,
Fixes itself upon our guiltiness.
O God, O God! what are we? what shall we be?
    What is all this about, I wonder now?
Yet I am better, too. I think it will pass.
    ’Tis going now, unless it comes again.
A terrible possession while it lasts.
Terrible, surely; and yet indeed ’tis true.
E’en in my utmost impotence I find
A fount of strange persistence in my soul;
Also, and that perchance is stronger still,
A wakeful, changeless touchstone in my brain,
Receiving, noting, testing all the while
These passing, curious, new phenomena—
Painful, and yet not painful unto it.
Though tortured in the crucible I lie,
Myself my own experiment, yet still
I, or a something that is I indeed,
A living, central, and more inmost I,
Within the scales of mere exterior me’s,
I,—seem eternal, O thou God, as Thou;
Have knowledge of the evil and the good,
Superior in a higher good to both.
Well, well, well! it has gone from me, though still
Its images remain upon me whole;
And undisplaced upon my mind I view
The reflex of the total seizure past.
Really now, had I only time and space,
And were not troubled with this wife of mine,
And the necessity of meat and drink—
I really do believe,
With time and space and proper quietude,
I could resolve the problem in my brain.
But, no; I scarce can stay one moment more
To watch the curious seething process out.
If I could only dare to let Eve see
These operations, it is like enough
Between us two we two could make it out.
But she would be so frightened—think it proof
Of all her own imaginings. ’Twill not do;
So as it is
I must e’en put a cheery face on it,
Suppress the whole, rub off the unfinished thoughts,
For fear she read them. O, ’tis pity indeed,
But confidence is the one and main thing now
Who loses confidence, he loses all.
A demi-grain of cowardice in me
Avowed, were poison to the whole mankind:
When men are plentier, ’twill be time to try;
At present, no.
Shake it all up and go.
That is the word, and that must be obeyed.
I must be off. But yet again some day
Again will I resume it; if not I,
I in some child of late posterity.
Yes, yes, I feel it; it is here the seed,
Here in my head; but, O thou Power unseen,
In whom we live and move and have our being,
Let it not perish; grant, unlost, unhurt,
In long transmission, this rich atom some day,
In some posterity of distant years—
How many thou intendest to have I know not—
In some matured and procreant human brain,
May germinate, burst, and rise into a tree.
No; I shall not tell Eve.


(Now the birth of Cain was in this wise.)

Adam and Eve.

    Eve. Oh, Adam, I am comforted indeed;
Where is he? O my little one!
My heart is in the garden as of old,
And Paradise come back.

    Adam.                        My love,
Blessed be this good day to thee indeed;
Blessed the balm of joy unto thy soul.
A sad unskilful nurse was I to thee;
But nature teaches mothers, I perceive.

    Eve. But you, my husband, you meantime, I feel,
Join not your perfect spirit in my joy.
No; your spirit mixes not, I feel, with mine.

    Adam. Alas! sweet love, for many a weary day,
You and not I have borne this heavy weight:
How can I, should I, might I feel your bliss,
Now heaviness is changed to glory? Long,
In long and unparticipated pangs,
Your heart hath known its own great bitterness
How should, in this its jubilant release,
A stranger intermeddle with its joy?

    Eve. My husband, there is more in it than this;
Nay, you are surely, positively sad.

    Adam. What if I was (and yet I think I am not),
’Twere but the silly and contrarious mood
Of one whose sympathies refuse to mix
In aught not felt immediate from himself.
But of a truth,
Your joy is greater—mine seems therefore none.

    Eve. Nay, neither this I think nor that is true.
Evermore still you love to cheat me. Adam
You hide from me your thoughts like evil beasts
Most foolishly; for I, thus left to guess,
Catch at all hints, and where perchance one is,
People the forest with a hundred ills,
Each worse perhaps a hundred times than it.
No; you have got some fearful thoughts—no, no;
Look not in that way on my baby, Adam—
You do it hurt; you shall not!

    Adam.                        Hear me, Eve.
If hear you will—and speak I think I must—
Hear me.
What is it I would say? I think—
And yet I must—so hear me, mother blest,
That sittest with thy nursling at thy heart,
Hope not too greatly, neither fear for him,
Feeling on thy breast his small compressing lips,
And glorying in the gift they draw from thee;
Hope not too greatly in thyself and him.
And hear me, O young mother—I must speak.
This child is born of us, and therefore like us;
Is born of us, and therefore is as we;
Is born of us, and therefore is not pure;
Earthy as well as godlike; bound to strive—
Not doubtfully I augur from the past—
Through the same straits of anguish and of doubt,
’Mid the same storms of terror and alarm,
To the calm ocean which he yet shall reach,
He or himself or in his sons hereafter,
Of consummated consciousness of self.
The self-same stuff which wrought in us to grief
Runs in his veins; and what to work in him?
What shape of unsuspected deep disguise,
Transcending our experience, our best cares
Baffling, evading all preventive thought,
Will the old mischief choose, I wonder, here?
O born to human trouble! also born—
Else wherefore born—to some diviner lot,
Live, and may chance treat thee no worse than us.
There, I have done: the dangerous stuff is out;
My mind is freed. And now, my gentle Eve,
Forgive thy foolish spouse, and let me set
A father’s kiss upon these budding lips,
A husband’s on the mother’s—the full flower.
There, there; and so, my own and only wife,
Believe me, my worst thought is now to learn
How best and most to serve this child and thee.
This child is born of us, and therefore like us—
Most true, mine own; and if a man like me
Externally, internally I trust
Most like to thee, the better of the twain.
Is born of us, and therefore is not pure—
Did I say that? I know not what I said;
It was a foolish humour; but, indeed,
Whatever you may think, I have not learnt
The trick of deep suppression, e’en the skill
To sort my thoughts and sift my words enough.
Not pure, indeed!—And if it is not pure,
What is? Ah, well! but most I look to the days
When these small arms, with pliant thews filled out,
Shall at my side break up the fruitful glebe,
And aid the cheery labours of the year—
Aid, or, in feebler wearier years, replace,
And leave me longer hours for home and love.



Adam and Eve.

    Eve. O Adam, it was I was godless then;
But you were mournful,. heavy, but composed.
At times would somewhat fiercely bite your lip
And pass your hand about your brow; but still
Held out, denied not God, acknowledged still
Those glories that were gone. No, I never
Felt all your worth to me before; I feel
You did not fall as I did.

    Adam.                        Nay, my child,
About our falls I don’t profess to know.
I know I ne’er was innocent as thou;
I only know, as you will have it so,
Were your descent more lengthy than was mine,
It is not that your place is lower now,
But that first ’twas higher up than mine;
It is, that I being bestial, you divine,
We now alike are human beings both.
About our fall I won’t profess to know,
But know I do,
That I was never innocent as thou.
Moping again, my love; yes, I dare swear,
All the day long while I have been at work,
With some religious folly in your head.

    Eve. No, Adam, I am cheerful quite to-day;
I vary much, indeed, from hour to hour,
But since my baby’s birth I am happier far;
And I have done some work as well as you.

    Adam. What is it tho’? for I will take my oath
You’ve got some fancy stirring in your brain.

    Eve. Nay, but it vexes me for evermore
To find in you no credence to my thought.

    Adam. What is it then you wish me to subscribe to?
That we were in a garden put by God,
Allowed to eat of all the trees but one.
Somehow—I don’t know how—a serpent tempted us,
And eat we did, and so were doomed to die;
Whereas before we were meant to live for ever.
Meantime, turned out——

    Eve. You do not think then, Adam,
We have been disobedient unto God?

    Adam. My child, how should I know, and what do you mean?
Your question’s not so simple as it looks;
For if you mean that God said this or that—
As that ‘You shall not touch those apples there,’
And that we did—why, all that I can say
Is, that I can’t conceive the thing to be.
But if it were so, I should then believe
We had done right—at any rate, no harm.

    Eve. O Adam, I can scarcely think I hear;
For if God said to us—God being God—
‘You shall not,’ is not His commandment His?
And are not we the creatures He hath made?

    Adam. My child, God does not speak to human minds
In that unmeaning arbitrary way.
God were not God if so, and good not good.
Search in your heart, and if you tell me there
You find a genuine voice—no fancy, mind you—
Declaring to you this or that is evil,
Why, this or that I daresay evil is.
Believe me, I will listen to the word;
For not by observation of without
Cometh the kingdom of the voice of God
It is within us—let us seek it there.

    Eve. Yet I have voices, surely, in my heart.
Often you say I heed them over much.

    Adam. God’s voice is of the heart: I do not say
All voices, therefore, of the heart are God’s;
And to discern the voice amidst the voices
Is that hard task, my love, that we are born to.

    Eve. Ah me, in me I am sure the one, one voice
Goes somehow to the sense of what I say—
The sense of disobedience to God.
O Adam, some way, some time, we have done wrong,
And when I think of this, I still must think
Of Paradise, and of the stately tree
Which in the middle of the garden grew,
The golden fruit that hung upon its boughs,
Of which but once we eat, and I must feel
That whereas once in His continual sight
We lived, in daily communing with Him,
We now are banished, and behold not Him,
Our only present communing, alas!
Is penitential mourning, and the gaze
Of the abased and prostrate prayerful soul;
But you, yourself, my Adam, you at least
Acknowledge some time somehow we did wrong.

    Adam. My child, I never even granted that.

    Eve. Oh, but you let strange words at times fall from you.
They are to me like thunderbolts from heaven;
I listen terrified and sick at heart,
Then haste and pick them up and treasure them.
What was it that you said when Cain was born:
‘He’s born of us and therefore is not pure.’
O, you corrected well, my husband, then
My foolish, fond exuberance of delight.

    Adam. My child, believe me, truly I was the fool;
But a first baby is a strange surprise.
I shall not say so when another comes;
And I beseech you treasure up no words.
You know me: I am loose of tongue and light.
I beg you, Eve, remember nought of this;
Put not at least, I pray you—nay, command—
Put not, when days come on, your own strange whim
And misconstruction of my idle words
Into the tender brains of our poor young ones.



Adam with Cain and Abel.

    Adam.                        Cain, beware!
Strike not your brother! I have said, beware!
A heavy curse is on this thing, my son.
With doubt and fear,
Terror and toil and pain already here,
Let us not have injustice too, my son.
So Cain, beware!
And Abel, too, see you provoke him not.



Abel alone.

    Abel.                        At times I could believe
My father is no better than his son:
If not as overbearing, proud and hard,
Yet prayerless, worldly, almost more than Cain.
Enlighten and convert him ere the end,
My God! spurn not my mother’s prayers and mine.
Since I was born, was I not left to Thee,
In an unspiritual and godless house,
Unfathered and unbrothered—Thine and hers?
They think not of the fall: e’en less they think
Of the redemption, which God said should be;
Which, for we apprehend it by our faith,
Already is—is come for her and me.
Yea, though I sin, my sin is not to death;
In my repentance I have joy, such joy
That almost I could sin to seek for it—
Yea, if I did not hate it and abhor,
And know that Thou abhorr’st and hatest it,
And will’st, for an example to the rest,
That Thine elect should keep themselves from it.
My mother calls the fall a mystery;
Redemption is so too. But oh, my God,
Thou wilt bring all things in the end to good.
Yea, though the whole earth lie in wickedness, I
Am with Thee, with Thee, with Thee evermore.
Ah, yet I am not satisfied with this!
Am I not feeding spiritual pride,
Rejoicing over sinners, inelect
And unadmitted to the fellowship
Which I, unworthy, most unworthy, share?
What can I do—how can I help it then?
O God, remove it from my heart; pluck out,
Whatever pain, whatever wrench to me,
These sinful roots and remnants which, whate’er
I do, how high so e’er I soar from earth,
Still, undestroyed, still germinate within.
Take them away in Thy good time, O God.
Meantime, for that atonement’s precious sake
Which in Thy counsels predetermined works
Already to the saving of the saints,
O Father, view with mercy, and forgive;
Nor let my vexed perception of my sin,
Nor any multitude of evil thoughts,
Crowding like demons in my spirit’s house,
Nor life, nor death, things here or things below,
Cast out the sweet assurance of my soul
That I am Thine, and Thou art mine, my God.



Cain alone.

    Cain. Am I or am I not this which they think me?
My mother loves me not; my brother Abel,
Searing my heart, commends my soul to God;
My father does not shun me—there’s my comfort:
Almost I think they look askance on him.
Ah, but fore him,
I know not what might happen; for at times
Ungovernable angers take the waves
Of my deep soul and sweep them—who knows whither?
And a strange impulse, struggling to the truth,
Urges me onward to put forth my strength,
No matter how. A wild anxiety
Possesses me moreover to essay
This world of action round me so unknown;
And to be able to do this or that
Seems cause enough without a cause for doing it.
My father, he is cheerful and content,
And leads me frankly forward. Yet, indeed,
His leading—or, more truly, to be led
At all, by any one, and not myself—
Is mere dissatisfaction: evermore
Something I must do individual,
To vindicate my nature, to give proof
I also am, as Adam is, a man.



Adam and Eve.

    Adam. These sacrificings, O my best beloved,
These rites and forms which you have taught our boys.
Which I nor practise nor can understand,
Will turn, I trust, to good; but I much fear.
Besides the superstitious search of signs
In merest accidents of earth and air,
They cause, I think, a sort of jealousy—
Ill-blood. Hark, now!

    Eve. O God, whose cry is that?
Abel, where is my Abel?

    Adam. Cain, what Cain!



Cain alone with the body of Abel.

    Cain. What! fallen? so quickly down—so easily felled,
And so completely? Why, he does not move.
Will not he stir—will he not breathe again?
Still as a log—still as his own dead lamb.
Dead is it then? O wonderful! O strange!
Dead! dead! And we can slay each other then?
If we are wronged, why we can right ourselves;
If we are plagued and pestered with a fool
That will not let us be, nor leave us room
To do our will and shape our path in peace,
We can be rid of him. There—he is gone;
Victory! victory! victory! My heaven,
Methinks, from infinite distances borne back,
It comes to me re-born—in multitude
Echoed, re-echoed, and re-echoed again,
Victory! victory!—distant, yet distinct—
Uncountable times repeated. O ye gods!
Where am I come, and whither am I borne?
    I stand upon the pinnacle of earth,
And hear the wild seas laughing at my feet;
Yet I could wish that he had struggled more—
That passiveness was disappointing. Ha!
He should have writhed and wrestled in my arms,
And all but overcome, and set his knee
Hard on my chest, till I—all faint, yet still
Holding my fingers at his throat—at last,
Inch after inch, had forced him to relax:
But he went down at once, without a word,
Almost without a look.
                        Ah!—hush! My God I
Who was it spoke? What is this questioner?
Who was it asked me where my brother is?
Ha, ha! Was I his keeper? I know not.
Each for himself; he might have struck again.
Why did he not? I wished him to. Was I
To strike for both at once? No! Yet, ah!
Where is thy brother? Peace, thou silly voice;
Am I my brother’s keeper? I know not,
I know not aught about it; let it be.
Henceforth I shall walk freely upon earth,
And know my will, and do it by my might.
My God!—it will not be at peace—my God!
It flames; it bursts to fury in my soul.
What is it that will come of this? Ah me!
What is it I have done?—Almighty God!
I see it; I behold it as it is,
As it will be in all the times to come
Slaughter on slaughter, blood for blood, and death,
For ever, ever, ever, evermore!
And all for what?
                        O Abel, brother mine,
Where’er thou art, more happy far than me!



Adam alone.

    Adam. Abel is dead, and Cain—ah, what is Cain?
Is he not even more than Abel dead?
Well, we must hope in Seth. This merest man,
This unambitious common-place of life,
Will after all perhaps mend all; and though
Record shall tell men to the after-time
No wondrous tales of him, in him at last,
And in his seed increased and multiplied,
Earth shall be blest and peopled and subdued,
And what was meant to be be brought to pass.
Oh but, my Abel and my Cain, e’en so
You shall not be forgotten nor unknown.



Cain and Eve.

    Cain. I am come. Curse me;
Curse Cain, my mother, ere he goes. He waits.

    Eve. Who? What is this?
Oh Abel! O my gentle, holy child,
My perfect son!
Monster! and did I bear thee too?

    Cain. He was so good, his brother hated him,
And slew him for’t. Go on, my mother, on.

.     .     .     .     .

    Eve. For there are rites and holy means of grace
Of God ordained for man’s eternal [weal].
With these, my son, address thyself to Him,
And seek atonement from a gracious God,
With whom is balm for every wounded heart.

    Cain. I ask not for atonement, mother mine;
I ask but one thing—never to forget.
I ask but—not to add to one great crime
Another self-delusion scarcely less.
I could ask more, but more I know is sin.
If sacrifices and the fat of lambs,
And whole burnt-offerings upon piles of turf,
Will bring me this, I’d fill the heaven with smoke,
And deface earth with million fiery scars.
I could ask back (and think it but my right,
And passionately claim it as my right)
That precious life which one misguided blow,
Which one scarce conscious momentary act,
One impulse blindly followed to its close,
Ended for ever; but that I know this vain.
If they shall only keep my sin in mind,
I shall not, be assured, neglect them either.

    Eve. You ask not for atonement! O my son—
Cain, you are proud and hard of heart e’en now.
Prostrate your soul in penitential prayer,
Humble your heart beneath the mighty hand
Of God, whose gracious guidance oft shall lead
Through sin and crime the changed and melted heart
To sweet repentance and the sense of Him.
You ask not for atonement! O my son!
What, to be banished from the sight of God;
To dwell with wicked spirits, be a prey
To them and prey yourself on human souls;
What, to be lost in wickedness and wrath,
Deeper and deeper down;
What, Cain, do you choose this!

    Cain.                        Alas! my mother,
I know not; there are mysteries in your heart
Which I profess not knowledge of: it may be
That this is so; if so, may God reveal it.
Have faith you too in my heart’s secrets; yea,
All I can say, alas, is that to me,
As I now comprehend it, this were sin.
Atonement—no; not that, but punishment.
But what avails to talk? talk as we will,
As yet we shall not know each other’s hearts;
Let me not talk, but act. Farewell, for ever.



Adam and Cain.

    Cain. This is the history then, my father, is it?
This is the perfect whole?

    Adam.                        My son, it is.
And whether a dream, or if it were a dream,
A transcript of an inward spiritual fact
(As you suggest, and I allow, might be),
Not the less true because it was a dream.
I know not—O my Cain, I cannot tell,
But in my soul I think it was a dream,
And but a dream; a thing, whence’er it came,
To be forgotten and considered not.

    Cain. Father, you should have told me this before;
It is no use now. Oh God, my brother! oh God!

.     .     .     .     .

    Adam. For what is life, and what is pain or death?
You have killed Abel: Abel killed the lamb—
An act in him prepense, in you unthought of.
One step you stirred, and lo! you stood entrapped.

    Cain. My father, this is true, I know; but yet,
There is some truth beside: I cannot say,
But I have heard within my soul a voice
Asking, ‘Where is thy brother,’ and I said—
That is, the evil heart within me said—
‘Am I my brother’s keeper? go ask him.
Who was it that provoked me? should he rail,
And I not smite? his death be on his head.’
But the voice answered in my soul again,
So that the other ceased and was no more.



Adam and Cain.

    Cain. My father, Abel’s dead.

    Adam. My son, ’tis done, it was to be done; some good end
Thereby to come, or else it had not been.
Go, for it must be. Cain, I know your heart,
You cannot be with us. Go, then, depart;
But be not over scrupulous, my son.

    Cain. Curse me, my father, ere I go. Your curse
Will go with me for good; your curse
Will make me not forget,
Alas! I am not of that pious kind,
Who, when the blot has fallen upon their life,
Can look to heaven and think it white again—
Look up to heaven and find a something there
To make what is not be, altho’ it is.
My mother—ah, how you have spoke of this
The dead—to him ’twas innocence and joy,
And purity and safety from the world
To me the thing seems sin—the worst of sin.
If it be so, why are we here?—the world,
Why is it as I find it? The dull stone
Cast from my hand, why comes it not again?
The broken flow’ret, why does it not live?
If it be so,
Why are we here, and why is Abel dead?
Shall this be true
Of stocks and stones and mere inanimate clay,
And not in some sort also hold for us?

    Adam. My son, Time healeth all,
Time and great Nature; heed her speech, and learn.

    Cain. My father, you are learned in this sort:
You read the earth, as does my mother heaven.
Both books are dark to me—only I feel
That this one thing
And this one word in me must be declared;
That to forget is not to be restored;
To lose with time the sense of what we did
Cancels not that we did; what’s done remains—
I am my brother’s murderer. Woe to me!
Abel is dead. No prayers to empty heaven,
No vegetative kindness of the earth,
Will bring back warmth into his clay again,
The gentleness of love into his face.
Therefore, for me farewell;
Farewell for me the soft,
The balmy influences of night and sleep,
The satisfaction of achievement done,
The restorative pulsing of the blood
That changes all and changes e’en the soul—
And natural functions, moving as they should,
The sweet good-nights, the sweet delusive dreams
That lull us out of old things into new.
But welcome Fact, and Fact’s best brother, Work;
Welcome the conflict of the stubborn soil,
To toil the livelong day, and at the end,
Instead of rest, recarve into my brow
The dire memorial mark of what still is.
Welcome this worship, which I feel is mine;
Welcome this duty—
                                    —the solidarity of life
And unity of individual soul.
That which I did, I did, I who am here:
There is no safety but in this; and when
I shall deny the thing that I have done,
I am a dream.

    Adam. My son,
What shall I say?
That which your soul, in marriage with the world,
Imbreeds in you, accept;—how can I say
Refuse the revelations of the soul?
Yet be not over scrupulous, my son,
And be not over proud to put aside
The due consolements of the circling years.
What comes, receive; be not too wise for God.
The past is something, but the present more;
Will not it too be past?—nor fail withal
To recognise the future in our hopes;
Unite them in your manhood each and all,
Nor mutilate the perfectness of life.
You can remember, you can also hope;
And, doubtless, with the long instructive years,
Comfort will come to you, my son, to me,
Even to your mother, comfort; but to us
Knowledge, at least—the certainty of things
Which, as I think, is consolation’s sum.
For truly now, to-day, to-morrow, yes,
Days many more to come, alike to you,
Whose earliest revelation of the world
Is, horrible indeed, this fatal fact—
And unto me, who, knowing not much before,
Look gropingly and idly into this,
And recognise no figure I have seen—
Alike, my son, to me, and to yourself,
Much is now dark which one day will be light;
With strong assurance fortify your soul
Of this; and that you meet me here again,
Promise me, Cain. Farewell, to meet again.



Adam’s Vision.

    Adam. O Cain, the words of Adam shall be said:
Come near and hear your father’s words, my son.
I have been in the spirit, as they call it,
Dreaming, which is, as others say, the same.
I sat, and you, Cain, with me, and Eve
(We sat as in a picture people sit,
Great figures, silent, with their place content);
And Abel came and took your hand, my son,
And wept and kissed you, saying, ‘Forgive me, Cain.
Ah me! my brother, sad has been thy life
For my sake, all thro’ me; how foolishly,
Because we knew not both of us were right; ‘
And you embraced and wept, and we too wept.

Then I beheld through eyes with tears suffused,
And deemed at first ’twas blindness thence ensuing;
Abel was gone, and you were gone, my son—
Gone, and, yet not gone; yea, I seemed to see
The decomposing of those coloured lines
Which we called you, their fusion into one,
And therewithal their vanishing and end.
And Eve said to me, ‘Adam, in the day
When in the inexistent void I heard God’s voice,
An awful whisper, bidding me to be,
How slow was I to come, how loth to obey;
As slow, as sad, as lingeringly loth,
I fade, I vanish, sink, and cease to be,
By the same sovereign strong compulsion borne:
Ah, if I vanish, take me into thee!’
She spoke, nor, speaking, ceased I listening; but
I was alone, yet not alone, with her
And she with me, and you with us, my sons,
As at the first;—and yet not wholly—yea,
And that which I had witnessed thus in you,
This fusion, and mutation, and return,
Seemed in my substance working too. I slept,
I did not dream, my sleep was sweet to me.
Yes, in despite of all disquietudes,
For Eve, for you, for Abel, which indeed
Impelled in me that gaiety of soul—
Without your fears I had listened to my own—
In spite of doubt, despondency, and death,
Though lacking knowledge alway, lacking faith
Sometimes, and hope; with no sure trust in ought
Except a kind of impetus within,
Whose sole credentials were that trust itself;
Yet, in despite of much, in lack of more,
Life has been beautiful to me, my son,
And I, if I am called, will come again.
As he hath lived he dies.—My comforter,
Whom I believed not, only trusted in,
What had I been without thee? how survived?
Would I were with thee whereso’er thou art!
Would I might follow thee still!
But sleep is sweet, and I would sleep, my son.
Oh Cain! behold your father’s words are said!

1. The MS. of this poem is very imperfect, and bears no title; but it is clear from its arrangement that the author intended it to take a dramatic form.    [back]

Poems and Prose Remains vol II - Contents

Back    |    Words Home    |    Arthur Hugh Clough Home    |    Site Info.    |    Feedback