Cain, A Mystery!

William Blake Eve Tempted by the Serpent

 

CAIN, A MYSTERY

“All nature is but art, unknown to thee;
All chance, direction which thou canst not see;  
All discord, harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good;
And, spite of pride, in erring reason’s spite,
One truth is clear: whatever is, is right.”

“Where then shall hope and fear their objects find ?

Must dull suspense corrupt the stagnant mind ?
Must helpless man, in ignorance sedate,
Roll darkling down the torrent of his fate ?
Must no dislike alarm, no wishes rise,
No cries invoke the mercies of the skies ?
Inquirer, cease; petitions yet remain
Which heaven may hear ; nor deem religion vain.
Still raise for good the supplicating voice,
But leave to heaven the measure and the choice ;
Safe in his power, whose eyes discern afar
The secret ambush of a specious prayer.
Implore his aid ; in his decisions rest ;
Secure, whate’er he gives, he gives the best.
Yet, when the sense of sacred presence fires,
And strong devotion to the skies aspires ;
Pour forth thy fervor for a healthful mind,
Obedient passions, and a will resigned ;
For love, which scarce collective man can fill ;
For patience, sovereign o’er transmuted ill ;
For faith, that, panting for a happier seat,
Counts death kind nature’s signal for retreat :
These goods for man the laws of heaven ordain ;
These goods he grants, who grants the means to gain ;
With these, celestial wisdom calms the mind,
And makes the happiness she does not find.

CAIN.

“Thou speak’st to me of things which long have swum
In visions through my thought; I never could
Reconcile what I saw with what I heard.
My father and my mother talk to me
Of serpents, and of fruits and trees: I see
The gates of what they call their Paradise
Guarded by fiery-sworded cherubim,
Which shut them out, and me: I feel the weight
Of daily toil, and constant thought: I look
Around a world where I seem nothing, with
Thoughts which arise within me, as if they
Could master all things: but I thought alone
This misery was mine. My father is
Tamed down ; my mother has forgot the mind
Which made her thirst for knowledge at the risk
Of an eternal curse; my brother is
A watching shepherd boy, who offers up
The firstlings of the flock to him who bids
The earth yield nothing to us without sweat:
My sister Zillah sings an earlier hymn
Than the birds’ matins; and my Adah, my
Own and beloved, she too understands not
The mind which overwhelms me: never till
Now met I aught to sympathize with me.
‘T is well 1 rather would consort with spirits.

compassion

LUCIFER.

“And hadst thou not been fit by thine own soul
For such companionship, I would not now
Have stood before thee as I am : a serpent
Had been enough to charm ye, as before.
I tempt none,
Save with the truth : was not the tree, the tree
Of knowledge? And was not the tree of life
Still fruitful’? Bid her pluck them not?
Did / plant things prohibited within
The reach of beings innocent, and curious
By their own innocence ? I would have made ye
Gods ; and even He, who thrust ye forth, so thrust ye
Because ” ye should not eat the fruits of life,
And become gods as we.” Were those his words?
Then who was the demon?
He who would not let ye live, or he who would
Have made ye live forever in the joy
And power of knowledge 1?
One is your’s already,
The other may be still.
By being yourselves, in your resistance.
Nothing can quench the mind, if the mind will be itself
And centre of surrounding things ’tis made
To sway.

CAIN.

They say the serpent was a spirit.

492940527_b1eed0027d_z

 

LUCIFER.

Who Saith that ? It is not written so on high :
The proud One will not so far falsify,
Though man’s vast fears and little vanity
Would make him cast upon the spiritual nature
His own low failing. The snake was the snake
No more ; and yet not less than those he tempted,
In nature being earth also more in wisdom.,
Since he could overcome them, and foreknew
The knowledge fatal to their narrow joys.
Think’st thou I ‘d take the shape of things that die”?

CAIN.

But the thing had a demon ?

LUCIFER.

He but woke one In those he spake to with his forky tongue.
I tell thee that the serpent was no more
Than a mere serpent : ask the cherubim
Who guard the tempting tree. When thousand ages
Have roll’d o’er your dead ashes, and your seed’s,
The seed of the then world may thus array
Their earliest fault in fable, and attribute
To me a shape I scorn, as I scorn all
That bows to him, who made things but to bend
Before his sullen, sole eternity ;
But we, who see the truth, must speak it. Thy
Fond parents listen’d to a creeping thing, and heart to look on.

CAIN.
Be it proved.

LUCIFER.

Dar’st thou to look on Death”?

CAIN.

I knew not that, yet thought it, since I heard
Of death: although I know not what it is,
Yet it seems horrible. I have look’d out
In the vast desolate night in search of him ;
And when 1 saw gigantic shadows in
The umbrage of the walls of Eden, chequer’d
By the far-flashing of the cherubs’ swords,
I watch’d for what I thought his coming ; for
With fear rose longing in my heart to know
What ‘t was which shook us all but nothing came.
And then I turn’d my weary eyes from off
Our native and forbidden Paradise,
Up to the lights above us, in the azure,
Which are so beautiful: shall they too die?

LUCIFER.

Perhaps but long outlive both thine and thee.

CAIN.

“I ‘m glad of that; I would not have them die,
They are so lovely. What is death “? I fear,
I feel, it is a dreadful thing ; but what,
I cannot compass: ’tis denounced against us,
Both them who sinn’d and sinn’d not, as an ill
What ill?”

LUCIFER.

To be resolved into the earth.

CAIN.
But shall I know it ?

LUCIFER.

“And I, who know all things, fear nothing ; see
What is true knowledge.”

Tamerlane

 

CAIN.

Wilt thou teach me all?

LUCIFER.

Aye, upon one condition.

CAIN.

Name it!
I never as yet have bow’d unto my father’s God,
Although my brother Abel oft implores
That I would join with him in sacrifice:
Why should I bow to thee?

LUCIFER.

Hast thou ne’er bow’d
To him?

All we love in our children and each other,
But lead them and ourselves through many years
Of sin and pain or few, but still of sorrow,
Intercheck’d with an instant of brief pleasure,
To Death the unknown! Methinks the tree of knowledge
Hath not fulfill’d its promise: if they sinn’d,
At least they ought to have known all things that are
Of knowledge and the mystery of death.
What do they know 1 ? that they are miserable.
What need of snakes and fruits to teach us that  ?

LUCIFER.

But if that high thought were
Link’d to a servile mass of matter, and,
Knowing such things, aspiring to such things,
And science still beyond them, were chain’d down
To the most gross and petty paltry wants,
All foul and fulsome, arid 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 bodies, all foredoom’d to be
As frail, and few so happy

CAIN.

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.

ADAH.

Oh, my mother ! thou
Hast pluck’d a fruit more fatal to thine offspring
Than to thyself; thou at the least hast past
Thy youth in Paradise, in innocent
And happy intercourse with happy spirits ;
But we, thy children, ignorant of Eden,
Are girt about by demons, who assume
The words of God, and tempt us with our own
Dissatisfied and curious thoughts as thou
Wert work’d on by the snake, in thy most flush’d
And heedless, harmless wantonness of bliss.
I cannot answer this immortal thing
Which stands before me; I cannot abhor him ;
I look upon him with a pleasing fear,
And yet I fly not from him : in his eye
There is a fastening attraction which
Fixes my fluttering eyes on his ; my heart
Beats quick; he awes me, and yet draws me near,
Nearer and nearer: Cain, Cain save me from him !

250967_10150925903986497_2136475423_n

CAIN.

My little Enoch ! and his lisping sister !
Could I but deem them happy, I would half

Forget but it can never be forgotten

Through thrice a thousand generations ! never
Shall men love the remembrance of the man
Who sow’d the seed of evil and mankind
In the same hour ! They pluck’d the tree of science
And sin and, not content with their own sorrow,
Begot me thee and all the few that are,
And all the unnumber’d and innumerable
Multitudes, millions, myriads, which may be.
To inherit agonies accumulated
By ages! and 1 must be sire of such things !
Thy beauty and thy love my love and joy,
The rapturous moment and the placid hour,

All we love in our children and each other,
But lead them and ourselves through many years
Of sin and pain or few, but still of sorrow,
Intercheck’d with an instant of brief pleasure,
To Death the unknown! Methinks the tree of knowledge
Hath not fulfill’d its promise: if they sinn’d,
At least they ought to have known all things that are
Of knowledge and the mystery of death.
What do they know ? that they are miserable.
What need of snakes and fruits to teach us that ?

Palaces and Dungeons

 

CAIN.

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 1
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 ?
Oh God ! Oh 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.

LUCIFER.

First-born of the first man !
Thy present state of sin and thou art evil,
Of sorrow and thou sufferest, arc both Eden
Inferior as thy petty feelings and
Thy pettier portion of the immortal part
Of high intelligence and earthly strength.
What ye in common have with what they had
Is life, and what ye shall have death; the rest
Of your poor attributes is such as suits
Reptiles engender’d out of the subsiding
Slime of a mighty universe, crush’d into
A scarcely yet shaped planet, peopled with
Things whose enjoyment was to be in blindness
A Paradise of Ignorance, from which
Knowledge was barr’d as poison. But behold
What these superior beings are or were ;
Or, if it irk thee, turn thee back and till
The Earth, thy task I’ll waft thee therein safety.
In all its innocence compared to what
Thou shortly raay’st be; and that state again,
In its redoubled wretchedness, a Paradise
To what thy sons’ sons’ sons, accumulating
In generations like to dust, (which they
In fact but add to,) shall endure and do.
Now let us back to Earth !”

tumblr_m4g1rkj1AN1qiuhqdo1_500

CAIN.

And wherefore didst thou
Lead me here only to inform me this?

LUCIFER.

Was not thy quest for knowledge?
The road to happiness.
Thou hast it.

CAIN.

Yes: as being

LUCIFER.

If truth be so,

CAIN.
Then my father’s God did well
When he prohibited the fatal tree.

LUCIFER.
But had done better in not planting it.
But ignorance of evil doth not save
From evil ; it must still roll on the same,
A part of all things.

CAIN.

Not of all things. No:
I ’11 not believe it for I thirst for good.

LUCIFER.

And who and what doth not! Who covets evil
For its own bitter sake? None nothing! ’tis
The leaven of all life, and lifelessness.

LUCIFER.
Approach the things of Earth most beautiful,
And judge their beauty near.
I have done this
The loveliest thing I know is loveliest nearest.
Then there must be delusion. What is that.
Which being nearest to thine eyes is still
More beautiful than beauteous things remote 

May-hem!!!

CAIN.

My sister Adah. All the stars of heaven,
The deep blue noon of night, lit by an orb
Which looks a spirit, or a spirit’s world
The hues of twilight the sun’s gorgeous coming
His setting indescribable, which fills
My eyes with pleasant tears as I behold
Him sink, and feel my heart float softly with him
Along that western paradise of clouds
The forest shade the green bough the bird’s voice
The vesper bird’s, which seems to sing of love,
And mingles with the song of cherubim,
As the day closes over Eden’s walls ;
All these are nothing, to my eyes and heart,
Like Adah’s face: I turn from Earth and Heaven
To gaze on it.”

LUCIFER.

‘T is frail as fair mortality,
In the first dawn and bloom of young creation
And earliest embraces of Earth’s parents,
Can make its offspring; still it is delusion.

Phanes - the Lightbringer

 

LUCIFER.

It may be that thine own shall be for me.
But if thou dost possess a beautiful
Being beyond all beauty in thine eyes,
Why art thou wretched  ?

CAIN.

Why do I exist .Why art thou wretched; why are all things so?

Ev’n he who made us must be, as the maker
Of things unhappy ! To produce destruction
Can surely never be the task of joy,
And yet my sire says he’s omnipotent :
Then why is evil he being good  ? I ask’d
This question of my father; and he said,
Because this evil only was the path
To good. Strange good, that must arise from out
Its deadly opposite. I lately saw
A lamb stung by a reptile; the poor suckling
Lay foaming on the earth, beneath the vain
And piteous bleating of its restless dam;
My father pluck’d some herbs, and laid them to

The wound; and by degrees the helpless wretch
Resumed its careless life, and rose to drain
The mother’s milk, who o’er it tremulous
Stood licking its reviving limbs with joy.
Behold, my son ! said Adam, how from evil
Springs good !

LUCIFER.

What didst thou answer I

CAIN.

Nothing; for He is my father:
but I thought, that ‘t were
A better portion for the animal
Never to have been stung at all, than to
Purchase renewal of its little life
With agonies unutterable, though
Dispell’d by antidotes.

CAIN.

And if I have thought why recall a thought that
(he pauses, agitated) Spirit !

Here we are, in thy world; speak not of mine.
Thou hast shown me wonders ; thou hast shown me those
Mighty pre-adamites who walk’d the earth
Of which ours is the wreck; thou hast pointed out
Myriads of starry worlds, of which our own
Is the dim and remote companion, in
Infinity of life : thou hast shewn me shadows
Of that existence with the dreaded name
Which my sire brought us death; thou hast shewn me much
But not all : show me where Jehovah dwells,
In his especial Paradise or thine:
Where is it ?

Palaces and Dungeons

LUCIFER.

Thy human mind hath scarcely grasp to gather
The little I have shown thee into calm
And clear thought ; and thou wouldst go on aspiring
To the great double Mysteries ! the two Principles !
And gaze upon them on their secret thrones !
Dust ! limit thy ambition ; for to see
Either of these, would be for thee to perish !

CAIN.
And let me perish, so I see them !

LUCIFER.

There The son of her who snatch’d the apple spake !
But thou wouldst only perish, and not see them ;
That sight is for the other state.

CAIN.

“Then my father’s God did well
When he prohibited the fatal tree.

LUCIFER

But had done better in not planting it.
But ignorance of evil doth not save
From evil; it must still roll on the same,
A part of all things.

CAIN.

Not of all things. No :
I ’11 not believe it for I thirst for good.

LUCIFER.

And who and what doth not! Who covets evil
For its own bitter sake? None nothing! ’tis
The leaven of all life, and lifelessness.

CAIN.

Of death?

LUCIFER.

That is the prelude.
LUCIFER.

And now I will convey thee to thy world,
Where thou shalt multiply the race of Adam,
Eat, drink, toil, tremble, laugh, weep, sleep, and die.

CAIN.

And to what end have I beheld these things
Which thou hast shown me?

LUCIFER.

Didst thou not require Knowledge! And have I not, in what I show’d,
Taught thee to know thyself?

CAIN.
Alas ! I seem Nothing.

Floralia

 

LUCIFER.

And this should be the human sum
Of knowledge, to know mortal nature’s nothingness;
Bequeath that science to thy children, and
‘T will spare them many tortures.

CAIN.

Haughty spirit!

Thou speak’st it proudly; but thyself, though proud,
Hast a superior.

KUBLA KHAN

LUCIFER.

No ! By heaven, which He
Holds, and the abyss, and the immensity
Of worlds, and life, which I hold with him No!
I have a victor true; but no superior.
Homage he has from all but none from me;
I battle it against him, as I battled

In highest heaven. Through all eternity,
And the unfathomable gulphs of Hades,
And the interminable realms of space,
And the infinity of endless ages,
All, all, will I dispute! And world by world,
And star by star and universe by universe
Shall tremble in the balance, till the great
Conflict shall cease, if ever it shall cease,
Which it ne’er shall, till he or I be quench’d !
And what can quench our immortality,
Or mutual and irrevocable hate?
He as a conqueror will call the conquer’d
Evil ; but what will be the good he gives I
Were I the victor, his works would be deem’d
The only evil ones. And you, ye new
And scarce-born mortals, what have been his gifts
To you already in your little world?

CAIN.
But few; and some of those but bitter.

LUCIFER.

Back
With me, then, to thine Earth, and try the rest
Of his celestial boons to ye and yours.
Evil and good are things in their own essence,
And not made good or evil by the giver;
But if he gives you good so call him; if
Evil springs from him, do not name it mine,
Till ye know better its true fount : and judge
Not by words, though of spirits, but the fruits
Of your existence, such as it must be,
One good gift has the fatal apple given
Your reason: let it not be over-sway ‘d
By tyrannous threats to force you into faith
‘Gainst all external sense and inward feeling:
Think and endure, and form an inner world
In your own bosom where the outward fails;
So shall you nearer be the spiritual
Nature, and war triumphant with your own.
Yes death, too, is amongst the debts we owe her.

Dante!

Cain ! that proud spirit, who withdrew thee hence,
Hath sadden’d thine still deeper. I had hoped
The promis’d wonders which thou hast beheld,
Visions, thou say’st, of past and present worlds,
Would have composed thy mind into the calm
Of a contented knowledge; but I see
Thy guide hath done thee evil : still I thank him,
And can forgive him all, that he so soon
Hath given thee back to us.

CAIN.

The mind then hath capacity of time,
And measures it by that which it beholds,
Pleasing, or painful ; little or almighty.
I had beheld the immemorial works
Of endless beings ; skirr’d extinguish’d worlds ;
And, gazing on eternity, methought
I had borrow’d more by a few drops of ages
From its immensity; but now I feel
My littleness again. Well said the spirit,
That I was nothing !

CAIN.

But why war?

LUCIFER.

“You have forgotten the denunciation
Which drove your race from Eden war with all things,
And death to all things, and disease to most things,
And pangs, and bitterness: these were the fruits
Of the forbidden tree.”

CAIN.

“Alas ! the hopeless wretches !
They too must share my sire’s fate, like his sons ;
Like them, too, without the so dear-bought knowledge !
It was a lying tree for we know nothing.
At least it promised knowledge at the price
Of death but knowledge still : but what knows man I ?”

Heaven and Hell

 

LUCIFER.

It may be death leads to the highest knowledge;
And being of all things, the sole thing certain,
At least leads to the surest science therefore
The tree was true, though deadly.

ABEL.
Where hast thou been “?

CAIN.
I know not.

ABEL.

Nor what thou hast seen ?

CAIN.

The dead,

The immortal, the unbounded, the omnipotent,
The over-powering mysteries of space
The innumerable worlds that were and are
A whirlwind of such overwhelming things,
Suns, moons, and earths, upon their loud-voiced spheres
Singing in thunder round me, as have made me
Unfit for mortal converse: leave me, Abel.

ABEL.

Thine eyes are flashing with unnatural light
Thy cheek is flushed with an unnatural hue
Thy words are fraught with an unnatural sound
What may this mean?

CAIN.

It means, pray thee, leave me.

ABEL.
Not till we have pray’d and sacrificed together.

CAIN.

Abel, I pray thee, sacrifice alone
Jehovah loves thee well.

ABEL.
Both well, I hope.

CAIN.

But thee the better: I care not for that;
Thou art filter for his worship than I am :
Revere him, then but let it be alone
At least, without me.

ABEL.

Brother, I should ill
Deserve the name of our great father’s son,
If as my elder I revered thee not,
And in the worship of our God call’d not
On thee to join me, and precede me in
Our priesthood ’tis thy place.

CAIN.

But I have ne’er asserted it.

 

Phanes - the Lightbringer

ABEL.

The more my grief; I pray thee
To do so now: thy soul seems labouring in
Some strong delusion; it will calm thee,

CAIN.

No; Nothing can calm me more. Calm ! say I?
Never knew I what calm was in the soul, although
I have seen the elements still’d. My Abel, leave me !
Or let me leave thee to thy pious purpose.

ABEL.

Neither ; we must perform our task together.
Spurn me not.

CAIN.

If it must be so well, then,

What shall I do ?

ABEL.

Choose one of those two altars.

CAIN.

Choose for me: they to me are so much turf
And stone.

ABEL.

Choose thou!

CAIN.

I have chosen.

ABEL.

‘T is the highest,

And suits thee, as the elder. Now prepare
Thine offerings.

CAIN.
Where are thine?

ABEL.

Behold them here
The firstlings of the flock, and fat thereof
A shepherd’s humble offering.

CAIN.

I have no flocks;
I am a tiller of the ground, and must
Yield what it yieldeth to my toil its fruit:

He gathers fruits. Behold them in their various bloom and ripeness.
They dress their altars and kindle a flame upon them.

760px-Blackface_ram_portrait

 

ABEL.

My brother, as the elder, offer first
Thy prayer and thanksgiving with sacrifice.

CAIN.

No I am new to this; lead thou the way,
And I will follow as I may.
Oh ! thou dead and everlasting witness ! whose unsinking
Blood darkens the earth and heaven ! what thou now art,
I know not ! but if thou see’st what / am,
I think thou wilt forgive him, whom his God
Can ne’er forgive, nor his own soul. Farewell !
I must not, dare not, touch what I have made thee.
I who sprung from the same womb with thee, drained
The same breast, clasp’d thee often to my own,
In fondness brotherly and boyish, I
Can never meet thee more, nor even dare
To do that for thee, which thou should’st have done
For me compose thy limbs into their grave
The first grave yet dug for mortality.
But who hath dug that grave ? Oh, Earth ! oh, Earth !
For all the fruits thou hast render’d to me, I
Give thee back this. Now for the wilderness.

The Four Winds

Adapted and annotated from the complete text of Lord Byron’s ‘Cain.’ [http://archive.org/stream/lordbyronscainmy00byrouoft/lordbyronscainmy00byrouoft_djvu.txt]

 

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~ by meanderingsofthemuse on May 27, 2013.

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