Adam: A Sacred Drama. Act 4.

by William Cowper

William Cowper

SCENE I. -- Volan, CHORUS of Fiery, Airy, Earthly, and Aquatic Spirits.
Volan. Forth from a thousand clouds of flame and smoke,
From the deep bosom of the spacious earth,
I to these scenes a messenger return.
Now to the fatal sound
Of these entwined pipes,
By hissing snakes united,
And all attuned to the fierce notes of death,
Now cease, now cease ye all,
Ye potent spirits, to reside in fire,
Or in the air, in water, or in earth,
Appear! why pause ye? such is the command
Of your brave emperor, the chief of hell.
Hark! hear ye not the sound
That calls you forth from out your various dwellings?
Behold! how from the sphere of blazing fire
Arsiccio, of the blazing legion prince,
Comes to pay homage to his mighty lord.
Arion. Lo, from the field of air I too descend,
I who am called Arion,
The mighty ruler of this winged band,
At the command of hell.
Tarpalce. Of the infernal palace
To bend before the prince,
Forth from a thousand subterraneous paths
The great Tarpalce, chief of earthly sprites,
Raises his brow to heaven.
Ondoso. From many a vein of water,
From many a rising fount,
From rills, and rivers, torrents, floods, and streams,
And from a thousand marshes, pools, and lakes,
Such as I am, Ondoso, of soft spirits
The humid, floating ruler, now on wing,
Here even I attend, to reverence
The subterranean power.
Volan. Lo, from the dark abyss to lightsome air,
Great Lucifer now rising, and with him
The most sagacious band
Of hellish counsellors.
SCENE II. -- Lucifer, Fiery, Airy, Earthly, Aquatic, Infernal Spirits, and Volano.
Lucifer. Ah light! detested light!
Yet once again I look toward thy rays,
The sightless mole of hell,
And like a frantic angel,
Dazzled and grieved at heart,
Immortally I die.
Beliar. Of what dost thou complain? why grieves our god?
Clear up thy countenance, and see around
How thy palms shake; thy banners float in air,
Signs of that valour which has conquered heaven,
And now in triumph may enjoy the world;
Ah, too imperfect is the victor's glory,
If he exult not in his victory.
Lucifer. Destructive victory! unworthy boast!
Laughter to weeping turned,
Is that which thou esteemest the praise of hell.
Ah, Heaven's high power has found
A new expedient, to our endless shame,
To make our vanquished foe remain the victor,
And triumph, though defeated.
Mirim. What barbed arrows in my wounded heart,
Great Lord, hast thou enfixt!
Lucifer. Ah! for no other purpose have I called you
From realms of air and fire,
From earth, from water, and the central depths
Save that we might project in council here
How man may fall entirely overwhelmed,
If to destroy him by the fruit I failed.
Digrignan. Ah, how can Adam live,
If he indeed has eat the fruit forbidden,
Condemning him to death?
Now well may we exclaim,
That Heaven this day inures itself to falsehood.
Lucifer. Hear it, O hell, and shudder at the sound,
And let thy lively joys now turn to languor.
Tell me, thou Beliar, how seems to thee,
After the tasted fruit, man on the sudden
Discovered naked, and amid the branches
Of thickest growth hastening to hide his shame?
Beliar. In viewing his own nakedness, he shows us
The tasted fruit has robbed him of all grace;
The very foliage where he hides informs him
He is become a beast,
And, like a beast, is doomed in death to lose
His body and his soul.
Lucifer. Thou, Coriban, relate why man has formed
With a fig's ample leaf
A mantle for his waist.
Coriban. I'll tell you, 'tis the nature of the fig
To rise not high, and prove of short duration;
Still less may man expect to glory's height
To raise himself; for short shall be his date.
All the contentious elements at war,
Occasioned by his sin, now in their conflict
Shall overwhelm him, and the hope with souls
More to embellish heaven shall be in vain.
Lucifer. And thou, Ferea, what denotes the serpent
Whom in his anger God is pleased to curse?
Ferea. I will be brief in telling all that's true:
When he pronounced a curse upon the serpent,
Man had already heard his malediction;
And thus to that he added,
Prone on thy belly, serpent, thou shalt grovel,
As if to man suggesting,
Dark as a riddling God, man is of clay;
And clay shall now be destitute of soul,
As destitute of soul each other reptile.
Lucifer. Thou, Solobrico, tell me, what thinkest thou
Of this strange speech to man?
Thou by thy sweat must gain
The bread that forms thy food.
Solobrico. This bread to us discovers
The life of man's frail body,
A body formed of earth, as now indeed
Grain must be drawn from earth to make this bread
The vital element:
His sweat denotes the element of water,
His countenance is air, his labour fire;
So that this dark expression
Of being doomed to gain his bread by sweat,
To man says, thou shalt live
In many griefs and troubles,
A short space in the world;
Then is thy lot to die,
Turning again to earth, air, water, fire.
Lucifer. And, Gismon, thou, to woman when he said,
That with the pangs of birth
She should produce her offspring, say what meaning
Lurked in that new expression to bring forth?
Gismon. This said expression birth
Denotes the being born,
When her young progeny shall rise to light:
He also might denote a new partition
By this new word bring forth,
Innumerable pains,
In which the suffering parents
Shall both participate to rear their children,
Of body and of soul
The certain death I see in this expression:
That this may be, turning to man he said,
That he should die, and then to Eve he added,
That she with bitter anguish should bring forth.
Now this mysterious saying nothing means,
If not that man is meant
By death corporeal, and his frail companion
By death that strikes the soul;
Thus from mortality,
With loss reciprocal, the soul is taken:
And thus, when each has languished,
The body in its dying,
The soul in its departure,
Leaving at length its transient dear abode;
So verified shall be the mighty sentence
From him the mighty judge,
Of bringing forth with dire excess of pain.
Lucifer. All you, that most sagacious
I reckoned once in my infernal kingdoms,
I find now least sagacious.
To thee I turn, Arsiccio, tell me now
What means that mystery,
The cursing of the earth?
Arsiccio. And to the blame of man I too return;
Can it be true this cursing of the earth?
What does the mystery mean?
Means it indeed the earth?
Foolish is he who thinks so! what offence
Has she committed? no 'twas not the earth
Was cursed, but only man, who is of earth;
And human nature all is cursed with him;
And that decree, it should no more bear fruit,
Was uttered for no purpose
But to proclaim to man,
That, as a sinner, heaven is shut against him.
Lucifer. Arion, thou exalt thyself in air;
Do thou inform me why with skins of beasts
This man and his companion were arrayed.
Arion. This clearly shows to us
That God no longer makes account of man.
Hear me, unconquered sovereign,
This clothing Adam with the lifeless skins
Of fleeced animals to us imports,
That, as with dying beast,
The body, soul, and spirit, also die,
So death shall also prove
The dread destroying ravager of men
By the dread fruit's effect.
Lucifer. Ondoso, thou who art profest a diver
Canst thou pervade the depth
Of these confused decrees? inform me now
What means the mystery
Of cherubim with fiery falchions
Forbidding entrance to the gates of Eden.
Ondoso. No mystery, great king,
But the destruction of the human race,
Portended by these falchions.
They mean indeed the death
Of man's terrestrial form,
And their fierce blades of fire
Damnation to his soul:
So that when struck by death
The body shall be ashes, and the soul
Shall by eternal justice
Within the dark Avernus
Become a prisoner, lost to light and heaven,
Now blest are we, since we behold it clear,
That, rising to the realms above, 'tis ours
To make Olympus joyful, since when we
Resigned our seat in heaven,
At those exalted gates
No armed cherubim was placed to guard;
Thus all is justly weighed,
And in an even balance;
For now the world's inhabitants shall be
The birds, the fish, the beasts:
Of the Tartarean gulf
Man, and his numerous race;
We only on gay wing shall soar to heaven,
On this supreme condition,
That heaven's great Lord shall pardon ask of thee,
Repenting of his error, and that both
Shall rule the realm of heaven,
Both Lucifer and God.
Lucifer. Tarpalce, say what thinkest thou of man?
Tarpalce. 'Tis not my sentiment man can be saved.
In short, this man has sinned;
And he who draws from man his flesh and life,
He shall be called a sinner;
And he who is a sinner shall be damned;
And since it is denied
That these the seats of heaven, that once were ours,
Neglected shall be left, and void of glory,
Well may we re-ascend, with brave condition,
The heaven once more returning to itself.
Sufficiently we know
It otherways would still be void of splendour,
Since God no longer knows
What to achieve that may embellish heaven.
Lucifer. Alas! 'tis fit that I
From a deep silence now
Loose this chilled tongue, chilled, though it seems to burn
With cruel and deadly rage!
My heart is bursting only at the thought
Of what I must relate:
Now with great efforts vanquishing myself,
Let that be heard which anguish bids me utter!
The fear he felt to show himself when naked
Was from the mighty shame
To see himself bespotted
With sin's deformity.
His flight with rapid step towards the woods,
As to the sea the swollen torrent flies,
Denotes his great repentance of his sin.
That leafy screen, in which he hid himself,
Denotes his coarse and rustic penitence,
Till with long abstinence he shall atone
With punishment for sin.
The harsh and ample leaf
Of fig, still more expressive,
Tells it will be man's lot
With coarse and hairy vest
To cover every fault:
And as upon the fig,
Among its harshest leaves, a dulcet fruit
Arises, thus at last shall man himself,
Midst all his penitence, enjoy the fruit
So sweet and dear of heaven, that he had lost:
The verdure of the leaf
Affords a certain hope
That man may have of God's returning grace,
That he at length in heaven
Shall know a blooming spring of highest glory.
The double summons, thus bestowed on man,
Tells us he shall have time
To weep, though sinning, his repented sin.
If he was pleased to execrate the serpent,
There hell may understand
That it was not the serpent
Who then offended god; from whence he said,
Prone on thy belly, serpent, thou shalt creep!
Alas, too clearly saying,
Quit every hope, O ye that now abide
By the infernal streams,
Quit every hope of heaven!
And when between this woman and the serpent
His word denounced, alas! eternal war,
Ah, then he comprehended human nature,
Which bears a female name.
What then are now our direst enemies?
Inhabitants of heaven!
So that our most tormenting adversary
Is now no other but this human nature
Made an eternal denizen of heaven.
What more, alas! have I the force to speak it!
The saying that the woman
Shall one day bruise his head,
With mystery severe
Shows us the incarnation of the Word.
Saying to man his bread
He now by sweat must earn, is it not saying,
After hard toil thou shalt to heaven ascend?
Alas! perhaps it means
That bread may life denote,
Since man is destined to have life in heaven
If for the apple God was pleased to say
That man transgressing shall be doomed to death,
He of the body spake;
The spirit is immortal.
When in his speech to Eve
He doomed her to bring forth, that indicates
Eternity assigned to human nature.
The guard of cherubim that wheel around
Their fiery swords, forbidding
All feet to tread on that delicious garden,
I would declare to mean--
But to cold marble turns my faltering tongue.
Briar. Shall it be said that Briar checks his tongue?
Believe not thou, our Lord,
That man to heaven shall soar!
Too feeble are his wings;
Had he no other bar,
I am alone prepared to give him death,
Armed with a mighty club, or with a stone,
Though sure to be condemned
Myself alone to all the pains of hell;
Since I can well discern,
That in continual thinking of my glory,
Infernal pain will turn to heavenly joy.
Lucifer. O noble, generous ardour!
Trust me, not less avails
A heart magnanimous for glory panting,
Than a decided triumph.
Let us remain in hell,
Since there is more content
To live in liberty, though all condemned,
Than, as his vassals, blest.
Up from these filthy dregs,
A hideous mass, sulphureous, rough, and round,
Let there be raised to light;
So wills the mighty chieftain of damnation.
SCENE III. -- The infernal Cyclops, armed with Hammers, and all those of the preceding Scene.
Behold the smiths of hell,
That, worn with toil and smoke,
To heaven are raising this enormous ball,
Now fashioned in Avernus.
Lucifer. Now as a perfect rival
Of God, I will, that Lucifer be seen.
He highly seated, on his throne in heaven,
To us revealed the world, and thence arose
Our banishment from heaven, and I this day,
Raising Vain Glory to a throne of splendour,
Have now contrived to exterminate mankind.
If he from nothing made the ample world
I too a nothing will now make of worlds,
Or of the world a nothing.
Now let this dark and misty mass dissolve,
And in the place of elements, and heavens,
Of all the stars, the moon, and radiant suns,
Let there come forth a strange unfinished monster.
Ondoso. O what a stormy burst, what monsters rise,
All horrible and hissing,
With forms enormous howling,
And breathing blasts of fire!
Lucifer. Thou that now seemest a dark and hideous monster,
I will array thee in a human semblance,
Though but of vapor formed;
Thou shalt be called the World.
Instead of shags, and vestments wild,
Sweat thou beneath a load of gems and gold,
For well I know how henceforth in my service
Gold may be used in tempting man to sin.
Such thou shalt have around thee;
On thee I will bestow voice, gesture, snares,
In strictest tie to catch
The human foot of clay that walks incautious;
And all that thou canst wish
To overwhelm this man, all thou shalt have.
Thou beast of monstrous shape,
Thou like a lovely damsel shalt appear,
Thou shalt be called the Flesh,
With wiles, deceits, and ardours in thy train,
Whence man may fall in unbecoming errors;
And, monster, thou that art
So hideous and so meagre, Death be called:
Be thou all human bone,
All ice, all madness, all a mass of horror
To the unhappy sinner.
Ye four terrific forms, of wildest semblance,
For horrid deeds I choose you,
Ill-omened words, and acts of cruel nature,
Your fashion to display.
Up, up, let each return
To his own element, his proper sphere!
Come! why delay to fire?
Haste all with me,
And hence in silence glide,
Abandoning the light.
Adam. Wretch that thou art! now cast thine eyes around,
No longer shalt thou see
Aught to console thy pain.
Ah! in that very thought,
Sorrow so wounds my heart,
My tears so overwhelm me,
That in a sigh I seem to breathe my last.
Where, Adam, is thy beauty? where thy grace,
That made thee dear to angels and to God?
Ah! thou alone hast dared
To stain thy nature, and to wound thy soul!
Is this, is this the way
To please that Being who on thee bestowed
Whate'er thou seest around thee, with a promise
To give thee in the stars a heavenly mansion?
Rather on fruit forbidden
To feed, than on the living words of God
Has been thy choice; and lo,
Thou from an angel to a beast art changed
And, more than other beasts,
Driven as a monster from this pleasant garden,
And thus in skins arrayed; alas! I dare not
Lift up my eyes to heaven, yet it becomes me,
Low on my knees, to view the good I lost,
And in lamenting say,
Dear seat of God, thou shouldst have been the seat
Of Adam also; but thou art lost to me;
Thee have I lost, alas! and found instead
Of thee, both death and hell.
O hide, in pity hide thy splendour, Heaven!
Since Adam is a sinner.
Conceal your light, ye stars;
Vanish, thou moon and sun;
Eternal horror be the fate of man,
Since Adam is a sinner.
Now in the faithful choir of angels cease
Ye soothing melodies,
Since Adam is a sinner.
Behold, with pain behold,
How, from thy dread offence,
All things this day appear to change their form,
All hold thee in abhorrence,
All from thy aspect fly!
Ah, thou mayst well exclaim,
There, from the verdant stem and parent tree,
The rose is fled, and leaves thee but the thorn!
There sinks each flower, within the grassy earth
Hiding its head precipitate, and scarce
Where it displayed its pride now shows its stalk:
Well mayst thou add, in plucking here the apple
Thou gavest a fatal shake to every tree,
Then bringing to the ground
Each leaf, each flower, and every blooming fruit.
Ah, how despoiled and waste
All now appears to me; all shade and horrors;
Produced by man's rebellion to his God.
Where, where are now the gay and sprightly birds
That on their painted plumes
Round me were used to sport and flutter here?
Ah, your closed wings I see
Amidst the thickest leaves, and fearing all
The deadly snares of Adam.
Where, where is now the tiger, bear, and lion,
The wolf, the pard, and thousand other beasts,
Obedient all to man, and in his train?
Alas! now made voracious
Of human carnage and of smoking blood
I now behold you all,
Sharpening 'gainst man the talon and the tooth.
Where now, ah where, their young
May all the fleecy kind
Let fall in safety? for, alas, I see
No longer will they offer
Their milky dugs to thee, their dugs or offspring,
Since to escape from man,
Now, now, I see them eager,
Man turned into a wolf
By having seized an apple.
All fly, and all abhor thee,
And from thee, barbarous, lean barbarity.
Hence in the earth and sea,
Beyond their custom, now
All fish, and all the beasts,
To battle seem to invite thee;
See now the wolf and lamb,
She who of late not far from him might wander
See how she bleating flies from his unfaithful
Tusk, now expecting bloody violence!
Behold the hare, behold
How timid she is made, and the dog fierce
In striving for her life,
While more than native fear to flight inclines her.
Behold that dusky beast,
That with white tusks of an enormous size
Extends its weighty jaw,
That now forgetting to revere the moon,
Intractable, ferocious
Beyond its native temper,
Rushes in anger with its fibrous trunk
That serves it for a nose,
Against the horn which the rhinoceros
Sharpens of hardest stone!
Behold the sea enraged,
Now by thy rage, the very sea inflamed
Takes up the fish within its watery arms,
And in a thousand caverns,
Against the mossy stone
Now strikes, and now entombs them.
At length, behold that ox,
That now beneath thy crooked yoke of wood
To turn the steril earth
Thou must contrive to couple,
See how he darts an eye of fire upon thee,
And foaming now, and panting, fiercely points
His crooked horn, and threatens thee with death.
And more, yet more, the Earth
Provokes thee now to conflict,
Thanks to thy dire offence;
And since her bosom must by thee be wounded,
Strives with thee for thy viands, armed herself
With thistles and with thorns.
I've sinned, O Lord, I've sinned!
I've sinned, and for my fault
My mournful heart in weeping I distil.
Why wretched do I speak? see what a band
Of beasts made barbarous,
Of hostile beasts, now wet
With crimson's deadly stain,
I see around me, darting from their caves!
Alas! what see I more? wretch that I am!
Behold, from them affrighted Eve is flying!
SCENE V. -- Adam and Eve.
Eve. Ah, whither shall I fly? and where conceal me?
Adam. Haste to my arms, O haste!
Let him who sinned like thee,
Like thee become of savage beasts the prey!
Eve. Ah, every path becomes
The pass of death to one of life unworthy:
Here in this cavern's depth,
Here let us plunge, O Adam.
Adam. Ah, they at length depart; yet not from man
Will misery depart, or mortal anguish.
Oh, wondrous wretchedness, e'en pleasure weeps,
Joy wears the form of sorrow
And life itself now dies.
Eve. Ah, how I grieve, O Adam!
O Heaven! what tears I shed,
How do I sigh, O God, wounded in heart,
Now, nor alive nor dead.
Adam. But hark, what horrid roarings
Make air rebellow, and the valleys shake.
SCENE VI. -- Famine, Thirst, Lassitude, Despair, Adam and Eve.
Famine. In vain from our quick grasp
You strive to fly, vile offspring of the earth,
And from the thousand ills that Heaven intends thee;
Fly not, for 'tis in vain. Ye now around
Block up the paths, and guard each avenue!
Famine am I, who in this hideous form
Now show myself to man,
To prove how keen I am,
With bitterness to poison all his sweets;
And from the semblance I reveal, thou wretch,
Clearly shalt thou perceive,
Beyond all other creatures,
How sharply Famine's piercing shaft shall wound thee;
And as I now devour these tender shoots
Of the young fruitful vine,
And suck, with eager thirst, the dulcet juice,
So from thy feeble bones, that now derive
Infirmity from sin,
Soon will I tear the flesh,
And suck thus fiercely from thy veins the blood.
And this fierce monster that you now behold,
Keen at the limpid fountain
To satiate its thirst, and foiled, attempting
With harpy talon to pollute the water,
This is called Thirst; and now, in such a form,
Both horrible and fierce,
To thee appears, that thou mayst comprehend
How wildly raging thou shalt feel its fury.
And this is Lassitude,
That Lassitude which now on thee shall pour
The mighty streams of sorrow.
See how her figure melts in drops of anguish,
In raising on her back
That heavy burden of enormous weight!
'Tis hers to make thee, Adam,
So worn with toil, that from thy pallid visage
The copious streams of painful sweat shall pour;
And Lassitude shall so annoy thy frame,
That thou shalt hate thy life.
Hence at the last, perforce ye both shall pass
Through unaccustomed ways of wretchedness
To this dire monster, savage and tremendous,
Who henceforth on the earth
Shall bear of Desperation
The desperate name; look, and behold how fiercely
He in convulsion rolls, and shrieks and roars;
See how he tears his hair and grinds his teeth,
Wounds all his frame, and makes his breast re-echo
With his repeated blows!
This fierce, relentless monster
Shall so afflict thee, that thou shalt be eager
To turn, and hasten to an end more wretched:
And if, perchance, thou thinkst I speak not true,
See him, who from his deep and dark domain
In blackest vapour wrapt,
Circled with globes of fire, appears before thee!
SCENE VII. -- Death, Adam, and Eve.
Death. Thou art the creature, Woman,
Who first hast summoned me,
And with a sinful voice,
From the Tartarean shades;
Thou, perishable flesh and form of clay,
Hast called this fearful monster,
Of human bones compacted,
This day to look upon the light of heaven
Say now what wouldst thou speak?
Dost thou abhor thy life?
Behold the sickle-bearer, and the sickle
That now invites thee to desert the day.
Now with a lynx's eye,
I see, in looking into future time,
To my dread name and these ungodly arms,
What fatal trophies rise.
But what! not here shall end the full perdition
With which heaven threatens thee, such mighty evils
Hell now prepares for thee,
And such excess of horrors,
That I, I who am Death,
Wish for destruction to escape their sight.
Thou art condemned to die,
Thy residence is Hell,
Become a rebel to thy mighty Maker.
Adam. Oh, source of tears! Oh, sorrow
Oh, miserable sinner!
Eve. Ah me, most wretched Eve!
The origin of sin.
Adam. Ah, how the heaven grows dark, how it withdraws
Its light from us, who are of light unworthy!
But ah! what flame in heaven quickens and dies,
Dazzling our sight, and sudden darts away,
A serpent all of fire?
Eve. Alas! not here the wrath of heaven shall end,
First we must suffer death.
Adam. Ah, what rebellowing sounds I hear above!
Perchance with such a voice
Offended Heaven now drives us from the world.
And sends us banished to the gulfs below!
What shafts, how numberless
Strike down the woods and groves! with what wild force
The raging winds contend!
Now rushes from the sky
Water congealed to forceful globes of hail!
Eve. Alas! how from on high
The swelling waters pour
That rising o'er their banks,
The proud o'erflowing rivers
Now put the beasts to flight,
And in the groves and woods
Precipitately drive the fish to dwell.
Adam. Fly! let us haste to fly
Up to those lofty mountains,
Where heaven now seems at last
Satiate with ceaseless thundering to repose.

Last updated January 14, 2019