The Works of Lord Byron Volume V Part 71

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_Angel_. Where is thy brother Abel?

_Cain_. Am I then My brother's keeper?

_Angel_. Cain! what hast thou done?

The voice of thy slain brother's blood cries out, 470 Even from the ground, unto the Lord!--Now art thou Cursed from the earth, which opened late her mouth To drink thy brother's blood from thy rash hand.

Henceforth, when thou shalt till the ground, it shall not Yield thee her strength; a fugitive shalt thou Be from this day, and vagabond on earth!

_Adah_. This punishment is more than he can bear.

Behold thou drivest him from the face of earth, And from the face of G.o.d shall he be hid.

A fugitive and vagabond on earth, 480 'Twill come to pa.s.s, that whoso findeth him Shall slay him.

_Cain_. Would they could! but who are they Shall slay me? Where are these on the lone earth As yet unpeopled?

_Angel_. Thou hast slain thy brother, And who shall warrant thee against thy son?

_Adah_. Angel of Light! be merciful, nor say That this poor aching breast now nourishes A murderer in my boy, and of his father.

_Angel_. Then he would but be what his father is.

Did not the milk of Eve give nutriment 490 To him thou now seest so besmeared with blood?

The fratricide might well engender parricides.-- But it shall not be so--the Lord thy G.o.d And mine commandeth me to set his seal On Cain, so that he may go forth in safety.

Who slayeth Cain, a sevenfold vengeance shall Be taken on his head. Come hither!

_Cain_. What Wouldst thou with me?

_Angel_. To mark upon thy brow[cl]

Exemption from such deeds as thou hast done.

_Cain_. No, let me die!

_Angel_. It must not be.

[_The_ ANGEL _sets the mark on_ CAIN'S _brow_.

_Cain_. It burns 500 My brow, but nought to that which is within it!

Is there more? let me meet it as I may.

_Angel_. Stern hast thou been and stubborn from the womb, As the ground thou must henceforth till; but he Thou slew'st was gentle as the flocks he tended.

_Cain_. After the fall too soon was I begotten; Ere yet my mother's mind subsided from The Serpent, and my sire still mourned for Eden.

That which I am, I am; I did not seek For life, nor did I make myself; but could I 510 With my own death redeem him from the dust-- And why not so? let him return to day, And I lie ghastly! so shall be restored By G.o.d the life to him he loved; and taken From me a being I ne'er loved to bear.

_Angel_. Who shall heal murder? what is done, is done; Go forth! fulfil thy days! and be thy deeds Unlike the last! [_The_ ANGEL _disappears_.

_Adah_. He's gone, let us go forth; I hear our little Enoch cry within Our bower.

_Cain_. Ah! little knows he what he weeps for! 520 And I who have shed blood cannot shed tears!

But the four rivers[137] would not cleanse my soul.

Think'st thou my boy will bear to look on me?

_Adah_. If I thought that he would not, I would----

_Cain_ (_interrupting her_). No, No more of threats: we have had too many of them: Go to our children--I will follow thee.

_Adah_. I will not leave thee lonely with the dead-- Let us depart together.

_Cain_. Oh! thou dead And everlasting witness! whose unsinking Blood darkens earth and heaven! what thou _now_ art 530 I know not! but if _thou_ seest what _I_ am, I think thou wilt forgive him, whom his G.o.d 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, clasped 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 shouldst have done For me--compose thy limbs into their grave-- 540 The first grave yet dug for mortality.

But who hath dug that grave? Oh, earth! Oh, earth!

For all the fruits thou hast rendered to me, I Give thee back this.--Now for the wilderness!

[ADAH _stoops down and kisses the body of_ ABEL.

_Adah_. A dreary, and an early doom, my brother, Has been thy lot! Of all who mourn for thee, I alone must not weep. My office is Henceforth to dry up tears, and not to shed them; But yet of all who mourn, none mourn like me, Not only for thyself, but him who slew thee. 550 Now, Cain! I will divide thy burden with thee.

_Cain_. Eastward from Eden will we take our way; 'Tis the most desolate, and suits my steps.

_Adah_. Lead! thou shalt be my guide, and may our G.o.d Be thine! Now let us carry forth our children.

_Cain_. And _he_ who lieth there was childless! I Have dried the fountain of a gentle race, Which might have graced his recent marriage couch, And might have tempered this stern blood of mine, Uniting with our children Abel's offspring! 560 O Abel!

_Adah_. Peace be with him!

_Cain_. But with _me!_---- [_Exeunt_.


[86] {205}[On the 13th December [1821] Sir Walter received a copy of Cain, as yet unpublished, from Murray, who had been instructed to ask whether he had any objection to having the "Mystery" dedicated to him.

He replied in these words--

"Edinburgh, _4th December_, 1821.

"My Dear Sir,--I accept, with feelings of great obligation, the flattering proposal of Lord Byron to prefix my name to the very grand and tremendous drama of 'Cain.'[*] I may be partial to it, and you will allow I have cause; but I do not know that his Muse has ever taken so lofty a flight amid her former soarings. He has certainly matched Milton on his own ground. Some part of the language is bold, and may shock one cla.s.s of readers, whose line will be adopted by others out of affectation or envy. But then they must condemn the 'Paradise Lost,' if they have a mind to be consistent. The fiend-like reasoning and bold blasphemy of the fiend and of his pupil lead exactly to the point which was to be expected,--the commission of the first murder, and the ruin and despair of the perpetrator.

"I do not see how any one can accuse the author himself of Manicheism.

The Devil talks the language of that sect, doubtless; because, not being able to deny the existence of the Good Principle, he endeavours to exalt himself--the Evil Principle--to a seeming equality with the Good; but such arguments, in the mouth of such a being, can only be used to deceive and to betray. Lord Byron might have made this more evident, by placing in the mouth of Adam, or of some good and protecting spirit, the reasons which render the existence of moral evil consistent with the general benevolence of the Deity. The great key to the mystery is, perhaps, the imperfection of our own faculties, which see and feel strongly the partial evils which press upon us, but know too little of the general system of the universe, to be aware how the existence of these is to be reconciled with the benevolence of the great Creator.

"To drop these speculations, you have much occasion for some mighty spirit, like Lord Byron, to come down and trouble the waters; for, excepting 'The John Bull,'[**] you seem stagnating strangely in London.

"Yours, my dear Sir,

"Very truly,


"To John Murray, Esq."-_Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott_, by J.

G. Lockhart, Esq., 1838, iii. 92, 93.

[[*] "However, the praise often given to Byron has been so exaggerated as to provoke, perhaps, a reaction in which he is unduly disparaged. 'As various in composition as Shakespeare himself, Lord Byron has embraced,'

says Sir Walter Scott, 'every topic of human life, and sounded every string on the divine harp, from its slightest to its most powerful and heart-astounding tones.... In the very grand and tremendous drama of Cain,' etc.... 'And Lord Byron has done all this,' Scott adds, 'while managing his pen with the careless and negligent ease of a man of quality.'"--_Poetry of Byron, chosen and arranged by Matthew Arnold_, 1881, p. xiii.

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The Works of Lord Byron Volume V Part 71 summary

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