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William Cowper

(26 November 1731 – 25 April 1800 / Hertfordshire)

Adam: A Sacred Drama. Act 3.


SCENE I.-- Adam and Eve.

Oh, my beloved companion!
Oh thou of my existence,
The very heart and soul!
Hast thou, with such excess of tender haste,
With ceaseless pilgrimage,
To find again thy Adam,
Thus solitary wandered?
Behold him! Speak! what are thy gentle orders?
Why dost thou pause? what ask of God? what dost thou?

Eve. Adam, my best beloved!
My guardian and my guide!
Thou source of all my comfort, all my joy!
Thee, thee alone I wish,
And in these pleasing shades
Thee only have I sought.

Adam. Since thou hast called thy Adam,
(Most beautiful companion),
The source and happy fountain of thy joy;
Eve, if to walk with me
It now may please thee, I will show thee love,
A sight thou hast not seen;
A sight so lovely, that in wonder thou
Wilt arch thy graceful brow.
Look thou, my gentle bride, towards that path,
Of this so intricate and verdant grove,
Where sit the birds embowered;
Just there, where now, with soft and snowy plumes,
Two social doves have spread their wings for flight,
Just there, thou shalt behold, (oh pleasing wonder),
Springing amid the flowers,
A living stream, that with a winding course
Flies rapidly away;
And as it flies, allures
And tempts you to exclaim, sweet river, stay!
Hence eager in pursuit
You follow, and the stream, as it it had
Desire to sport with you,
Through many a florid, many a grassy way,
Well known to him, in soft concealment flies:
But when at length he hears,
You are afflicted to have lost his sight,
He rears his watery locks, and seems to say,
Gay with a gurgling smile,
'Follow! ah, follow still my placid course!
If thou art pleased with me, with thee I sport.
And thus with sweet deceit he leads you on
To the extremest bound
Of a fair flowery meadow; then at once
With quick impediment,
Says, 'Stop! Adieu! for now, yes, now I leave you:'
Then down a rock descends:
There, as no human foot can follow further,
The eye alone must follow him, and there,
In little space you see a mass of water
Collected in a deep and fruitful vale,
With laurel crowned and olive,
With cypress, orange and lofty pines.
The limpid water in the sun's bright ray
A perfect crystal seems;
Hence in its deep recess,
In the translucent wave,
You see a precious glittering sand of gold,
And bright as moving silver
Innumerable fish;
Here with melodious notes
The snowy swans upon the shining streams
Form their sweet residence;
And seem in warbling to the wind to say,
'Here let those rest who wish for perfect joy!'
So that, my dear companion,
To walk with me will please thee.

Eve. So well thy language to my sight has brought
What thou desirest to show me,
I see thy flying river as it sports,
And hear it as it murmurs.
And beauteous also is this scene, where now
Pleased we sojourn, and here, perhaps, even here
The lily whitens with the purest lustre,
And the rose reddens with the richest hue.
Here also bathed in dew
Plants of minutest growth
Are painted all with flowers.
Here trees of amplest leaf
Extend their rival shades,
And stately rise to heaven.

Adam. Now by these cooling shades,
The beauty of these plants,
By these delightful meadows,
These variegated flowers,
By the soft music of the rills and birds,
Let us sit down in joy!

Eve. Behold then I am seated!
How I rejoice in viewing not alone
These flowers, these herbs, these high and graceful plants.
But Adam, thou, my lover,
Thou, thou art he, by whom the meadows seem
More beautiful to me,
The fruit more blooming, and the streams more clear.

Adam. The decorated fields
With all their flowery tribute cannot equal
Those lovelier flowers, that with delight I view
In the fair garden of your beauteous face.
Be pacified, you flowers,
My words are not untrue;
You shine besprinkled with ethereal dew,
You give the humble earth to glow with joy
At one bright sparkle of the blazing sun;
But with the falling sun ye also fall:
But these more living flowers
Of my dear beauteous Eve
Seem freshened every hour
By soft devotion's dew,
That she with pleasure sheds
Praising her mighty Maker:
And by the rays of two terrestrial suns
In that pure heaven, her face,
They rise, and not to fall,
Decking the Paradise
Of an enchanting visage.

Eve. Dear Adam, do not seek
With tuneful eloquence
To soothe my ear by speaking of thy love!
The heart is confident,
That fondly flames with pure and hallowed ardour.
In sweet exchange accept, my gentle love,
This vermeil-tinctured gift, you know it well;
This is the fruit forbidden,
This is the blessed apple.

Adam. Alas! what see I! ah! what hast thou done,
Invader of the fruit,
Forbidden by thy God?

Eve. It would be long to tell thee
The reason that induced me
To make this fruit my prey: let it suffice,
I gained thee wings to raise thy flight to Heaven.

Adam. Ne'er be it true, ah never
That to obtain thy favour,
I prove to Heaven rebellious and ungrateful.
And to obey a woman,
So disobey my Maker and my God!
Then did not death denounced
With terror's icy paleness blanch thy cheek?

Eve. And thinkest thou, if the apple
Were but the food of death,
The great producer would have raised it there,
Where being is eternal?
Thinkest thou, that if of error
This fruit-tree were the cause,
In man's delighted eye
So fertile and so fair,
He would have formed it flourishing in air:
Ah, were it so, he would indeed have given
A cause of high offence,
Since nature has ordained,
(A monitress sagacious),
That to support his being, man must eat,
And trust in what looks fair, as just and good.

Adam. If the celestial tiller,
Who the fair face of Heaven
His thickly sown with stars,
Amidst so many plants fruitful and fair,
Placed the forbidden apple,
The fairest and most sweet,
'Twas to make proof of man,
As a wise keeper of his heavenly law,
And to afford him scope for high desert;
For he alone may gain the name of brave,
Who rules himself and all his own desires.
Man might indeed find some excuse for sin,
If scantily with fruits
This garden were supplied;
But this abounding in so many sweets,
Man ought not to renounce
The clear command of Heaven.

Eve. And is it thus you love me?
Ne'er be it true, ah never,
That I address you as my heart, my life!
From you I'll only wander,
Bathed in my tears, and sighing,
And hating even myself,
I'll hide me from the sun.

Adam. Dear Eve! my sweetest love!
My spirit and my heart!
Oh, haste to dry thine eyes!
For mine are all these tears
That bathe thy cheek, and stream upon thy bosom.

Eve. Ah, my unhappy state!
I that so much have said, so much have done
To elevate this man
Above the highest Heaven, and now so little
Can he or trust or love me!

Adam. Ah, do not grieve, my life!
Too much it wounds my soul
To see thee in affliction.

Eve. I know your sole desire
Is to be witness to my sighs and tears;
Hence to the winds and seas
I pay this bitter tribute.

Adam. Alas! my heart is splitting.
What can I do? When I look up to heaven,
I feel an icy tremour
Even to my bones oppress me,
Anxious alone to guard the heavenly precept:
If I survey my partner,
I share her tears and echo back her sighs.
'Tis torture and distraction
To wound her with refusal: my kind heart
Would teach my opening hand to seize the apple,
But in my doubtful breast
My spirit bids it close.
Adam! thou wretch! how many
Various desires besiege thy trembling heart!
One prompts thee now to sigh,
Another to rejoice; nor canst thou know
Which shall incline thee most,
Or sighs, or joyous favour,
From woman, or from God.

Eve. Yet he reflects, and wishes
That Eve should now forsake
Her hope of being happy
In elevating man,
Even while I hold the fruit of exaltation!

Adam. Though mute, yet eloquent
Are all your looks, my love!
Alas! whate'er you ask
You're certain to obtain;
And my heart grants, before your tongue can speak,
Eyes, that to me are suns,
The Heaven of that sweet face
No more, no more obscure!
Return! alas! return
To scatter radiance o'er that cloudy cheek!
Lift up, O lift thy brow
From that soft mass of gold that curls around it,
Locks like the solar rays,
Chains to my heart and lightning to my eyes!
O let thy lovely tresses,
Now light and unconfined,
Sport in the air and all thy face disclose.
That paradise, that speaks a heart divine!
I yield thee full obedience;
Thy prayers are all commands:
Dry, dry thy streaming eyes, and on thy lips
Let tender smiles like harmless lightning play.

Eve. Ah, misbelieving Adam,
Be now a kind receiver
Of this delightful fruit!
Hasten, now hasten to extend thy hand
To press this banquet of beatitude!

Adam. Oh, my most sweet companion,
Behold thy ardent lover!
Now banish from his heart
The whirlpool of affliction, turned to him
His dearest guide, his radiant polar star!
Show me that lovely apple,
Which 'midst thy flowers and fruits,
Ingenious plunderer, thou hidest from me!

Eve. Adam, behold the apple!
What sayest thou? I have tasted, and yet live.
Ah, 'twill insure our lives,
And make us equal to our God in Heaven.
But first the fruit entire
We must between us eat,
And when we have enjoyed it,
Then to a radiant throne, a throne of stars,
Exalting Angels will direct our flight.

Adam. Give me the pilfered fruit,
Thou courteous pilferer!
Give me the fruit that charms thee,
And let me yield to her,
Who to make me a God has toiled and wept!
Alas! what have I done?
How sharp a thorn is piercing to my heart
With instantaneous anguish!
How am I o'erwhelmed
In a vast flood of sorrow!

Eve. Alas! what do I see?
Oh, bitter knowledge! unexpected sight!
All is prepared for human misery.

Adam. O precious liberty! where art thou fled?

Eve. O precious liberty! O dire enthralment!

Adam. Is this the fruit so sweet,
The source of so much bitter?
Say why wouldst thou betray me?
Ah why of heaven deprive me!
Why make me forfeit thus
My state of innocence,
Where cheerful I enjoy a blissful life?
Why make me thus a slave
To the fierce arms of death,
Thou, whom I deemed my life?

Eve. I have been blind to good,
Quick-sighted but to evil,
An enemy to Adam,
A rebel to my God,
For daring to exalt me
To the high gates of heaven,
I fall presumptuous to the depths of hell.

Adam. Alas, what dart divine appears in heaven,
Blazing in circling flame?

Eve. What punishment,
Wretch that I am, hangs o'er me? Am I naked!
And speaking still to Adam?

Adam. Am I too naked? hide me! hence!

Eve. I fly.

SCENE II.

Volano. Thou'rt fallen, at length thou'rt fallen, O thou presuming
With new support from the resplendent stars,
To mount to seats sublime!
Adam, at length thou'rt fallen to the deep,
As far as thy ambition hoped to soar;
Now see thou hast attained
To learn the distance between heaven and hell.
Now let Avernus echo,
To the hoarse sound of the funereal trumpet!
Joyful arise to light,
And pay your homage to the prince of hell!

SCENE III. -- Satan, Volano, CHORUS OF SPIRITS, with their flags flying, and infernal instruments.

Volano. Man is subdued, subdued!
Palms of eternal glory!
Why pause ye now? to your infernal reeds
And pipes of hoarsest sound, with pitch cemented,
And various instruments of discord,
Now let the hand and lip be quick applied!
Behold how triumph now to us returns,
As rightly he foretold
Our Stygian Emperor! Spread to the wind
Your fluttering banners! Oh, thou festive day,
To Hell of glory, and to Heaven of shame!

SCENE IV. -- Serpent, Vain Glory, Satan, Volano, and Spirits.

Serpent. To pleasures and to joys,
Ye formidable dark sulphureous warriors!
Let Fame to heaven now on her raven plumes
Direct her rapid flight,
Of man's completed crime
The mournful messenger.

Satan. Behold, again expanded in the air
The insignia of hell!
Hear now the sounds of triumph,
And voices without number
That raise to heaven the shout of victory?

Serpent. Lo, I return, ye Spirits of Avernus,
And as I promised, a proud conqueror!
Lo, to these deep infernal realms of darkness
I bring transcendent light, transcendent joy;
Thanks to my fortitude, which from that giant
Now wretched, and in tears,
Forced his aspiring crown of fragile glass;
And thanks to her, this martial heroine,
Vain Glory, whom to my proud heart I press.

Satan. The torrent hastes not to the sea so rapid,
Nor yet so rapid in the realm of fire
Flashes kindle and die,
As the quick circling hours
Of good are joined to evil
In life's corrupted state;
The work of my great Lord, nor less the work
Of thee, great Goddess of the scene condemned;
Up, up with homage quick
To show ourselves of both the blest adorers!

Serpent. Now, from their bended knees let all arise,
And to increase our joys
Let thy glad song, Canoro,
Now memorise the prosperous toil of hell.

Canoro. Happy Canoro, raised to matchless bliss,
Since 'tis thy lot to speak
The prosperous exploits of Lucifer!
Behold I bend the knee,
And sing thy triumph in a joyous strain;
Behold the glorious triumph
Of that unconquered power,
Who every power surpasses,
The mighty monarch of the deadly realm!
Now raise the tumid form,
Avernus, banish grief;
Man is involved in snares,
And Death is glutted with his frail existence.
This is the potent, brave,
And ancient enemy
Of man, the dauntless foe,
And dread destroyer of the starry court.
No more contentment dwell
In the terrestrial seat:
Thou moon, and sun, be darkened,
And every element to chaos turn!
Man is at length subdued.
From a corrupted source,
A weak and hapless offspring,
Thanks to the fruit, his progeny shall prove.
To that exalted seat
By destiny our due,
Can Death's vile prey ascend,
Who now lies prostrate at the feet of Hell?

Serpent. Silence, no more! Now in superior joys
Ye quick and fluttering spirits,
Now, now, your wings expand,
And active in your pleasure,
Weave a delightful dance!

SCENE V. -- A CHORUS of Sprites in the shape of Antics, Serpent, Satan, Volan, Canoro, Vain Glory, and Spirits.

To thee behold us flying,
Round thee behold us sporting,
O monarch of Avernus!
To recreate thy heart in joyous dance.
Come, let us dance, happy and light,
Ye little Sprites;
Man was of flesh, now all of dust,
Such is the will of hideous Death;
A blessed lot
No more is his, wretched in all.
Now let us weave, joyous and dancing,
Ties as many,
As now Hell's prosperous chieftain
Spreads around man, who weeps and wails
And now lifeless,
Is almost rendered by his anguish
Enjoy, enjoy in fragile vesture,
Man, O heaven;
Stygian Serpent has o'erwhelmed him,
Wherefore let each dance in triumph,
Full of glory,
Since our king has proved victorious.
But, what thinkst thou Heaven in sorrow:
On the sudden,
He will spring to scenes celestial;
And he there will weak his vengeance
On the Godhead,
That is now in heaven so troubled.

Serpent. Ah, what lofty sounding trumpets
Through the extensive fields of heaven rebellow?

Vain Glory. Ah, from my triumph now I fall to hell,
Through subterraneous scenes exhaling fire,
With all my fatal pomp at once I sink!

Serpent. And I alas, am plunging
With thee to deepest horror!

Satan. Avoid, avoid, companions,
This unexpected lustre,
That brings, alas, to us a night of horror!

Volano. Alas, why should we tarry?
Fly all, O fly with speed
This inimical splendour,
These dread and deadly accents,
The utterance of God!

SCENE VI. -- God the Father, Angels, Adam, and Eve.

God The Father.

And is it thus you keep the law of heaven,
Adam and Eve? O ye too faithless found,
Ye children of a truly tender father!
Thou most unhappy, how much hast thou lost,
And in a moment, Adam!
Fool, to regard the Serpent more than God.
Ah, could repentance e'er belong to Him
Who cannot err, then might I well repent me
Of having made this man.
Now, Adam, thou hast tasted
The apple, thou hast sinned,
Thou hast corrupted God's exalted bounty:
The elements, the heavens,
The stars, the moon, the sun, and whatsoever
Has been for man created,
Now seems by man abhorred, and as unworthy
Now to retain existence,
To his destruction he solicits death.
But since 'tis just that I, who had proportioned
Reward to merit, should now make chastisement
Keep pace with guilt, contemplating myself,
I view Astrea, in whose righteous stroke
Lo, I myself descend, for I am justice.
Why pausest thou, O sinner, in his presence,
Who on a starry throne,
As an offended judge prepares thy sentence?
Appear! to whom do I address me? Adam,
Adam, where art thou? say! dost thou not hear?

Adam. Great Sovereign of heaven! if to those accents,
Of which one single one formed earth and heaven,
My God, if to that voice,
That called on Adam, a deaf asp I seemed,
It was terror struck me dumb:
Since to my great confusion,
I was constrained, naked, to come before thee.

God The Father.

And who with nakedness has made acquainted
Him, who although he was created naked,
With innocence was clothed?

Adam. Of knowledge the dread fruit that I have tasted;
The fault of my companion!

Eve. Too true it is, that the malignant serpent,
Made me so lightly think of thy injunction,
That the supreme forbiddance
Little or nought I valued.

God The Father.

Adam, thou sinner! O thou bud corrupted
By the vile worm of error!
Though eager to ascend celestial seats,
An angel in thy pride, thy feeble wings
Left thee to fall into the depths of hell.
By thy disdain of life,
Death is thy acquisition;
Unworthy now of favour,
I strip thee of thy honours;
And soon thou shalt behold the herbs and flowers
Turned into thorns and thistles,
The earth itself this day by me accurst.
Then shalt thou utter sighs in want of food,
And from thy altered brow thou shalt distil
Streams of laborious sweat,
A supplicant for bread;
Nor ever shall the strife of man have end,
Till, as he rose from dust, to dust he turn.
And thou, first author of the first offence,
With pain thou shalt produce the human birth,
As thou hast taught, with anguish infinite,
The world this fatal day to bring forth sin.
Thee, cruel Serpent, I pronounce accursed;
Be it henceforth thy destiny to creep
Prone on the ground, and on the dust to fee
Eternal strife between thee and the woman,
Strife barbarous and deadly,
This day do I denounce:
If one has fallen, the other, yet victorious,
Shall live to bruise thy formidable head.
Now, midst the starry spheres,
Myself I will seclude from human sight.

SCENE VII. -- An Angel, Adam, and Eve.

Angel. Ah, Eve, what hast thou lost,
Of thy dread Sovereign slighting the commands!
Thou Adam, thou hast sinned;
And Eve too sinning with thee,
Ye have together, of the highest heaven
Shut fast the gates, and opened those of hell!
In seeking sweeter life,
Ye prove a bitter death;
And for a short delight
A thousand tedious sufferings.
How much it had been better for this man
To say, I have offended, pardon, Lord!
Than to accuse his partner, she the serpent:
Hence let these skins of beasts, thrown over both,
Become your humble clothing;
And hence let each be taught
That God approves the humble,
And God in anger punishes the proud.

Adam. O man! O dust! O my frail destiny!
O my offence! O death!

Eve. O woman! O of evil
Sole gluttonous producer!
O fruit! my sin! O serpent! O deceit!

Angel. Now let these skins that you support upon you,
Tell you the grievous troubles
That you have to sustain;
Rude vestments are these skins,
From whence you may perceive
That much of misery must be endured
Now in the field of life,
Till death shall reap ye both.
Now, now lament and weep,
From him solicit mercy,
For still your mighty Maker may be found
Gracious in heaven, indulgent to the world,
Most merciful to man,
If equal to the pride
That made him err, his penitence will weep.

Adam. Ah, whither art thou fled?
Where lonely dost thou leave me?
Oh, too disgusting apple,
If thou canst render man to angels hateful.
Alas, my dread destruction
Springs from a source so high,
That it will find no end.
Most miserable Adam! if thou fallest,
Ah, who will raise thee up?
If those eternal hands
That should uphold the heaven, the world, and man,
Closed for thy good, are open for thy ill,
How much shouldst thou express! but tears and grief
Fetter the tongue and overwhelm the heart!
O sin! O agony!

Eve. Adam, my Adam, I will call thee mine,
Although I may have lost thee!
Unhappy Eve acknowledges her error,
She weeps, and she laments it.
She sees thee in great anguish:
O could her tears wash out the grievous stain
Thou hast upon thy visage!
Adam! alas, thou answerest not, and I
Suffer in seeing thee so pale and pensive,
Thy hands united in the folds of pain!
But if through deed of mine thou hast occasion
For endless shame and silence,
Wilt thou reply to me? do I deserve it?
I merit only woe by being woman;
Eve has invented weeping,
Eve has discovered anguish,
Labour and lassitude,
Distraction and affright;
Eve, Eve has ministered to death and hell!

Adam. Enjoy, enjoy, O woman,
My anguish, my perdition, and my death;
Banish me hence for loving thee too well?
Ah, if thou wert desirous of my tears,
Now, now extend thy hands, receive these streams
That I must pour abundant from mine eyes;
If thou didst wish my sighs, lo, sighs I give thee;
If anguish, view it; if my blood, 'tis thine;
Rather my death, it will be easy to thee
Now to procure my death,
If thou hast rendered me of life unworthy.

SCENE VIII. -- The Archangel Michael, Adam, and Eve.

Michael. Why this delay? come on, be quick, depart,
Corrupted branches, from this fair and beauteous
Terrestrial paradise! Are ye so bold,
Ye putrid worms? come on, be quick, depart,
Since with a scourge of fire I thus command you.

Adam. Alas! I am destroyed
By the fierce blow of this severe avenger!

Eve. Now sunk in vital power
I feel my sad existence,
E'en at the menace from this scourge of fire.

Michael. These stony plains now must thy naked foot
Press, in the stead of sweet and beauteous flowers,
Since thy erroneous folly
Forbids thy dwelling in this pleasant garden.
Behold in me the punisher of those
Who against their God rebel, and hence I bear
These radiant arms that with tremendous power
Make me invincible. I was the spirit
Who, in the mighty conflict,
Advancing to the north,
Struck down great Lucifer, the haughty leader
Of wicked angels, so that into hell
They plunged precipitate and all subdued;
And thus it has seemed good to my tremendous
Celestial chief, that I shall also drive
Man, rebel to his God, with this my sword
Of ever-blazing fire,
Drive him for ever from this seat of bliss.
You angels all depart, and now with me
Expand your plumes for heaven;
As it has been your lot,
Like mine, on earth here to rejoice with man,
Man once a demi-god and now but dust,
Here soon with falchions armed,
Falchions that blaze with fire,
As guardians of these once delightful gates
The brave and active Cherubim shall aid you.

SCENE IX. -- CHORUS OF Angels that sing, Archangel, Adam, and Eve.

Adieu, remain in peace!
O thou that livest in war!
Alas, how much it grieves us,
Great sinner, to behold thee now but dust.
Weep! weep! indulge thy sighs,
And view thy lost possession now behind thee,
Weep! weep! for all thy sorrow
Thou yet mayst see exchanged for songs of joy.
This promise to the sinner Heaven affords
Who contrite turns to Heaven with holy zeal.

Submitted: Tuesday, April 13, 2010

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