Robert Laurence Binyon

(1869-1943 / England)

The Death Of Adam - Poem by Robert Laurence Binyon

Cedars, that high upon the untrodden slopes
Of Lebanon stretch out their stubborn arms,
Through all the tempests of seven hundred years
Fast in their ancient place, where they look down
Over the Syrian plains and faint blue sea,
When snow for three days and three nights hath fall'n
Continually, and heaped those terraced boughs
To massy whiteness, still in fortitude
Maintain their aged strength, although they groan;
In such a wintriness of majesty,
O'ersnowed by his uncounted years, and scarce
Supporting that hard load, yet not o'ercome,
Was Adam: all his knotted thews were shrunk,
Hollow his mighty thighs, toward which his beard,
Pale as the stream of far--seen waterfalls,
Hung motionless; betwixt the shoulders grand
Bowed was the head, and dim the gaze; and both
His heavy hands lay on his marble knees.
So sits he all day long and scarcely stirs,
And scarcely notes the bright shapes of his sons
Moving in the broad light without his tent,
That propt on poles about a giant oak
Looks southward to the river and the vale:
Only sometimes slowly he turns his head,
As seeking to recover some lost thought
From the dear presence of the white--haired Eve
Who, less in strength, hath less endured, and still
With slow and careful footsteps tendeth him,
Or seated opposite with silent eyes
Companions him; their thoughts go hand in hand.
So now she sits reposing in the dusk
Of their wide tent, like a great vision throned
Of the Earth Mother, tranquil and august,
Accorded to some youthful votary
Deep in an Asian grove, under the moon.

Peace also rests on Adam; not such peace
As comes forlornly to men dulled with cares,
Whom no ennobling memory uplifts;
Peace of a power far mightier than his own,
Outlasting all it fostered into life,
Pervades him and sustains him: such a peace
As blesses mossed and mouldering architraves
Of pillars standing few among the wreck
Of many long since fallen, pillars old,
Reared by a race long vanished, where the birds
Nest as in trees, and every crevice flowers,
As mothering Earth, having some time indulged
Men's little uses, makes their ruin fair
Ere in her bosom it be folded up.
Thus Adam's mind relinquishing the world,
That grows more dim around him every day,
Withdraws into itself, and in degree
As all that mates him to the moving hours,
Even as his outward joy and vigour fail,
So surely turns his homing spirit back
Unto those silent sources whence delight
And hope and strength and buoyancy of old
Flowed fresh upon his youth, persisting still
To seek those first and fairest memories
In youth and sunshine O how lightly lost,
How difficult in darkness to regain!
He sits in idle stillness, yet at times
From the dark wells of musing some old hour
Floats upward, as the tender lotus lifts
Her swaying stalk up through the limpid depth
Of pools in rivers never known to man,
And buoyed on idle wet luxurious leaves
Peacefully opens white bloom after bloom.

He is rapt far from this last shore of age;
He sees the face of Eve as she approached
To bring him flowers new--found in Paradise,
Or hiding her young sorrow on his breast;
And Abel as a child and Cain with him
Playing beneath the shadow of old trees,
All dearer by the desert interposed
Of time and toil and passionate regret,
Troubling his inmost spirit, until his face,
Wrought with remembrance and with longing, wears
The pressure and the sign of all that swells
And brims his heart, fain to be freed in speech.

``What ails thee, Adam?'' gentle Eve began.
``Why art thou troubled, what thoughts vex thy mind?
For though my eyes are dim, yet I can see
Thy breast heaves upward, and long sighs go forth,
And thou dost move thy hands, and shake thy head.''
But Adam answered not; he seemed alone.
Then, lifting up his eyes, he saw his sons
Slowly approaching in the evening light
With all their flocks; and many voices rose
On the clear air about the tents and trees,
As they made ready for the sacrifice
Before the evening meal: soon they drew near
To Adam's tent; and he looked on them all,
Standing to wait his blessing, of all years,
From the boy Adriel to the aged Seth,
Outlined with glory by the sinking sun.
Strange in their strength and beauty they appeared;
And Adam, though he saw them, seemed to gaze
Beyond them, seeking what he found not there.
Over them all his eyes unresting roved,
While they in silence waited for his word.
At last he spoke: ``Where is my first--born Cain?''
They looked on one another. Few had heard
That darkened name; but Eve bowed down her head.
And Seth stood forth amid them hushed and spoke
With a grave utterance, ``Cain is far away.
Thou knowest, O my father, how we have heard
That far beyond the mountains to the east
He dwells, and ever wanders o'er that land.
Many days' journey must a man be gone
Ere he reach thither and return again;
Nor know we certainly where Cain may dwell.
Yet what thou biddest, that shall be performed;
Shall we send to him?'' Adam answered, ``Send:
Let them go quickly, see that they make haste.
But on the tenth day bid them come again,
Whether they have found him, or have found him not,
For mine eyes fail, yea, and my heart grows cold.''

Heavy as pale clouds of October roll
Over the soaring snows of Ararat,
The vapour of oblivion fell once more
Down over Adam's head, in languor drooped
Between his mighty shoulders on his breast.
From morn to night, from night to morn he sat
As in a trance of deep thought undivined.
His children looking on his face were filled
With desolation and disquietude,
Sad as Armenian shepherds when they watch
For the still clouds to roll from those great peaks,
Praying the clear bright North winds to restore
Their guardian mountain; with such heavy hearts
They waited for his face to give a sign
That still gave none. Listless amid their toil
They grew, and sitting idle by their flocks
Each from his station, scattered on the hills,
Turned often to the east, in hope to spy
The messengers returning: but at eve
While the gray--bearded elders patient sat
In the cool tent--doors, they would pace the shore
Under the gathering stars, and murmured low
One to another saying, ``What is this
That comes upon us all, what evil thing
Whereof we have not heard? What cloud is fallen
Upon our father Adam, and why seeks he
This Cain whose name we know not? Peace is gone,
And nothing now is as it was before.''
And others answered, ``Well for us, if they
Whom we have sent on such a hazard come
Ever again or we behold them more!
Would they had never gone on this dark quest!
We have no hunters brave and swift as they,--
Ophir, that was the strongest of us all,
And Iddo, that could match the eagle's sight.''
Thus the young men spoke their despondent mind.
But every morn renewing wearied hope
They turned with the sunrising to the east,
And numbered the long hours till noon, and still
Nor morn nor noon brought tidings; and each eve
Watching tall herons by the sandy pools
Widen their wings and slow with trailing feet
And lifted head sail off into the sky,
They followed them with long and silent thoughts
Over the darkening mountains, far and far
Into that never yet imagined world
Beginning to oppress them; whither now
Their fears went wandering through enormous night.
Thus waxed and waned each heavy day; at last
From mouth to mouth the unquiet murmur ran,
``'Tis the ninth evening, and they are not come!''

The kingly star had stolen from his throne
In the first brightening of the morrow morn;
And far in the east, with frail cloud overspread,
Light hovered in the pale immensity.
A mile--broad shade beneath the mountain slept;
But opposite a dewy glimmer soon
Moulded the shapes of rough crags, and beneath
Strewn boulders, and thin streams, and slopes obscure.
There, on the slopes amid the rocks appeared
The youth of Adam's race, assembled forms
Sitting or standing with hand--shaded eyes
At gaze into the eastern gorge, where hills
Between dark shoulders inaccessible
Opened a narrowing way into the dawn.
Stiller than statues, yet with beating hearts
They waited while the wished light kindled clear,
Invading that deep valley, until the sun
Flamed warm upon their limbs through coloured air,
And slow rose upward: it was nigh to noon:
At last a motion on the horizon stirred
And a faint dust in the far gorge was blown.
Then those that sat rose up and gazed erect,
And those that stood moved and stept on a pace.
And as they watched amid the shining dust
Two far--off forms appeared, but only two.
Their straining eyes watched, but no other came.
A sigh ran through their troubled ranks, they turned
To one another, then again to those
Two lonely journeyers downcast and slow,
Who now discerned them from afar and raised
Their hands in greeting; then some ran, with cakes
Of bread, and skins of milk, and honeycombs,
Down the great slope to meet the messengers;
And others climbed the ridge and backward ran
Down to the tents, the river, and the vale,
And came to where Seth sat beneath a tree
Waiting, with folded arms, and cried to him,
``They come, they come; but Cain comes not with them.''
Then Seth arose and came to Adam's tent,
And stood before his father in the door.
Eve questioning sought his eyes: he shook his head
And looked on Adam; motionless he sat
Plunged in a trance, yet dimly was aware
Of tidings, as he heard the voice of Seth,
``'Tis the tenth morning, and thy sons return.''
Faintly by imperceptible degrees
Light stole o'er Adam's features, and Seth saw
The wellings of his troubled mind on them,
As one who in a cavern lifts a torch
And sees the gradual recesses grow
Out of their ancient gloom, uncertain shapes
Of rugged roof and walls without an end:
So dark from innermost obscurity
The slumbrous memories of Adam rose
And on his face appeared: yet still a veil
Remained betwixt his senses and the world;
When now the noise of many feet drew nigh
Softly approaching: and Seth spoke again,
``Behold! thy sons, thy messengers are here.''
He drew the matted curtains of the tent
Aside, and Adam raised his head and saw
All his assembled children coming on,
Hushing their steps in awe; they stopped at gaze
Now as his eyes were on them; but before
Came the two messengers and stood alone,
How soiled and burnt with travel! Round the neck
Of Ophir hung the leopard's spotty hide
Stripped from that fierce beast strangled by his hand,
Torn now and stained; neither had paused to wash
The thick dust from his feet; but Iddo held
A spray of leaves new--plucked to freshen him
Seared on the parching mountain; thus they stood
With troubled countenance and hanging head
Till Ophir spoke; all listened rapt and still.
``Father, we went; and lo, we are come back
On the tenth morn, according to thy word.
For we have sought Cain but have found him not.
We passed beyond the mountains and we crossed
The sultry desert, toiling in hot sands
Two heavy days, and thence with difficulty
Climbed the far ridge unto the land beyond.
It is a land not fruitful like our vale,
Barren it is with short grass and few trees;
On the fifth day we came into the midst
Of that bare country and we saw no man,
Nor knew we whither to direct our steps,
When on a slope at unawares we spied
A sheepfold made of stones, and Lo! we said
To one another, Surely he was here.
Then eagerly we climbed the highest hill
And all around gazed long, but saw no more.
But toward the evening, when the light was low
And the extremest mountains grew distinct,
Far off in the clear air, but very far,
We saw a little smoke go up to heaven,
And we cried out, It is the home of Cain!
But deeply we were troubled and perplext,
For we were faint and footsore, and thy word
Lay heavy on our thoughts, remembering it,
On the tenth morning see that ye be here!
Surely our hearts were eager to go on;
But thinking of thy word we feared to go,
And hardly even now are we returned.
Father, we did thy bidding. Is it well?''
All gathered nearer, hushed and wistful; all
Awaited Adam's voice, but he was mute.
They would have prayed him, but they ventured not;
Like hunters that at hot noon, lost in woods,
Pressing through boughs and briers, at unawares
Come on the huge throat of a hollow cliff
Ribbed with impending ledges of wet moss,
Whence in a smooth--lipped basin of black stone
Some secret water wells without a sound:
Then sorely though they thirst they fear to drink,
Awed by the mystery of that silent source,
So these awhile with beating hearts delayed
To speak, awaiting what his words might be.
At last he raised his head and turned his eyes
On Eve, and looked upon her long, while she
On him hung gazing: light began to burn
In his dimmed eyes, and his whole frame was wrought
With the stirring of his spirit, as of old.
At length the thoughts were kindled on his tongue:
He lifted up his voice and cried aloud.

``O that mine eyes had seen thee once again,
Cain, that my hands had blessed thee! Thou art gone,
For ever gone, and still that curse abides
On thee who wast my joy, my first--born child.
Eve, Eve, hast thou forgotten that far hour,
When our first child, our baby newly--born,
Held up his little and defenceless hands
Crying toward thy bosom?'' And Eve sighed:
``Surely my bosom hath not forgotten Cain,
Who sucked the tender first milk from its paps.
His feet are worn, wandering the desert wide,
But I have washed them with my tears in dreams.
Oh, in my heart he has not left his home.
Would I might lay my arms about him now!
Yet why, O Adam, utterest thou these thoughts?
Thou knowest how betwixt us and our son
There lies a land we may not overleap
More than the flames of those exiling swords,
Because of our fault, Adam, and of his.
Why dost thou waken this our ancient pain?''
But Adam still uplifted his lament:
``He is gone from us, gone beyond our reach,
Beyond our yearning, he remembers not
These arms that were around his weakness once,
These hands that fed him and that fostered him
And now would bless him. All these have I blessed
With many blessings, but him whom I cursed
Him would I bless at last, and be at peace.
He is gone from me, and now these also go
Whither I know not, and I fear for them.
How often have I seen them going forth
Into the woods upon these hills, how oft
See them with night returning, but now they
Depart for ever and return no more.''
Eve wondering replied with earnest voice,
``Behold them, Adam, they are very fair
And strong with all the strength that we have lost.
What ill shall harm them more than hath harmed us?
Remember how when I was used to fear,
Beholding our first child in his soft youth
Go from us on his tender feet alone--
His tender feet a little stone might bruise,
And would have caught him back to my fond breast,
Thou didst rebuke me, saying it must be
That he go forth alone; now thou dost fear,
When these are strong and we can help no more.''
But Adam shook his head and answered not.
For he was like a shepherd who hath lit
A fire to warm him on the mountain side
In the first chill after the summer heats,
And drowsing by the embers wakes anon
With wonder--frighted eyes, to see the sparks
Blowing astray run kindling over grass
And withered heath and bushes of dry furze,
And ere his heavy senses, pricked with smoke,
Uncloud, the white fire rushes from his reach,
Leaps to embrace the tall pines, tossing up
A surge of trembling stars, and eagerly
Roars through their topmost branches, wide aflame,
While all around enormous shadows rock
And wrestle, as tumultuous lights o'errides
The darkness as with charging spears and plumes,
Till the whole hillside reddens, and beyond
Far mountains waken flushed out of the night:
Then he who ignorantly had started up
This wild exulting glory from its sleep
Forgets to stir his steps or wring his hands;
The swiftness and the radiance and the sound
Beget a kind of rapture in his dread;
Like that amazed shepherd Adam saw
His race, sprung out of darkness, fill the earth
Increasing swift and terrible like fire
That feeds on all its ruins, wave on wave
Streaming impetuous without rest or pause
Right onward to the boundaries of the world:
And he how helpless who had caused it all!
So stood his soul still in a gaze of awe
Filled with the foretaste of calamity:
And his lips broke into a groaning cry.
``What is this thing that I have done, what doom,
What boundless and irrevocable doom,
My children, have I wakened for you all?
O could I see the end, but end is none.
My thoughts are carried from me, and they faint,
As birds that come from out the farthest sky,
Voyaging to a home far, far beyond,
Sink in our valley on a drooping wing
Quite wearied out, yea, we have seen them sink,
So my thoughts faint within my bosom old;
The vision is too vast, I am afraid.''

But understanding nothing of his speech,
That yet seemed opening some mysterious door
Disclosing an horizon all unknown,
His children listened, touched to trouble vague
And longing without name: like travellers
Who in a company together pass
On some spring evening by an upland road,
And as they travel, each in thought immersed,
Rich merchants, wise in profitable cares,
Adventurous youths, and timorous old men,
Through deepening twilight the young rising moon
Begins to cast along them a mild gleam,
And shadows trembling from the wayside trees
In early leaf steal forward on the ground
Beside them, and faint balm is past them blown;
All troubles them with beauty fresh and strange,
Stealing their thoughts away; so tenderly
Were Adam's children troubled when they heard.

Long silence fell. At last with heavy voice
And weakened utterance Adam spoke again:
``My children, bring me fruits and bring me flowers,
Set them within my sight that I may see
And touch them, and their sweetness smell once more.''
They hasted and plucked flowers and gathered fruit
Such as their valley yielded; balsam boughs,
Late roses, darkly flushed, or honey--pale,
And heavy clustered grapes, and yellowing gourds,
Plump figs, and dew--moist apples, and smooth pears.
All these they brought and heaped before his sight.
Voyagers in the utmost seas, when ice
Pinions their vessel fast and they prepare
For the blind frozen winter's boundless night,
How jealously they watch the last low rays,
How from the loftiest vantage in their view
Cherish the rosy warmth still on their limbs,
Tarrying until the bright rim wholly dips!
Adam, by huger darkness overhung,
So longed to taste life warm even to the last;
And fostering those fair flowers upon his lap
And holding a gold apple in his hand
Remembered Eden. O what blissful light
Flowed o'er his heart and bathed it in its beams!
It seemed the deep recesses of his soul
Welled up their inmost wisdom at the last:
He glowed with some transfiguring fire; his lips
Moved, and his face uplifted was inscribed
With mighty thoughts, that thus at length unrolled
Their solemnly assembled syllables.

``Look well on me, my children, whom ye lose!
Behold these eyes that have wept tears for you,
Behold these arms that have long toiled for you!--
These hands in Paradise have gathered flowers;
These limbs, which ye have seen so wasted down
In feebleness, so utterly brought low,
They grew not into stature like your limbs.
I wailed not into this great world a child
Helpless and speechless, understanding naught,
But from God's rapture perfect and full--grown
I suddenly awoke out of the dark.
How sweet a languor did enrich the blood
In my warmed veins, as on my opening eyes
The splendour of the world shone slowly in,
Mingling its radiant colours in my soul!
Yea, in my soul and only in my soul
I deemed them to abide: sky, water, trees,
The moving shadows and the tender light,
This solid earth, this wide and teeming earth,
Which we have trodden, weary step by step,
Nor found beginning of an end of it,
I deemed it all abounding in my brain:
The murmur of the waters and the winds
Seemed but a music sighing from my joy;
Then I arose, and ventured forth afoot;
And soon, how soon, was dispossessed of all!
By every step I travelled into truth
That stripped me of my proud dreams, one by one,
Till all were taken. On such faltering feet
By gradual but most certain steps I came
Into my real and perfect solitude,
Alone amid the world that knew not me.
O Eve, thou knowest what I tell not now,
How I was comforted, and all the woe
That fell on our transgression; yet not less
When that first child lay babbling on thy knees,
Then again said I, `Surely this is mine.'
And you, my children, whom I saw increase
Around me, stronger as my strength decayed,
How often have I called you also mine!
But now my first--born is not any more,
Or wanders lost from me, and ye, ye too
Go from me over earth, forgetting me.
So surely I perceive, for all that I
In joy begot you, ye are mine no more.
But ye, who seem the proud and easy lords
Of this fair earth, ye too must tread the path
Which I trod in my ignorant longing, lose
What I have lost, and find what I have found.
What seek you, O my children, what seek you?
For I behold you in this narrow vale,
That mountains and deep forests compass round
Filled with desires. Beyond is all the world
That hardly shall content them; ye must go
Forth into that vast world, as from my feet
This water glides, we know not whither; yea,
Even as this stream is prisoned in its speed,
So shall ye be imprisoned in desire.
But when you have imagined peace and balm
For your endeavour, musing, `This is mine,'
When you shall say, `I have a cause for joy,'
Then be distrustful, lest you only learn
How cruel is desire till it attain,
And being baffled yet more cruel grows,
Indignant not to find what it had sought,
And suffering ye rage, and raging fall
Upon your own flesh. Ah, deal tenderly
With one another, O my sons, for ye,
Caged in these limbs that toil under the noon,
Are capable of sorrow huge as night;
And still must ye bear all, whatever come.
Look how the trees in an untimely spring
Put forth their sweet shoots on the frosty air
That withers up the tender sap, yet still
Cannot delay their ripening, nor fold back
Their wounded buds into the sheltering rind;
So shall ye shrink, yet so must ye endure.
I that was strong and proud in strength, and now
Am come to this last weakness, tell you this:
Alas, could ye but know it as I know.
I speak in vain, ye cannot understand.''

He ended sighing: for his mind was filled
With apprehensions rolling up from far
The doom and tribulation of his race.
Looking upon the faces of his sons,
Well he divined their weakness from his own.
He knew what they should suffer; yet the worst
He knew not; had he known, he would have rued
Less to be parent of their feebleness
Than of their strength, the power to maim and rend
And ravage even that which to their hearts
Is dearest, though they know not what they do,
Trampling their peace in dust; had he seen all
The dreadful actors on the endless stage,
Sprung from his loins,--the triumphing blind hordes,
Spurred by an ignorant fury to create
An engine of fierce pleasure in the pangs
Wrung from the brave, the gentle, and the wise,
And raging at a beauty not their own
That vexes all their vileness; till the world,
Discovering too late its precious loss,
Loves and laments in vain: had he seen this,
His grief had gone forth in a bitterer cry.
But they that heard him heard incredulous.
Trouble was far, and sweet youth in their hearts.
The beauty of the world encompassed them;
All else was fable; and they stood elate
Yet stirred and pensive, in such wondering pause
As might a troop of children who have found
In a king's garden, under shadowy yews,
Ancestral marbles on a sculptured wall,
Half hid in vines, and lifting up the leaves
Gaze in a bright--eyed wonder on fair shapes
Of arming heroes and unhappy queens,
Or press soft lips on Helen's woeful mouth,
Touching her perfect breast, and smile on her,
Unknowing how beneath that heavenly mould
Swelled, like a sea, the powers of love and pain,
Powers that shall surely also rock themselves
In storms, and their young courage crush to sobs,
Toss them on easeless beds, blind their hot eyes
With tears, in longing violent as vain,
Till they shall quite forget how life was once
Sweet as a rose's breath and only fair,
As now 'tis fair and sweet to Adam's sons.
Exalted in expectancy, they mused,
And in their veins a warmer current glowed
Round their full--moulded limbs; their open eyes
Shone wistful, and they murmured to themselves,
When Adam's voice recalled them to his grief.
Out of unfathomable deeps his words
Seemed drawn in solemn slowness. ``Lo, the light
Makes ready to go from you, even as I.
Hearken, my sons! Upon the mountain side
There is a cave that looks toward the East:
And thence in the evening clearness have I oft
Far--off beheld the gates of Paradise.
Mine eyes would feel that glory once again
Ere they be turned for ever to the night.
Therefore go down and strew a bed for me,
Lay me upon that bed and bear me up.
It grows late and I may not tarry more.''
But now at last the certainty of woe
Smote through them, and they feared exceedingly,
Scarce knowing yet what this command might mean.
They would have stayed, but Adam with raised hands
Moved them unto his bidding; they went down
And busied them, most sadly, o'er that toil
By the stream's shore, plaiting a bed of withes,
And some prepared rough poles, some gathered leaves.
Adam with Eve remained alone; the light
Slept warm upon the grass and on their feet,
And round about them in the spacious tent
Struck upward hovering glories, pale and clear.
He turned to her those eyes which never yet
Sought there a solace or heart's ease in vain,
And spoke, ``O Eve!'' but even there his voice
Stopt in the shadow of his coming thoughts,
And he could say no more; but she came near
To lay her hands on his cold hands, and looked
On his bowed face, and with a soft reproach
Answered him, ``Adam, thou didst say but now
That all were going from thee o'er the earth
And thou shouldst be alone, and none be thine,
And no companion with thee any more.
Am I not with thee? Shall I go from thee?
Am I not thine? Am I not wholly thine?''
Then Adam lifted up his fallen brow
And gently laid his great arms round her neck;
He looked into her eyes, into her soul.
The face of Eve was falling toward his breast;
Her hair with his was mingled; now no more
They spoke, for they had come beyond all words.
They spoke not, stirred not, but together leaned,
Grand in the marble gesture of a grief
Becalmed for ever in the certitude
Of this last hour that over them stood still.
Thus had they stayed, nor moved, nor heeded aught;
But 'twixt them and the light a shadow fell:
And Adam lifted up his eyes, and saw
Seth standing there; he knew the hour was come.
For lo, about the doorway were the sons
Of Adam all assembled, with their wives
And children weeping; they had brought a bed
Of plaited osiers heaped with leaves; and now
Laying him on that litter, silently
They lifted up the poles. Eve weeping sank
Upon her knees: she kissed the dear last kiss;
She held his body in her tender arms
One aching moment, then relinquished him.
Thus they began, the young men and the old,
To bear him forth, unwillingly, with slow
Sad footsteps planted on the yielding sand,
While all the women wailed and wept aloud,
Beating their breasts; they felt and were afraid
Yet understood not; their despair was blind.
But Eve, who understood her perfect loss
Even to the utmost pang, wept now no more.
Her daughters sobbing round her, hid their heads:
She only, with dim eyes, stretched forth her hands.

But they that bore the litter passed beside
The bright stream's pebbly margin; and with them
The bearded men and boys, all overcome
With desolating thoughts and silent fears,
Followed: soon slowly they began to climb
Slopes scattered darkly o'er their bossy knolls
With shadowy cedars, where the jutting ribs
Of gray rock interposed; until at last
They came to the great cavern in the cliff,
And rested, gazing backward o'er the vale
Reposing in the golden solitude.
Then Adam said, ``Lift me, that I may see.''
With careful arms they lifted him: he gazed
Down on the valley stretched out at his feet,
Marked with the shining stream; he saw beyond
Ranges of endless hills, and very far
On the remote horizon high and clear
Shone marvellous the gates of Paradise.
There was his home, his lost home, there the paths
His feet had trod in bliss and tears, the streams,
The heavenly trees that had o'ershadowed him,
Removed all into radiance, clear and strange
As to a fisher on dark Caspian waves,
Far from the land, appears the glimmering snow
Of Caucasus, already bathed in dawn,
Like a suspended opal huge in heaven,
And wonder awes him to remember how
Long happy mornings of his youth he strayed
Over those same far valleys of his home,
Now melted and subdued to phantom shade
Beneath that lonely mount hung in the dawn:
So over darkened intervening vales
Tinged in the sweet fire of the light's farewell,
Shone Eden upon Adam. Then he sighed
A sigh not all of grief, ``It is enough.
Leave me, my children, to my peace; go ye
And comfort Eve, go, prosper and be blest.''
They each turned fearfully to each, but Seth
Bowed down his head and hushed them with his hand.
Silent with running tears they wept farewell,
And, often looking backward, on slow feet
Moved down the wide slope. Adam was alone.
At last his eyes were closing, yet he saw
Dimly the shapes of his departing sons,
Inheriting their endless fate; for them
The world lay free, and all things possible.
Perchance his dying gaze, so satisfied,
Was lightened, and he saw how vast a scope
Ennobled them of power to dare beyond
Their mortal frailty in immortal deeds,
Exceeding their brief days in excellence,
Not with the easy victory of gods
Triumphant, but in suffering more divine;
Since that which drives them to unnumbered woes,
Their burning deep unquenchable desire,
Shall be their glory, and shall forge at last
From fiery pangs their everlasting peace.


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, September 1, 2010



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