Woes of Eden

My recent trip to Liberty Con, where I saw the International Lord of Hate, Larry Correia, not to mention the prolific John Ringo and the great Tom Kratman, as well as the Fourth of July holiday has upended my normal writing schedule. The next episode of Lost on the Last Continent will be up in a day or so, with all due apologies to my faithful readers.

By way of placeholder and peace-offering, allow me here to publish a fragment of a long-planned epic poem I once began. It breaks off midmost when a dark and shining prince comes on stage.

The freshness of creation had not yet dimmed
The green of grass and herb was cool and bright
And the groves and arbors east of Paradise, dew-limmed
breathed lingering Eden-scent, when the wind was right.
The savor of that high, forbidden, sapient tree
mingled with her sister who hard by grew
touched wandering airs with hints of immortality
And of knowledge which brought woe to those who knew.
And yet another scent was there, something rich and red
Some hint of blood annoyed the air, the smell of something dead.
Now comes Adam, father of mankind, first king
garbed in leafy skirt to hide his deathless shame
silver frosts his hair, in this unwintery land, a thing
unknown till now, this grayness in the lion’s mane.
At his feet, Caval, first companion, first hound
his friend he knew before he knew his wife
first of the beasts he named, who found
him sleeping on the sixth day, before he woke to life.
Adam sees his hound excited by the scent of blood
And lope ahead; he slows, foreknowing little good.
Adam says (his voice has less the strength which once it did)
“This is some sacrifice new-cut, and proffered red to God
No doubt by Abel, a yearling ewe or spotless kid,
Sign of repentance for his father’s sin. Nothing odd
Or new in this. My heart, why misgive me so?
What is this dank and clammy spirit now caresses me?
I felt this foreboding once before, long now ago.
Hark? What wail of thin dismay addresses me?”
He hears the voice of Cain, wont to be robust and deep
Now shrill-pitched, shriek, as one who stumbles from a steep.
Behold a horror. Cain appears, bone knives in both hands
Adorned in purpled blood, with gore to past his elbows stained.
Out from the flowered hedge he strolls, smiling, and stands
Eyes like glass stones. His cheery voice is strained.
“Hola, good father! Sovran of all things mortal, beast and man!
For whose sake all creatures, each bird and fish and leafy thing
Now grows old and now knows how to die! Who can
Deny that thou (who made us as we are) is rightly named our king?
Today perhaps invents for us a novel way to honor thee
A culmination, so to speak, of mortal death, your legacy.”
Now Adam: “Eldest son, when first your birth swelled Eve,
She knew no pain as that till then, nor ever such full bliss
as we, proud parents, had in you. We could well believe
Ourselves to Paradise returned, and our great Punisher remiss.
Our loss of Eden for a while was lost, to see your little hands
and tiny face, so perfect, small, and so like to our own
Impelling adoration. Your wails were our commands
Gladly heard. Our hearts were your large throne.
As eldest, you are, after me, Earth’s anointed king, my son.
Or were. You anoint yourself anew. What have you done?”
Cain, cold, sarcastic: “Recalls my sire the day
he squatted, wretched in a bush, his chin
still slick with apple-slobber? What did you say
When the All-Seeing, walking by, inquired of your sin?
Mother says you swiftly blamed her first
Accused not once yourself, nor accepted fault, nor repented
Nor asked the All-Merciful if or how His curse
Might be by what contrition meek have been relented.
Oh, many midnights see me wake unquietly
wondering what lighter, shorter sentence you lost to us thereby.
“And yet, thou art my rightly-honored sire!
As God commands, revered, the paragon of man,
model for humanity hereafter. What son would not aspire
To be as like unto his father as he can?
Therefore, as you, I nought admit, nor blame
nor see in myself ought guilt, preferring to stand mute.
Your Deed, which made us human, mine shall excel in fame;
You gave us knowing good and ill; that knowledge I refute.
And where is Abel? I know not, nor can any who
lingers this side of life, which can be lost, now, thanks to you.”
Adam, huge with grief, voice hoarse and shaken with dismay:
“If flaw through un-contrition found me then, I now amend.
In humblest tone, I lowly raise myself to the Most High to pray:
Let what seems here be not so: spare me this woe, forefend
what deed I fear was done. Let Abel wounded be
in faint, perhaps, or fallen in some strange sleep
from which his mother’s kiss shall win him his recovery!
Or let the rule of death allow exchanges, and keep
me in his stead in Hell’s dark house, let me be the one
To die. My flaw made him mortal. I should not out-live my son.”
From the West, where happy groves and lapping fountains
below the fragrant pines which rose, eye-pleasing, to the fence
Of shining rock unclimbable, the solitary mountain
Adam’s lost capital and throne, now a light comes hence.
Here is One of the Watch, stern-faced, corona’d in light
winged in radiance, and bearing up a sword of flame.
Part on foot, a-down the grassy slope he heighs, part in flight,
And lands where Adam kneels, but takes him up by hand, and calls his name.
“Adam, Adam, by your crime, mankind, your sons, were freed
To do each other weal or woe; nor can we undo the deed.”
Adam wept: “Each joy I’ve known since waking, Eve’s first kiss,
naming beast, and raising child, all came of unexpected grace.
Might not another gift from Heaven’s love unfold? Just this:
May not I behold once more my loved child’s little face?
When I was young, each day discovered wonder unguessed:
First flower, first moon-rise, and all the world was given me,
Free gift! No merit mine: undeserving, I, and blessed.
Why now is hope remote and Heaven deaf? I have driven me,
Now old, away from Paradise, in toil to earn my bread, in pain;
But say, fair angel, if in this, such joyed surprise might come again.”
Adam, pale: “If not, oh Angel-guard, whose wide patrol
forbids me from my ancient home, these terms, too hard,
far exceeds the measured sentence of God’s Word. The whole
of my Curse was but to till the soil, and that paths back to paradise were barred.
No more! What crime of mine has merited this obscene woe?
Death was promised me, a gentle, soft, return to dust. Not pains
Unending; nor was it said my Abel, ere me, to gloom would go
Innocent slain, while me who made Death possible, the guilty one, remains!”
The angel: “To perish in another’s place, and thus to grant the dead new birth,
only One to come shall do, who shall unmake your error, and renew this Earth.”
Now the Messenger turns eye of fire to where Cain stands,
and asks: “Where is Abel, they brother? Him with whom, close by
the fence of Paradise, you were often seen to walk, holding hands
And peering though the thick of trees, savoring what you could spy
Of gardenlands and timber stands, and with him shared the dream
that the exile of your Parents might, by innocence and sacrifice,
not extend to you. So you vowed to live upright, to redeem
your children Enoch, Jubal, Tubalcaine, and win them Paradise.
How have ye, oh eldest child of man, carried out that vow?
And how, pray tell, has Abel? And where is Abel now?”
Cain in sullen tone, downcast, in surly mumble, says:
“Am I my brother’s keeper? Often to and fro
Across this Earth (meant to be mine) will he wind his heedless ways
Following his random flocks, with no leave asked of me, or go
to wander sometime in my fields, and let his kine consume my grain
trampling my shoots, that I, with so much patient labour sow
his sheep to fatten on my work, toil and woe my only gain.
Eldest, he should have been ruled by me, and heeded what I set as mine
Nor enjoyed such love, and favour over me, both in father’s eye, and thine.”
Caval, the first of all things Adam named, his hound,
When all the eager animals searched for One of whom the angels sang
Was he whose cold nose woke the Man, under hedgerow slumbering found
Puppy, then. Gray-musseled now, his digs with hesitating fang
And turns the braken leaf. The corpse of Abel exposes he to view,
sodden with life-blood, limbs awry, stench-mired, and his countenance
now rigid, stiff with what imprint his last expression drew
Fear, pity, agony, brother-love betrayed, dismay without defense.
The dog’s ears droop. Caval, he casts from side to side, whimpers in dismay
Then lifts his aging head to peal such howls not heard ere or since that day.

The wail and high commotion carries to the camp and grove
where the wife of Cain and sister; also Abel’s unkowning widow; and the mother
Of them both and all mankind, queenly Eve, with quern or distaff strove.
No sign discolors Eve’s still-lovely face, as her daughters, to one another
in husht whisper murmur fear at what might such unearthly sound fortell
But she rises, and, with firm, swift foot, seeks the source of this dread peal.
Enoch and Irad arrive before her from the field, and too Mehujael.
Seth is also there, his son, Enos, Cainen, and Mahalaleel.
All stand aghast, or weeping, the corpse and killer drawn around
Where haughty Cain, distainful, stands on bloody ground.
“Expect you of me contrition, sorrow, or remorse
Whatever thing I might (or not) have done?
I know not what to call the deed, of course.
Or is, like Father, my right to name this one?
Murder, name it I, kin-slaying, fratricide!
Execution, Justice, Joy! Punishment for trespassing!
Oh, What a wonder naming names! By names are justified
If rightly chosen, any good or wicked thing.
Rightful therefore, call it I, my brother to have slain, and due.
Will you slay me in revenge, my crime done on me by you?”
Eve, shaken by her sorrow, now seeks her husband’s arm
But will not cry before her children. She whispers in his ear:
“Lord and husband, think you what next befalls? The harm
Is cureless. Cain now is wolf among us, danger to all here
Our other children dearest; yet, in truth, we dare not do
To him as he has done to our loved Abel, nor even wish it so.
You and I ate of the Tree of Death; but not our children, true?
Not forever interdict to them, perhaps, our home of long ago.
His Parents, we must, even sinning, still him love, nor wish him ill.
Yet if he goes unpunished, will he sin again? We know he will.”
Adam’s kiss touches her forehead, and he murmurs mild:
“Where did we fail, oh wife? What thing said may I unspeak,
Or thing undone do now, that who was once our laughing child
should grow to this, so strong of limb, of heart and soul, so weak?
How like you in all good ways he is, our Cain, eager
and adventerous, how like me in strength of limb and nerve.
And yet was our love so wrong, our care for him so meager,
That this, just this, but this, is all the fruit that we deserve?
Yet look! A purer light now from Mount Paradise decends.
‘Tis the Gardener, who Created us, on whose Will all being depends.”
The All-Mighty now approaches; all prostrate themselves, but Cain.
God has no thunder now: his aspect is mild, sad, solemn
With a gesture, he asks for privacy. Soon only the two of them remain.
All others bow, retire. He speaks: “Dear boy, what have you done?
The voice of thy brother’s blood has cried to me from the ground.
And now thou art cursed from the Earth, who gaped her mouth wide
To receive from thy hand thy brother’s blood. A curse profound
Exiles thee now. The poisoned soil forgets thee; you are denied
The bounty of this Earth.” And, at this, the grass Cain stands upon,
Blackened , died. His grain fields wide, once gold, to every side, are gone.
Cain throws himself upon his face, and claws the grass beneath God’s feet.
The green blades do not heistate to perish at his trembling touch.
Cain sees all his joy and labour fled away. The desolation is complete.
“Men cannot tolerate such penalty, Oh Lord; I cannot endure so much.
Out from the Earth, a vagabond, thou hast driven me this day
And from thy radiant face must hide; once prince, now fugitive.
All work of my hands and dreams of my heart are ta’en away.
Any who find me, me shall surely slay. Lord, I will not live.
To till the Earth, my Father’s curse, to me was work well done.
What have I grown? To be killed by my own. The murders have just begun.”
The Lord of all things uttered in a soft and gentle tone:
“Wrath infinite, and vengeance beyond count, is mine
for those who use another’s evil to excuse their own.
Punishment is God’s, and no other’s, to define.
Hear our Word: whosoever slayeth Cain,
Vengeance on him sevenfold shall fall
To slay the slayer restoreth not the slain
And man’s severity is pale: Mine, celestial.”
Mildly he spoke, and ere Cain was ware, th’Almighty hand
Had taken up his thunderbolt, and marked Cain with his brand.
In the brush not far away lies Adam’s third son Seth
A spare-framed man, quick of hand, with dark and watchful eyes.
Seth sees Cain crying, and crawls away, holding his breath
And finds huge Tubalcaine, whom, but himself, he counts most wise.
“Cousin, recall you that glorious noon, when I
From the brass-winged Cherubim who ward Paradise returned,
Having dared, as no other, a-near those Firey swords to draw nigh,
And in mine hand, a reed of Narthex, where the first spark burned?
And to which of the Sons of Cain did I at first deliver
The Gift of Fire? And does his Gratitude recall the giver?”
To which: “A gift of worth, Oh Seth, if strained belief
Can call it still a ‘gift’ bestowed, it seemes, in secrecy unknown
By a Cherub who pursued you, shouting ‘Theif!’
And oddly deemed this ‘gift’ he gave you not your own.
But you had poked him as he paced, with driest reed
And he parried with a sword a flame, given him no harm
And the reed which caught a-fire was yours indeed
Nor is it ‘trespass’ to reach across the border with an arm.
Give to you the fire the Heavenly warrior had, albeit
He had nor willed nor yea-said, and was wroth when he did see it.
“But Clever Seth speaks ever but to serve his own.
You are a cunning man. You count; you calculate.
Three less Two leaves One. You now near Adam’s throne.
You fret: shall the Sons of Cain uphold your state?
Or follow father’s exile? And you see a certain upper class.
Cain’s son Enoch, architect, creates the City, circled by high wall;
I, the forge, the melting and smelting of iron and brass;
To herd the kine, by wise Jabal; to play the harp, by fair Jubal.
And thus all bold discovery, invention, and goodness done of late
Is only from the haughty Sons of Cain, whom Seth must fear and hate.”
Seth points a smile. “And Tubalcaine as well. Jealousy
Which stirred Great Cain to murder his very brother
Might scruple not to slay sons, and they, wishing victory
May personate their father, and fall upon each other.
Each deeming brethren greatnesses dwindleth his own,
Each wondering why his idle fury should know restraint.
God claims that for men to punish men offends His throne.
We must suffer crime and death, says He, without complaint.
A world of Abels. Or, join me, and leave your father to his fate
Aid me, by making weaponry, and let both our names grow great.
“Aye, arm us! You have seen from time to time
The passing Cherubim who guard the Garden of high bliss
Which tops the mountain we are forbid to climb.
And seen their swords. Fashion me a sword like this!
In-dwelling fire, perhaps, cannot by Tubalcaine be made
Yet sharper than the lion’s tooth, stronger than Cain’s hand
Keen like unto a knife, yet great, and of grim iron be the blade.
Whoso wields, not un-angel-like, these arms, control this land.
And the Deed of Cain has proven that this course
By God unchecked, alone stops force with force.”
Tubulcaine is quiet, frowning down at forge-fire gleam.
Massy shadows sway across the roof beams of his shed.
“And disobey God’s Will, we, sons of Adam who still dream
Of Paradise restored us? And yet,” He nods his heavy head.
“And yet, I say ye, Aye. For Abel was, though wild, unflawed,
No gove of greeny silence wanders he, by flowered waters blue
Nor along those shadey aisles where I peered afar, over-awed,
And chose in fancy where to raise my home, once exile is through.
Abel was innocent, yet died, and Cain was punished not
Therefore arm we must, or die: a choiceless choice. It is our lot.”
Twas night. Eve, weaving in her silent croft
Watched turning stars move past her empty door, alone.
The wall-stones grandson Enoch raised aloft
Seth, the hearth had set. Seeds which winds from Eden blown
Bloomed among the golden thatch were twined
Unfading flowers, Amaranth, Moly, Euphrasy
On which she looked with sighs, gladder times in mind.
On either wall gold-blazing robe spred gloriously
Garb from Heaven’s loom, from Holy hand they came
The day they learned their nudity and covered up their shame.
These robes, with thread of light webbed fine,
Showed figures intricate of woes to come and weal
Omens obscure, with signs of promised hope combined.
Eve ponders sad the firey weave, which nought reveal
Of these grim disasters, murder heretofore unknown.
She watches for her Husband’s hoped return
And toys with linen-work, her stitch-needle chipped of bone
An art she, long ago, from these same robes, did learn.
Now comes Adam, sad, and at his foot, his dog a-droop.
He leans against the firm door-post, too weak to pass the stoop.
Eve averts her face and blinking, adressed her lord,
“Sweet Adam, a blaze now trembles from thy face
Blinding. You have walked again with God Adored
And this (so I see) in some unearthly place.
The scent which issues from thy garment’s hem
I know from youth. In Paradise, it seems, and without Eve,
You have walked, all our oldest haunts, seeing them
From me away.” And she hid her face behind her sleeve.
“Beloved Madame, Queen, my race’s mother, Wife:
Praise God such torment spared were ye, bitterest of my sad life.”
Eve stands, with helpful hands, close by that side
From which she came, still squinting, Adam guides to sit.
He a-sweat, bone-weary, takes a veil his face to hide
Till light ebbs. Eve waits, wanting news. Adam speaks it:
“Well-love and fairest still of womankind, though first in sin, believe
That no pain can stab more snake-toothed deep than this:
To plod on filthy feet where once I and my pure Eve
Made light way enwrapped in innocence and bliss.
Each memory-haunted leaf and fairest once-loved bud,
Recoiled from where my foot befouled the grass with blood.”
“Whose blood?” “Thy son’s, Madame, and mine.”
“Cain you slew?” “Not true. ‘Twas Abel. At behest
And high command of Voice I knew divine
A once-loved corpse I carried to his rest.
The Gardener, with quiet patience me instructed
In funeral rites, and told me how to dig a grave
Abel, our flesh, now dust, into the Earth subducted
And by His grace a monument in paradise He gave.
This bloom the Name Poppy for its sanguine hue I give
Sprung up from Abels grave, that recollection of the dead might live.”
“God came at twilight, when the mingled night and day,
Made glamour-haunted azure high above a shadow-land
With sad nod, pointed where the corpse, once Abel, lay,
And to heave the cold grim weight aloft was his command
With heavier step and weary, plodding, bowed, I trod
The twilight peak where once we ruled as King and Queen
The flame-armed cherubim, unsmiling, let pass one led by God
And the fence of pines but parted, and I saw our old domense
But every dream of how to enter once again this place, in bliss
Now choked me, mocking: all hope had led to this.”
Eve, bending on him wise and deep-reaching look
(For the light has fled and leaves him pale and wan)
Says low: “My lord husband, ill topic must I brook.
You buried him, I deem, near where this evil I began.
Hard by the Tree of Knowing Ill. That scent and pollen I know well.
And from that place, was close (if memory to pain me does not fail)
Where grew the Tree of Life. I conjure thee, lord, tell!
Say how you fed our son some fruit therefrom, ending this trevail
Tell me the All-Mighty, once this rite of woe was done,
Raised Abel like spring bloom from the Earth, and he new life in Paradise begun.”
“That is not given me nor any after (without faith) to know.”
“You passed right by the Tree of Life and did not take the fruit in hand?
Then why did God allow you trod our land again? Why did you go?”
So she in coolest voice demands. “Not for our son? Explain. Make me understand.”
“I did as I was bid because He bid it, our Creator wise,
Whose sole command you broke, earning all our children woe.
Yes, I saw Life’s Tree, but no longer comely to mine eyes
Did Life grow now, but crabbed and thorned, with crooked branch and low.
The thorn-crowned Tree of Life is bitter, now, fruitless and dry
A better man must hang on it to quicken it to fruit; Not I.
“And as I parted from that place, exiled, in sorrow, yet again,
The Gardener said my Sons had quarreled over the land
Although that all the Earth was theirs, both wanted to remain
Close by the fence of Eden, Paradise forbidden, yet at hand.
One wished to till, the other wished to graze
Nor can one land serve both. Sons of rebels, niether could obey
My orders nor God’s law, in quiet peace to pass their days.
God’s Word is that now Paradise must be taken all away.
The mountain shall be lifted out of human sight this night.
Ours sons will not regain our seat. Not one has lived a-right.”
Inwardly weeping, yet dry of outward tear, the Queen
And Mother of mankind now turns her head away,
Gazes sadly on that robe of light, the fairest yet or after seen
Which mere benevolence had clothed her, that long-past day
When she had been both condemned and kindly treated
Exiled from supernal happiness, but given Earthly life
She whispers: “All our hopes have been defeated.
I have failed them as a mother as I failed thee as a wife.
Yet no repentance do I share, even now, and unregretfully
Glory I in knowing Good and Ill; by this, I am human, in pain, but free.”
Elsewhere, far away, great Cain prostate lay weeping on the sand
All about him barren waste and wide decay, a region dry
Now one comes walking, flightless, across that cursed land
An Emperor of haughty port, lighting-scarred, disdain aflame in coldest eye
“Arise, blubbering wretch,” he prods Cain harshly with his hoof.
“All things are now accomplished as we planned.”
He gazes down as Cain, disgust writ plain on face aloof
“No one can nor will obey Heaven’s tyrannous command.
Not to defend oneself? Absurd. Even now, are armed
The sons of Seth; as soon must all men be, justly alarmed.”
Cain stares with hate upon the prideful creature.
The other is pale as carved of ice, as if no honest blood
But ichor pulseless slid silent in his veins, and each feature
Shows majesty and arrogance, no trace of weakness, nor of good.