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_Cain_. The clouds still open wide And wider, and make widening circles round us!
_Cain_. And thou!
_Lucifer_. Fear not--without me thou Couldst not have gone beyond thy world. On! on!
[_They disappear through the clouds_.
_Enter_ LUCIFER _and_ CAIN.
_Cain_. How silent and how vast are these dim worlds!
For they seem more than one, and yet more peopled Than the huge brilliant luminous orbs which swung So thickly in the upper air, that I Had deemed them rather the bright populace Of some all unimaginable Heaven, Than things to be inhabited themselves,[cg]
But that on drawing near them I beheld Their swelling into palpable immensity Of matter, which seemed made for life to dwell on, 10 Rather than life itself. But here, all is So shadowy, and so full of twilight, that It speaks of a day past.
_Lucifer_. It is the realm Of Death.--Wouldst have it present?
_Cain_. Till I know That which it really is, I cannot answer.
But if it be as I have heard my father Deal out in his long homilies, 'tis a thing-- Oh God! I dare not think on't! Cursed be He who invented Life that leads to Death!
Or the dull mass of life, that, being life, 20 Could not retain, but needs must forfeit it-- Even for the innocent!
_Lucifer_. Dost thou curse thy father?
_Cain_. Cursed he not me in giving me my birth?
Cursed he not me before my birth, in daring To pluck the fruit forbidden?
_Lucifer_. Thou say'st well: The curse is mutual 'twixt thy sire and thee-- But for thy sons and brother?
_Cain_. Let them share it With me, their sire and brother! What else is Bequeathed to me? I leave them my inheritance!
Oh, ye interminable gloomy realms 30 Of swimming shadows and enormous shapes, Some fully shown, some indistinct, and all Mighty and melancholy--what are ye?
Live ye, or have ye lived?
_Lucifer_. Somewhat of both.
_Cain_. Then what is Death?
_Lucifer_. What? Hath not he who made ye Said 'tis another life?
_Cain_. Till now he hath Said nothing, save that all shall die.
_Lucifer_. Perhaps He one day will unfold that further secret.
_Cain_. Happy the day!
_Lucifer_. Yes; happy! when unfolded, Through agonies unspeakable, and clogged 40 With agonies eternal, to innumerable Yet unborn myriads of unconscious atoms, All to be animated for this only!
_Cain_. What are these mighty phantoms which I see Floating around me?--They wear not the form Of the Intelligences I have seen Round our regretted and unentered Eden; Nor wear the form of man as I have viewed it In Adam's and in Abel's, and in mine, Nor in my sister-bride's, nor in my children's: 50 And yet they have an aspect, which, though not Of men nor angels, looks like something, which, If not the last, rose higher than the first, Haughty, and high, and beautiful, and full Of seeming strength, but of inexplicable Shape; for I never saw such. They bear not The wing of Seraph, nor the face of man, Nor form of mightiest brute, nor aught that is Now breathing; mighty yet and beautiful As the most beautiful and mighty which 60 Live, and yet so unlike them, that I scarce Can call them living.
_Lucifer_. Yet they lived.
_Lucifer_. Where Thou livest.
_Lucifer_. On what thou callest earth They did inhabit.
_Cain_. Adam is the first.
_Lucifer_. Of thine, I grant thee--but too mean to be The last of these.
_Cain_. And what are they?
_Lucifer_. That which Thou shalt be.
_Cain_. But what _were_ they?
_Lucifer_. Living, high, Intelligent, good, great, and glorious things, As much superior unto all thy sire Adam could e'er have been in Eden, as 70 The sixty-thousandth generation shall be, In its dull damp degeneracy, to Thee and thy son;--and how weak they are, judge By thy own flesh.
_Cain_. Ah me! and did _they_ perish?
_Lucifer_. Yes, from their earth, as thou wilt fade from thine.
_Cain_. But was _mine_ theirs?
_Lucifer_. It was.
_Cain_. But not as now.
It is too little and too lowly to Sustain such creatures.
_Lucifer_. True, it was more glorious.
_Cain_. And wherefore did it fall?
_Lucifer_. Ask him who fells.
_Cain_. But how?
_Lucifer_. By a most crushing and inexorable 80 Destruction and disorder of the elements, Which struck a world to chaos, as a chaos Subsiding has struck out a world: such things, Though rare in time, are frequent in eternity.-- Pass on, and gaze upon the past.
_Cain_. 'Tis awful!
_Lucifer_. And true. Behold these phantoms! they were once Material as thou art.