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_Cain_. I have chosen.
_Abel_. 'Tis the highest, And suits thee, as the elder. Now prepare Thine offerings.
_Cain_. Where are thine?
_Abel_. Behold them here-- The firstlings of the flock, and fat thereof-- A shepherd's humble offering.
_Cain_. I have no flocks; I am a tiller of the ground, and must Yield what it yieldeth to my toil--its fruit: [_He gathers fruits_.
Behold them in their various bloom and ripeness.
[_They dress their altars, and kindle aflame upon them_.
_Abel_. My brother, as the elder, offer first 220 Thy prayer and thanksgiving with sacrifice.
_Cain_. No--I am new to this; lead thou the way, And I will follow--as I may.
_Abel_ (_kneeling_). Oh, G.o.d!
Who made us, and who breathed the breath of life Within our nostrils, who hath blessed us, And spared, despite our father's sin, to make His children all lost, as they might have been, Had not thy justice been so tempered with The mercy which is thy delight, as to Accord a pardon like a Paradise, 230 Compared with our great crimes:--Sole Lord of light!
Of good, and glory, and eternity!
Without whom all were evil, and with whom Nothing can err, except to some good end Of thine omnipotent benevolence!
Inscrutable, but still to be fulfilled!
Accept from out thy humble first of shepherds'
First of the first-born flocks--an offering, In itself nothing--as what offering can be Aught unto thee?--but yet accept it for 240 The thanksgiving of him who spreads it in The face of thy high heaven--bowing his own Even to the dust, of which he is--in honour Of thee, and of thy name, for evermore!
_Cain_ (_standing erect during this speech_).
Spirit whate'er or whosoe'er thou art, Omnipotent, it may be--and, if good, Shown in the exemption of thy deeds from evil; Jehovah upon earth! and G.o.d in heaven!
And it may be with other names, because Thine attributes seem many, as thy works:-- 250 If thou must be propitiated with prayers, Take them! If thou must be induced with altars, And softened with a sacrifice, receive them; Two beings here erect them unto thee.
If thou lov'st blood, the shepherd's shrine, which smokes On my right hand, hath shed it for thy service In the first of his flock, whose limbs now reek In sanguinary incense to thy skies; Or, if the sweet and blooming fruits of earth, And milder seasons, which the unstained turf 260 I spread them on now offers in the face Of the broad sun which ripened them, may seem Good to thee--inasmuch as they have not Suffered in limb or life--and rather form A sample of thy works, than supplication To look on ours! If a shrine without victim, And altar without gore, may win thy favour, Look on it! and for him who dresseth it, He is--such as thou mad'st him; and seeks nothing Which must be won by kneeling: if he's evil[ck], 270 Strike him! thou art omnipotent, and may'st-- For what can he oppose? If he be good, Strike him, or spare him, as thou wilt! since all Rests upon thee; and Good and Evil seem To have no power themselves, save in thy will-- And whether that be good or ill I know not, Not being omnipotent, nor fit to judge Omnipotence--but merely to endure Its mandate; which thus far I have endured.
[_The fire upon the altar of_ ABEL _kindles into a column of the brightest flame, and ascends to heaven; while a whirlwind throws down the altar of_ CAIN, _and scatters the fruits abroad upon the earths_
Oh, brother, pray! Jehovah's wroth with thee. 280
_Cain_. Why so?
_Abel_. Thy fruits are scattered on the earth.
_Cain_. From earth they came, to earth let them return; Their seed will bear fresh fruit there ere the summer: Thy burnt flesh-offering prospers better; see How Heaven licks up the flames, when thick with blood!
_Abel_. Think not upon my offering's acceptance, But make another of thine own--before It is too late.
_Cain_. I will build no more altars, Nor suffer any----
_Abel_ (_rising_). Cain! what meanest thou?
_Cain_. To cast down yon vile flatterer of the clouds, 290 The smoky harbinger of thy dull prayers-- Thine altar, with its blood of lambs and kids, Which fed on milk, to be destroyed in blood.
_Abel_ (_opposing him_).
Thou shalt not:--add not impious works to impious Words! let that altar stand--'tis hallowed now By the immortal pleasure of Jehovah, In his acceptance of the victims.
_His pleasure!_ what was his high pleasure in The fumes of scorching flesh and smoking blood, To the pain of the bleating mothers, which 300 Still yearn for their dead offspring? or the pangs Of the sad ignorant victims underneath Thy pious knife? Give way! this b.l.o.o.d.y record Shall not stand in the sun, to shame creation!
_Abel_. Brother, give back! thou shalt not touch my altar With violence: if that thou wilt adopt it, To try another sacrifice, 'tis thine.
_Cain_. Another sacrifice! Give way, or else That sacrifice may be----
_Abel_. What mean'st thou?
_Cain_. Give-- Give way!--thy G.o.d loves blood!--then look to it:-- 310 Give way, ere he hath _more_!
_Abel_. In _his_ great name, I stand between thee and the shrine which hath Had his acceptance.
_Cain_. If thou lov'st thyself, Stand back till I have strewed this turf along Its native soil:--else----
_Abel_ (_opposing him_). I love G.o.d far more Than life.
_Cain_ (_striking him with a brand, on the temples, which he s.n.a.t.c.hes from the altar_). Then take thy life unto thy G.o.d, Since he loves lives.
_Abel_ (_falls_). What hast thou done--my brother?
_Abel_. Oh, G.o.d! receive thy servant! and Forgive his slayer, for he knew not what He did--Cain, give me--give me thy hand; and tell 320 Poor Zillah--
_Cain_ (_after a moment's stupefaction_).
_My_ hand! 'tis all red, and with---- What? [_A long pause.--Looking slowly round_.
Where am I? alone! Where's Abel? where Cain? Can it be that I am he? My brother, Awake!--why liest thou so long on the green earth?
'Tis not the hour of slumber:--why so pale?
What hast thou!--thou wert full of life this morn!
Abel! I pray thee, mock me not! I smote Too fiercely, but not fatally. Ah, why Wouldst thou oppose me? This is mockery; And only done to daunt me:--'twas a blow-- 330 And but a blow. Stir--stir--nay, only stir!
Why, so--that's well!--thou breathest! breathe upon me!
Oh G.o.d! Oh G.o.d!
_Abel_ (_very faintly_). What's he who speaks of G.o.d?
_Cain_. Thy murderer.
_Abel_. Then may G.o.d forgive him! Cain, Comfort poor Zillah:--she has but one brother Now. [ABEL _dies_.
_Cain_. And I none!--Who makes me brotherless?
His eyes are open! then he is not dead!
Death is like sleep; and sleep shuts down our lids.
His lips, too, are apart; why then he breathes; And yet I feel it not.--His heart!--his heart!-- 340 Let me see, doth it beat? methinks----No!--no!
This is a vision, else I am become The native of another and worse world.
The earth swims round me:--what is this?--'tis wet; [_Puts his hand to his brow, and then looks at it_.
And yet there are no dews! 'Tis blood--my blood-- My brother's and my own! and shed by me!
Then what have I further to do with life, Since I have taken life from my own flesh?
But he can not be dead!--Is silence death?