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Lord Byron (1788–1824). Poetry of Byron. 1881.

III. Dramatic

Cain and Lucifer in the Abyss of Space

(Cain, Act ii. Scene 1.)

Cain.OH, god, or demon, or whate’er thou art,

Is yon our earth?
Lucifer.Dost thou not recognise

The dust which form’d your father?
Cain.Can it be?

You small blue circle, swinging in far ether,

With an inferior circlet near it still,

Which looks like that which lit our earthly night?

Is this our Paradise? Where are its walls,

And they who guard them?
Lucifer.Point me out the site

Of Paradise.
Cain.How should I? As we move

Like sunbeams onward, it grows small and smaller,

And as it waxes little, and then less,

Gathers a halo round it, like the light

Which shone the roundest of the stars, when I

Beheld them from the skirts of Paradise:

Methinks they both, as we recede from them,

Appear to join the innumerable stars

Which are around us; and, as we move on,

Increase their myriads.
Lucifer.And if there should be

Worlds greater than thine own, inhabited

By greater things, and they themselves far more

In number than the dust of thy dull earth,

Though multiplied to animated atoms,

All living, and all doom’d to death, and wretched,

What wouldst thou think?
Cain.I should be proud of thought

Which knew such things,
Lucifer.But if that high thought were

Link’d to a servile mass of matter, and,

Knowing such things, aspiring to such things,

And science still beyond them, were chain’d down

To the most gross and petty paltry wants,

All foul and fulsome, and the very best

Of thine enjoyments a sweet degradation,

A most enervating and filthy cheat

To lure thee on to the renewal of

Fresh souls and bodies, all foredoom’d to be

As frail, and few so happy——
Cain.Spirit! I

Know nought of death, save as a dreadful thing

Of which I have heard my parents speak, as of

A hideous heritage I owe to them

No less than life; a heritage not happy,

If I may judge, till now. But, spirit! if

It be as thou hast said (and I within

Feel the prophetic torture of its truth),

Here let me die: for to give birth to those

Who can but suffer many years, and die,

Methinks is merely propagating death,

And multiplying murder.
Lucifer.Thou canst not

All die—there is what must survive.
Cain.The Other

Spake not of this unto my father, when

He shut him forth from Paradise, with death

Written upon his forehead. But at least

Let what is mortal of me perish, that

I may be in the rest as angels are.

Lucifer.I am angelic: wouldst thou be as I am?

Cain.I know not what thou art: I see thy power,

And see thou show’st me things beyond my power,

Beyond all power of my born faculties,

Although inferior still to my desires

And my conceptions.
Lucifer.What are they which dwell

So humbly in their pride, as to sojourn

With worms in clay?
Cain.And what art thou who dwellest

So haughtily in spirit, and canst range

Nature and immortality—and yet

Seem’st sorrowful?
Lucifer.I seem that which I am;

And therefore do I ask of thee, if thou

Wouldst be immortal!
Cain.Thou hast said, I must be

Immortal in despite of me. I knew not

This until lately—but since it must be,

Let me, or happy or unhappy, learn

To anticipate my immortality.

Lucifer.Thou didst before I came upon thee.

Lucifer.By suffering.
Cain.And must torture be immortal?

Lucifer.We and thy sons will try. But now behold!

Is it not glorious?
Cain.Oh, thou beautiful

And unimaginable ether! and

Ye multiplying masses of increased

And still increasing lights! what are ye? what

Is this blue wilderness of interminable

Air, where ye roll along, as I have seen

The leaves along the limpid streams of Eden?

Is your course measured for ye? Or do ye

Sweep on in your unbounded revelry

Through an aërial universe of endless

Expansion—at which my soul aches to think—

Intoxicated with eternity?

Oh God! Oh Gods! or whatsoe’er ye are!

How beautiful ye are! how beautiful

Your works, or accidents, or whatsoe’er

They may be! Let me die, as atoms die,

(If that they die) or know ye in your might

And knowledge! My thoughts are not in this hour

Unworthy what I see, though my dust is;

Spirit! let me expire, or see them nearer.

Lucifer.Art thou not nearer? look back to thine earth!

Cain.Where is it? I see nothing save a mass

Of most innumerable lights.
Lucifer.Look there!

Cain.I cannot see it.
Lucifer.Yet it sparkles still.

Cain.And wilt thou tell me so?

Why, I have see the fire-flies and fire-worms

Sprinkle the dusky groves and the green banks

In the dim twilight, brighter than yon world

Which bears them.

Lucifer.Thou hast seen both worms and worlds,

Each bright and sparkling—what dost think of them?

Cain.That they are beautiful in their own sphere,

And that the night, which makes both beautiful,

The little shining fire-fly in its flight,

And the immortal star in its great course,

Must both be guided.
Lucifer.But by whom or what?

Cain.Show me.
Lucifer.Dar’st thou behold?
Cain.How know I what

I dare behold? As yet, thou hast shown nought

I dare not gaze on further.
Lucifer.On, then, with me.