Back to Index

Cain and Lucifer in the Abyss of Space

by George Gordon Byron, 1881

(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.
  Cain.                                How?
  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.  That!—yonder!
  Lucifer.                  Yea.
  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.

Published in Poetry of Byron

Any corrections or public domain poems I should have here? Email me at poems (at) this domain.