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Thee and thy serpent seed!
[Here the DOGE turns and addresses the Executioner. Slave, do thine office! Strike as I struck the foe! Strike as I would Have struck those tyrants! Strike deep as my curse! Strike and but once!
[The DOGE throws himself upon his knees, and as the Executioner raises his sword the scene closes.
(From The Two Foscari, I. i)
How many a time have I
Cloven with arm still lustier, breast more daring,
The wave all roughen'd; with a swimmer's stroke
Flinging the billows back from my drench'd hair,
And laughing from my lip the audacious brine,
Which kiss'd it like a wine-cup, rising o'er
The waves as they arose, and prouder still
The loftier they uplifted me; and oft,
In wantonness of spirit, plunging down
Into their green and glassy gulfs, and making
My way to shells and sea-weed, all unseen
By those above, till they wax'd fearful; then
Returning with my grasp full of such tokens
As show'd that I had search'd the deep: exulting,
With a far-dashing stroke, and drawing deep
The long-suspended breath, again I spurn'd
The foam which broke around me, and pursued
My track like a sea-bird.—I was a boy then.
SCENE I.—The Abyss of Space
Cain. I tread on air, and sink not; yet I fear To sink.
Lucifer. Have faith in me, and thou shalt be
Borne on the air, of which I am the prince.
Cain. Can I do so without impiety?
Lucifer. Believe-and sink not! doubt-and
Would run the edict of the other God,
Who names me demon to his angels; they
Echo the sound to miserable things,
Which, knowing nought beyond their shallow senses,
Worship the word which strikes their ear, and deem
Evil or good what is proclaim'd to them
In their abasement. I will have none such :
Worship or worship not, thou shalt behold
The worlds beyond thy little world, nor be
Amerced for doubts beyond thy little life,
With torture of my dooming. There will come
An hour, when, toss'd upon some water-drops,
A man shall say to a man, ‘Believe in me,
And walk the waters;' and the man shall walk
The billows and be safe. I will not say,
Believe in me, as a conditional creed
To save thee; but fly with me o'er the gulf
Of space an equal flight, and I will show
What thou dar'st not deny,-the history
Of past, and present, and of future worlds.
Cain. Oh, god, or demon, or whate'er thou art,
Is yon our earth?
Dost thou not recognise
The dust which form'd your father?
Can it be?
Yon 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?
Point me out the site
Lucifer. Of Paradise.
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.
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?
I should be proud of thought
Which knew such things.
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-
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.
Thou canst not All die-there is what must survive.
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
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.
What are they which dwell
So humbly in their pride, as to sojourn
With worms in clay?
So haughtily in spirit, and canst range
Nature and immortality-and yet
And what art thou who dwellest
I seem that which I am;
And therefore do I ask of thee, if thou
Wouldst be immortal?
Thou hast said, I must be 90 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.
Lucifer. We and thy sons will try.
And must torture be immortal?
But now, be
Is it not glorious?
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?
O God! O 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
Cain. Where is it? I see nothing save a mass Of most innumerable lights.
Cain. I cannot see it.
Yet it sparkles still.
Cain. That-yonder !
And wilt thou tell me so ? Why, I have seen the fire-flies and fire-worms" Sprinkle the dusky groves and the green banks