Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Poem: Lamech's Song

The following poem was written over 100 years ago by the British poet Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-1861).

Hearken to me, ye mothers of my tent:
Ye wives of Lamech, hearken to my speech:
Adah, let Jubal hither lead his goats:
And Tubal Cain, O Zillah, hush the forge;
Naamah her wheel shall ply beside, and thou,
My Jubal, touch, before I speak, the string.
Yea, Jubal, touch, before I speak, the string.
Hear ye my voice, beloved of my tent,
Dear ones of Lamech, listen to my speech.

For Eve made answer, Cain, my son, my own,
O, if I cursed thee, O my child, I sinned,
And He that heard me, heard, and said me nay:
My first, my only, one, thou shalt not go;
And Adam answered also, Cain, my son,
He that is gone forgiveth, we forgive:
Rob not thy mother of two sons at once;
My child, abide with us and comfort us.

Hear ye my voice; Adah and Zillah, hear;
Ye wives of Lamech, listen to my speech.
For Cain replied not. But, an hour more, sat
Where the night through he sat; his knit brows seen,
Scarce seen, amid the foldings of his limbs.
But when the sun was bright upon the field,
To Adam still, and Eve still waiting by,
And weeping, lift he up his voice and spake.
Cain said, The sun is risen upon the earth;
The day demands my going, and I go.

As you from Paradise, so I from you:
As you to exile, into exile I:
My father and my mother, I depart.
As betwixt you and Paradise of old,
So betwixt me, my parents, now, and you,
Cherubim I discern, and in their hand
A flaming sword that turneth every way,
To keep the way of my one tree of life,
The way my spirit yearns to, of my love.
Yet not, O Adam and O Eve, fear not.
For He that asked me, Where is Abel? He
Who called me cursed from the earth, and said
A fugitive and vagabond thou art,
He also said, when fear had slain my soul,
There shall not touch thee man nor beast. Fear not.
Lo, I have spoke with God, and He hath said.
Fear not; and let me go as He hath said.
Cain also said (O Jubal, touch thy string),
Moreover, in the darkness of my mind,
When the night’s night of misery was most black,
A little star came twinkling up within,
And in myself I had a guide that led,
And in myself had knowledge of a soul
Fear not, O Adam and O Eve: I go.

Children of Lamech, listen to my speech.

For when the years were multiplied, and Cain
Eastward of Eden, in this land of Nod,
Had sons, and sons of sons, and sons of them,
Enoch and Irad and Mehujael
(My father, and my children’s grandsire he),
It came to pass, that Cain, who dwelt alone,
Met Adam, at the nightfall, in the field:
Who fell upon his neck, and wept, and said,
My son, has God not spoken to thee, Cain?
And Cain replied, when weeping loosed his voice,
My dreams are double, O my father, good
And evil. Terror to my soul by night,
And agony by day, when Abel stands
A dead, black shade, and speaks not, neither looks,
Nor makes me any answer when I cry
Curse me, but let me know thou art alive.
But comfort also, like a whisper, comes,
In visions of a deeper sleep, when he,
Abel, as him we knew, yours once and mine,
Comes with a free forgiveness in his face,
Seeming to speak, solicitous for words,
And wearing ere he go the old, first look
Of unsuspecting, unforeboding love.
Three nights are gone I saw him thus, my Sire.

Dear ones of Lamech, listen to my speech.

For Adam said, Three nights ago to me
Came Abel, in my sleep, as thou hast said,
And spake, and bade, Arise, my father, go
Where in the land of exile dwells thy son;
Say to my brother, Abel bids thee come,
Abel would have thee; and lay thou thy hand,
My father, on his head, that he may come;
Am I not weary, father, for this hour?
Hear ye my voice, Adah and Zillah, hear;
Children of Lamech, listen to my speech:
And, son of Zillah, sound thy solemn string.

For Adam laid upon the head of Cain
His hand, and Cain bowed down, and slept, and died.
And a deep sleep on Adam also fell,
And, in his slumber’s deepest, he beheld,
Standing before the gate of Paradise,
With Abel, hand in hand, our father Cain.
Hear ye my voice, Adah and Zillah, hear;
Ye wives of Lamech, listen to my speech.

Though to his wounding he did slay a man,
Yea, and a young man to his hurt he slew,
Fear not, ye wives, nor sons of Lamech fear:
If unto Cain was safety given and rest,
Shall Lamech surely and his people die?

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