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MILTON'S DESCRIPTION OF THE FATHERS.
as if their ground was solid and their future secure- -what can you do but adopt, as soon as I repeat it, John Milton's concise but pregnant description of the whole as given in these terms:
"Whatsoever time, or the heedless hand of blind chance, hath drawn down from of old to this present in her huge drag-net, whether fish or sea-weed, shells or shrubs, unpicked, unchosen-these are the Fathers." I add what follows as my own apology for reciting to you, and through you to others, my own Autobiography: "Seeing, therefore, some men deeply conversant in books have had so little care of late to give to the world a better account of their reading than by divulging needless tractates (e. g., the 'Tracts for the Times') stuffed with the precious names of Ignatius and Polycarpus; with fragments of old martyrologies and legends, to distract and stagger the multitude of credulous readers, and mislead them from their strong guards and places of safety, under the tuition of holy writ; it came into my thoughts to persuade myself, setting all distances and nice respects aside, that I could do religion and my country no better service for the time, than doing my utmost endeavour to recal the people of God from this vain foraging after straw, and to reduce them to their firm stations under the standard of the gospel, by making to appear to them, first the insufficiency, next the inconveniency, and lastly the impiety of those gay testimonies that their great doctors would bring them to dote on.'
* "On Prelatical Episcopacy," Bohn's edition of Milton's Prose Works, Vol. II. p. 422.
"VENERABLE Teacher, I cannot quite understand what distinction you intend when you speak of your 'fabulous history:' is not the whole a fable?" In a certain sense it is. My history, considered as the history of a person, is a pure fable or an unconscious fiction, the growth of ages of speculation on the origin of what men call evil. But there are fables and fables. Fables vary with their authors; and never was there a greater variety of authors and of fables than in my case, "said or sung," as I have been by the Aryan mind as well as the Shemitic, in nearly their highest and lowest tones. And it is just this variety that I want to put before you, since it involves that universality which defeats the claim of the ecclesiastic speciality, and establishes the important fact that everywhere and at all times men have speculated on the origin of sin and come to pretty nearly the same conclusion, whether arrayed in the philosophical garb of an Augustin, or enshrouded in an archaic Mexican group of figures. It is of this lower element I think when I speak of my fabulous history. Not a few opinions of it have I collected during my travels. unworthy, while faithfully descriptive of certain states of
I select two as least
THE MOHAMEDAN ACCOUNT OF THE FALL."
209 mind, and of the debasement of conception under which I have gone in less ancient times.
In the midst of paradise there stood a silken tent, supported on golden pillars, and in the midst of it there was a throne, on which Adam seated himself with Eve. Whereupon the curtains of the tent closed around them of their own accord. When Adam and Eve were afterwards walking through the garden, Gabriel came and commanded them in the name of Allah to go and bathe in one of the four rivers of paradise. Allah himself then said to them, "I have appointed this garden for your abode; it will shelter you from cold and heat, from hunger and thirst. Take at your discretion of everything that it contains; only one of its fruits shall be denied you. Beware that ye transgress not this one command, and watch against the wily rancour of Iblis. He is your enemy, because he was overthrown on your account; his cunning is infinite, and he aims at your destruction." The newly-created pair attended to Allah's words, and lived a long time, some say five hundred years, in paradise, without approaching the forbidden tree. But Iblis also had listened to Allah, and resolving to lead man into sin, wandered constantly in the outskirts of heaven, seeking to glide unobservedly into paradise. But its gates were shut and guarded by the angel Ridwhan. One day the peacock came out of the garden. He was then the finest of the birds of paradise, for his plumage shone like pearl and emerald, and his voice was so melodious that he was appointed to sing the praises of Allah daily in the principal highways of heaven. Iblis, on seeing him, said to himself, Doubtless this beautiful bird is very vain; perhaps I may be able to induce him by flattery to take me secretly into the garden. When the peacock had gone so far from the gates that he could no longer be overheard by Rid whan, Iblis said to him, "Most wonderful and beautiful bird! art thou of the birds of paradise ?" "I am; but who art thou, who seemest frightened as if some one did pursue
THE SERPENT EVE'S PLAYMATE.
thee?" I am one of the cherubim who are appointed to sing without ceasing the praises of Allah, but have glided away for an instant to visit the paradise which he has prepared for the faithful. Wilt thou conceal me under thy beautiful wings?" "Why should I do an act which must bring the displeasure of Allah upon me?" "Take me with thee, charming bird, and I will teach thee three mysterious words which shall preserve thee from sickness, age and death." "Must then the inhabitants of paradise die?" "All without exception who know not the three words which I possess." "Speakest thou the truth?" "By Allah the Almighty!"
The peacock believed him, for did he not swear by his Maker? Yet, fearing lest Ridwhan might search him too closely on his return, he refused to take Iblis along with him, but promised to send out the serpent, who might more easily discover the means of introducing him unobservedly into the garden.
Now the serpent was at first the queen of all beasts. Her head was like rubies, and her eyes like emeralds. Her skin shone like a mirror of various hues. Her hair was soft like that of a noble virgin, and her form resembled the stately camel; her breath was sweet like musk and amber, and all her words were songs of praise. She fed on saffron, and her resting-places were on the blooming borders of the beautiful Cantharus (one of the rivers of paradise). She was created a thousand years before Adam, and destined to be the playmate of Eve. The serpent ran forth out of the gate, and Iblis repeated to her what he had said to the peacock. "How can I take thee into paradise unobserved ?" "I will contract myself so that I shall find room in the cavity of thy teeth."
When they had passed Ridwhan, the serpent opened her mouth, but Iblis preferred to speak to Adam from that place of concealment and in her name.
Arrived at Eve's tent, Iblis heaved a heavy sigh-the first which envy had forced from any living breast. "Why art thou so cast down to-day, my beloved serpent?" inquired
THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT GIVES LIFE AND BEAUTY.
Eve, who had heard the sigh. "I am anxious for the future destiny of thee and thy husband," replied Iblis, imitating the voice of the serpent. "How? Do we not possess in these gardens of Eden all that we can desire ?" "The only fruit which can procure you perfect felicity is denied you." "Knowest thou the reason?" "I do, and it is precisely this knowledge which fills my heart with care; for while all the fruits which are given you bring with them weakness, disease, old age and death, that is the entire cessation of life, this forbidden fruit alone bestows cternal youth and vigour." "Thou hast never spoken of these things until now, beloved serpent; whence derivest thou this knowledge?" "An angel informed Ime of it whom I met under the forbidden tree." Eve answered: "I will go and speak with him ;" and leaving her tent, she hurried towards the tree. On the instant, Iblis, who knew Eve's curiosity, sprang out of the serpent's mouth, and was standing under the forbidden tree in the shape of an angel, but with a human face, before Eve had reached it. "Who art thou, singular being?" "I was man, but have become an angel." "By what means?" "By eating of this blessed fruit, which an envious God had forbidden me to taste on pain of death. I long submitted to his command, until I became old and frail; my eyes lost their lustre and grew dim; my ears no longer heard; my teeth decayed, and I could neither eat without pain nor speak with distinctness. I then longed for death, and expecting to meet it by eating of this fruit, I stretched out my hands and took of it; but lo! it had scarcely touched my lips when I became strong and beautiful as at first; and though many thousand years have since elapsed, I am not sensible of the slightest change either in my appearance or my energies." Eve ate and offered of the fruit to her husband. Adam refused for eighty years; but when he observed that Eve remained fair and happy, he also ate.
Scarcely had Adam eaten of the fruit when his crown rose