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Postscriptum.-Noli quæso dicere, Christophore, hæc, nimis sera occasioni de qua scripta sunt, ad manus venisse-Nunquam nimis serum est errorem corrigere. Prætereà, ejusmodi hæc res est, quæ nunquam sera videatur, ob splendorem, nobilitatem, atque beneficentiam. Spero ut his haud locum deneges.
THE FIRST MURDER; OR, THE REJECTION OF THE OFFERING.
We are almost afraid to touch this dreadful performance. We approach it with diffidence, and awe, and apprehension. We feel our inability to do justice to the work, and tremble at the audacious spirit in which the subject has been conceived; while the boldness, we might be justified to say, the blasphemous intrepidity, of the execution, strikes us with amazement and fear.
The subject is the greatest that could be chosen-THE FIRST MURDER; and the dramatic characters are the sublimest that religion and poetry have hallowed to the piety and affections of mankind. They consist not only of Adam and his family, but also of the brightest members of the hierarchy of heaven, and the darkest demons in the abysses of perdition. The holiest enthusiasm is contrasted with the fiercest rage; and the kindliest feelings opposed to the cruellest workings of hatred and envy. But human nature is represented as having not yet lost all its original brightness, and as still retaining something of the odours and fragrance of paradise. The immediate communion with the angels is not entirely interrupted; but a tremendous intercourse seems to have commen-, ced with outcast spirits, and glimpses are here and there opened into vistas of sin and horror, which the mysterious author unfolds for a moment; and then with a shuddering and hurried hand, as if appalled at his own daring, closes and quits as things too terrible for contemplation.
According to the view he has taken of the subject, some controversy, it would appear, had arisen between Cain and Abel, as to which of them should succeed their father in the service of the altar, and the daily sacrifice,-Cain insisting, as the first-born, to inherit the priestly spremacy as his birth-right, Abel contending that the appointment or ordination belonged to his father, and to which he and all his brethren were alike eligible. Eve, in this first polemical contest, had taken the part of Cain; Adam, that of Abel, but there is less of religious interest, than
of maternal anxiety in the partiality of our grand ancestress; for it would seem that from his birth Cain had been a wayward and untractable child, subject to violent passions, and a continual object of care and sorrow. Eve in consequence, actuated by a fond and affectionate solicitude, had endeavoured to appease and subdue his vindictive dispositions. Abel, on the contrary, was distinguished by his mild and modest demeanour, and his meekness and piety were the delight and solace of his father, whose reflections, embittered by the recollection of his own eternal forfeiture, were ever painfully awakened by the woeful evidences of the effects of his sin, in the malevolence of Cain, and the debates and quarrels which the fierce and turbulent character of " the first-born heir of misery" was constantly producing. To allay the controversy which agitated his family, Adam had proposed a solemn appeal to Heaven, and for this purpose instructed his sons to raise two altars; on the one Cain was directed to offer the firstling of his flock, and on the other Abel the first sheaf of his harvest: the acceptance of the offering was to determine which should inherit the sacerdotal office.
The drama opens with the guardian angels of Cain and Abel conversing together on the top of a mountain before the dawn of day. From their colloquy we learn the existence of the disputes in the family of Adam, who, with his children, are then represented as assembled on the plain below to abide the issue of the sacrifice. We also learn that to each of the human race a celestial guardian has been appointed since the fall; but that, for purposes which even the seraphim cannot comprehend, fiends and demons stronger than the guardians of men, are still permitted to be abroad, and that the angel of Cain, in the course of the night, while watching over his charge as he lay asleep, had been troubled with a strange sense of danger at the sight of one of these tremendous adversaries hovering in the mid-air, and seemingly intent to set him at defiance.
"Thrice he moved past me, Towering magnificent:-His form was as
Darkness with horror sullenly wrapt up. The first time, murky as the thunder-cloud He floated by, looking askance and stern:Then he return'd with more determined tread, And scowl'd his hatred. Troubled with strange awe, I shunn'd the red beam of his burning eye,The ominous third time that he rush'd along, He lower'd towards me in triumphant scorn And pride of evil mastery." While they are thus speaking, the morning begins to brighten in the east, and the effect of the increasing light is described, in which the shadows of earthly things are compared to the dark spirits that are constantly in malignant attendance on the children of men. The calm and contemplative reflections which the first effects of the light had awakened, are however abruptly interrupted by the angel of Cain discovering the same dreadful being approaching in the dim of twilight to the place where the ancestors of mankind are assembled to celebrate their religious rites. But although several striking descriptions
are introduced into the dialogues between the spiritual beings, yet it is not till we are brought to take a part with the creatures of our own nature, that the author puts forth his strength. There is, however, something impressive in the compassion with which the angels speak of the ineffectual prayers and offerings of man. It is wonderful indeed that we should have been encouraged to hope, that the supplications of a creature so ignorant, weak, and vain, could affect the eternal purposes of Almighty Wisdom!
The second scene opens with the following hymn by Adam :
"O Thou, who, through the infinite abyss Of darkness void, like yon ascending orb Leaving his nightly chamber, rose serene, As thy creative influence spread around Millions of angels-stars of that first morn Then sparkled into being, but their light In thy effulgent coming soon was lost Amidst thy glory, Universal Sun !56 O, who shall sing of thy benignant power, When from thy thrones of everlasting might Thou didst look down upon the shoreless ocean Of the all-heaving elements, and bade Creation, that lay slumbering at thy feet, Awake and open all her eyes of light, To celebrate thy goodness. At thy word, Yon ruling sun, the pale attendant moon, And their bright kindred orbs, out of the deep Like birds from off the waters, circling rose, And thy bright morning stars, the witnesses, Shouted with joy to see their flight begin." Adam is rudely disturbed in his ado ration by Cain, who reminds him that the customary daily worship was to be suspended until the controversy between himself and Abel had been decided. "The father," as he is emphatically called, justly indignant, rebukes Cain, and angrily tells him that he mistakes the forms for the essence
of religion. But in a moment the fit of anger passes, and full of remorse and grief for the woes he has entailed on the world, prophetically deplores the miseries that must ensue when priests, actuated by the sordid motives of ambition and self-aggrandizement, shall forget the solemn essentialities of their office
"When the proud man, dilating at the altar,
Eve, who throughout the story is adorned with the most beautiful and interesting graces of her sex, breaks in upon the sorrows of Adam, and endeavours to excuse and palliate the offence of their son.
"Alas! he has been from the very hour
But, though in nature rude, stern and rebellious,
Their woes or sorrows from our dire transgression,
The oldest sufferer from that parent sin,
Abel, profoundly affected by the remorse of his parents, and particularly by the grief of his father, turns to Cain, and with the most simple and pathetic tenderness endeavours to dissuade him from the indulgence of that rash and turbulent humour which is so often the cause of so much distress.
Why wilt thou still, my brother, thus provoke
Thy own free generous bosom ?-Nay, my brother,
Give it up
Resign the claim, and all contention ends.
Adam. That must not be the forfeiture incurr'd
Incurr'd, my children, by your hapless parents,
Cuts off the rights of all inheritance,
And Heaven has reassumed the awful gift
Which was on man conferr'd.-To Heaven again
Let man submit himself, and thence receive
New ordination to its holy service."
Cain professes his readiness to acquiesce in this proposal; but Eve, under the influence of some solemn and misgiving presentiment, urges him to forego the probation, and to yield the priesthood to the meek and pious Abel,
"Whose holy, lowly, and serene demeanour
Cain, however, spurns the suggestion,
The scene, after the chorus, is again changed, and the angel of Abel, who remains contemplative and serene on the brow of the mountain, is addressed by one of the winged ministers of Heaven, who had been commissioned to the guardian of the world, of whom this spirit gives the following description:
"He sits on pillowed flakes of golden light, Midway between the glorious gate of Heaven, VOL. X.
And the dim frontiers of this vapoury world,
The vast mysterious circling wheels of time
On the angel of Abel inquiring the object of the mandatory spirit's mission, he is informed that a recent general irruption of the fiends from their dark and profound abodes had been observed, and the reader is prepared by the description, for the accomplishment of some tremendous event, the nature and issue of which are still hidden
"Behind the shadowy curtain of hereafter,"
even from the knowledge of the angels.
"Th' antagonists of Heaven
Their clamorous flight directed to the earth:
Red and malignant, reaching from the cave
The eye of heaven's great centinel, and sought
Of cooling tides: therein their direful rage
The ministering spirit then departs; and the angel of Abel, touched with sorrow and commiseration for the evils which are coming upon the children of man, awfully anticipates a total erasure, by fire, of all created things, according to a prediction that had been promulgated by the oracles of heaven.