Back to Methuselah
George Bernard Shaw
Part 7 out of 7
ECRASIA [_sententiously_] I do not admit that. The artist divines by
inspiration all the truths that the so-called scientist grubs up in his
laboratory slowly and stupidly long afterwards.
ARJILLAX [_to Ecrasia, quarrelsomely_] What do you know about it? You
are not an artist.
ACIS. Shut your heads, both of you. Let us have the artificial men. Trot
them out, Pygmalion.
PYGMALION. It is a man and a woman. But I really must explain first.
PYGMALION. Yes: I--
ACIS. We want results, not explanations.
PYGMALION [_hurt_] I see I am boring you. Not one of you takes the least
interest in science. Goodbye. [_He descends from the altar and makes for
SEVERAL YOUTHS AND MAIDENS [_rising and rushing to him_] No, no. Dont
go. Dont be offended. We want to see the artificial pair. We will
listen. We are tremendously interested. Tell us all about it.
PYGMALION [_relenting_] I shall not detain you two minutes.
ALL. Half an hour if you like. Please go on, Pygmalion. [_They rush him
back to the altar, and hoist him on to it_]. Up you go.
_They return to their former places._
PYGMALION. As I told you, lots of attempts were made to produce
protoplasm in the laboratory. Why were these synthetic plasms, as they
called them, no use?
ECRASIA. We are waiting for you to tell us.
THE NEWLY BORN [_modelling herself on Ecrasia, and trying to outdo her
intellectually_] Clearly because they were dead.
PYGMALION. Not bad for a baby, my pet. But dead and alive are very loose
terms. You are not half as much alive as you will be in another month or
so. What was wrong with the synthetic protoplasm was that it could
not fix and conduct the Life Force. It was like a wooden magnet or a
lightning conductor made of silk: it would not take the current.
ACIS. Nobody but a fool would make a wooden magnet, and expect it to
PYGMALION. He might if he were so ignorant as not to be able to
distinguish between wood and soft iron. In those days they were very
ignorant of the differences between things, because their methods of
analysis were crude. They mixed up messes that were so like protoplasm
that they could not tell the difference. But the difference was there,
though their analysis was too superficial and incomplete to detect it.
You must remember that these poor devils were very little better than
our idiots: we should never dream of letting one of them survive the day
of its birth. Why, the Newly Born there already knows by instinct many
things that their greatest physicists could hardly arrive at by forty
years of strenuous study. Her simple direct sense of space-time and
quantity unconsciously solves problems which cost their most famous
mathematicians years of prolonged and laborious calculations requiring
such intense mental application that they frequently forgot to breathe
when engaged in them, and almost suffocated themselves in consequence.
ECRASIA. Leave these obscure prehistoric abortions; and come back to
your synthetic man and woman.
PYGMALION. When I undertook the task of making synthetic men, I did
not waste my time on protoplasm. It was evident to me that if it were
possible to make protoplasm in the laboratory, it must be equally
possible to begin higher up and make fully evolved muscular and nervous
tissues, bone, and so forth. Why make the seed when the making of the
flower would be no greater miracle? I tried thousands of combinations
before I succeeded in producing anything that would fix high-potential
ARJILLAX. High what?
PYGMALION. High-po-tential. The Life Force is not so simple as you
think. A high-potential current of it will turn a bit of dead tissue
into a philosopher's brain. A low-potential current will reduce the same
bit of tissue to a mass of corruption. Will you believe me when I tell
you that, even in man himself, the Life Force used to slip suddenly down
from its human level to that of a fungus, so that men found their flesh
no longer growing as flesh, but proliferating horribly in a lower form
which was called cancer, until the lower form of life killed the higher,
and both perished together miserably?
MARTELLUS. Keep off the primitive tribes, Pygmalion. They interest you;
but they bore these young things.
PYGMALION. I am only trying to make you understand. There was the Life
Force raging all round me: there was I, trying to make organs that would
capture it as a battery captures electricity, and tissues that would
conduct it and operate it. It was easy enough to make eyes more perfect
than our own, and ears with a larger range of sound; but they could
neither see nor hear, because they were not susceptible to the Life
Force. But it was far worse when I discovered how to make them
susceptible; for the first thing that happened was that they ceased to
be eyes and ears and turned into heaps of maggots.
ECRASIA. Disgusting! Please stop.
ACIS. If you don't want to hear, go away. You go ahead, Pyg.
PYGMALION. I went ahead. You see, the lower potentials of the Life Force
could make maggots, but not human eyes or ears. I improved the tissue
until it was susceptible to a higher potential.
ARJILLAX [_intensely interested_] Yes; and then?
PYGMALION. Then the eyes and ears turned into cancers.
ECRASIA. Oh, hideous!
PYGMALION. Not at all. That was a great advance. It encouraged me so
much that I put aside the eyes and ears, and made a brain. It wouldn't
take the Life Force at all until I had altered its constitution a dozen
times; but when it did, it took a much higher potential, and did not
dissolve; and neither did the eyes and ears when I connected them up
with the brain. I was able to make a sort of monster: a thing without
arms or legs; and it really and truly lived for half-an-hour.
THE NEWLY BORN. Half-an-hour! What good was that? Why did it die?
PYGMALION. Its blood went wrong. But I got that right; and then I went
ahead with a complete human body: arms and legs and all. He was my first
ARJILLAX. Who modelled him?
PYGMALION. I did.
MARTELLUS. Do you mean to say you tried your own hand before you sent
PYGMALION. Bless you, yes, several times. My first man was the
ghastliest creature: a more dreadful mixture of horror and absurdity
than you who have not seen him can conceive.
ARJILLAX. If you modelled him, he must indeed have been a spectacle.
PYGMALION. Oh, it was not his shape. You see I did not invent that. I
took actual measurements and moulds from my own body. Sculptors do that
sometimes, you know; though they pretend they don't.
PYGMALION. He was all right to look at, at first, or nearly so. But he
behaved in the most appalling manner; and the subsequent developments
were so disgusting that I really cannot describe them to you. He seized
all sorts of things and swallowed them. He drank every fluid in the
laboratory. I tried to explain to him that he must take nothing that he
could not digest and assimilate completely; but of course he could not
understand me. He assimilated a little of what he swallowed; but the
process left horrible residues which he had no means of getting rid of.
His blood turned to poison; and he perished in torments, howling. I then
perceived that I had produced a prehistoric man; for there are certain
traces in our own bodies of arrangements which enabled the earlier forms
of mankind to renew their bodies by swallowing flesh and grains and
vegetables and all sorts of unnatural and hideous foods, and getting rid
of what they could not digest.
ECRASIA. But what a pity he died! What a glimpse of the past we have
lost! He could have told us stories of the Golden Age.
PYGMALION. Not he. He was a most dangerous beast. He was afraid of me,
and actually tried to kill me by snatching up things and striking at me
with them. I had to give him two or three pretty severe shocks before I
convinced him that he was at my mercy.
THE NEWLY BORN. Why did you not make a woman instead of a man? She would
have known how to behave herself.
MARTELLUS. Why did you not make a man and a woman? Their children would
have been interesting.
PYGMALION. I intended to make a woman; but after my experience with the
man it was out of the question.
ECRASIA. Pray why?
PYGMALION. Well, it is difficult to explain if you have not studied
prehistoric methods of reproduction. You see the only sort of men and
women I could make were men and women just like us as far as their
bodies were concerned. That was how I killed the poor beast of a man. I
hadnt provided for his horrible prehistoric methods of feeding himself.
Suppose the woman had reproduced in some prehistoric way instead of
being oviparous as we are? She couldn't have done it with a modern
female body. Besides, the experiment might have been painful.
ECRASIA. Then you have nothing to shew us at all?
PYGMALION. Oh yes I have. I am not so easily beaten as that. I set to
work again for months to find out how to make a digestive system that
would deal with waste products and a reproductive system capable of
internal nourishment and incubation.
ECRASIA. Why did you not find out how to make them like us?
STREPHON [_crying out in his grief for the first time_] Why did you not
make a woman whom you could love? That was the secret you needed.
THE NEWLY BORN. Oh yes. How true! How great of you, darling Strephon!
[_She kisses him impulsively_].
STREPHON [_passionately_] Let me alone.
MARTELLUS. Control your reflexes, child.
THE NEWLY BORN. My what!
MARTELLUS. Your reflexes. The things you do without thinking. Pygmalion
is going to shew you a pair of human creatures who are all reflexes and
nothing else. Take warning by them.
THE NEWLY BORN. But wont they be alive, like us?
PYGMALION. That is a very difficult question to answer, my dear. I
confess I thought at first I had created living creatures; but Martellus
declares they are only automata. But then Martellus is a mystic: _I_
am a man of science. He draws a line between an automaton and a living
organism. I cannot draw that line to my own satisfaction.
MARTELLUS. Your artificial men have no self-control. They only respond
to stimuli from without.
PYGMALION. But they are conscious. I have taught them to talk and read;
and now they tell lies. That is so very lifelike.
MARTELLUS. Not at all. If they were alive they would tell the truth. You
can provoke them to tell any silly lie; and you can foresee exactly the
sort of lie they will tell. Give them a clip below the knee, and they
will jerk their foot forward. Give them a clip in their appetites or
vanities or any of their lusts and greeds, and they will boast and lie,
and affirm and deny, and hate and love without the slightest regard to
the facts that are staring them in the face, or to their own obvious
limitations. That proves that they are automata.
PYGMALION [_unconvinced_] I know, dear old chap; but there really is
some evidence that we are descended from creatures quite as limited
and absurd as these. After all, the baby there is three-quarters an
automaton. Look at the way she has been going on!
THE NEWLY BORN [_indignantly_] What do you mean? How have I been going
ECRASIA. If they have no regard for truth, they can have no real
PYGMALION. Truth is sometimes so artificial: so relative, as we say in
the scientific world, that it is very hard to feel quite sure that what
is false and even ridiculous to us may not be true to them.
ECRASIA. I ask you again, why did you not make them like us? Would any
true artist be content with less than the best?
PYGMALION. I couldnt. I tried. I failed. I am convinced that what I
am about to shew you is the very highest living organism that can be
produced in the laboratory. The best tissues we can manufacture will not
take as high potentials as the natural product: that is where Nature
beats us. You dont seem to understand, any of you, what an enormous
triumph it was to produce consciousness at all.
ACIS. Cut the cackle; and come to the synthetic couple.
SEVERAL YOUTHS AND MAIDENS. Yes, yes. No more talking. Let us have them.
Dry up, Pyg; and fetch them along. Come on: out with them! The synthetic
PYGMALION [_waving his hands to appease them_] Very well, very well.
Will you please whistle for them? They respond to the stimulus of a
_All who can, whistle like streetboys._
ECRASIA [_makes a wry face and puts her fingers in her ears_]!
PYGMALION. Sh-sh-sh! Thats enough: thats enough: thats enough.
[_Silence_]. Now let us have some music. A dance tune. Not too fast.
_The flutists play a quiet dance._
MARTELLUS. Prepare yourselves for something ghastly.
_Two figures, a man and woman of noble appearance, beautifully modelled
and splendidly attired, emerge hand in hand from the temple. Seeing
that all eyes are fixed on them, they halt on the steps, smiling with
gratified vanity. The woman is on the man's left._
PYGMALION [_rubbing his hands with the purring satisfaction of a
creator_] This way, please.
_The Figures advance condescendingly and pose themselves centrally
between the curved seats._
PYGMALION. Now if you will be so good as to oblige us with a little
something. You dance so beautifully, you know. [_He sits down next
Martellus, and whispers to him_] It is extraordinary how sensitive they
are to the stimulus of flattery.
_The Figures, with a gracious air, dance pompously, but very passably.
At the close they bow to one another._
ON ALL HANDS [_clapping_] Bravo! Thank you. Wonderful! Splendid.
_The Figures acknowledge the applause in an obvious condition of swelled
THE NEWLY BORN. Can they make love?
PYGMALION. Yes: they can respond to every stimulus. They have all the
reflexes. Put your arm round the man's neck, and he will put his arm
round your body. He cannot help it.
THE FEMALE FIGURE [_frowning_] Round mine, you mean.
PYGMALION. Yours, too, of course, if the stimulus comes from you.
ECRASIA. Cannot he do anything original?
PYGMALION. No. But then, you know, I do not admit that any of us can do
anything really original, though Martellus thinks we can.
ACIS. Can he answer a question?
PYGMALION. Oh yes. A question is a stimulus, you know. Ask him one.
ACIS [_to the Male Figure_] What do you think of what you see around
you? Of us, for instance, and our ways and doings?
THE MALE FIGURE. I have not seen the newspaper today.
THE FEMALE FIGURE. How can you expect my husband to know what to think
of you if you give him his breakfast without his paper?
MARTELLUS. You see. He is a mere automaton.
THE NEWLY BORN. I don't think I should like him to put his arm round
my neck. I don't like them. [_The Male Figure looks offended, and the
Female jealous_]. Oh, I thought they couldn't understand. Have they
PYGMALION. Of course they have. I tell you they have all the reflexes.
THE NEWLY BORN. But feelings are not reflexes.
PYGMALION. They are sensations. When the rays of light enter their eyes
and make a picture on their retinas, their brains become conscious of
the picture and they act accordingly. When the waves of sound started by
your speaking enter their ears and record a disparaging remark on their
keyboards, their brains become conscious of the disparagement and resent
it accordingly. If you did not disparage them they would not resent it.
They are merely responding to a stimulus.
THE MALE FIGURE. We are part of a cosmic system. Free will is an
illusion. We are the children of Cause and Effect. We are the
Unalterable, the Irresistible, the Irresponsible, the Inevitable.
My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.
_There is a general stir of curiosity at this._
ACIS. What the dickens does he mean?
THE MALE FIGURE. Silence, base accident of Nature. This [_taking the
hand of the Female Figure and introducing her_] is Cleopatra-Semiramis,
consort of the king of kings, and therefore queen of queens. Ye are
things hatched from eggs by the brainless sun and the blind fire; but
the king of kings and queen of queens are not accidents of the egg: they
are thought-out and hand-made to receive the sacred Life Force. There is
one person of the king and one of the queen; but the Life Force of the
king and queen is all one: the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal. Such
as the king is so is the queen, the king thought-out and hand-made, the
queen thought-out and hand-made. The actions of the king are caused, and
therefore determined, from the beginning of the world to the end;
and the actions of the queen are likewise. The king logical and
predetermined and inevitable, and the queen logical and predetermined
and inevitable. And yet they are not two logical and predetermined and
inevitable, but one logical and predetermined and inevitable. Therefore
confound not the persons, nor divide the substance: but worship us twain
as one throne, two in one and one in two, lest by error ye fall into
THE FEMALE FIGURE. And if any say unto you 'Which one?' remember that
though there is one person of the king and one of the queen, yet these
two persons are not alike, but are woman and man, and that as woman was
created after man, the skill and practice gained in making him were
added to her, wherefore she is to be exalted above him in all personal
THE MALE FIGURE. Peace, woman; for this is a damnable heresy. Both Man
and Woman are what they are and must do what they must according to the
eternal laws of Cause and Effect. Look to your words; for if they enter
my ear and jar too repugnantly on my sensorium, who knows that the
inevitable response to that stimulus may not be a message to my muscles
to snatch up some heavy object and break you in pieces.
_The Female Figure picks up a stone and is about to throw it at her
ARJILLAX [_springing up and shouting to Pygmalion, who is fondly
watching the Male Figure_] Look out, Pygmalion! Look at the woman!
_Pygmalion, seeing what is happening, hurls himself on the Female Figure
and wrenches the stone out of her hand. All spring up in consternation._
ARJILLAX. She meant to kill him.
STREPHON. This is horrible.
THE FEMALE FIGURE [_wrestling with Pygmalion_] Let me go. Let me go,
will you [_she bites his hand_].
PYGMALION [_releasing her and staggering_] Oh!
_A general shriek of horror echoes his exclamation. He turns deadly
pale, and supports himself against the end of the curved seat._
THE FEMALE FIGURE [_to her consort_] You would stand there and let me be
treated like this, you unmanly coward.
_Pygmalion falls dead._
THE NEWLY BORN. Oh! Whats the matter? Why did he fall! What has happened
_They look on anxiously as Martellus kneels down and examines the body
MARTELLUS. She has bitten a piece out of his hand nearly as large as a
finger nail: enough to kill ten men. There is no pulse, no breath.
ECRASIA. But his thumb is clinched.
MARTELLUS. No: it has just straightened out. See! He has gone. Poor
THE NEWLY BORN. Oh! [_She weeps_].
STREPHON. Hush, dear: thats childish.
THE NEWLY BORN [_subsiding with a sniff_]!!
MARTELLUS [_rising_] Dead in his third year. What a loss to Science!
ARJILLAX. Who cares about Science? Serve him right for making that pair
THE MALE FIGURE [_glaring_] Ha!
THE FEMALE FIGURE. Keep a civil tongue in your head, you.
THE NEWLY BORN. Oh, do not be so unkind, Arjillax. You will make water
come out of my eyes again.
MARTELLUS [_contemplating the Figures_] Just look at these two devils.
I modelled them out of the stuff Pygmalion made for them. They are
masterpieces of art. And see what they have done! Does that convince you
of the value of art, Arjillax!
STREPHON. They look dangerous. Keep away from them.
ECRASIA. No need to tell us that, Strephon. Pf! They poison the air.
THE MALE FIGURE. Beware, woman. The wrath of Ozymandias strikes like the
THE FEMALE FIGURE. You just say that again if you dare, you filthy
ACIS. What are you going to do with them, Martellus? You are responsible
for them, now that Pygmalion has gone.
MARTELLUS. If they were marble it would be simple enough: I could smash
them. As it is, how am I to kill them without making a horrible mess?
THE MALE FIGURE [_posing heroically_] Ha! [_He declaims_]
Come one: come all: this rock shall fly
From its firm base as soon as I.
THE FEMALE FIGURE [_fondly_] My man! My hero husband! I am proud of you.
I love you.
MARTELLUS. We must send out a message for an ancient.
ACIS. Need we bother an ancient about such a trifle? It will take less
than half a second to reduce our poor Pygmalion to a pinch of dust. Why
not calcine the two along with him?
MARTELLUS. No: the two automata are trifles; but the use of our powers
of destruction is never a trifle. I had rather have the case judged.
_The He-Ancient emerges from the grove. The Figures are panic-stricken._
THE HE-ANCIENT [_mildly_] Am I wanted? I feel called. [_Seeing the body
of Pygmalion, and immediately taking a sterner tone_] What! A child
lost! A life wasted! How has this happened?
THE FEMALE FIGURE [_frantically_] I didn't do it. It was not me. May
I be struck dead if I touched him! It was he [_pointing to the Male
ALL [amazed at the lie] Oh!
THE MALE FIGURE. Liar. You bit him. Everyone here saw you do it.
THE HE-ANCIENT. Silence. [_Going between the Figures_] Who made these
two loathsome dolls?
THE MALE FIGURE [_trying to assert himself with his knees knocking_] My
name is Ozymandias, king of--
THE HE-ANCIENT [_with a contemptuous gesture_] Pooh!
THE MALE FIGURE [_falling on his knees_] Oh dont, sir. Dont. She did it,
sir: indeed she did.
THE FEMALE FIGURE [_howling lamentably_] Boohoo! oo! ooh!
THE HE-ANCIENT. Silence, I say.
_He knocks the Male Automaton upright by a very light flip under
the chin. The Female Automaton hardly dares to sob. The immortals
contemplate them with shame and loathing. The She-Ancient comes from the
trees opposite the temple._
THE SHE-ANCIENT. Somebody wants me. What is the matter? [_She comes to
the left hand of the Female Figure, not seeing the body of Pygmalion_].
Pf! [_Severely_] You have been making dolls. You must not: they are not
only disgusting: they are dangerous.
THE FEMALE FIGURE [_snivelling piteously_] I'm not a doll, mam. I'm only
poor Cleopatra-Semiramis, queen of queens. [_Covering her face with her
hands_] Oh, don't look at me like that, mam. I meant no harm. He hurt
me: indeed he did.
THE HE-ANCIENT. The creature has killed that poor youth.
THE SHE-ANCIENT [_seeing the body of Pygmalion_] What! This clever
child, who promised so well!
THE FEMALE FIGURE. He made me. I had as much right to kill him as he had
to make me. And how was I to know that a little thing like that would
kill him? I shouldn't die if he cut off my arm or leg.
ECRASIA. What nonsense!
MARTELLUS. It may not be nonsense. I daresay if you cut off her leg she
would grow another, like the lobsters and the little lizards.
THE HE-ANCIENT. Did this dead boy make these two things?
MARTELLUS. He made them in his laboratory. I moulded their limbs. I am
sorry. I was thoughtless: I did not foresee that they would kill and
pretend to be persons they were not, and declare things that were false,
and wish evil. I thought they would be merely mechanical fools.
THE MALE FIGURE. Do you blame us for our human nature?
THE FEMALE FIGURE. We are flesh and blood and not angels.
THE MALE FIGURE. Have you no hearts?
ARJILLAX. They are mad as well as mischievous. May we not destroy them?
STREPHON. We abhor them.
THE NEWLY BORN. We loathe them.
ECRASIA. They are noisome.
ACIS. I don't want to be hard on the poor devils; but they are making me
feel uneasy in my inside. I never had such a sensation before.
MARTELLUS. I took a lot of trouble with them. But as far as I am
concerned, destroy them by all means. I loathed them from the beginning.
ALL. Yes, yes: we all loathe them. Let us calcine them.
THE FEMALE FIGURE. Oh, don't be so cruel. I'm not fit to die. I will
never bite anyone again. I will tell the truth. I will do good. Is it my
fault if I was not made properly? Kill him; but spare me.
THE MALE FIGURE. No! I have done no harm: she has. Kill her if you like:
you have no right to kill me.
THE NEWLY BORN. Do you hear that? They want to have one another killed.
ARJILLAX. Monstrous! Kill them both.
THE HE-ANCIENT. Silence. These things are mere automata: they cannot
help shrinking from death at any cost. You see that they have no
self-control, and are merely shuddering through a series of reflexes.
Let us see whether we cannot put a little more life into them. [_He
takes the Male Figure by the hand, and places his disengaged hand on
its head_]. Now listen. One of you two is to be destroyed. Which of you
shall it be?
THE MALE FIGURE [_after a slight convulsion during which his eyes are
fixed on the He-Ancient_] Spare her; and kill me.
STREPHON. Thats better.
THE NEWLY BORN. Much better.
THE SHE-ANCIENT [_handling the Female Automaton in the same manner_]
Which of you shall we kill?
THE FEMALE FIGURE. Kill us both. How could either of us live without the
ECRASIA. The woman is more sensible than the man.
_The Ancients release the Automata._
THE MALE FIGURE [_sinking to the ground_] I am discouraged. Life is too
heavy a burden.
THE FEMALE FIGURE [_collapsing_] I am dying. I am glad. I am afraid to
THE NEWLY BORN. I think it would be nice to give the poor things a
THE NEWLY BORN. I don't know. But it would.
_The Musicians play._
THE FEMALE FIGURE. Ozymandias: do you hear that? [_She rises on her
knees and looks raptly into space_] Queen of queens! [_She dies_].
THE MALE FIGURE [_crawling feebly towards her until he reaches her
hand_] I knew I was really a king of kings. [_To the others_] Illusions,
farewell: we are going to our thrones. [_He dies_].
_The music stops. There is dead silence for a moment._
THE NEWLY BORN. That was funny.
STREPHON. It was. Even the Ancients are smiling.
THE NEWLY BORN. Just a little.
THE SHE-ANCIENT [_quickly recovering her grave and peremptory manner_]
Take these two abominations away to Pygmalion's laboratory, and destroy
them with the rest of the laboratory refuse. [_Some of them move to
_obey]. Take care: do not touch their flesh: it is noxious: lift them by
their robes. Carry Pygmalion into the temple; and dispose of his remains
in the usual way.
_The three bodies are carried out as directed, Pygmalion into the temple
by his bare arms and legs, and the two Figures through the grove by
their clothes. Martellus superintends the removal of the Figures, Acis
that of Pygmalion. Ecrasia, Arjillax, Strephon, and the Newly Born sit
down as before, but on contrary benches; so that Strephon and the Newly
Born now face the grove, and Ecrasia and Arjillax the temple. The
Ancients remain standing at the altar._
ECRASIA [_as she sits down_] Oh for a breeze from the hills!
STREPHON. Or the wind from the sea at the turn of the tide!
THE NEWLY BORN. I want some clean air.
THE HE-ANCIENT. The air will be clean in a moment. This doll flesh that
children make decomposes quickly at best; but when it is shaken by such
passions as the creatures are capable of, it breaks up at once and
becomes horribly tainted.
THE SHE-ANCIENT. Let it be a lesson to you all to be content with
lifeless toys, and not attempt to make living ones. What would you think
of us ancients if we made toys of you children?
THE NEWLY BORN [_coaxingly_] Why do you not make toys of us? Then you
would play with us; and that would be very nice.
THE SHE-ANCIENT. It would not amuse us. When you play with one another
you play with your bodies, and that makes you supple and strong; but if
we played with you we should play with your minds, and perhaps deform
STREPHON. You are a ghastly lot, you ancients. I shall kill myself when
I am four years old. What do you live for?
THE HE-ANCIENT. You will find out when you grow up. You will not kill
STREPHON. If you make me believe that, I shall kill myself now.
THE NEWLY BORN. Oh no. I want you. I love you.
STREPHON. I love someone else. And she has gone old, old. Lost to me for
THE HE-ANCIENT. How old?
STREPHON. You saw her when you barged into us as we were dancing. She is
THE NEWLY BORN. How I should have hated her twenty minutes ago! But I
have grown out of that now.
THE HE-ANCIENT. Good. That hatred is called jealousy, the worst of our
_Martellus, dusting his hands and puffing, returns from the grove._
MARTELLUS. Ouf! [_He sits down next the Newly Born_] That job's
ARJILLAX. Ancients: I should like to make a few studies of you. Not
portraits, of course: I shall idealize you a little. I have come to the
conclusion that you ancients are the most interesting subjects after
MARTELLUS. What! Have those two horrors, whose ashes I have just
deposited with peculiar pleasure in poor Pygmalion's dustbin, not cured
you of this silly image-making!
ARJILLAX. Why did you model them as young things, you fool? If Pygmalion
had come to me, I should have made ancients of them for him. Not that I
should have modelled them any better. I have always said that no one
can beat you at your best as far as handwork is concerned. But this job
required brains. That is where I should have come in.
MARTELLUS. Well, my brainy boy, you are welcome to try your hand. There
are two of Pygmalion's pupils at the laboratory who helped him to
manufacture the bones and tissues and all the rest of it. They can turn
out a couple of new automatons; and you can model them as ancients if
this venerable pair will sit for you.
ECRASIA [_decisively_] No. No more automata. They are too disgusting.
ACIS [_returning from the temple_] Well, thats done. Poor old Pyg!
ECRASIA. Only fancy, Acis! Arjillax wants to make more of those
abominable things, and to destroy even their artistic character by
making ancients of them.
THE NEWLY BORN. You wont sit for them, will you? Please dont.
THE HE-ANCIENT. Children, listen.
ACIS [_striding down the steps to the bench and seating himself next
Ecrasia_] What! Even the Ancient wants to make a speech! Give it mouth,
STREPHON. For heaven's sake don't tell us that the earth was once
inhabited by Ozymandiases and Cleopatras. Life is hard enough for us as
THE HE-ANCIENT. Life is not meant to be easy, my child; but take
courage: it can be delightful. What I wanted to tell you is that ever
since men existed, children have played with dolls.
ECRASIA. You keep using that word. What are dolls, pray?
THE SHE-ANCIENT. What you call works of art. Images. We call them dolls.
ARJILLAX. Just so. You have no sense of art; and you instinctively
THE HE-ANCIENT. Children have been known to make dolls out of rags, and
to caress them with the deepest fondness.
THE SHE-ANCIENT. Eight centuries ago, when I was a child, I made a rag
doll. The rag doll is the dearest of all.
THE NEWLY BORN [_eagerly interested_] Oh! Have you got it still?
THE SHE-ANCIENT. I kept it a full week.
ECRASIA. Even in your childhood, then, you did not understand high art,
and adored your own amateur crudities.
THE SHE-ANCIENT. How old are you?
ECRASIA. Eight months.
THE SHE-ANCIENT. When you have lived as long as I have--
ECRASIA [_interrupting rudely_] I shall worship rag dolls, perhaps.
Thank heaven I am still in my prime.
THE HE-ANCIENT. You are still capable of thanking, though you do not
know what you thank. You are a thanking little animal, a blaming little
ACIS. A gushing little animal.
ARJILLAX. And, as she thinks, an artistic little animal.
ECRASIA [_nettled_] I am an animated being with a reasonable soul and
human flesh subsisting. If your Automata had been properly animated,
Martellus, they would have been more successful.
THE SHE-ANCIENT. That is where you are wrong, my child. If those two
loathsome things had been rag dolls, they would have been amusing and
lovable. The Newly Born here would have played with them; and you would
all have laughed and played with them too until you had torn them to
pieces; and then you would have laughed more than ever.
THE NEWLY BORN. Of course we should. Isnt that funny?
THE HE-ANCIENT. When a thing is funny, search it for a hidden truth.
STREPHON. Yes; and take all the fun out of it.
THE SHE-ANCIENT. Do not be so embittered because your sweetheart has
outgrown her love for you. The Newly Born will make amends.
THE NEWLY BORN. Oh yes: I will be more than she could ever have been.
STREPHON. Psha! Jealous!
THE NEWLY BORN. Oh no. I have grown out of that. I love her now because
she loved you, and because you love her.
THE HE-ANCIENT. That is the next stage. You are getting on very nicely,
MARTELLUS. Come! what is the truth that was hidden in the rag doll?
THE HE-ANCIENT. Well, consider why you are not content with the rag
doll, and must have something more closely resembling a real living
creature. As you grow up you make images and paint pictures. Those of
you who cannot do that make stories about imaginary dolls. Or you dress
yourselves up as dolls and act plays about them.
THE SHE-ANCIENT. And, to deceive yourself the more completely, you take
them so very very seriously that Ecrasia here declares that the making
of dolls is the holiest work of creation, and the words you put into
the mouths of dolls the sacredest of scriptures and the noblest of
THE SHE-ANCIENT. Yet the more beautiful they become the further they
retreat from you. You cannot caress them as you caress the rag doll. You
cannot cry for them when they are broken or lost, or when you pretend
they have been unkind to you, as you could when you played with rag
THE HE-ANCIENT. At last, like Pygmalion, you demand from your dolls the
final perfection of resemblance to life. They must move and speak.
THE SHE-ANCIENT. They must love and hate.
THE HE-ANCIENT. They must think that they think.
THE SHE-ANCIENT. They must have soft flesh and warm, blood.
THE HE-ANCIENT. And then, when you have achieved this as Pygmalion did;
when the marble masterpiece is dethroned by the automaton and the homo
by the homunculus; when the body and the brain, the reasonable soul and
human flesh subsisting, as Ecrasia says, stand before you unmasked as
mere machinery, and your impulses are shewn to be nothing but reflexes,
you are filled with horror and loathing, and would give worlds to be
young enough to play with your rag doll again, since every step away
from it has been a step away from love and happiness. Is it not true?
THE SHE-ANCIENT. Speak, Martellus: you who have travelled the whole
MARTELLUS. It is true. With fierce joy I turned a temperature of a
million degrees on those two things I had modelled, and saw them vanish
in an instant into inoffensive dust.
THE SHE-ANCIENT. Speak, Arjillax: you who have advanced from imitating
the lightly living child to the intensely living ancient. Is it true, so
ARJILLAX. It is partly true: I cannot pretend to be satisfied now with
modelling pretty children.
THE HE-ANCIENT. And you, Ecrasia: you cling to your highly artistic
dolls as the noblest projections of the Life Force, do you not?
ECRASIA. Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world
THE NEWLY BORN [_anticipating the She-Ancient, who is evidently going
to challenge her_] Now you are coming to me, because I am the latest
arrival. But I don't understand your art and your dolls at all. I want
to caress my darling Strephon, not to play with dolls.
ACIS. I am in my fourth year; and I have got on very well without your
dolls. I had rather walk up a mountain and down again than look at all
the statues Martellus and Arjillax ever made. You prefer a statue to an
automaton, and a rag doll to a statue. So do I; but I prefer a man to a
rag doll. Give me friends, not dolls.
THE HE-ANCIENT. Yet I have seen you walking over the mountains alone.
Have you not found your best friend in yourself?
ACIS. What are you driving at, old one? What does all this lead to?
THE HE-ANCIENT. It leads, young man, to the truth that you can create
nothing but yourself.
ACIS [_musing_] I can create nothing but myself. Ecrasia: you are
clever. Do you understand it? I don't.
ECRASIA. It is as easy to understand as any other ignorant error. What
artist is as great as his own works? He can create masterpieces; but he
cannot improve the shape of his own nose.
ACIS. There! What have you to say to that, old one?
THE HE-ANCIENT. He can alter the shape of his own soul. He could alter
the shape of his nose if the difference between a turned-up nose and a
turned-down one were worth the effort. One does not face the throes of
creation for trifles.
ACIS. What have you to say to that, Ecrasia?
ECRASIA. I say that if the ancients had thoroughly grasped the theory of
fine art they would understand that the difference between a beautiful
nose and an ugly one is of supreme importance: that it is indeed the
only thing that matters.
THE SHE-ANCIENT. That is, they would understand something they could not
believe, and that you do not believe.
ACIS. Just so, mam. Art is not honest: that is why I never could stand
much of it. It is all make-believe. Ecrasia never really says things:
she only rattles her teeth in her mouth.
ECRASIA. Acis: you are rude.
ACIS. You mean that I wont play the game of make-believe. Well, I don't
ask you to play it with me; so why should you expect me to play it with
ECRASIA. You have no right to say that I am not sincere. I have found a
happiness in art that real life has never given me. I am intensely in
earnest about art. There is a magic and mystery in art that you know
THE SHE-ANCIENT. Yes, child: art is the magic mirror you make to reflect
your invisible dreams in visible pictures. You use a glass mirror to see
your face: you use works of art to see your soul. But we who are older
use neither glass mirrors nor works of art. We have a direct sense of
life. When you gain that you will put aside your mirrors and statues,
your toys and your dolls.
THE HE-ANCIENT. Yet we too have our toys and our dolls. That is the
trouble of the ancients.
ARJILLAX. What! The ancients have their troubles! It is the first time I
ever heard one of them confess it.
THE HE-ANCIENT. Look at us. Look at me. This is my body, my blood,
my brain; but it is not me. I am the eternal life, the perpetual
resurrection; but [_striking his body_] this structure, this organism,
this makeshift, can be made by a boy in a laboratory, and is held back
from dissolution only by my use of it. Worse still, it can be broken by
a slip of the foot, drowned by a cramp in the stomach, destroyed by a
flash from the clouds. Sooner or later, its destruction is certain.
THE SHE-ANCIENT. Yes: this body is the last doll to be discarded. When I
was a child, Ecrasia, I, too, was an artist, like your sculptor friends
there, striving to create perfection in things outside myself. I made
statues: I painted pictures: I tried to worship them.
THE HE-ANCIENT. I had no such skill; but I, like Acis, sought perfection
in friends, in lovers, in nature, in things outside myself. Alas! I
could not create if. I could only imagine it.
THE SHE-ANCIENT. I, like Arjillax, found out that my statues of bodily
beauty were no longer even beautiful to me; and I pressed on and made
statues and pictures of men and women of genius, like those in the old
fable of Michael Angelo. Like Martellus, I smashed them when I saw that
there was no life in them: that they were so dead that they would not
even dissolve as a dead body does.
THE HE-ANCIENT. And I, like Acis, ceased to walk over the mountains with
my friends, and walked alone; for I found that I had creative power
over myself but none over my friends. And then I ceased to walk on the
mountains; for I saw that the mountains were dead.
ACIS [_protesting vehemently_] No. I grant you about the friends
perhaps; but the mountains are still the mountains, each with its name,
its individuality, its upstanding strength and majesty, its beauty--
ECRASIA. What! Acis among the rhapsodists!
THE HE-ANCIENT. Mere metaphor, my poor boy: the mountains are corpses.
ALL THE YOUNG [_repelled_] Oh!
THE HE-ANCIENT. Yes. In the hardpressed heart of the earth, where the
inconceivable heat of the sun still glows, the stone lives in fierce
atomic convulsion, as we live in our slower way. When it is cast out to
the surface it dies like deep-sea fish: what you see is only its cold
dead body. We have tapped that central heat as prehistoric man tapped
water springs; but nothing has come up alive from those flaming depths:
your landscapes, your mountains, are only the world's cast skins and
decaying teeth on which we live like microbes.
ECRASIA. Ancient: you blaspheme against Nature and against Man.
THE SHE-ANCIENT. Child, child, how much enthusiasm will you have for man
when you have endured eight centuries of him, as I have, and seen him
perish by an empty mischance that is yet a certainty? When I discarded
my dolls as he discarded his friends and his mountains, it was to myself
I turned as to the final reality. Here, and here alone, I could shape
and create. When my arm was weak and I willed it to be strong, I could
create a roll of muscle on it; and when I understood that, I understood
that I could without any greater miracle give myself ten arms and three
THE HE-ANCIENT. I also came to understand such miracles. For fifty years
I sat contemplating this power in myself and concentrating my will.
THE SHE-ANCIENT. So did I; and for five more years I made myself into
all sorts of fantastic monsters. I walked upon a dozen legs: I worked
with twenty hands and a hundred fingers: I looked to the four quarters
of the compass with eight eyes out of four heads. Children fled in
amazement from me until I had to hide myself from them; and the
ancients, who had forgotten how to laugh, smiled grimly when they
THE HE-ANCIENT. We have all committed these follies. You will all commit
THE NEWLY BORN. Oh, do grow a lot of arms and legs and heads for us. It
would be so funny.
THE HE-ANCIENT. My child: I am just as well as I am. I would not lift my
finger now to have a thousand heads.
THE SHE-ANCIENT. But what would I not give to have no head at all?
ALL THE YOUNG. Whats that? No head at all? Why? How?
THE HE-ANCIENT. Can you not understand?
ALL THE YOUNG [_shaking their heads_] No.
THE SHE-ANCIENT. One day, when I was tired of learning to walk forward
with some of my feet and backwards with others and sideways with the
rest all at once, I sat on a rock with my four chins resting on four
of my palms, and four or my elbows resting on four of my knees. And
suddenly it came into my mind that this monstrous machinery of heads and
limbs was no more me than my statues had been me, and that it was only
an automaton that I had enslaved.
MARTELLUS. Enslaved? What does that mean?
THE SHE-ANCIENT. A thing that must do what you command it is a slave;
and its commander is its master. These are words you will learn when
your turn comes.
THE HE-ANCIENT. You will also learn that when the master has come to do
everything through the slave, the slave becomes his master, since he
cannot live without him.
THE SHE-ANCIENT. And so I perceived that I had made myself the slave of
THE HE-ANCIENT. When we discovered that, we shed our superfluous heads
and legs and arms until we had our old shapes again, and no longer
startled the children.
THE SHE-ANCIENT. But still I am the slave of this slave, my body. How am
I to be delivered from it?
THE HE-ANCIENT. That, children, is the trouble of the ancients. For
whilst we are tied to this tyrannous body we are subject to its death,
and our destiny is not achieved.
THE NEWLY BORN. What is your destiny?
THE HE-ANCIENT. To be immortal.
THE SHE-ANCIENT. The day will come when there will be no people, only
THE HE-ANCIENT. And that will be life eternal.
ECRASIA. I trust I shall meet my fatal accident before that day dawns.
ARJILLAX. For once, Ecrasia, I agree with you. A world in which there
were nothing plastic would be an utterly miserable one.
ECRASIA. No limbs, no contours, no exquisite lines and elegant shapes,
no worship of beautiful bodies, no poetic embraces in which cultivated
lovers pretend that their caressing hands are wandering over celestial
hills and enchanted valleys, no--
ACIS [_interrupting her disgustedly_] What an inhuman mind you have,
ACIS. Yes: inhuman. Why don't you fall in love with someone?
ECRASIA. I! I have been in love all my life. I burned with it even in
ACIS. Not a bit of it. You and Arjillax are just as hard as two stones.
ECRASIA. You did not always think so, Acis.
ACIS. Oh, I know. I offered you my love once, and asked for yours.
ECRASIA. And did I deny it to you, Acis?
ACIS. You didn't even know what love was.
ECRASIA. Oh! I adored you, you stupid oaf, until I found that you were a
ACIS. And I made no end of a fool of myself about you until I discovered
that you were a mere artist. You appreciated my contours! I was plastic,
as Arjillax says. I wasn't a man to you: I was a masterpiece appealing
to your tastes and your senses. Your tastes and senses had overlaid the
direct impulse of life in you. And because I cared only for our life,
and went straight to it, and was bored by your calling my limbs fancy
names and mapping me into mountains and valleys and all the rest of it,
you called me an animal. Well, I am an animal, if you call a live man an
ECRASIA. You need not explain. You refused to be refined. I did my
best to lift your prehistoric impulses on to the plane of beauty, of
imagination, of romance, of poetry, of art, of--
ACIS. These things are all very well in their way and in their proper
places. But they are not love. They are an unnatural adulteration of
love. Love is a simple thing and a deep thing: it is an act of life and
not an illusion. Art is an illusion.
ARJILLAX. That is false. The statue comes to life always. The statues of
today are the men and women of the next incubation. I hold up the marble
figure before the mother and say, 'This is the model you must copy.' We
produce what we see. Let no man dare to create in art a thing that he
would not have exist in life.
MARTELLUS. Yes: I have been through all that. But you yourself are
making statues of ancients instead of beautiful nymphs and swains. And
Ecrasia is right about the ancients being inartistic. They are damnably
ECRASIA [_triumphant_] Ah! Our greatest artist vindicates me. Thanks,
MARTELLUS. The body always ends by being a bore. Nothing remains
beautiful and interesting except thought, because the thought is the
life. Which is just what this old gentleman and this old lady seem to
THE SHE-ANCIENT. Quite so.
THE HE-ANCIENT. Precisely.
THE NEWLY BORN [_to the He-Ancient_] But you cant be nothing. What do
you want to be?
THE HE-ANCIENT. A vortex.
THE NEWLY BORN. A what?
THE SHE-ANCIENT. A vortex. I began as a vortex: why should I not end as
ECRASIA. Oh! That is what you old people are, Vorticists.
ACIS. But if life is thought, can you live without a head?
THE HE-ANCIENT. Not now perhaps. But prehistoric men thought they could
not live without tails. I can live without a tail. Why should I not live
without a head?
THE NEWLY BORN. What is a tail?
THE HE-ANCIENT A habit of which your ancestors managed to pure
THE SHE-ANCIENT. None of us now believe that all this machinery of flesh
and blood is necessary. It dies.
THE HE-ANCIENT. It imprisons us on this petty planet and forbids us to
range through the stars.
ACIS. But even a vortex is a vortex in something. You cant have a
whirlpool without water; and you cant have a vortex without gas, or
molecules or atoms or ions or electrons or something, not nothing.
THE HE-ANCIENT. No: the vortex is not the water nor the gas nor the
atoms: it is a power over these things.
THE SHE-ANCIENT. The body was the slave of the vortex; but the slave has
become the master; and we must free ourselves from that tyranny. It is
this stuff [_indicating her body_], this flesh and blood and bone and
all the rest of it, that is intolerable. Even prehistoric man dreamed of
what he called an astral body, and asked who would deliver him from the
body of this death.
ACIS [_evidently out of his depth_] I shouldn't think too much about it
if I were you. You have to keep sane, you know.
_The two Ancients look at one another; shrug their shoulders; and
address themselves to their departure._
THE HE-ANCIENT. We are staying too long with you, children. We must go.
_All the young people rise rather eagerly._
ARJILLAX. Dont mention it.
THE SHE-ANCIENT. It is tiresome for us, too. You see, children, we have
to put things very crudely to you to make ourselves intelligible.
THE HE-ANCIENT. And I am afraid we do not quite succeed.
STREPHON. Very kind of you to come at all and talk to us, I'm sure.
ECRASIA. Why do the other ancients never come and give us a turn?
THE SHE-ANCIENT. It is difficult for them. They have forgotten how
to speak; how to read; even how to think in your fashion. We do not
communicate with one another in that way or apprehend the world as you
THE HE-ANCIENT. I find it more and more difficult to keep up your
language. Another century or two and it will be impossible. I shall have
to be relieved by a younger shepherd.
ACIS. Of course we are always delighted to see you; but still, if it
tries you very severely, we could manage pretty well by ourselves, you
THE SHE-ANCIENT. Tell me, Acis: do you ever think of yourself as having
to live perhaps for thousands of years?
ACIS. Oh, don't talk about it. Why, I know very well that I have only
four years of what any reasonable person would call living; and three
and a half of them are already gone.
ECRASIA. You must not mind our saying so; but really you cannot call
being an ancient living.
THE NEWLY BORN [_almost in tears_] Oh, this dreadful shortness of our
lives! I cannot bear it.
STREPHON. I made up my mind on that subject long ago. When I am three
years and fifty weeks old, I shall have my fatal accident. And it will
not be an accident.
THE HE-ANCIENT. We are very tired of this subject. I must leave you.
THE NEWLY BORN. What is being tired?
THE SHE-ANCIENT. The penalty of attending to children. Farewell.
_The two Ancients go away severally, she into the grove, he up to the
hills behind the temple._
ALL. Ouf! [_A great sigh of relief_].
ECRASIA. Dreadful people!
MARTELLUS. Yet one would like to follow them; to enter into their life;
to grasp their thought; to comprehend the universe as they must.
ARJILLAX. Getting old, Martellus?
MARTELLUS. Well, I have finished with the dolls; and I am no longer
jealous of you. That looks like the end. Two hours sleep is enough for
me. I am afraid I am beginning to find you all rather silly.
STREPHON. I know. My girl went off this morning. She hadnt slept for
weeks. And she found mathematics more interesting than me.
MARTELLUS. There is a prehistoric saying that has come down to us from a
famous woman teacher. She said: 'Leave women; and study mathematics.'
It is the only remaining fragment of a lost scripture called The
Confessions of St Augustin, the English Opium Eater. That primitive
savage must have been a great woman, to say a thing that still lives
after three hundred centuries. I too will leave women and study
mathematics, which I have neglected too long. Farewell, children, my old
playmates. I almost wish I could feel sentimental about parting from
you; but the cold truth is that you bore me. Do not be angry with me:
your turn will come. [_He passes away gravely into the grove_].
ARJILLAX. There goes a great spirit. What a sculptor he was! And now,
nothing! It is as if he had cut off his hands.
THE NEWLY BORN. Oh, will you all leave me as he has left you?
ECRASIA. Never. We have sworn it.
STREPHON. What is the use of swearing? She swore. He swore. You have
sworn. They have sworn.
ECRASIA. You speak like a grammar.
STREPHON. That is how one ought to speak, isnt it? We shall all be
THE NEWLY BORN. Do not talk like that. You are saddening us; and you are
chasing the light away. It is growing dark.
ACIS. Night is falling. The light will come back tomorrow.
THE NEWLY BORN. What is tomorrow?
ACIS. The day that never comes. [_He turns towards the temple_].
_All begin trooping into the temple._
THE NEWLY BORN [_holding Acis back_] That is no answer. What--
ARJILLAX. Silence. Little children should be seen and not heard.
THE NEWLY BORN [_putting out her tongue at him_]!
ECRASIA. Ungraceful. You must not do that.
THE NEWLY BORN. I will do what I like. But there is something the matter
with me. I want to lie down. I cannot keep my eyes open.
ECRASIA. You are falling asleep. You will wake up again.
THE NEWLY BORN [_drowsily_] What is sleep?
ACIS. Ask no questions; and you will be told no lies. [_He takes her by
the ear, and leads her firmly towards the temple_].
THE NEWLY BORN. Ai! oi! ai! Dont. I want to be carried. [_She reels into
the arms of Acts, who carries her into the temple_].
ECRASIA. Come, Arjillax: you at least are still an artist. I adore you.
ARJILLAX. Do you? Unfortunately for you, I am not still a child. I have
grown out of cuddling. I can only appreciate your figure. Does that
ECRASIA. At what distance?
ARJILLAX. Arm's length or more.
ECRASIA. Thank you: not for me. [_She turns away from him_].
ARJILLAX. Ha! ha! [_He strides off into the temple_].
ECRASIA [_calling to Strephon, who is on the threshold of the temple,
going in_] Strephon.
STREPHON. No. My heart is broken. [_He goes into the temple_].
ECRASIA. Must I pass the night alone? [_She looks round, seeking another
partner; but they have all gone_]. After all, I can imagine a lover
nobler than any of you. [_She goes into the temple_].
_It is now quite dark. A vague radiance appears near the temple and
shapes itself into the ghost of Adam._
A WOMAN'S VOICE [_in the grove_] Who is that?
ADAM. The ghost of Adam, the first father of mankind. Who are you?
THE VOICE. The ghost of Eve, the first mother of mankind.
ADAM. Come forth, wife; and shew yourself to me.
EVE [_appearing near the grove_] Here I am, husband. You are very old.
A VOICE [_in the hills_] Ha! ha! ha!
ADAM. Who laughs? Who dares laugh at Adam?
EVE. Who has the heart to laugh at Eve?
THE VOICE. The ghost of Cain, the first child, and the first murderer.
[_He appears between them; and as he does so there is a prolonged
hiss_]. Who dares hiss at Cain, the lord of death?
A VOICE. The ghost of the serpent, that lived before Adam and before
Eve, and taught them how to bring forth Cain. [_She becomes visible,
coiled in the trees_].
A VOICE. There is one that came before the serpent.
THE SERPENT. That is the voice of Lilith, in whom the father and mother
were one. Hail, Lilith!
_Lilith becomes visible between Cain and Adam._
LILITH. I suffered unspeakably; I tore myself asunder; I lost my life,
to make of my one flesh these twain, man and woman. And this is what has
come of it. What do you make of it, Adam, my son?
ADAM. I made the earth bring forth by my labor, and the woman bring
forth by my love. And this is what has come of it. What do you make of
it, Eve, my wife?
EVE. I nourished the egg in my body and fed it with my blood. And now
they let it fall as the birds did, and suffer not at all. What do you
make of it, Cain, my first-born?
CAIN. I invented killing and conquest and mastery and the winnowing out
of the weak by the strong. And now the strong have slain one another;
and the weak live for ever; and their deeds do nothing for the doer more
than for another. What do you make of it, snake?
THE SERPENT. I am justified. For I chose wisdom and the knowledge of
good and evil; and now there is no evil; and wisdom and good are one. It
is enough. [_She vanishes_].
CAIN. There is no place for me on earth any longer. You cannot deny
that mine was a splendid game while it lasted. But now! Out, out, brief
candle! [_He vanishes_].
EVE. The clever ones were always my favorites. The diggers and the
fighters have dug themselves in with the worms. My clever ones have
inherited the earth. All's well. [_She fades away_].
ADAM. I can make nothing of it, neither head nor tail. What is it all
for? Why? Whither? Whence? We were well enough in the garden. And now
the fools have killed all the animals; and they are dissatisfied because
they cannot be bothered with their bodies! Foolishness, I call it. [_He
LILITH. They have accepted the burden of eternal life. They have taken
the agony from birth; and their life does not fail them even in the hour
of their destruction. Their breasts are without milk: their bowels are
gone: the very shapes of them are only ornaments for their children to
admire and caress without understanding. Is this enough; or shall I
labor again? Shall I bring forth something that will sweep them away and
make an end of them as they have swept away the beasts of the garden,
and made an end of the crawling things and the flying things and of all
them that refuse to live for ever? I had patience with them for many
ages: they tried me very sorely. They did terrible things: they embraced
death, and said that eternal life was a fable. I stood amazed at the
malice and destructiveness of the things I had made: Mars blushed as he
looked down on the shame of his sister planet: cruelty and hypocrisy
became so hideous that the face of the earth was pitted with the graves
of little children among which living skeletons crawled in search of
horrible food. The pangs of another birth were already upon me when one
man repented and lived three hundred years; and I waited to see what
would come of that. And so much came of it that the horrors of that time
seem now but an evil dream. They have redeemed themselves from their
vileness, and turned away from their sins. Best of all, they are still
not satisfied: the impulse I gave them in that day when I sundered
myself in twain and launched Man and Woman on the earth still urges
them: after passing a million goals they press on to the goal of
redemption from the flesh, to the vortex freed from matter, to the
whirlpool in pure intelligence that, when the world began, was a
whirlpool in pure force. And though all that they have done seems
but the first hour of the infinite work of creation, yet I will not
supersede them until they have forded this last stream that lies between
flesh and spirit, and disentangled their life from the matter that has
always mocked it. I can wait: waiting and patience mean nothing to the
eternal. I gave the woman the greatest of gifts: curiosity. By that her
seed has been saved from my wrath; for I also am curious; and I have
waited always to see what they will do tomorrow. Let them feed that
appetite well for me. I say, let them dread, of all things, stagnation;
for from the moment I, Lilith, lose hope and faith in them, they are
doomed. In that hope and faith I have let them live for a moment; and in
that moment I have spared them many times. But mightier creatures than
they have killed hope and faith, and perished from the earth; and I may
not spare them for ever. I am Lilith: I brought life into the whirlpool
of force, and compelled my enemy, Matter, to obey a living soul. But in
enslaving Life's enemy I made him Life's master; for that is the end
of all slavery; and now I shall see the slave set free and the enemy
reconciled, the whirlpool become all life and no matter. And because
these infants that call themselves ancients are reaching out towards
that, I will have patience with them still; though I know well that
when they attain it they shall become one with me and supersede me, and
Lilith will be only a legend and a lay that has lost its meaning. Of
Life only is there no end; and though of its million starry mansions
many are empty and many still unbuilt, and though its vast domain is
as yet unbearably desert, my seed shall one day fill it and master
its matter to its uttermost confines. And for what may be beyond, the
eyesight of Lilith is too short. It is enough that there is a beyond.
Back to Full Books