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An essay by William Cowper Brann

Adam And Eve

Title:     Adam And Eve
Author: William Cowper Brann [More Titles by Brann]

After God had expended five days creating this little dog- kennel of a world, and one in manufacturing the remainder of the majestic universe out of a job-lot of political boom material, he "planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there he put the man he had formed." Adam was at that time a bachelor, therefore, his own boss. He was monarch of all he surveyed and his right there was none yet to dispute. He could stay out and play poker all night in perfect confidence that when he fell over the picket fence at 5 A.M. he would find no vinegar-faced old female nursing a curtain lecture to keep it warm, setting her tear-jugs in order and working up a choice assortment of snuffles. There were no lightning-rod agents to inveigle him into putting $100 worth of pot metal corkscrews on a $15 barn. He didn't care a rap about the "law of rent," nor who paid the "tariff tax," and no political Buzfuz bankrupted his patience trying to explain the silver problem. He didn't have to anchor his smokehouse to the center of gravity with a log chain, set a double-barreled bear trap in the donjon-keep of his hennery nor tie a brace of pessimistic bull-dogs in his melon patch, for the nigger preacher had not yet arrived with his adjustable morals and omnivorous mouth. No female committees of uncertain age invaded his place of business and buncoed him out of a double saw-buck for the benefit of a pastor who would expend it seeing what Parkhurst saw and feeling what Parkhurst felt. Collectors for dry-goods emporiums and millinery parlors did not haunt him like an accusing conscience, and the pestiferous candidate was still happily hidden in the womb of time with the picnic pismire and the partisan newspaper. Adam could express an honest opinion without colliding with the platform of his party or being persecuted by the professional heresy- hunters. He could shoot out the lights and yoop without getting into a controversy with the chicken-court and being fined one dollar for the benefit of the state and fleeced out of forty for the behoof of thieving officials. He had no collar-buttons to lose, no upper vest pockets to spill his pencils and his patience, and his breeches never bagged at the knees. There were no tailors to torment him with scraps of ancient history, no almond-eyed he-washer- woman to starch the tail of his Sunday shirt as stiff as a checkerboard.

Adam was more than 100 years old when he lost a rib and gained a wife. Genesis does not say so in exact words, but I can make nothing else of the argument. Our first parents received special instructions to "be fruitful and multiply." They were given distinctly to understand that was what they were here for. They were brimming with health and strength, for disease and death had not yet come into the world. Their blood was pure and thrilled with the passion that is the music of physical perfection--yet Adam was 130 years old when his third child was born. If Adam and Eve were of equal age a marriage in American "high life"--the mating of a scorbutic dude with a milliner's sign--could scarce make so poor a record. After the birth of Seth the first of men "begat sons and daughters"--seems to have become imbued with an ambition to found a family. As the first years of a marriage are usually the most fruitful, we may fairly conclude that our common mother was an old man's darling. Woman does not appear to have been included in the original plan of creation. She was altogether unnecessary, for if God could create one man out of the dust of the earth without her assistance he could make a million more--could keep on manufacturing them as long as his dust lasted. But multiplication of "masterpieces" was no part of the Creator's plan. Adam was to rule the earth even as Jehovah rules the heavens. As there is but one Lord of Heaven, there should be but one lord of earth--one only Man, who should live forever, the good genius of a globe created, not for a race of marauders and murderers but for that infinitely happier life which we denominate the lower animals. This beautiful world was not built for politicians and preachers, kings and cuckolds; but for the beasts and birds, the forests and the flowers, and over all of life, animate and inanimate, the earthly image of Almighty God was made the absolute but loving lord. The lion should serve him and the wild deer come at his call. The bald eagle, whose bold wings seem to fan the noonday sun to fiercer flame, should bend from the empyrean at his bidding, and the roc bear him over land and sea on its broad pinions. As his great Archetype rules the Cherubim and Seraphim, so should Man, a god in miniature, reign over the earth-born, the inhabitants of a lesser heaven. As no queen shares God's eternal throne, so none should divide the majesty of earth's diadem. There is neither marrying nor giving in marriage, we are told, among the angels. They rise above sex, into the realm of the purely spiritual, scorning the sensual joys that are the heritage of bird and beast, for intellectual pleasures that never pall; and why should Man, the especial object of God's providence, be grosser than his ministers?

Were I a poet I would ask no grander theme than Adam's first century upon the earth--that age of gold when Man was sufficient unto himself. A century undisputed master of the world! A century of familiar converse in Eden's consecrated groves with the great First Cause--the omnipresent and omnipotent God. Picture one day of such existence! Ambition and Avarice, Jealousy and Passion, those demons that have deluged the world with blood and tears, have no place in Adam's peaceful bosom. He is not in the Grove of Daphne, where lust is law, but in the Garden of God where love is life. His subjects, not dumb as now, or speaking a language strange to our dull ears, greet him as he comes forth at break of day from his aromatic bower. A thousand feathered songsters drown his soul in melody divine, while every bud and blossom, a living censer, sways in the balmy breath of morn and pours forth its grateful perfume. The forest monarch lays his massy head on Adam's knee, the spotted leopard purrs about him and the fawn nestles between his feet. High above the Caucasian peaks a condor poises motionless in mid-heaven, the unrisen sun gilding him as with beaten gold. Now the sawlike summits, cloud-kissing and crowned with eternal snow, burst into the brilliant sea and gleam like the brow of God, while the purple mists are drawn up from the deep valleys as though the giants fain would hide from earth their splendors, reserving them alone for Heaven. Higher and higher wheels the great sun, driving the river mist before it and sending down through the softly whispering foliage a thousand shafts of burnished gold that seek out the violet, drain the nectareous dewdrop from its chalice and kiss the grape until its youthful sap changes to empurpled blood beneath the passionate caress. In the cool shadows by the great spring--a magic mirror in whose pellucid depths are reflected heaven's imperial concave and Eden's virgin splendors--God walks familiar with Adam as with a younger brother, explains to him the use and beauty of all that is, and spreads before his wondering eyes Creation's mighty plan.

And yet God suspects that Adam is not content, for we hear him soliloquizing: "It is not good that the man should be alone." The clay of which the first of men is formed is beginning to assert itself. He watches the panther fondling his playful cubs, the eagle's solicitude for his imperial brood perched on the beetling crag, and the paternal instinct awakes within him. He hears the mocking- bird trilling to his mate, the dove pitying the loneliness of Creation's mystic lord, and a fierce longing for a companionship dearer than he has yet known takes possession of him. To the swarming life about him his high thoughts are incomprehensible; in God's presence his soul swoons beneath an intellectual glory to which he cannot rise, encumbered as he is by earthly clay. He sends his swift-winged messenger forth to summon before his throne every fowl of the air and every beast of the field. Down through the gates of the garden they come, countless thousands, and pass before their king. "But for Adam there was not found a helpmeet for him." Sick at heart he turns away. The sunset has lost its glory, the spheres their music, life its sweetness. The beams of the moon chill his blood and Arcturus leads forth his shining sons but to mock his barrenness. The flowers that wreathe his couch stifle him with their sensuous perfume and he flies from the nightingale's passionate song as the slave flees the scourge. Through the dark paths and over the moss-grown bowlders he stumbles on, across the fields where the fireflies glow like showers of flame, beneath the tall cedars whose every sigh seems drawn from the depths of an accepted lover's soul. Exhausted, he sinks down where the waters burst from the foundations of the earth and, dividing into four, seem to reiterate in ceaseless monotone, "Behold my mighty sons." A feeling of utter loneliness, of hopeless desolation falls upon him, such as hammers at the heart when Death has despoiled us of all that Life held dear. He pillows his head upon the sleeping lion and shields himself from the sharp night air with the tawny mane. A cub, already hunting in dreams, comes whining and nestles down over his heart, while Love's brilliant star pours its splendors full upon his face. The long black lashes, burdened with unshed tears, drop low, a drowsiness falls upon him and Adam sleeps. The heavens are rolled together like a scroll and God descends in the midst of a legion of Angels, brightest of whom is Lucifer, Son of the Morning, not yet forever fallen. "It is not good that the man should be alone." The fitful slumber deepens; the winds are hushed; the song of the nightingale sinks lower and lower, then ceases with an awe-struck sigh; the lynx and the jackal, the horned owl and the scaly serpent slink away into the deepest wood, while Love's emblem glows like a globe of molten gold. Then comes a burst of melody divine, beneath which the earth trembles like a young maid's heart when, half in ecstasy, half in fear, she first feels burning upon her own the bearded lips of her life's dear lord. It is the Morning Stars singing together! There is a perfumed air on Adam's cheek, sweeter than ever swooned in the rose garden of Cashmere or the jasmine bowers of Araby the Blest; there is a touch upon his forehead softer than the white dove's fluttering bosom; there is a voice in his ear more musical than Israfil's marshaling the Faithful in fields of asphodel, crying, "Awake, my lord!" and the first of men is looking with enraptured soul upon the last, best work of an all-wise God, a beautiful woman.

[The end]
William Cowper Brann's essay: Adam And Eve