Lilith. The Legend Of The First Woman. Book I.

A poem by Ada Langworthy Collier

Pure as an angel's dream shone Paradise.
Blue mountains hemmed it round; and airy sighs
Of rippling waters haunted it. Dim glades,
And wayward paths o'erflecked with shimmering shades,
And tangled dells, and wilding pleasances,
Hung moist with odors strange from scented trees.
Sweet sounds o'erbrimmed the place; and rare perfumes,
Faint as far sunshine, fell 'mong verdant glooms.
In that fair land, all hues, all leafage green
Wrapt flawless days in endless summer-sheen.
Bright eyes, the violet waking, lifted up
Where bent the lily her deep, fragrant cup;
And folded buds, 'gainst many a leafy spray--
The wild-woods' voiceless nuns--knelt down to pray.
There roses, deep in greenest mosses swathed,
Kept happy tryst with tropic blooms, sun-bathed.
No sounds of sadness surged through listening trees:
The waters babbled low; the errant bees
Made answer, murmurous; nor paled the hue
The jonquils wore; nor chill the wild breath grew
Of daisies clustered white in dewy croft;
Nor fell the tasseled plumes as satin soft
Upon the broad-leaved corn. Sweet all the day
O'erflowed with music every woodland way;
And sweet the jargonings of nested bird,
When light the listless wind the forest stirred.
Straight as the shaft that 'gainst the morning sun
The slender palm uprears, the Fairest one--
The first of womankind--sweet Lilith--stood,
A gracious shape that glorified the wood.
About her rounded shoulders warm and bare,
Like netted sunshine fell her lustrous hair;
The rosy flush of young pomegranate bells
Dawned on her cheeks; and blue as in lone dells
Sleep the Forget-me-nots, her eyes. With bent
Brows, sullen-creased, swart Adam gazed intent
Upon a leopard, crouched low in its place
Beneath his feet. Not once in Lilith's face
He looked, nor sought her wistful, downcast eyes
With shifting shadows dusk, and strange surprise.
"O, Love," she said, "no more let us contend!
So sweet is life, anger, methinks, should end.
In this, our garden bright, why dost thou claim
Ever the highest place, the noblest name?
Freely to both our Lord gave self-same sway
O'er living things. Love, thou art gone astray!
Twin-born, of equal stature, kindred soul
Are we; like dowed with strength. Yon stars that roll
Their course above, down-looking on my face,
See yours as fair; in neither aught that's base.
Thy wife, not handmaid I, yet thou dost say,
'I first in Eden rule.' Thou, then, hast sway.
Must I, my Adam, mutely follow thee?
Run at thy bidding, crouch beside thy knee?
Lift up (when thou dost bid me) timid eyes?
Not so will Lilith dwell in Paradise."
"Mine own," Adam made answer soft, "'twere best
Thou didst forget such ills in noontide rest.
Content I wake, the keeper of the place.
Of equal stature? Yea! Of self-same grace?
Nay, Love; recall those lately vanished eves,
When we together plucked the plantain leaves;
Yon leopard lowly stretched at my command
Its lazy length beneath my soothing hand.
At thee she snarled, disdaining half, to sheathe
'Neath thy soft pleading eyes her milk-white teeth.
Oft, Love, in other times, in sheltered nook,
We scattered pearly millet by the brook.
Lo thine lay barren in the sand. Quick mine
Upspringing sifts o'er pale blooms odors fine:
Hateful thy chidings grow; each breeze doth bring
Ever thy plaints--thy fretful murmuring.
These many days I weary of thy sighs;
Know, Lilith, I alone rule Paradise."
Thereat he rose, and quick at every stride
The fawning leopard gambolled at his side.
So fell the first dark shadow of Earth's strife.
With coming evil all the winds were rife.
Lone lay the land with sense of dull loss paled.
The days grew sick at heart; the sunshine failed;
And falling waters breathed in silvery moan
A hidden ail to starlit dells alone--
As sometimes you have seen, 'neath household eaves,
'Mong scents of Springtime, in the budded leaves,
The swallows circling blithe, with slant brown wing,
Home-flying fleet, with tender chattering,
And all the place o'errun with nested love--
So have you come, when leaves hung crisp above
The silent door. Yet not again, I ween,
Those shining wings, cleaving the air, have seen
Nor heard the gladsome swallows twittering there--
Only the empty nests, low-hung and bare,
Spake of the scattered brood.--So lonely were
To Lilith grown her once loved haunts. Nor fair
The starlit nights, slow-dropping fragrant dew,
Nor the dim groves when dawn came shifting through.
Far 'mong the hills the wood-doves' moan she heard,
Or in some nearer copse, a startled bird;
Or the white moonshine 'mong green boughs o'erhead
Wrought her full heart to tears. "Sweet peace," she said,
"Alas--lies slain!"
With musing worn, she brake
At last her silence, and to Adam spake:
"Beyond these walls I know not what may be--
Islands low-fringed, or bare; or tranquil sea,
Spaces unpeopled, wastes of burning sands,
Green-wooded belts, enclasping summer lands,
Or realms of dusky pines, or wolds of snow,
Or jagged ice-peaks wrapt in purple glow,
Or shadowy oceans lapped in fadeless sheen--
Yet there were Paradise, were Lilith queen.
To dally with my lord I was not meant;
To soothe his idle whims, above him bent,
Warm in my milk-white arms, lull his repose,
Nor deep in subtle kisses drown his woes.
Wherefore, since here no more dwells love, I fly
To seek my home in other lands. For why
Should Lilith wait since Adam's empty state
More dear he holds than Lilith desolate?"
But answer soft made Adam at the word,
For faint his dying love, yet coldly stirred
Its ashen cerements: "Nay, love, our home
Within these garden walls lies safe. Wouldst roam
Without? Sweet peace, by loss, wilt thou restore
One little loss, or miss it evermore?"
"In goodly Eden, Adam, safely bide,
But I, for peace, nor love, nor life," she cried,
"Submit to thee. Unto our Lord I own
Allegiance true; my homage his alone.
Oft have I watched the mists athwart yon peaks,
Pursuing oft past coves and winding creeks,
Have thought to touch their shining veil outspread,
In happy days ere Love, alas, was dead;
So now, farewell! Ere the new day shall break
Adown their gleaming track, my way I take."
She turned; but ere the gate that looked without
She reached, one fleeting moment paused in doubt
Upon a river's brink. In one swift glance
All coming time she saw. A weird romance
Wherein she traced great peoples yet unborn,
New springing cycles, strange lands cleft with tarn
Or pleasant vale, and green plains stretching far,
And quiet bays, and many a shingly bar,
And troubled seas, with bitter perils past,
And elfin shapes that jeering flitted fast
With scornful faces, leering lips that smiled,
Or bursts of laughter through that vision wild.
Uncertain, then, she stood, half loth to turn.
"Against yon deepening sky, how dimly burn
The stars, new-lit. Dear home, thou art so fair!"
She fondly sighed.
Then sudden she was 'ware
The angel near her paused, whose watchful care
Guards Eden's peaceful bounds. Serene, his air
So tender-sweet, so pure the gentle face,
She scarce dared look upon its subtle grace.
Sad were his eyes; his words, rebuking, fell
Soft as the moonshine clear, in sleeping dell.
"My sister, go not hence, lest these gates bar
Lilith forever out. From peace afar,
Anger and pride shall lead through distant ways
Thy feet reluctant, in the evil days.
All is decreed. At yonder southern gate
Behold! waits even now my princely mate.
Thou can'st not tell which hath in our far land
The highest place. Nay; nor, indeed, whose hand
Hath grasped the noblest fame; nor yet divine
Whose brows enwound with honor, brightest shine.
In pleasant labor lurks no thought of pain;
The greatest loss oft brings the noblest gain;
The heart's warm pulse feels not one throb of strife,
And Love is holiest crown of human life.
Ere thou didst sleep, beyond the rim of night
I heard a voice that sang. The carol light,
Scarce earth-born seemed. So sweet the matchless strain,
Its cadence weird, lowly to breathe again,
Wrapt echo, listening, half forgot; and o'er
And o'er, as joyous birds unprisoned soar,
The free notes rose. And in the silence wide,
Across the seas, across the night, I cried:
O sinless soul, whose clear voice blithely rings
'Gainst the blue verge of stars! 'Tis Lilith sings
The happy song of love. O Love! the tint
Of light divine thou wearest. Thou hast no hint
Of storm or turmoil, or of Sin's rough ways,
Whose feet to heaven climb, through darkest maze.
Ah, Lilith, sure the love that basely weighs,
That stoops to count its gifts, and hoarding, says,
'Such and so many, these indeed are mine;
I hold my treasure dear, nor covet thine;'
This is not love; 'tis Thrift in borrowed dress,
Deceiving thee. Love giveth free largess
With open hand, clean as the whitest day;
Yea, that it gave, forgetteth it straightway.
Beyond these walls dwells bliss that lives not here?
When thou hast bartered peace, outshining clear
And storm-tossed wide, art wildly driven hence,
The outer world gives thee no recompense.
Each shining sphere that trembles in blue space
Hath orbit true--its own familiar place.
Nor doth the planet pale that gems the night
Reel wanton down, the smallest star to smite.
No twining vine, tendril, or springing shoot
Ere taught thee so; for bud and leaf and root
Doth its best self lift upward into light,
Yet climbing still, scorns not the sacred right
That shrines its fellow.
"So pattering rains
The dark roots drink--and healthful juice slow drains
Deep 'neath the mould; and with their secret toil
Bear stainless, leaf and flow'r above the soil.
Noblest the soul that self hath most forgot;
Strongest the self which hath most humbly wrought;
Purest the soul that in full light serene,
Unquestioning, enwrapt, God's field doth glean.
I have seen worlds far hence; thy tender feet
Bleeding, will tread their stony ways. And sweet
Is love. And wedded love, grown cold and rude,
More bitter-seeming makes dull solitude.
Security is sweet; and light and warm
The young heart beats, close shut from every harm."
"Yet," Lilith answered slow, "in that still night
Ere He, the garden's Lord, passed from our sight,
Hast thou forgot his words? 'Lo this fair spot
Made for your pleasance; see ye mar it not,
Oh, twin-born pair! So richly dight with grace
Of soul and stature; unto whom the place
I give. Together rule. Bear equal sway
O'er all that live herein.' Hath Lilith sought
A solitary reign? Hath she in aught
Offended? Nay; 'tis Adam who doth break
The compact. Therefore, unhindered let me take
My way far hence. I shall not vex his soul
With fretful plaints, where unknown stars shall roll,
Far, far away," she sighed.
"Yet ere these bounds
Thy feet pass, linger. Lilith, list glad sounds
That greet thine ear. Slow cycles will pass on
And in the time-to-be-bright years, grow wan;
Old planets fade, new stars shall dimly burn,
But not to Eden's peace shalt thou return.
Oft from thy yearning heart glad hope shall fail.
Thy fruit of life lift bloom all sere and pale.
Certain, small comfort bides, when joy is gone,
In Great or Less. Grim Sorrow waits to lead thee on.
Sorrow! Thou hast not seen her pallid face.
In thy most troubled dream she had no place"--
"Nay, I depart," she said, with lips grown chill.
"Fearless and free, exiled, but princess still."
"I may not hinder thee," the Angel sighed;
"No soul unwilling here may ever bide."
Slow swung the verdant gates neath saddest eyes.
Lilith forever lost fair Paradise.

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