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CAIN

 ("Lorsque avec ses enfants Cain se fût enfui.") 
 
 {Bk. II} 


 Then, with his children, clothed in skins of brutes, 
 Dishevelled, livid, rushing through the storm, 
 Cain fled before Jehovah. As night fell 
 The dark man reached a mount in a great plain, 
 And his tired wife and his sons, out of breath, 
 Said: "Let us lie down on the earth and sleep." 
 Cain, sleeping not, dreamed at the mountain foot. 
 Raising his head, in that funereal heaven 
 He saw an eye, a great eye, in the night 
 Open, and staring at him in the gloom. 
 "I am too near," he said, and tremblingly woke up 
 His sleeping sons again, and his tired wife, 
 And fled through space and darkness. Thirty days 
 He went, and thirty nights, nor looked behind; 
 Pale, silent, watchful, shaking at each sound; 
 No rest, no sleep, till he attained the strand 
 Where the sea washes that which since was Asshur. 
 "Here pause," he said, "for this place is secure; 
 Here may we rest, for this is the world's end." 
 And he sat down; when, lo! in the sad sky, 
 The selfsame Eye on the horizon's verge, 
 And the wretch shook as in an ague fit. 
 "Hide me!" he cried; and all his watchful sons, 
 Their finger on their lip, stared at their sire. 
 Cain said to Jabal (father of them that dwell 
 In tents): "Spread here the curtain of thy tent," 
 And they spread wide the floating canvas roof, 
 And made it fast and fixed it down with lead. 
 "You see naught now," said Zillah then, fair child 
 The daughter of his eldest, sweet as day. 
 But Cain replied, "That Eye—I see it still." 
 And Jubal cried (the father of all those 
 That handle harp and organ): "I will build 
 A sanctuary;" and he made a wall of bronze, 
 And set his sire behind it. But Cain moaned, 
 "That Eye is glaring at me ever." Henoch cried: 
 "Then must we make a circle vast of towers, 
 So terrible that nothing dare draw near; 
 Build we a city with a citadel; 
 Build we a city high and close it fast." 
 Then Tubal Cain (instructor of all them 
 That work in brass and iron) built a tower— 
 Enormous, superhuman. While he wrought, 
 His fiery brothers from the plain around 
 Hunted the sons of Enoch and of Seth; 
 They plucked the eyes out of whoever passed, 
 And hurled at even arrows to the stars. 
 They set strong granite for the canvas wall, 
 And every block was clamped with iron chains. 
 It seemed a city made for hell. Its towers, 
 With their huge masses made night in the land. 
 The walls were thick as mountains. On the door 
 They graved: "Let not God enter here." This done, 
 And having finished to cement and build 
 In a stone tower, they set him in the midst. 
 To him, still dark and haggard, "Oh, my sire, 
 Is the Eye gone?" quoth Zillah tremblingly. 
 But Cain replied: "Nay, it is even there." 
 Then added: "I will live beneath the earth, 
 As a lone man within his sepulchre. 
 I will see nothing; will be seen of none." 
 They digged a trench, and Cain said: "'Tis enow," 
 As he went down alone into the vault; 
 But when he sat, so ghost-like, in his chair, 
 And they had closed the dungeon o'er his head, 
 The Eye was in the tomb and fixed on Cain. 
 
 Dublin University Magazine 


 





Poem by Victor Hugo
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