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THE FIRST MURDER; OR, THE REJECTION OP THE OFFERING.
A Sacred Drama. We are almost afraid to touch this of maternal anxiety in the partiality of dreadful performance. We approach our grand ancestress; for it would it with diffidence, and awe,
and appre seem that from his birth Cain had hension. We feel our inability to do been a wayward and untractable child, justice to the work, and tremble at the subject to violent passions, and a conaudacious spirit in which the subject tinual object of care and sorrow. Eve has been conceived; while the bold- in consequence, actuated by a fond ness, we might be justified to say, the and affectionate solicitude, had endeablasphemous intrepidity, of the exe voured to appease and subdue his vincution, strikes us with amazement and dictive dispositions. Abel, on the confear.
trary, was distinguished by his mild and The subject is the greatest that modest demeanour, and his meekness could be chosen-THE FIRST MUR- and piety were the delight and solace DER; - and the dramatic characters of his father, whose reflections, embitare the sublimest that religion and tered by the recollection of his own poetry have hallowed to the piety and eternal forfeiture, were ever painfully affections of mankind. They consist not awakened by the woeful evidences of only of Adam and his family, but also the effects of his sin, in the malevo
of the brightest members of the hierar- lence of Cain, and the debates and :chy of heaven, and the darkest demons quarrels which the fierce and turbu
in the abysses of perdition. The holiest lent character of “ the first-born heir enthusiasm is contrasted with the fier- of misery” was constantly producing. cest rage; and the kindliest feelings To allay the controversy which agiopposed to the cruellest workings of tated his family, Adam had proposed hatred and envy. But human nature a solemn appeal to Heaven, and for is represented as having not yet lost all this purpose instructed his sons to its original brightness, and as still re- raise iwo altars ; on the one Cain was taining something of the odours and directed to offer the firstling of his fragrance of paradise. The immediate flock, and on the other Abel the first communion with the angels is not en- sheaf of his harvest : the acceptance tirely interrupted; but a tremendous of the offering was to determine which intercourse seems to have commen- should inherit the sacerdotal office. ced with outcast spirits, and glimpses The drama opens with the guardian are here and there opened into vistas angels of Cain and Abel conversing of sin and horror, which the mysteri- together on the top of a mountain beous author unfolds for a moment; and fore the dawn of day. From their colthen with a shuddering and hurried loquy we learn the existence of the dishand, as if appalled at his own daring, putes in the family of Adam, who, with closes and quits as things too terrible his children, are then represented as for contemplation.
assembled on the plain below to abide According to the view he has taken of the issue of the sacrifice. We also learn the subject, some controversy, it would that to each of the human race a ceappear, had arisen between Cain and lestial guardian has been appointed Abel, as to which of them should suc- since the fall; but that, for purposes ceed their father in the service of the al which even the seraphim cannot comtar,and the daily sacrifice,--Cain insist- prehend, fiends and demons stronger ing, as the first-born, to inherit the than the guardians of men, are still priestly spremacy as his birth-right, permitted to be abroad, and that the Abel contending
that the appointment angel of Cain, in the course of the night, or ordination belonged to his father, while watching over his charge as he and to which he and all his brethren lay asleep, had been troubled with a were alike eligible. Eve, in this first strange sense of danger at the sight of polemical contest, had taken the part one of these tremendous adversaries of Cain ; Adam, that of Abel, but hovering in the mid-air, and seemingthere is less of religious interest, than ly intent to set him at defiance.
" Thrice he moved past me, Towering magnificent:--His form was as
Darkness with horror sullenly wrapt up.
And scowl'd his hatred. Troubled with strange awe, So I shunn'd the red beam of his burning eye, Dal 1 The ominous third time that he rush'd along, Miro He lower'd towards me in triumphant scorn - 10 And pride of evil mastery.” While they are thus speaking, the are introduced into the dialogues bemorning begins to brighten in the tween the spiritual beings, yet it is east, and the effect of the increasing not till we are brought to take a light is described, in which the sha- part with the creatures of our own dows of earthly things are compared nature, that the author puts forth to the dark spirits that are constantly his strength. There is, however, in malignant attendance on the chile something impressive in the compasdren of men, The calm and contem- sion with which the angels speak of plative reflections which the first ef- the ineffectual prayers and offerings fects of the light had awakened, are of man. It is wonderful indeed that however abruptly interrupted by the we should have been encouraged to angel of Cain discovering the same hope, that the supplications of a creadreadful being approaching in the dim ture so ignorant, weak, and vain, of twilight to the place where the could affect the eternal purposes of ancestors of mankind are assembled Almighty Wisdom ! to celebrate their religious rites. But The second scene opens with the although several striking descriptions following hymn by Adam :
“O Thou, who, through the infinite abyss
Shouted with joy to see their flight begin.” Adam is rudely disturbed in his ado- of religion. But in a moment the fit ration by Cain, who reminds him that of anger passes, and full of remorse the customary daily worship was to be and grief for the woes he has entailed suspended until the controversy be on the world, prophetically deplores tween himself and Abel had been de the miseries that must ensue when cided. “ The father,” as he is em- priests, actuated by the sordid mophatically called, justly indignant, re tives of ambition and self-aggrandizebukes Cain, and angrily tells him that ment, shall forget the solemn essentihe mistakes the forms for the essence alities of their office
“When the proud man, dilating at the altar,
Shall make himself be worshipp'd." 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
Of spring and blossom, innocence and joy.” 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
Give it up:
Adam. That must not be the forfeiture incurr’d-
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
Has made him fittest to perform the part.” Cain, however, spurns the suggestion, The scene, after the chorus, is again and resolute to assert his claim,“ drags changed, and the angel of Abel, who with impatient hands,” the lamb des- remains contemplative and serene on tined for his sacrifice to the altar. Se the brow of the mountain, is addressveral of the younger children of Adam ed by one of the winged ministers of and Eve are witnesses to this trans- Heaven, who had been commissioned action, and in a chorus of great sweet- to the guardian of the world, of whom ness and simplicity, they mourn for this spirit gives the following descripthe lamb hurried so cruelly to the tion:slaughter.
“ 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,
Open and all disclosed.”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
of heaven's great centinel, and sought
Is ever temper'd for new tasks of woe.' 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.
“ In the dread hour when that last fire begins,
The attentiou of the angel of Abel sight of which, Cain wildly rushes is arrested by a struggle in the skies, from the spot, while his brethren, with between the guardian of Cain and that anthems of thankfulness, salute their terrible demon, which had so fearfully brother Abel as the acknowleged priest alarmed him in the course of the pre- of Jehovah. ceding night, and a sublime impres The second act opens with an apsion is produced by an incidental al- palling communion between the anlusion to the state of unconscious gels of the two brothers, in which the danger in which Cain appears, while guardian of Cain sorrowing confesses the dreadful conflict for his soul is that he had been mastered by the maintained between the fiend and the demon, and forced to abandon his seraph. Before the struggle is how. charge, is returning to receive, if ever terminated, the angel of Abel is Providence so pleases, a renewal and drawn from his station on the moun, augmentation of strength in heaven. tain, by the appearance of an innume- The sorrow of the angel is calm and rable multitude of evil spirits throng- solemn, and his apprehension at what ing in from all sides, towards the may befal Cain, exposed, in the “unplace where the mortals are assembled guarded hour," to the temptations of round the altars, and he hastens to the fiend, and prone to evil, by the the protection of his charge. The consequences of Adam's forfeiture, is seene is then again changed, and the affectingly implied in the silence and worshippers are introduced. Adam dejection with which he parts from and Eve are represented as standing his companion, and ascends to heaven, by themselves apart from their family; foreboding that he is never to be again and from what passes between them permitted to return. we learn that Abel is kneeling with The second scene exhibits Cain his face to the ground before his altar, wandering solitary in a wild and rughumbly and resigned, awaiting the ged upland country, where the trees manifestation of the will of Heaven; are stunted in their growth, broken by while Cain is standing with the sacri- the tempest, and blasted by the light ficial instrument dropping the blood ning. He throws himself on the ledge of the victim in his left hand, and of a precipice which overlooks the shading his eyes with his right, as he plain, where the altar of Abel is still arrogantly looks towards the sun, in seen smoking, and abandons himself expeetation of the coming fire. In to the implacable feelings of a degrathis awful moment a solemn sound is ded spirit ; in the midst of which, heard; a glorious splendour fills all however, occasional gleams of hope the air, and a cherub with wings of and piety sparkle out, and shew the flame descends upon the altar of Abel, war between the good and evil of his and with his touch kindles and con- nature, which so agitates his bosom. sumes the accepted offering; at the
"Yes: he may serve their altars. What of that?