The New Adam and
Eve by Nathaniel Hawthorne
We, who are born into the world's artificial system, can never
adequately know how little in our present state and circumstances is
natural, and how much is merely the interpolation of the perverted mind
and heart of man. Art has become a second and stronger Nature; she is a
step-mother, whose crafty tenderness has taught us to despise the
bountiful and wholesome ministrations of our true parent. It is only
through the medium of the imagination that we can lessen those iron
fetters, which we call truth and reality, and make ourselves even
partially sensible what prisoners we are. For instance, let us conceive
good Father Miller's interpretation of the prophecies to have proved
true. The Day of Doom has burst upon the globe, and swept away the
whole rece of men. From cities and fields, sea-shore, and mid-land
mountain region, vast continents, and even the remotest islands of the
ocean—each living thing is gone. No breath of a created being
disturbs this earthly atmosphere. But the abodes of man, and all that
he has accomplished, the foot-prints of his wanderings, and the results
of his toil, the visible symbols of his intellectual cultivation, and
moral progress—in short, everything physical that can give evidence
of his present position—shall remain untouched by the hand of
destiny. Then, to inherit and repeople this waste and deserted earth,
we will suppose a new Adam and a new Eve to have been created, in the
full development of mind and heart, but with no knowledge of their
predecessors, nor of the diseased circumstances that had become
encrusted around them. Such a pair would at once distinguish between
art and nature. Their instincts and intuitions would immediately
recognize the wisdom and simplicity of the latter, while the former,
with its elaborate perversities, would offer them a continual
succession of puzzles.
Let us attempt, in a mood half-sportive and half-thoughtful, to
track these imaginary heirs of our mortality through their first day's
experience. No longer ago than yesterday, the flame of human life was
extinguished; there has been a breathless night; and now another morn
approaches, expecting to find the earth no less desolate than at
It is dawn. The east puts on its immemorial blush, although no human
eye is gazing at it; for all the phenomena of the natural world renew
themselves, in spite of the solitude that now broods around the globe.
There is still beauty of earth, sea, and sky, for beauty's sake. But
soon there are to be spectators. Just when the earliest sunshine gilds
earth's mountain tops, two beings have come into life, not in such an
Eden as bloomed to welcome our first parents, but in the heart of a
modern city. They find themselves in existence, and gazing into one
another's eyes. Their emotion is not astonishment; nor do they perplex
themselves with efforts to discover what, and whence, and why they are.
Each is satisfied to be, because the other exists likewise; and their
first consciousness is of calm and mutual enjoyment, which seems not to
have been the birth of that very moment, but prolonged from a past
eternity. Thus content with an inner sphere which they inhabit
together, it is not immediately that the outward world can obtrude
itself upon their notice.
Soon, however, they feel the invincible necessity of this earthly
life, and begin to make acquaintance with the objects and
circumstances that surround them. Perhaps no other stride so vast
remains to be taken, as when they first turn from the reality of their
mutual glance, to the dreams and shadows that perplex them everywhere
"Sweetest Eve, where are we?" exclaims the new Adam,— for speech,
or some equivalent mode of expression, is born with them, and comes
just as natural as breath;—"Methinks I do not recognize this place."
"Nor I, dear Adam," replies the new Eve. "And what a strange place
too! Let me come closer to thy side, and behold thee only; for all
other sights trouble and perplex my spirit."
"Nay, Eve," replies Adam, who appears to have the stronger tendency
towards the material world; "it were well that we gain some insight
into these matters. We are in an odd situation here! Let us look about
Assuredly, there are sights enough to throw the new inheritors of
earth into a state of hopeless perplexity. The long lines of edifices,
their windows glittering in the yellow sunrise, and the narrow street
between, with its barren pavement, tracked and battered by wheels that
have now rattled into an irrevocable past! The signs, with their
unintelligible hieroglyphics! The squareness and ugliness, and regular
or irregular deformity, of everything that meets the eye! The marks of
wear and tear, and unrenewed decay, which distinguish the works of man
from the growth of nature! What is there in all this, capable of the
slightest significance to minds that know nothing of the artificial
system which is implied in every lamp-post and each brick of the
houses? Moreover, the utter loneliness and silence, in a scene that
originally grew out of noise and bustle, must needs impress a feeling
of desolation even upon Adam and Eve, unsuspicious as they are of the
recent extinction of human existence. In a forest, solitude would be
life; in the city, it is death.
The new Eve looks round with a sensation of doubt and distrust, such
as a city dame, the daughter of numberless generations of citizens,
might experience, if suddenly transported to the garden of Eden. At
length, her downcast eye discovers a small tuft of grass, just
beginning to sprout among the stones of the pavement; she eagerly
grasps it, and is sensible that this little herb awakens some response
within her heart. Nature finds nothing else to offer her. Adam, after
staring up and down the street, without detecting a single object that
his comprehension can lay hold of, finally turns his forehead to the
sky. There, indeed, is something which the soul within him recognizes.
"Look up yonder, mine own Eve!" he cries; "surely we ought to dwell
among those gold-tinged clouds, or in the blue depths beyond them. I
know not how nor when, but evidently we have strayed away from our
home; for I see nothing hereabouts that seems to belong to us."
"Can we not ascend thither?" inquires Eve.
"Why not?" answers Adam, hopefully. "But no! Something drags us down
in spite of our best efforts. Perchance we may find a path hereafter."
In the energy of new life, it appears no such impracticable feat to
climb into the sky! But they have already received a woful lesson,
which may finally go far towards reducing them to the level of the
departed race, when they acknowledge the necessity of keeping the
beaten track of earth. They now set forth on a ramble through the city,
in the hope of making their escape from this uncongenial sphere.
Already, in the fresh elasticity of their spirits they have found the
idea of weariness. We will watch them as they enter some of the shops,
and public or private edifices; for every door, whether of alderman or
beggar, church or hall of state, has been flung wide open by the same
agency that swept away the inmates.
It so happens—and not unluckily for an Adam and Eve who are still
in the costume that might better have befitted Eden—it so happens,
that their first visit is to a fashionable dry-good store. No courteous
and importunate attendants hasten to receive their orders; no throng of
ladies are tossing over the rich Parisian fabrics. All is deserted;
trade is at a stand-still; and not even an echo of the national
watchword—"Go ahead!"—disturbs the quiet of the new customers. But
specimens of the latest earthly fashions, silks of every shade, and
whatever is most delicate or splendid for the decoration of the human
form, lie scattered around, profusely as bright autumnal leaves in a
forest. Adam looks at a few of the articles, but throws them carelessly
aside, with whatever exclamation may correspond to "Pish!" or "Pshaw!"
in the new vocabulary of nature. Eve, however,— be it said without
offence to her native modesty,—examines these treasures of her sex
with somewhat livelier interest. A pair of corsets chance to lie upon
the counter; she inspects them curiously, but knows not what to make of
them. Then she handles a fashionable silk with dim yearnings—thoughts
that wander hither and thither—instincts groping in the dark.
"On the whole, I do not like it," she observes, laying the glossy
fabric upon the counter. "But, Adam, it is very strange! What can these
things mean? Surely I ought to know—yet they put me in a perfect
"Pooh! my dear Eve, why trouble thy little head about such
nonsense?" cries Adam, in a fit of impatience. "Let us go somewhere
else. But stay! How very beautiful! My loveliest Eve, what a charm you
have imparted to that robe, by merely throwing it over your shoulders!"
For Eve, with the taste that nature moulded into her composition,
has taken a remnant of exquisite silver gauze and drawn it around her
form, with an effect that gives Adam his first idea of the witchery of
dress. He beholds his spouse in a new light and with renewed
admiration, yet is hardly reconciled to any other attire than her own
golden locks. However, emulating Eve's example, he makes free with a
mantle of blue velvet, and puts it on so picturesquely, that it might
seem to have fallen from Heaven upon his stately figure. Thus garbed,
they go in search of new discoveries.
They next wander into a Church, not to make a display of their fine
clothes, but attracted by its spire, pointing upwards to the sky,
whither they have already yearned to climb. As they enter the portal, a
clock, which it was the last earthly act of the sexton to wind up,
repeats the hour in deep and reverberating tones; for Time has survived
his former progeny, and, with the iron tongue that man gave him, is now
speaking to his two grandchildren. They listen, but understand him not.
Nature would measure time by the succession of thoughts and acts which
constitute real life, and not by hours of emptiness. They pass up the
church aisle, and raise their eyes to the ceiling. Had our Adam and Eve
become mortal in some European city, and strayed into the vastness and
sublimity of an old cathedral, they might have recognized the purpose
for which the deep-souled founders reared it. Like the dim awfulness of
an ancient forest, its very atmosphere would have incited them to
prayer. Within the snug walls of a metropolitan church there can be no
Yet some odor of religion is still lingering here, the bequest of
pious souls, who had grace to enjoy a foretaste of immortal life.
Perchance, they breathe a prophecy of a better world to their
successors, who have become obnoxious to all their own cares and
calamities in the present one.
"Eve, something impels me to look upward," says Adam. "But it
troubles me to see this roof between us and the sky. Let us go forth,
and perhaps we shall discern a Great Face looking down upon us."
"Yes; a Great Face, with a beam of love brightening over it, like
sunshine," responds Eve. "Surely, we have seen such a countenance
They go out of the church, and kneeling at its threshold give way to
the spirit's natural instinct of adoration to a beneficent Father. But,
in truth, their life thus far has been a continual prayer. Purity and
simplicity hold converse, at every moment, with their Creator.
We now observe them entering a Court of Justice. But what remotest
conception can they attain of the purposes of such an edifice? How
should the idea occur to them, that human brethren, of like nature with
themselves, and originally included in the same law of love which is
their only rule of life, should ever need an outward enforcement of the
true voice within their souls? And what, save a woful experience, the
dark result of many centuries, could teach them the sad mysteries of
crime? Oh, Judgment Seat, not by the pure in heart wast thou
established, nor in the simplicity of nature; but by hard and wrinkled
men, and upon the accumulated heap of earthly wrong! Thou art the very
symbol of man's perverted state.
On as fruitless an errand our wanderers next visit a Hall of
Legislature, where Adam places Eve in the Speaker's chair, unconscious
of the moral which he thus exemplifies. Man's intellect, moderated by
Woman's tenderness and moral sense! Were such the legislation of the
world, there would be no need of State Houses, Capitols, Halls of
Parliament, nor even of those little assemblages of patriarchs beneath
the shadowy trees, by whom freedom was first interpreted to mankind on
our native shores.
Whither go they next? A perverse destiny seems to perplex them with
one after another of the riddles which mankind put forth to the
wandering universe, and left unsolved in their own destruction. They
enter an edifice of stern grey stone, standing insulated in the midst
of others, and gloomy even in the sunshine, which it barely suffers to
penetrate through its iron-grated windows. It is a Prison. The jailer
has left his post at the summons of a stronger authority than the
sheriff's. But the prisoners? Did the messenger of fate, when he shook
open all the doors, respect the magistrate's warrant and the judge's
sentence, and leave the inmates of the dungeons to be delivered by due
course of earthly law? No; a new trial has been granted, in a higher
court, which may set judge, jury, and prisoner at its bar all in a row,
and perhaps find one no less guilty than another. The jail, like the
whole earth, is now a solitude, and has thereby lost something of its
dismal gloom. But here are the narrow cells, like tombs, only drearier
and deadlier, because in these the immortal spirit was buried with the
body. Inscriptions appear on the walls, scribbled with a pencil, or
scratched with a rusty nail; brief words of agony, perhaps, or guilt's
desperate defiance to the world, or merely a record of a date, by which
the writer strove to keep up with the march of life. There is not a
living eye that could now decipher these memorials.
Nor is it while so fresh from their Creator's hand, that the new
denizens of earth—no, nor their descendants for a thousand years—
could discover that this edifice was a hospital for the direst disease
which could afflict their predecessors. Its patients bore the outward
marks of that leprosy with which all were more or less infected. They
were sick—and so were the purest of their brethren—with the plague
of sin. A deadly sickness, indeed! Feeling its symptoms within the
breast, men concealed it with fear and shame, and were only the more
cruel to those unfortunates whose pestiferous sores were flagrant to
the common eye. Nothing, save a rich garment, could ever hide the
plague-spot. In the course of the world's lifetime, every remedy was
tried for its cure and extirpation, except the single one, the flower
that grew in Heaven, and was sovereign for all the miseries of earth.
Man never had attempted to cure sin by Love! Had he but once made the
effort, it might well have happened, that there would have been no
more need of the dark lazar-house into which Adam and Eve have
wandered. Hasten forth, with your native innocence, lest the damps of
these still conscious walls infect you likewise, and thus another
fallen race be propagated!
Passing from the interior of the prison into the space within its
outward wall, Adam pauses beneath a structure of the simplest
contrivance, yet altogether unaccountable to him. It consists merely of
two upright posts, supporting a transverse beam, from which dangles a
"Eve, Eve!" cries Adam, shuddering with a nameless horror. "What can
this thing be?"
"I know not," answers Eve; "but, Adam, my heart is sick! There seems
to be no more sky!—no more sunshine!"
Well might Adam shudder, and poor Eve be sick at heart; for this
mysterious object was the type of mankind's whole system, in regard to
the great difficulties which God had given to be solved—a system of
fear and vengeance, never successful, yet followed to the last. Here,
on the morning when the final summons came, a criminal—one criminal,
where none were guiltless— had died upon the gallows. Had the world
heard the foot-fall of its own approaching doom, it would have been no
inappropriate act, thus to close the record of its deeds by one so
The two pilgrims now hurry from the prison. Had they known how the
former inhabitants of earth were shut up in artificial error, and
cramped and chained by their perversions, they might have compared the
whole moral world to a prison-house, and have deemed the removal of the
race a general jail-delivery.
They next enter, unannounced—but they might have rung at the door
in vain—a private mansion, one of the stateliest in Beacon street. A
wild and plaintive strain of music is quivering through the house, now
rising like a solemn organ peal, and now dying into the faintest
murmur; as if some spirit, that had felt an interest in the departed
family, were bemoaning itself in the solitude of hall and chamber.
Perhaps, a virgin, the purest of mortal race, has been left behind, to
perform a requiem for the whole kindred of humanity? Not so! These are
the tones of an Æolian harp, through which Nature pours the harmony
that lies concealed in her every breath, whether of summer breeze or
tempest. Adam and Eve are lost in rapture, unmingled with surprise. The
passing wind, that stirred the harp-strings, has been hushed, before
they can think of examining the splendid furniture, the gorgeous
carpets, and the architecture of the rooms. These things amuse their
unpractised eyes, but appeal to nothing within their hearts. Even the
pictures upon the walls scarcely excite a deeper interest; for there is
something radically artificial and deceptive in painting, with which
minds in the primal simplicity cannot sympathize. The unbidden guests
examine a row of family portraits, but are too dull to recognize them
as men and women, beneath the disguise of a preposterous garb, and with
features and expression debased, because inherited through ages of
moral and physical decay.
Chance, however, presents them with pictures of human beauty, fresh
from the hand of Nature. As they enter a magnificent apartment, they
are astonished, but not affrighted, to perceive two figures advancing
to meet them. Is it not awful to imagine that any life, save their own,
should remain in the wide world?
"How is this?" exclaims Adam. "My beautiful Eve, are you in two
places at once?"
"And you, Adam!" answers Eve, doubtful, yet delighted. "Surely that
noble and lovely form is yours. Yet here you are by my side! I am
content with one—methinks there should not be two!"
This miracle is wrought by a tall looking-glass, the mystery of
which they soon fathom, because Nature creates a mirror for the human
face in every pool of water, and for her own great features in
waveless lakes. Pleased and satisfied with gazing at themselves, they
now discover the marble statue of a child in a corner of the room, so
exquisitely idealized, that it is almost worthy to be the prophetic
likeness of their first-born. Sculpture, in its highest excellence, is
more genuine than painting, and might seem to be evolved from a natural
germ, by the same law as a leaf or flower. The statue of the child
impresses the solitary pair as if it were a companion; it likewise
hints at secrets both of the past and future.
"My husband!" whispers Eve.
"What would you say, dearest Eve?" inquires Adam.
"I wonder if we are alone in the world," she continues, with a sense
of something like fear at the thought of other inhabitants. "This
lovely little form! Did it ever breathe? Or is it only the shadow of
something real, like our pictures in the mirror?"
"It is strange!" replies Adam, pressing his hand to his brow. "There
are mysteries all around us. An idea flits continually before
me—would that I could seize it! Eve, Eve, are we treading in the
footsteps of beings that bore a likeness to ourselves? If so, whither
are they gone?—and why is their world so unfit for our
"Our great Father only knows," answers Eve. "But something tells me
that we shall not always be alone. And how sweet if other beings were
to visit us in the shape of this fair image!"
Then they wander through the house, and everywhere find tokens of
human life, which now, with the idea recently suggested, excite a
deeper curiosity in their bosoms. Woman has here left traces of her
delicacy and refinement, and of her gentle labors. Eve ransacks a
work-basket, and instinctively thrusts the rosy tip of her finger into
a thimble. She takes up a piece of embroidery, glowing with mimic
flowers, in one of which a fair damsel of the departed race has left
her needle. Pity that the Day of Doom should have anticipated the
completion of such a useful task! Eve feels almost conscious of the
skill to finish it. A piano-forte has been left open. She flings her
hand carelessly over the keys, and strikes out a sudden melody, no less
natural than the strains of the Æolian harp, but joyous with the dance
of her yet unburthened life. Passing through a dark entry, they find a
broom behind the door; and Eve, who comprises the whole nature of
womanhood, has a dim idea that it is an instrument proper for her hand.
In another apartment they behold a canopied bed, and all the appliances
of luxurious repose. A heap of forest-leaves would be more to the
purpose. They enter the nursery, and are perplexed with the sight of
little gowns and caps, tiny shoes, and a cradle; amid the drapery of
which is still to be seen the impress of a baby's form. Adam slightly
notices these trifles; but Eve becomes involved in a fit of mute
reflection, from which it is hardly possible to rouse her.
By a most unlucky arrangement, there was to have been a grand
dinner-party in this mansion on the very day when the whole human
family, including the invited guests, were summoned to the unknown
regions of illimitable space. At the moment of fate, the table was
actually spread, and the company on the point of sitting down. Adam and
Eve came unbidden to the banquet; it has now been some time cold, but
otherwise furnishes them with highly favorable specimens of the
gastronomy of their predecessors. But it is difficult to imagine the
perplexity of the unperverted couple, in endeavoring to find proper
food for their first meal, at a table where the cultivated appetites of
a fashionable party were to have been gratified. Will Nature teach them
the mystery of a plate of turtle soup? Will she embolden them to attack
a haunch of venison? Will she initiate them into the merits of a
Parisian pasty, imported by the last steamer that ever crossed the
Atlantic? Will she not, rather, bid them turn with disgust from fish,
fowl, and flesh, which, to their pure nostrils, steam with a loathsome
odor of death and corruption?— Food? The bill of fare contains
nothing which they recognize as such.
Fortunately, however, the dessert is ready upon a neighboring table.
Adam, whose appetite and animal instincts are quicker than those of
Eve, discovers this fitting banquet.
"Here, dearest Eve," he exclaims, "here is food."
"Well," answered she, with the germ of a housewife stirring within
her, "we have been so busy to-day, that a picked-up dinner must serve."
So Eve comes to the table, and receives a red-cheeked apple from her
husband's hand, in requital of her predecessor's fatal gift to our
common grandfather. She eats it without sin, and, let us hope, with no
disastrous consequences to her future progeny. They make a plentiful,
yet temperate meal of fruit, which, though not gathered in Paradise, is
legitimately derived from the seeds that were planted there. Their
primal appetite is satisfied.
"What shall we drink, Eve?" inquires Adam.
Eve peeps among some bottles and decanters, which, as they contain
fluids, she naturally conceives must be proper to quench thirst. But
never before did claret, hock, and madeira, of rich and rare perfume,
excite such disgust as now.
"Pah!" she exclaims, after smelling at various wines. "What stuff is
here? The beings who have gone before us could not have possessed the
same nature that we do; for neither their hunger nor thirst were like
"Pray hand me yonder bottle," says Adam. "If it be drinkable by any
manner of mortal, I must moisten my throat with it."
After some remonstrances, she takes up a champagne bottle, but is
frightened by the sudden explosion of the cork, and drops it upon the
floor. There the untasted liquor effervesces. Had they quaffed it, they
would have experienced that brief delirium, whereby, whether excited by
moral or physical causes, man sought to recompense himself for the
calm, life-long joys which he had lost by his revolt from nature. At
length, in a refrigerator, Eve finds a glass pitcher of water, pure,
cold, and bright, as ever gushed from a fountain among the hills. Both
drink; and such refreshment does it bestow, that they question one
another of this precious liquid be not identical with the stream of
life within them.
"And now," observes Adam, "we must again try to discover what sort
of a world this is, and why we have been sent hither."
"Why?—To love one another!" cries Eve. "Is not that employment
"Truly is it," answers Adam, kissing her; "but still—I know
not—something tells us there is labor to be done. Perhaps our
allotted task is no other than to climb into the sky, which is so much
more beautiful than earth."
"Then would we were there now," murmurs Eve, "that no task or duty
might come between us!"
They leave the hospitable mansion; and we next see them passing down
State street. The clock on the old State House points to high noon,
when the Exchange should be in its glory, and present the liveliest
emblem of what was the sole business of life, as regarded a multitude
of the fore-gone worldlings. It is over now. The Sabbath of eternity
has shed its stillness along the street. Not even a news-boy assails
the two solitary passers-by, with an extra penny-paper from the office
of the Times or Mail, containing a full account of yesterday's terrible
catastrophe. Of all the dull times that merchants and speculators have
known, this is the very worst; for, so far as they were concerned,
creation itself has taken the benefit of the bankrupt-act. After all,
it is a pity. Those mighty capitalists, who had just attained the
wished-for wealth! Those shrewd men of traffic, who had devoted so many
years to the most intricate and artificial of sciences, and had barely
mastered it, when the universal bankruptcy was announced by peal of
trumpet! Can they have been so incautious as to provide no currency of
the country whither they have gone, nor any bills of exchange, or
letters of credit, from the needy on earth to the cash-keepers of
Adam and Eve enter a Bank. Start not, ye whose funds are treasured
there! You will never need them now. Call not for the police! The
stones of the street and the coin of the vaults are of equal value to
this simple pair. Strange sight! They take up the bright gold in
handfuls, and throw it sportively into the air, for the sake of seeing
the glittering worthlessness descend again in a shower. They know not
that each of those small yellow circles was once a magic spell, potent
to sway men's hearts, and mystify their moral sense. Here let them
pause in the investigation of the past. They have discovered the
main-spring, the life, the very essence, of the system that had wrought
itself into the vitals of mankind, and choked their original nature in
its deadly gripe. Yet how powerless over these young inheritors of
earth's hoarded wealth! And here, too, are huge packages of bank-notes,
those talismanic slips of paper, which once had the efficacy to build
up enchanted palaces, like exhalations, and work all kinds of perilous
wonders, yet were themselves but the ghosts of money, the shadows of a
shade. How like is this vault to a magician's cave, when the
all-powerful wand is broken, and the visionary splendor vanished, and
the floor strewn with fragments of shattered spells, and lifeless
shapes once animated by demons!
"Everywhere, my dear Eve," observes Adam, "we find heaps of rubbish
of one kind or another. Somebody, I am convinced, has taken pains to
collect them—but for what purpose? Perhaps, hereafter, we shall be
moved to do the like. Can that be our business in the world?"
"Oh, no, no, Adam!" answers Eve. "It would be better to sit down
quietly and look upward to the sky."
They leave the Bank, and in good time; for had they tarried later,
they would probably have encountered some gouty old goblin of a
capitalist, whose soul could not long be anywhere, save in the vault
with his treasure.
Next, they drop into a jeweller's shop. They are pleased with the
glow of gems; and Adam twines a string of beautiful pearls around the
head of Eve, and fastens his own mantle with a magnificent diamond
brooch. Eve thanks him, and views herself with delight in the nearest
looking-glass. Shortly afterward, observing a boquet of roses and other
brilliant flowers in a vase of water, she flings away the inestimable
pearls, and adorns herself with these lovelier gems of nature. They
charm her with sentiment as well as beauty.
"Surely they are living beings," she remarks to Adam.
"I think so," replies Adam, "and they seem to be as little at home
in the world as ourselves."
We must not attempt to follow every footstep of these investigators
whom their Creator has commissioned to pass unconscious judgment upon
the works and ways of the vanished race. By this time, being endowed
with quick and accurate perceptions, they begin to understand the
purpose of the many things around them. They conjecture, for instance,
that the edifices of the city were erected, not by the immediate hand
that made the world, but by beings somewhat similar to themselves, for
shelter and convenience. But how will they explain the magnificence of
one habitation, as compared with the squalid misery of another? Through
what medium can the idea of servitude enter their minds? When will they
comprehend the great and miserable fact,—the evidences of which
appeal to their senses everywhere,— that one portion of earth's lost
inhabitants was rolling in luxury, while the multitude was toiling for
scanty food? A wretched change, indeed, must be wrought in their own
hearts, ere they can conceive the primal decree of Love to have been so
completely abrogated, that a brother should ever want what his brother
had. When their intelligence shall have reached so far, Earth's new
progeny will have little reason to exult over her old rejected one.
Their wanderings have now brought them into the suburbs of the city.
They stand on a grassy brow of a hill, at the foot of a granite
obelisk, which points its great finger upwards, as if the human family
had agreed, by a visible symbol of age-long endurance, to offer some
high sacrifice of thanksgiving or supplication. The solemn height of
the monument, its deep simplicity, and the absence of any vulgar and
practical use, all strengthen its effect upon Adam and Eve, and lead
them to interpret it by a purer sentiment than the builders thought of
"Eve, it is a visible prayer," observed Adam.
"And we will pray, too," she replies.
Let us pardon these poor children of neither father nor mother, for
so absurdly mistaking the purport of the memorial, which man founded
and woman finished, on far-famed Bunker Hill. The idea of war is not
native to their souls. Nor have they sympathies for the brave defenders
of liberty, since oppression is one of their unconjectural mysteries.
Could they guess that the green sward on which they stand so
peacefully, was once strewn with human corpses and purple with their
blood, it would equally amaze them, that one generation of men should
perpetrate such carnage, and that a subsequent generation should
triumphantly commemorate it.
With a sense of delight, they now stroll across green fields and
along the margin of a quiet river. Not to track them too closely, we
next find the wanderers entering a Gothic edifice of grey stone, where
the by-gone world has left whatever it deemed worthy of record, in the
rich library of Harvard University.
No student ever yet enjoyed such solitude and silence as now broods
within its deep alcoves. Little do the present visitors understand what
opportunities are thrown away upon them. Yet Adam looks anxiously at
the long rows of volumes, those storied heights of human lore,
ascending one above another from floor to ceiling. He takes up a bulky
folio. It opens in his hands, as if spontaneously to impart the spirit
of its author to the yet unworn and untainted intellect of the
fresh-created mortal. He stands poring over the regular columns of
mystic characters, seemingly in studious mood; for the unintelligible
thought upon the page has a mysterious relation to his mind, and makes
itself felt, as it were a burthen flung upon him. He is even painfully
perplexed, and grasps vainly at he knows not what. Oh, Adam, it is too
soon, too soon by at least five thousand years, to put on spectacles,
and busy yourself in the alcoves of a library!
"What can this be?" he murmurs at last. "Eve, methinks nothing is so
desirable as to find out the mystery of this big and heavy object with
its thousand thin divisions. See! it stares me in the face, as if it
were about to speak!"
Eve, by a feminine instinct, is dipping into a volume of fashionable
poetry, the production of certainly the most fortunate of earthly
bards, since his lay continues in vogue when all the great masters of
the lyre have passed into oblivion. But let not his ghost be too
exultant! The world's one lady tosses the book upon the floor, and
laughs merrily at her husband's abstracted mien.
"My dear Adam," cries she, "you look pensive and dismal! Do fling
down that stupid thing; for even if it should speak, it would not be
worth attending to. Let us talk with one another, and with the sky, and
the green earth, and its trees and flowers. They will teach us better
knowledge than we can find here."
"Well, Eve, perhaps you are right," replies Adam, with a sort of
sigh. "Still, I cannot help thinking that the interpretation of the
riddles amid which we have been wandering all day long might here be
"It may be better not to seek the interpretation," persists Eve.
"For my part, the air of this place does not suit me. If you love me,
She prevails, and rescues him from the mysterious perils of the
library. Happy influence of woman! Had he lingered there long enough to
obtain a clue to its treasures,—as was not impossible, his intellect
being of human structure, indeed, but with an untransmitted vigor and
acuteness,—had he then and there become a student, the annalist of
our poor world would soon have recorded the downfall of a second Adam.
The fatal apple of another Tree of Knowledge would have been eaten. All
the perversions and sophistries, and false wisdom so aptly mimicking
the true; all the narrow truth, so partial that it becomes more
deceptive than falsehood; all the wrong principles and worse practice,
the pernicious examples and mistaken rules of life; all the specious
theories, which turn earth into cloud-land, and men into shadows; all
the sad experience, which it took mankind so many ages to accumulate,
and from which they never drew a moral for their future guidance—the
whole heap of this disastrous lore would have tumbled at once upon
Adam's head. There would have been nothing left for him, but to take up
the already abortive experiment of life, where we had dropped it, and
toil onward with it a little further.
But, blessed in his ignorance, he may still enjoy a new world in our
worn-out one. Should he fall short of good, even as far as we did, he
has at least the freedom—no worthless one—to make errors for
himself. And his literature, when the progress of centuries shall
create it, will be no interminably repeated echo of our own poetry, and
reproduction of the images that were moulded by our great fathers of
song and fiction, but a melody never yet heard on earth, and
intellectual forms unbreathed upon by our conceptions. Therefore let
the dust of ages gather upon the volumes of the library, and in due
season, the roof of the edifice crumble down upon the whole. When the
second Adam's descendants shall have collected as much rubbish of their
own, it will be time enough to dig into our ruins, and compare the
literary advancement of two independent races.
But we are looking forward too far. It seems to be the vice of those
who have a long past behind them. We will return to the new Adam and
Eve, who, having no reminiscences, save dim and fleeting visions of a
pre-existence, are content to live and be happy in the present.
The day is near its close, when these pilgrims, who derive their
being from no dead progenitors, reach the cemetery of Mount Auburn.
With light hearts—for earth and sky now gladden each other with
beauty—they tread along the winding paths, among marble pillars,
mimic temples, urns, obelisks, and sarcophagi, sometimes pausing to
contemplate these fantasies of human growth, and sometimes to admire
the flowers wherewith kind Nature converts decay to loveliness. Can
death, in the midst of his old triumphs, make them sensible that they
have taken up the heavy burthen of mortality, which a whole species had
thrown down? Dust kindred to their own has never lain in the grave.
Will they then recognize, and so soon, that Time and the elements have
an indefeasible claim upon their bodies? Not improbably, they may.
There must have been shadows enough, even amid the primal sunshine of
their existence, to suggest the thought of the soul's incongruity with
its circumstances. They have already learned that something is to be
thrown aside. The idea of Death is in them, or not far off. But were
they to choose a symbol for him, it would be the Butterfly soaring
upward, or the bright Angel beckoning them aloft, or the Child asleep,
with soft dreams visible through her transparent purity.
Such a Child, in whitest marble, they have found among the monuments
of Mount Auburn.
"Sweetest Eve," observes Adam, while hand in hand they contemplate
this beautiful object, "yonder sun has left us, and the whole world is
fading from our sight. Let us sleep, as this lovely little figure is
sleeping. Our Father only knows, whether what outward things we have
possessed to-day are to be snatched from us for ever. But should our
earthly life be leaving us with the departing light, we need not doubt
that another morn will find us somewhere beneath the smile of God. I
feel that he has imparted the boon of existence, never to be resumed."
"And no matter where we exist," replies Eve, "for we shall always be