George Bernard Shaw.

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in friends, in lovers, in nature, in things outside myself. Alas! I
could not create if. I could only imagine it.

THE SHE-ANCIENT. I, like Arjillax, found out that my statues of bodily
beauty were no longer even beautiful to me; and I pressed on and made
statues and pictures of men and women of genius, like those in the old
fable of Michael Angelo. Like Martellus, I smashed them when I saw that
there was no life in them: that they were so dead that they would not
even dissolve as a dead body does.

THE HE-ANCIENT. And I, like Acis, ceased to walk over the mountains with
my friends, and walked alone; for I found that I had creative power
over myself but none over my friends. And then I ceased to walk on the
mountains; for I saw that the mountains were dead.

ACIS [_protesting vehemently_] No. I grant you about the friends
perhaps; but the mountains are still the mountains, each with its name,
its individuality, its upstanding strength and majesty, its beauty -

ECRASIA. What! Acis among the rhapsodists!

THE HE-ANCIENT. Mere metaphor, my poor boy: the mountains are corpses.

ALL THE YOUNG [_repelled_] Oh!

THE HE-ANCIENT. Yes. In the hardpressed heart of the earth, where the
inconceivable heat of the sun still glows, the stone lives in fierce
atomic convulsion, as we live in our slower way. When it is cast out to
the surface it dies like deep-sea fish: what you see is only its cold
dead body. We have tapped that central heat as prehistoric man tapped
water springs; but nothing has come up alive from those flaming depths:
your landscapes, your mountains, are only the world's cast skins and
decaying teeth on which we live like microbes.

ECRASIA. Ancient: you blaspheme against Nature and against Man.

THE SHE-ANCIENT. Child, child, how much enthusiasm will you have for man
when you have endured eight centuries of him, as I have, and seen him
perish by an empty mischance that is yet a certainty? When I discarded
my dolls as he discarded his friends and his mountains, it was to myself
I turned as to the final reality. Here, and here alone, I could shape
and create. When my arm was weak and I willed it to be strong, I could
create a roll of muscle on it; and when I understood that, I understood
that I could without any greater miracle give myself ten arms and three

THE HE-ANCIENT. I also came to understand such miracles. For fifty years
I sat contemplating this power in myself and concentrating my will.

THE SHE-ANCIENT. So did I; and for five more years I made myself into
all sorts of fantastic monsters. I walked upon a dozen legs: I worked
with twenty hands and a hundred fingers: I looked to the four quarters
of the compass with eight eyes out of four heads. Children fled in
amazement from me until I had to hide myself from them; and the
ancients, who had forgotten how to laugh, smiled grimly when they

THE HE-ANCIENT. We have all committed these follies. You will all commit

THE NEWLY BORN. Oh, do grow a lot of arms and legs and heads for us. It
would be so funny.

THE HE-ANCIENT. My child: I am just as well as I am. I would not lift my
finger now to have a thousand heads.

THE SHE-ANCIENT. But what would I not give to have no head at all?

ALL THE YOUNG. Whats that? No head at all? Why? How?

THE HE-ANCIENT. Can you not understand?

ALL THE YOUNG [_shaking their heads_] No.

THE SHE-ANCIENT. One day, when I was tired of learning to walk forward
with some of my feet and backwards with others and sideways with the
rest all at once, I sat on a rock with my four chins resting on four
of my palms, and four or my elbows resting on four of my knees. And
suddenly it came into my mind that this monstrous machinery of heads and
limbs was no more me than my statues had been me, and that it was only
an automaton that I had enslaved.

MARTELLUS. Enslaved? What does that mean?

THE SHE-ANCIENT. A thing that must do what you command it is a slave;
and its commander is its master. These are words you will learn when
your turn comes.

THE HE-ANCIENT. You will also learn that when the master has come to do
everything through the slave, the slave becomes his master, since he
cannot live without him.

THE SHE-ANCIENT. And so I perceived that I had made myself the slave of
a slave.

THE HE-ANCIENT. When we discovered that, we shed our superfluous heads
and legs and arms until we had our old shapes again, and no longer
startled the children.

THE SHE-ANCIENT. But still I am the slave of this slave, my body. How am
I to be delivered from it?

THE HE-ANCIENT. That, children, is the trouble of the ancients. For
whilst we are tied to this tyrannous body we are subject to its death,
and our destiny is not achieved.

THE NEWLY BORN. What is your destiny?

THE HE-ANCIENT. To be immortal.

THE SHE-ANCIENT. The day will come when there will be no people, only

THE HE-ANCIENT. And that will be life eternal.

ECRASIA. I trust I shall meet my fatal accident before that day dawns.

ARJILLAX. For once, Ecrasia, I agree with you. A world in which there
were nothing plastic would be an utterly miserable one.

ECRASIA. No limbs, no contours, no exquisite lines and elegant shapes,
no worship of beautiful bodies, no poetic embraces in which cultivated
lovers pretend that their caressing hands are wandering over celestial
hills and enchanted valleys, no -

ACIS [_interrupting her disgustedly_] What an inhuman mind you have,

ECRASIA. Inhuman!

ACIS. Yes: inhuman. Why don't you fall in love with someone?

ECRASIA. I! I have been in love all my life. I burned with it even in
the egg.

ACIS. Not a bit of it. You and Arjillax are just as hard as two stones.

ECRASIA. You did not always think so, Acis.

ACIS. Oh, I know. I offered you my love once, and asked for yours.

ECRASIA. And did I deny it to you, Acis?

ACIS. You didn't even know what love was.

ECRASIA. Oh! I adored you, you stupid oaf, until I found that you were a
mere animal.

ACIS. And I made no end of a fool of myself about you until I discovered
that you were a mere artist. You appreciated my contours! I was plastic,
as Arjillax says. I wasn't a man to you: I was a masterpiece appealing
to your tastes and your senses. Your tastes and senses had overlaid the
direct impulse of life in you. And because I cared only for our life,
and went straight to it, and was bored by your calling my limbs fancy
names and mapping me into mountains and valleys and all the rest of it,
you called me an animal. Well, I am an animal, if you call a live man an

ECRASIA. You need not explain. You refused to be refined. I did my
best to lift your prehistoric impulses on to the plane of beauty, of
imagination, of romance, of poetry, of art, of -

ACIS. These things are all very well in their way and in their proper
places. But they are not love. They are an unnatural adulteration of
love. Love is a simple thing and a deep thing: it is an act of life and
not an illusion. Art is an illusion.

ARJILLAX. That is false. The statue comes to life always. The statues of
today are the men and women of the next incubation. I hold up the marble
figure before the mother and say, 'This is the model you must copy.' We
produce what we see. Let no man dare to create in art a thing that he
would not have exist in life.

MARTELLUS. Yes: I have been through all that. But you yourself are
making statues of ancients instead of beautiful nymphs and swains. And
Ecrasia is right about the ancients being inartistic. They are damnably

ECRASIA [_triumphant_] Ah! Our greatest artist vindicates me. Thanks,

MARTELLUS. The body always ends by being a bore. Nothing remains
beautiful and interesting except thought, because the thought is the
life. Which is just what this old gentleman and this old lady seem to
think too.


THE HE-ANCIENT. Precisely.

THE NEWLY BORN [_to the He-Ancient_] But you cant be nothing. What do
you want to be?



THE SHE-ANCIENT. A vortex. I began as a vortex: why should I not end as

ECRASIA. Oh! That is what you old people are, Vorticists.

ACIS. But if life is thought, can you live without a head?

THE HE-ANCIENT. Not now perhaps. But prehistoric men thought they could
not live without tails. I can live without a tail. Why should I not live
without a head?

THE NEWLY BORN. What is a tail?

THE HE-ANCIENT A habit of which your ancestors managed to pure

THE SHE-ANCIENT. None of us now believe that all this machinery of flesh
and blood is necessary. It dies.

THE HE-ANCIENT. It imprisons us on this petty planet and forbids us to
range through the stars.

ACIS. But even a vortex is a vortex in something. You cant have a
whirlpool without water; and you cant have a vortex without gas, or
molecules or atoms or ions or electrons or something, not nothing.

THE HE-ANCIENT. No: the vortex is not the water nor the gas nor the
atoms: it is a power over these things.

THE SHE-ANCIENT. The body was the slave of the vortex; but the slave has
become the master; and we must free ourselves from that tyranny. It is
this stuff [_indicating her body_], this flesh and blood and bone and
all the rest of it, that is intolerable. Even prehistoric man dreamed of
what he called an astral body, and asked who would deliver him from the
body of this death.

ACIS [_evidently out of his depth_] I shouldn't think too much about it
if I were you. You have to keep sane, you know.

_The two Ancients look at one another; shrug their shoulders; and
address themselves to their departure._

THE HE-ANCIENT. We are staying too long with you, children. We must go.

_All the young people rise rather eagerly._

ARJILLAX. Dont mention it.

THE SHE-ANCIENT. It is tiresome for us, too. You see, children, we have
to put things very crudely to you to make ourselves intelligible.

THE HE-ANCIENT. And I am afraid we do not quite succeed.

STREPHON. Very kind of you to come at all and talk to us, I'm sure.

ECRASIA. Why do the other ancients never come and give us a turn?

THE SHE-ANCIENT. It is difficult for them. They have forgotten how
to speak; how to read; even how to think in your fashion. We do not
communicate with one another in that way or apprehend the world as you

THE HE-ANCIENT. I find it more and more difficult to keep up your
language. Another century or two and it will be impossible. I shall have
to be relieved by a younger shepherd.

ACIS. Of course we are always delighted to see you; but still, if it
tries you very severely, we could manage pretty well by ourselves, you

THE SHE-ANCIENT. Tell me, Acis: do you ever think of yourself as having
to live perhaps for thousands of years?

ACIS. Oh, don't talk about it. Why, I know very well that I have only
four years of what any reasonable person would call living; and three
and a half of them are already gone.

ECRASIA. You must not mind our saying so; but really you cannot call
being an ancient living.

THE NEWLY BORN [_almost in tears_] Oh, this dreadful shortness of our
lives! I cannot bear it.

STREPHON. I made up my mind on that subject long ago. When I am three
years and fifty weeks old, I shall have my fatal accident. And it will
not be an accident.

THE HE-ANCIENT. We are very tired of this subject. I must leave you.

THE NEWLY BORN. What is being tired?

THE SHE-ANCIENT. The penalty of attending to children. Farewell.

_The two Ancients go away severally, she into the grove, he up to the
hills behind the temple._

ALL. Ouf! [_A great sigh of relief_].

ECRASIA. Dreadful people!


MARTELLUS. Yet one would like to follow them; to enter into their life;
to grasp their thought; to comprehend the universe as they must.

ARJILLAX. Getting old, Martellus?

MARTELLUS. Well, I have finished with the dolls; and I am no longer
jealous of you. That looks like the end. Two hours sleep is enough for
me. I am afraid I am beginning to find you all rather silly.

STREPHON. I know. My girl went off this morning. She hadnt slept for
weeks. And she found mathematics more interesting than me.

MARTELLUS. There is a prehistoric saying that has come down to us from a
famous woman teacher. She said: 'Leave women; and study mathematics.'
It is the only remaining fragment of a lost scripture called The
Confessions of St Augustin, the English Opium Eater. That primitive
savage must have been a great woman, to say a thing that still lives
after three hundred centuries. I too will leave women and study
mathematics, which I have neglected too long. Farewell, children, my old
playmates. I almost wish I could feel sentimental about parting from
you; but the cold truth is that you bore me. Do not be angry with me:
your turn will come. [_He passes away gravely into the grove_].

ARJILLAX. There goes a great spirit. What a sculptor he was! And now,
nothing! It is as if he had cut off his hands.

THE NEWLY BORN. Oh, will you all leave me as he has left you?

ECRASIA. Never. We have sworn it.

STREPHON. What is the use of swearing? She swore. He swore. You have
sworn. They have sworn.

ECRASIA. You speak like a grammar.

STREPHON. That is how one ought to speak, isnt it? We shall all be

THE NEWLY BORN. Do not talk like that. You are saddening us; and you are
chasing the light away. It is growing dark.

ACIS. Night is falling. The light will come back tomorrow.

THE NEWLY BORN. What is tomorrow?

ACIS. The day that never comes. [_He turns towards the temple_].

_All begin trooping into the temple._

THE NEWLY BORN [_holding Acis back_] That is no answer. What -

ARJILLAX. Silence. Little children should be seen and not heard.

THE NEWLY BORN [_putting out her tongue at him_]!

ECRASIA. Ungraceful. You must not do that.

THE NEWLY BORN. I will do what I like. But there is something the matter
with me. I want to lie down. I cannot keep my eyes open.

ECRASIA. You are falling asleep. You will wake up again.

THE NEWLY BORN [_drowsily_] What is sleep?

ACIS. Ask no questions; and you will be told no lies. [_He takes her by
the ear, and leads her firmly towards the temple_].

THE NEWLY BORN. Ai! oi! ai! Dont. I want to be carried. [_She reels into
the arms of Acts, who carries her into the temple_].

ECRASIA. Come, Arjillax: you at least are still an artist. I adore you.

ARJILLAX. Do you? Unfortunately for you, I am not still a child. I have
grown out of cuddling. I can only appreciate your figure. Does that
satisfy you?

ECRASIA. At what distance?

ARJILLAX. Arm's length or more.

ECRASIA. Thank you: not for me. [_She turns away from him_].

ARJILLAX. Ha! ha! [_He strides off into the temple_].

ECRASIA [_calling to Strephon, who is on the threshold of the temple,
going in_] Strephon.

STREPHON. No. My heart is broken. [_He goes into the temple_].

ECRASIA. Must I pass the night alone? [_She looks round, seeking another
partner; but they have all gone_]. After all, I can imagine a lover
nobler than any of you. [_She goes into the temple_].

_It is now quite dark. A vague radiance appears near the temple and
shapes itself into the ghost of Adam._

A WOMAN'S VOICE [_in the grove_] Who is that?

ADAM. The ghost of Adam, the first father of mankind. Who are you?

THE VOICE. The ghost of Eve, the first mother of mankind.

ADAM. Come forth, wife; and shew yourself to me.

EVE [_appearing near the grove_] Here I am, husband. You are very old.

A VOICE [_in the hills_] Ha! ha! ha!

ADAM. Who laughs? Who dares laugh at Adam?

EVE. Who has the heart to laugh at Eve?

THE VOICE. The ghost of Cain, the first child, and the first murderer.
[_He appears between them; and as he does so there is a prolonged
hiss_]. Who dares hiss at Cain, the lord of death?

A VOICE. The ghost of the serpent, that lived before Adam and before
Eve, and taught them how to bring forth Cain. [_She becomes visible,
coiled in the trees_].

A VOICE. There is one that came before the serpent.

THE SERPENT. That is the voice of Lilith, in whom the father and mother
were one. Hail, Lilith!

_Lilith becomes visible between Cain and Adam._

LILITH. I suffered unspeakably; I tore myself asunder; I lost my life,
to make of my one flesh these twain, man and woman. And this is what has
come of it. What do you make of it, Adam, my son?

ADAM. I made the earth bring forth by my labor, and the woman bring
forth by my love. And this is what has come of it. What do you make of
it, Eve, my wife?

EVE. I nourished the egg in my body and fed it with my blood. And now
they let it fall as the birds did, and suffer not at all. What do you
make of it, Cain, my first-born?

CAIN. I invented killing and conquest and mastery and the winnowing out
of the weak by the strong. And now the strong have slain one another;
and the weak live for ever; and their deeds do nothing for the doer more
than for another. What do you make of it, snake?

THE SERPENT. I am justified. For I chose wisdom and the knowledge of
good and evil; and now there is no evil; and wisdom and good are one. It
is enough. [_She vanishes_].

CAIN. There is no place for me on earth any longer. You cannot deny
that mine was a splendid game while it lasted. But now! Out, out, brief
candle! [_He vanishes_].

EVE. The clever ones were always my favorites. The diggers and the
fighters have dug themselves in with the worms. My clever ones have
inherited the earth. All's well. [_She fades away_].

ADAM. I can make nothing of it, neither head nor tail. What is it all
for? Why? Whither? Whence? We were well enough in the garden. And now
the fools have killed all the animals; and they are dissatisfied because
they cannot be bothered with their bodies! Foolishness, I call it. [_He

LILITH. They have accepted the burden of eternal life. They have taken
the agony from birth; and their life does not fail them even in the hour
of their destruction. Their breasts are without milk: their bowels are
gone: the very shapes of them are only ornaments for their children to
admire and caress without understanding. Is this enough; or shall I
labor again? Shall I bring forth something that will sweep them away and
make an end of them as they have swept away the beasts of the garden,
and made an end of the crawling things and the flying things and of all
them that refuse to live for ever? I had patience with them for many
ages: they tried me very sorely. They did terrible things: they embraced
death, and said that eternal life was a fable. I stood amazed at the
malice and destructiveness of the things I had made: Mars blushed as he
looked down on the shame of his sister planet: cruelty and hypocrisy
became so hideous that the face of the earth was pitted with the graves
of little children among which living skeletons crawled in search of
horrible food. The pangs of another birth were already upon me when one
man repented and lived three hundred years; and I waited to see what
would come of that. And so much came of it that the horrors of that time
seem now but an evil dream. They have redeemed themselves from their
vileness, and turned away from their sins. Best of all, they are still
not satisfied: the impulse I gave them in that day when I sundered
myself in twain and launched Man and Woman on the earth still urges
them: after passing a million goals they press on to the goal of
redemption from the flesh, to the vortex freed from matter, to the
whirlpool in pure intelligence that, when the world began, was a
whirlpool in pure force. And though all that they have done seems
but the first hour of the infinite work of creation, yet I will not
supersede them until they have forded this last stream that lies between
flesh and spirit, and disentangled their life from the matter that has
always mocked it. I can wait: waiting and patience mean nothing to the
eternal. I gave the woman the greatest of gifts: curiosity. By that her
seed has been saved from my wrath; for I also am curious; and I have
waited always to see what they will do tomorrow. Let them feed that
appetite well for me. I say, let them dread, of all things, stagnation;
for from the moment I, Lilith, lose hope and faith in them, they are
doomed. In that hope and faith I have let them live for a moment; and in
that moment I have spared them many times. But mightier creatures than
they have killed hope and faith, and perished from the earth; and I may
not spare them for ever. I am Lilith: I brought life into the whirlpool
of force, and compelled my enemy, Matter, to obey a living soul. But in
enslaving Life's enemy I made him Life's master; for that is the end
of all slavery; and now I shall see the slave set free and the enemy
reconciled, the whirlpool become all life and no matter. And because
these infants that call themselves ancients are reaching out towards
that, I will have patience with them still; though I know well that
when they attain it they shall become one with me and supersede me, and
Lilith will be only a legend and a lay that has lost its meaning. Of
Life only is there no end; and though of its million starry mansions
many are empty and many still unbuilt, and though its vast domain is
as yet unbearably desert, my seed shall one day fill it and master
its matter to its uttermost confines. And for what may be beyond, the
eyesight of Lilith is too short. It is enough that there is a beyond.
[_She vanishes_].


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