ought to be a newsboy is now comparatively rare.
I now find myself inspired to make a second legend of Creative Evolution
without distractions and embellishments. My sands are running out; the
exuberance of 1901 has aged into the garrulity of 1930; and the war has
been a stern intimation that the matter is not one to be trifled with. I
abandon the legend of Don Juan with its erotic associations, and go back
to the legend of the Garden of Eden. I exploit the eternal interest of
the philosopher's stone which enables men to live for ever. I am not, I
hope, under more illusion than is humanly inevitable as to the crudity
of this my beginning of a Bible for Creative Evolution. I am doing the
best I can at my age. My powers are waning; but so much the better for
those who found me unbearably brilliant when I was in my prime. It is
my hope that a hundred apter and more elegant parables by younger hands
will soon leave mine as far behind as the religious pictures of the
fifteenth century left behind the first attempts of the early Christians
at iconography. In that hope I withdraw and ring up the curtain.
BACK TO METHUSELAH.
In the Beginning
_The Garden of Eden. Afternoon. An immense serpent is sleeping with
her head buried in a thick bed of Johnswort, and her body coiled in
apparently endless rings through the branches of a tree, which is
already well grown; for the days of creation have been longer than our
reckoning. She is not yet visible to anyone unaware of her presence, as
her colors of green and brown make a perfect camouflage. Near her head a
low rock shows above the Johnswort.
The rock and tree are on the border of a glade in which lies a dead fawn
all awry, its neck being broken. Adam, crouching with one hand on the
rock, is staring in consternation at the dead body. He has not noticed
the serpent on his left hand. He turns his face to his right and calls
ADAM. Eve! Eve!
EVE'S VOICE. What is it, Adam?
ADAM. Come here. Quick. Something has happened.
EVE [_running in_] What? Where? [_Adam points to the fawn_]. Oh! [_She
goes to it; and he is emboldened to go with her_]. What is the matter
with its eyes?
ADAM. It is not only its eyes. Look. [_He kicks it._]
EVE. Oh don't! Why doesn't it wake?
ADAM. I don't know. It is not asleep.
EVE. Not asleep?
EVE [_trying to shake it and roll it over_] It is stiff and cold.
ADAM. Nothing will wake it.
EVE. It has a queer smell. Pah! [_She dusts her hands, and draws away
from it_]. Did you find it like that?
ADAM. No. It was playing about; and it tripped and went head over heels.
It never stirred again. Its neck is wrong [_he stoops to lift the neck
and shew her_].
EVE. Dont touch it. Come away from it.
_They both retreat, and contemplate it from a few steps' distance with
EVE. Suppose you were to trip and fall, would you go like that?
ADAM. Ugh! [_He shudders and sits down on the rock_].
EVE [_throwing herself on the ground beside him, and grasping his knee_]
You must be careful. Promise me you will be careful.
ADAM. What is the good of being careful? We have to live here for ever.
Think of what for ever means! Sooner or later I shall trip and fall. It
may be tomorrow; it may be after as many days as there are leaves in
the garden and grains of sand by the river. No matter: some day I shall
forget and stumble.
EVE. I too.
ADAM [_horrified_] Oh no, no. I should be alone. Alone for ever. You
must never put yourself in danger of stumbling. You must not move about.
You must sit still. I will take care of you and bring you what you want.
EVE [_turning away from him with a shrug, and hugging her ankles_] I
should soon get tired of that. Besides, if it happened to you, _I_
should be alone. I could not sit still then. And at last it would happen
to me too.
ADAM. And then?
EVE. Then we should be no more. There would be only the things on all
fours, and the birds, and the snakes.
ADAM. That must not be.
EVE. Yes: that must not be. But it might be.
ADAM. No. I tell you it must not be. I know that it must not be.
EVE. We both know it. How do we know it?
ADAM. There is a voice in the garden that tells me things.
EVE. The garden is full of voices sometimes. They put all sorts of
thoughts into my head.
ADAM. To me there is only one voice. It is very low; but it is so near
that it is like a whisper from within myself. There is no mistaking it
for any voice of the birds or beasts, or for your voice.
EVE. It is strange that I should hear voices from all sides and you only
one from within. But I have some thoughts that come from within me and
not from the voices. The thought that we must not cease to be comes from
ADAM [_despairingly_] But we shall cease to be. We shall fall like the
fawn and be broken. [_Rising and moving about in his agitation_]. I
cannot bear this knowledge. I will not have it. It must not be, I tell
you. Yet I do not know how to prevent it.
EVE. That is just what I feel; but it is very strange that you should
say so: there is no pleasing you. You change your mind so often.
ADAM [_scolding her_] Why do you say that? How have I changed my mind?
EVE. You say we must not cease to exist. But you used to complain
of having to exist always and for ever. You sometimes sit for hours
brooding and silent, hating me in your heart. When I ask you what I have
done to you, you say you are not thinking of me, but of the horror of
having to be here for ever. But I know very well that what you mean is
the horror of having to be here with me for ever.
ADAM. Oh! That is what you think, is it? Well, you are wrong. [_He sits
down again, sulkily_]. It is the horror of having to be with myself for
ever. I like you; but I do not like myself. I want to be different; to
be better, to begin again and again; to shed myself as a snake sheds its
skin. I am tired of myself. And yet I must endure myself, not for a day
or for many days, but for ever. That is a dreadful thought. That is what
makes me sit brooding and silent and hateful. Do you never think of
EVE. No: I do not think about myself: what is the use? I am what I am:
nothing can alter that. I think about you.
ADAM. You should not. You are always spying on me. I can never be alone.
You always want to know what I have been doing. It is a burden. You
should try to have an existence of your own, instead of occupying
yourself with my existence.
EVE. I _have_ to think about you. You are lazy: you are dirty: you
neglect yourself: you are always dreaming: you would eat bad food and
become disgusting if I did not watch you and occupy myself with you. And
now some day, in spite of all my care, you will fall on your head and
ADAM. Dead? What word is that?
EVE [_pointing to the fawn_] Like that. I call it dead.
ADAM [_rising and approaching it slowly_] There is something uncanny
EVE [_joining him_] Oh! It is changing into little white worms.
ADAM. Throw it into the river. It is unbearable.
EVE. I dare not touch it.
ADAM. Then I must, though I loathe it. It is poisoning the air. [_He
gathers its hooves in his hand and carries it away in the direction from
which Eve came, holding it as far from him as possible_].
Eve looks after them for a moment; then, with a shiver of disgust, sits
down on the rock, brooding. The body of the serpent becomes visible,
glowing with wonderful new colors. She rears her head slowly from the
bed of Johnswort, and speaks into Eve's ear in a strange seductively
THE SERPENT. Eve.
EVE [_startled_] Who is that?
THE SERPENT. It is I. I have come to shew you my beautiful new hood. See
[_she spreads a magnificent amethystine hood_]!
EVE [_admiring it_] Oh! But who taught you to speak?
THE SERPENT. You and Adam. I have crept through the grass, and hidden,
and listened to you.
EVE. That was wonderfully clever of you.
THE SERPENT. I am the most subtle of all the creatures of the field.
EVE. Your hood is most lovely. [_She strokes it and pets the serpent_].
Pretty thing! Do you love your godmother Eve?
THE SERPENT. I adore her. [_She licks Eve's neck with her double
EVE [_petting her_] Eve's wonderful darling snake. Eve will never be
lonely now that her snake can talk to her.
THE SNAKE. I can talk of many things. I am very wise. It was I who
whispered the word to you that you did not know. Dead. Death. Die.
EVE [_shuddering_] Why do you remind me of it? I forgot it when I saw
your beautiful hood. You must not remind me of unhappy things.
THE SERPENT. Death is not an unhappy thing when you have learnt how to
EVE. How can I conquer it?
THE SERPENT. By another thing, called birth.
EVE. What? [_Trying to pronounce it_] B-birth?
THE SERPENT. Yes, birth.
EVE. What is birth?
THE SERPENT. The serpent never dies. Some day you shall see me come out
of this beautiful skin, a new snake with a new and lovelier skin. That
EVE. I have seen that. It is wonderful.
THE SERPENT. If I can do that, what can I not do? I tell you I am very
subtle. When you and Adam talk, I hear you say 'Why?' Always 'Why?' You
see things; and you say 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I
say 'Why not?' I made the word dead to describe my old skin that I cast
when I am renewed. I call that renewal being born.
EVE. Born is a beautiful word.
THE SERPENT. Why not be born again and again as I am, new and beautiful
EVE. I! It does not happen: that is why.
THE SERPENT. That is how; but it is not why. Why not?
EVE. But I should not like it. It would be nice to be new again; but my
old skin would lie on the ground looking just like me; and Adam would
see it shrivel up and -
THE SERPENT. No. He need not. There is a second birth.
EVE. A second birth?
THE SERPENT. Listen. I will tell you a great secret. I am very subtle;
and I have thought and thought and thought. And I am very wilful, and
must have what I want; and I have willed and willed and willed. And I
have eaten strange things: stones and apples that you are afraid to eat.
EVE. You dared!
THE SERPENT. I dared everything. And at last I found a way of gathering
together a part of the life in my body -
EVE. What is the life?
THE SERPENT. That which makes the difference between the dead fawn and
the live one.
EVE. What a beautiful word! And what a wonderful thing! Life is the
loveliest of all the new words.
THE SERPENT. Yes: it was by meditating on Life that I gained the power
to do miracles.
EVE. Miracles? Another new word.
THE SERPENT. A miracle is an impossible thing that is nevertheless
possible. Something that never could happen, and yet does happen.
EVE. Tell me some miracle that you have done.
THE SERPENT. I gathered a part of the life in my body, and shut it into
a tiny white case made of the stones I had eaten.
EVE. And what good was that?
THE SERPENT. I shewed the little case to the sun, and left it in its
warmth. And it burst; and a little snake came out; and it became bigger
and bigger from day to day until it was as big as I. That was the second
EVE. Oh! That is too wonderful. It stirs inside me. It hurts.
THE SERPENT. It nearly tore me asunder. Yet I am alive, and can burst my
skin and renew myself as before. Soon there will be as many snakes in
Eden as there are scales on my body. Then death will not matter: this
snake and that snake will die; but the snakes will live.
EVE. But the rest of us will die sooner or later, like the fawn. And
then there will be nothing but snakes, snakes, snakes everywhere.
THE SERPENT. That must not be. I worship you, Eve. I must have something
to worship. Something quite different to myself, like you. There must be
something greater than the snake.
EVE. Yes: it must not be. Adam must not perish. You are very subtle:
tell me what to do.
THE SERPENT. Think. Will. Eat the dust. Lick the white stone: bite the
apple you dread. The sun will give life.
EVE. I do not trust the sun. I will give life myself. I will tear.
another Adam from my body if I tear my body to pieces in the act.
THE SERPENT. Do. Dare it. Everything is possible: everything. Listen.
I am old. I am the old serpent, older than Adam, older than Eve. I
remember Lilith, who came before Adam and Eve. I was her darling as I am
yours. She was alone: there was no man with her. She saw death as you
saw it when the fawn fell; and she knew then that she must find out how
to renew herself and cast the skin like me. She had a mighty will: she
strove and strove and willed and willed for more moons than there are
leaves on all the trees of the garden. Her pangs were terrible: her
groans drove sleep from Eden. She said it must never be again: that the
burden of renewing life was past bearing: that it was too much for one.
And when she cast the skin, lo! there was not one new Lilith but two:
one like herself, the other like Adam. You were the one: Adam was the
EVE. But why did she divide into two, and make us different?
THE SERPENT. I tell you the labor is too much for one. Two must share
EVE. Do you mean that Adam must share it with me? He will not. He cannot
bear pain, nor take trouble with his body.
THE SERPENT. He need not. There will be no pain for him. He will implore
you to let him do his share. He will be in your power through his
EVE. Then I will do it. But how? How did Lilith work this miracle?
THE SERPENT. She imagined it.
EVE. What is imagined?
THE SERPENT. She told it to me as a marvellous story of something that
never happened to a Lilith that never was. She did not know then that
imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire;
you will what you imagine; and at last you create what you will.
EVE. How can I create out of nothing?
THE SERPENT. Everything must have been created out of nothing. Look at
that thick roll of hard flesh on your strong arm! That was not always
there: you could not climb a tree when I first saw you. But you willed
and tried and willed and tried; and your will created out of nothing the
roll on your arm until you had your desire, and could draw yourself up
with one hand and seat yourself on the bough that was above your head.
EVE. That was practice.
THE SERPENT. Things wear out by practice: they do not grow by it. Your
hair streams in the wind as if it were trying to stretch itself further
and further. But it does not grow longer for all its practice in
streaming, because you have not willed it so. When Lilith told me what
she had imagined in our silent language (for there were no words then) I
bade her desire it and will it; and then, to our great wonder, the thing
she had desired and willed created itself in her under the urging of her
will. Then I too willed to renew myself as two instead of one; and after
many days the miracle happened, and I burst from my skin another snake
interlaced with me; and now there are two imaginations, two desires, two
wills to create with.
EVE. To desire, to imagine, to will, to create. That is too long a
story. Find me one word for it all: you, who are so clever at words.
THE SERPENT. In one word, to conceive. That is the word that means both
the beginning in imagination and the end in creation.
EVE. Find me a word for the story Lilith imagined and told you in your
silent language: the story that was too wonderful to be true, and yet
THE SERPENT. A poem.
EVE. Find me another word for what Lilith was to me.
THE SERPENT. She was your mother.
EVE. And Adam's mother?
THE SERPENT. Yes.
EVE [_about to rise_] I will go and tell Adam to conceive.
THE SERPENT [_laughs_]!!!
EVE [_jarred and startled_] What a hateful noise! What is the matter
with you? No one has ever uttered such a sound before.
THE SERPENT. Adam cannot conceive.
THE SERPENT. Lilith did not imagine him so. He can imagine: he can
will: he can desire: he can gather his life together for a great spring
towards creation: he can create all things except one; and that one is
his own kind.
EVE. Why did Lilith keep this from him?
THE SERPENT. Because if he could do that he could do without Eve.
EVE. That is true. It is I who must conceive.
THE SERPENT. Yes. By that he is tied to you.
EVE. And I to him!
THE SERPENT. Yes, until you create another Adam.
EVE. I had not thought of that. You are very subtle. But if I create
another Eve he may turn to her and do without me. I will not create any
Eves, only Adams.
THE SERPENT. They cannot renew themselves without Eves. Sooner or later
you will die like the fawn; and the new Adams will be unable to create
without new Eves. You can imagine such an end; but you cannot desire it,
therefore cannot will it, therefore cannot create Adams only.
EVE. If I am to die like the fawn, why should not the rest die too? What
do I care?
THE SERPENT. Life must not cease. That comes before everything. It is
silly to say you do not care. You do care. It is that care that
will prompt your imagination; inflame your desires; make your will
irresistible; and create out of nothing.
EVE [_thoughtfully_] There can be no such thing as nothing. The garden
is full, not empty.
THE SERPENT. I had not thought of that. That is a great thought. Yes:
there is no such thing as nothing, only things we cannot see. The
chameleon eats the air.
EVE. I have another thought: I must tell it to Adam. [_Calling_] Adam!
ADAM'S VOICE. Coo-ee!
EVE. This will please him, and cure his fits of melancholy.
THE SERPENT. Do not tell him yet. I have not told you the great secret.
EVE. What more is there to tell? It is I who have to do the miracle.
THE SERPENT. No: he, too, must desire and will. But he must give his
desire and his will to you.
THE SERPENT. That is the great secret. Hush! he is coming.
ADAM [_returning_] Is there another voice in the garden besides our
voices and the Voice? I heard a new voice.
EVE [_rising and running to him_] Only think, Adam! Our snake has learnt
to speak by listening to us.
ADAM [_delighted_] Is it so? [_He goes past her to the stone, and
fondles the serpent_].
THE SERPENT [_responding affectionately_] It is so, dear Adam.
EVE. But I have more wonderful news than that. Adam: we need not live
ADAM [_dropping the snake's head in his excitement_] What! Eve: do not
play with me about this. If only there may be an end some day, and yet
no end! If only I can be relieved of the horror of having to endure
myself for ever! If only the care of this terrible garden may pass on
to some other gardener! If only the sentinel set by the Voice can be
relieved! If only the rest and sleep that enable me to bear it from
day to day could grow after many days into an eternal rest, an eternal
sleep, then I could face my days, however long they may last. Only,
there must be some end, some end: I am not strong enough to bear
THE SERPENT. You need not live to see another summer; and yet there
shall be no end.
ADAM. That cannot be.
THE SERPENT. It can be.
EVE. It shall be.
THE SERPENT. It is. Kill me; and you will find another snake in the
garden tomorrow. You will find more snakes than there are fingers on
EVE. I will make other Adams, other Eves.
ADAM. I tell you you must not make up stories about this. It cannot
THE SERPENT. I can remember when you were yourself a thing that could
not happen. Yet you are.
ADAM [_struck_] That must be true. [_He sits down on the stone_].
THE SERPENT. I will tell Eve the secret; and she will tell it to you.
ADAM. The secret! [_He turns quickly towards the serpent, and in doing
so puts his foot on something sharp_]. Oh!
EVE. What is it?
ADAM [_rubbing his foot_] A thistle. And there, next to it, a briar. And
nettles, too! I am tired of pulling these things up to keep the garden
pleasant for us for ever.
THE SERPENT. They do not grow very fast. They will not overrun the whole
garden for a long time: not until you have laid down your burden and
gone to sleep for ever. Why should you trouble yourself? Let the new
Adams clear a place for themselves.
ADAM. That is very true. You must tell us your secret. You see, Eve,
what a splendid thing it is not to have to live for ever.
EVE [_throwing herself down discontentedly and plucking at the grass_]
That is so like a man. The moment you find we need not last for ever,
you talk as if we were going to end today. You must clear away some of
those horrid things, or we shall be scratched and stung whenever we
forget to look where we are stepping.
ADAM. Oh yes, some of them, of course. But only some. I will clear them
THE SERPENT [_laughs_]!!!
ADAM. That is a funny noise to make. I like it.
EVE. I do not. Why do you make it again?
THE SERPENT. Adam has invented something new. He has invented tomorrow.
You will invent things every day now that the burden of immortality is
lifted from you.
EVE. Immortality? What is that?
THE SERPENT. My new word for having to live for ever.
EVE. The serpent has made a beautiful word for being. Living.
ADAM. Make me a beautiful word for doing things tomorrow; for that
surely is a great and blessed invention.
THE SERPENT. Procrastination.
EVE. That is a sweet word. I wish I had a serpent's tongue.
THE SERPENT. That may come too. Everything is possible.
ADAM [_springing up in sudden terror_] Oh!
EVE. What is the matter now?
ADAM. My rest! My escape from life!
THE SERPENT. Death. That is the word.
ADAM. There is a terrible danger in this procrastination.
EVE. What danger?
ADAM. If I put off death until tomorrow, I shall never die. There is no
such day as tomorrow, and never can be.
THE SERPENT. I am very subtle; but Man is deeper in his thought than
I am. The woman knows that there is no such thing as nothing: the man
knows that there is no such day as tomorrow. I do well to worship them.
ADAM. If I am to overtake death, I must appoint a real day, not a
tomorrow. When shall I die?
EVE. You may die when I have made another Adam. Not before. But then,
as soon as you like. [_She rises, and passing behind him, strolls off
carelessly to the tree and leans against it, stroking a ring of the
ADAM. There need be no hurry even then.
EVE. I see you will put it off until tomorrow.
ADAM. And you? Will you die the moment you have made a new Eve?
EVE. Why should I? Are you eager to be rid of me? Only just now you
wanted me to sit still and never move lest I should stumble and die like
the fawn. Now you no longer care.
ADAM. It does not matter so much now.
EVE [_angrily to the snake_] This death that you have brought into the
garden is an evil thing. He wants me to die.
THE SERPENT [_to Adam_] Do you want her to die?
ADAM. No. It is I who am to die. Eve must not die before me. I should be
EVE. You could get one of the new Eves.
ADAM. That is true. But they might not be quite the same. They could
not: I feel sure of that. They would not have the same memories. They
would be - I want a word for them.
THE SERPENT. Strangers.
ADAM. Yes: that is a good hard word. Strangers.
EVE. When there are new Adams and new Eves we shall live in a garden of
strangers. We shall need each other. [_She comes quickly behind him and
turns up his face to her_]. Do not forget that, Adam. Never forget it.
ADAM. Why should I forget it? It is I who have thought of it.
EVE. I, too, have thought of something. The fawn stumbled and fell and
died. But you could come softly up behind me and [_she suddenly pounces
on his shoulders and throws him forward on his face_] throw me down so
that I should die. I should not dare to sleep if there were no reason
why you should not make me die.
ADAM [_scrambling up in horror_] Make you die!!! What a frightful
THE SERPENT. Kill, kill, kill, kill. That is the word.
EVE. The new Adams and Eves might kill us. I shall not make them. [_She
sits on the rock and pulls him down beside her, clasping him to her with
her right arm_].
THE SERPENT. You must. For if you do not there will be an end.
ADAM. No: they will not kill us: they will feel as I do. There is
something against it. The Voice in the garden will tell them that they
must not kill, as it tells me.
THE SERPENT. The voice in the garden is your own voice.
ADAM. It is; and it is not. It is something greater than me: I am only a