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The Last Man ebook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 520 pages of information about The Last Man.

  Does not the sun call in his light? and day
  Like a thin exhalation melt away—­
  Both wrapping up their beams in clouds to be
  Themselves close mourners at this obsequie.[3]

[1] Wordsworth. [2] Prior’s “Solomon.” [3] Cleveland’s Poems.

VOL.  III.

CHAPTER I.

Hear you not the rushing sound of the coming tempest?  Do you not behold the clouds open, and destruction lurid and dire pour down on the blasted earth?  See you not the thunderbolt fall, and are deafened by the shout of heaven that follows its descent?  Feel you not the earth quake and open with agonizing groans, while the air is pregnant with shrieks and wailings,—­ all announcing the last days of man?  No! none of these things accompanied our fall!  The balmy air of spring, breathed from nature’s ambrosial home, invested the lovely earth, which wakened as a young mother about to lead forth in pride her beauteous offspring to meet their sire who had been long absent.  The buds decked the trees, the flowers adorned the land:  the dark branches, swollen with seasonable juices, expanded into leaves, and the variegated foliage of spring, bending and singing in the breeze, rejoiced in the genial warmth of the unclouded empyrean:  the brooks flowed murmuring, the sea was waveless, and the promontories that over-hung it were reflected in the placid waters; birds awoke in the woods, while abundant food for man and beast sprung up from the dark ground.  Where was pain and evil?  Not in the calm air or weltering ocean; not in the woods or fertile fields, nor among the birds that made the woods resonant with song, nor the animals that in the midst of plenty basked in the sunshine.  Our enemy, like the Calamity of Homer, trod our hearts, and no sound was echoed from her steps—­

  With ills the land is rife, with ills the sea,
  Diseases haunt our frail humanity,
  Through noon, through night, on casual wing they glide,
  Silent,—­a voice the power all-wise denied.[1]

Once man was a favourite of the Creator, as the royal psalmist sang, “God had made him a little lower than the angels, and had crowned him with glory and honour.  God made him to have dominion over the works of his hands, and put all things under his feet.”  Once it was so; now is man lord of the creation?  Look at him—­ha!  I see plague!  She has invested his form, is incarnate in his flesh, has entwined herself with his being, and blinds his heaven-seeking eyes.  Lie down, O man, on the flower-strown earth; give up all claim to your inheritance, all you can ever possess of it is the small cell which the dead require.  Plague is the companion of spring, of sunshine, and plenty.  We no longer struggle with her.  We have forgotten what we did when she was not.  Of old navies used to stem the giant ocean-waves betwixt Indus and the Pole for slight

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