Genesis B

Introduction

Genesis B is an Old Saxon rendering of the Fall of Adam and Eve that was translated into Anglo-Saxon and stuck into the middle of the much more mundane poem Genesis A.  It is found, along with other Anglo-Saxon poetic renderings of Biblical stories in what is called the Junius Manuscript.  The four poems in this manuscript are among the best of the Anglo-Saxon corpus, and the manuscript is called the Junius manuscript because it belonged to a 17th century collector of manuscripts named Junius.  He, by the way, was a friend of Milton's, and there is some possibility that Milton saw the manuscript while he was contemplating writing an epic.  However, it appears that given where Junius was when, Milton would have had only one day to look through the works (and nobody really knew yet how to read Anglo-Saxon; it was a lost language.). Still, there are striking similarities between Genesis B and particularly the first two books of Paradise Lost, so who knows?  And remember that Milton was planning an Arthurian legend for his epic and then suddenly changed his mind.  Perhaps the Junius manuscript gave him the idea for his great epic plan.

            Genesis B puzzled scholars for years because its version of the Fall story is very different from any others.  The serpent first approaches Adam and is rejected, because Adam doesn't trust him.  Then the serpent goes and finds Eve.  He argues that he is a messenger from God and God has changed his mind and now wants them to eat of the previously forbidden tree.  Furthermore, he tells her that if Adam doesn't listen to him (Godes engle god--God's good angel/messenger), God will be mighty angry with Adam, and if Eve doesn't persuade Adam to eat the fruit, they and their children will be sorry forever.  He promises Eve that her eyes will be opened in a new way, and when she finally takes the fruit, he gives her a vision of heaven.

            The most puzzling thing, though, is that first, Satan appears to Adam in the shape of a serpent, and Adam tells him bluntly that "you are not like any of his angels that I saw before" (Þu gelic ne baest aenigum his engla þat ic aer geseah.).  But later, Eve tells Adam that she can "see by his apparel that he is the envoy (engle) of our Master" (ll. 655-58).  So is Satan in the shape of a serpent or an angel?  The whole issue is complicated by the fact that the manuscript illustrations show Satan as a serpent when he is talking to Adam at first, but then as an angel when he is talking to Eve and Adam and Eve together. 

            This is the question that I tried to answer in an essay on this poem, published in Traditio in 1985.[1] My thesis in that essay is that Satan remains in the form of a serpent throughout the story, and what is happening here is that Eve is so confused by the devil's rhetoric that she is convinced she is seeing an angel when she is really looking at a serpent.  The manuscript is probably 300 years younger than the poem itself, so all I can say about those illustrations is that the illustrator was as confused and missed the poem's point just as modern scholars have done. 

            I base my reading on the biblical commentary or exegisis on Genesis from the early period of the church through the 14th century. The biblical commentary from Origen and Ambrose, through Augustine and Rhabanus Maurus and up through the 16th century consistently allegorizes the Bible in general and Genesis in particular.  There are two major readings, and they can occur side by side in the same commentary.

            The most popular is that Eve represents the senses, Adam represents the reason, and the serpent represents the suggestion of evil.  In this reading, the Fall story is showing us how the suggestion of sin comes into our minds through our senses (sight, taste, and touch, especially).  Reason is supposed to consider the report of the senses and refer the decision making to what it knows from and about God.  It is up to the reason to control the senses and reject the suggestion of evil, but what usually happens in life is that we let our senses rule our reason and we fall.  This treatment of the Fall story and the tension between the senses or passion and reason is probably the most prevalent theme to be found in Medieval literature.  It crops up absolutely everywhere.  Only Boethius' Wheel of Fortune is more popular.

            If Eve is the senses, then, her insistence that the serpent's apparel (gearwon/clothing) proves that he is an angel just demonstrates how confused her eyesight and the senses can become.  Adam should have known to trust his own "view" of the serpent and not to accept Eve's "false vision."

            OK.  Allegory #1 completed.  But how is it that the senses can become so confused and actually think they are seeing something different from what is there?  Language, of course.  Language shapes reality and in particular our perception of reality.

            But how does that function of language show up in the allegory of the Fall and of the poem?  Well the second allegorical reading presented in the commentaries is that Satan represents heresy, and that the story of the Fall is about the human tendency to stray away from God and be misled by false doctrine.  The early church spent a good deal of its time all the way up to the 14th century solidifying its doctrine and trying to stamp out heresies of various kinds.  It seems as if Genesis B might be reflecting those concerns.

 Now, heresy is spread by speaking and preaching and writing, right?  It is spread by the use of language and rhetoric, and it is through the use of language and rhetoric here that Satan persuades Eve to stray from God's will, thinking all the time that she is really fulfilling God's will.  So Satan in Genesis B is analogous to a heretical preacher trying to mislead the flock of the Church.  And Genesis B can be seen to be about the dangers of listening to heresy.

Anyway, that's one way to read the poem, but you can also read it as an interesting drama of comitatic loyalty and tension between a husband and a wife, as a study of women's roles in the period, or as an example of what happens when the comitatic thane is distanced physically from his hlaford and needs to rely on messengers for communication.  Notice, for example, how Satan uses Adam's and Eve's comitatic loyalty to turn them AWAY from their Lord.  Compare this treatment of loyalty to that in "The Battle of Maldon" and "The Dream of the Rood."

            And notice that this wonderful poem is not just allegory, but a vivid and lifelike characterization of Satan, Adam, and Eve. The language is also beautiful and you should be able to find some excellent poetic and rhetorical techniques to appreciate.  And pay attention to the instances when we hear the narrator's voice commenting on the action.  What is his attitude towards the events of the poem?   How does he judge Eve and Adam?  Where does he place the blame for their fall?

            There is so much to enjoy and think about in this poem that one reading really can’t do it justice.  Hopefully you will go back and reread it several times as you are exploring the wonderful world of Anglo-Saxon poetry.


Translation

From The Junius Manuscript, Genesis, ll.235-85

 

". . .but make use, you two, of all those others;   leave alone that one tree.                              235

Guard, both of you, against that fruit.   There will not be for you any lack of desired things."

They bowed their heads, then,   to the Heaven-King,

eagerly together           and said all thanks

for the knowledge and those laws.       He allowed them to live in that land,

wafted himself, then, to heaven            the Holy Lord,                                                                        240

strong-minded King.                The work of his hands stood

together on the strand.  They did not know anything of sorrow

to mourn about,           only that they the will of God

should always obey.     They were dear to God

as long as they were willing to hold to his holy word.                                                  245

 

            The All-wielder had     of angel-kind

through handiwork,                 Holy Lord,

ten types trimmed;       them he trusted well,

knew that they his rule             were designed to follow,

to work his will,           because he gave them wit                                                                    250

and with his hands shaped them,         Holy Lord.

He had set them up so blessedly.        One in particular had he created so shining

so mighty in his thinking;         he let him wield so much power,

highest next to Him in Heaven-Kingdom.       He had him so brightly created,

so winsome were his ways in heaven,    that came to him from the Lord's company               255

that he was like the light of the stars.                He should have loved the work of the Lord.

he should have held dear to himself his joys in heaven and should have thanked his Lord

for those delights that He shared with him in that light;  then would He have permitted

him for a long time to wield power.

But he turned himself to a terrible thing;         he began to heave up trouble against Him,

against that highest Heaven's Ruler,                 who sits on the saintly throne.                          260     

Dear was he to Our Lord;       yet God might not be deluded

that his angel began                 to become over-spirited.

He raised himself up against his Superior,      sought hate-speech;

boast-words began.      He did not wish to serve God;

he said that his body was         light and shining,                                                                     265

bright-white and hue-luminous.                      Nor might he find in his mind

that he owed God        the duty of an inferior,

to serve as a retainer.               He thought to himself

that he had more         strategy and strength

than the Holy God                   could have                                                                               270

in his followers.                       Dangerous words spoke

this angel in his adrenaline rush.         He thought about how,  through his own efforts,

he a strong-built           throne could establish

higher in Heaven.        He said that his mind spanned so far

that he, west and north,            was beginning to work,                                                            275

trimming timbers.       He said that he thought it quite doubtful

that he would               become the retainer of God.

           

            "What, will I gain?"      said he.            "There is no need for me

to have a leader.          I may with my own hands a multitude of

wonders work.             I have great capacity                                                                            280

to adorn           a God-like throne,

more impressive in Heaven.   Why shall I follow in the wake of His protection?

shove at Him such subservience?        I may be God as well as He.

Strong supporters stand beside me,     who will not betray me in the strife,

hard-minded companions.       They have crowned me as their superior,                               285

the renowned ring-men;           with such may one take counsel,

seize the prize with  a standing army like this.             They are my eager friends,

loyal to death in their forged intentions.           I may become their high-king,

rule in this kingdom.               I think it so right for me,

that I bother to flatter               not a whit more                                                                       290

God for the sake of any good.              Nor will I long be his retainer."

 

            When the Omnipotent            heard all--

that his angel began                 in his great adrenaline rush

to rise up against his leader     and to speak haughty words

dolt-like, feuding against his Lord,       He ordered that deed atoned for,                                295

the consequences of that striving to be dealt out,         and that he have his punishment,

the most misery of all.             So will befall each person

who against his or her ruler                 generates strife

with wickedness against that Sublime Lord.      Then was the Mighty One moved to wrath.

The highest Heaven's Ruler     traveled down from that high throne.                                       300

Hate he had won from his leader.       Of God's loyalty he was bereft.

He had become an enemy to God in his mind.           Therefore he should seek the pit

of hard hell-punishments         because he strove against Heaven's Ruler.

 

God banished him then from His protection   and warped him down to Hell,

into those deep dales   where he morphed into a devil,                                                           305

the fiend with all his companions.        They fell, then, out of Heaven

for as long as               three nights and days,

those angels, from Heaven into Hell,              and them all the Lord

re-shaped into devils.               Because they His deed and word

would not carry out,                therefore he, the Almighty God                                               310

sent them into a worse life,      under the earth, deep beneath,           

triumph-less,                into that dark and dreary Hell.

There they experience,            in evenings immoderately long,

every one of the fiends,            fire enough.

Then comes, in the dawn,       an eastern wind,                                                                       315

frost fiercely cold.                    Feast-fire or spear-frost,

some hard hardship                 they must endure.

The One created it for their punishment         (Their world was transformed)--

a horrid existence---     filled Hell

with those traitors.       The angels held forthrightly                                                                 320

the heights of Heaven,             that before were faithful in their allegiance to God.

 

            The others, now fiends,  lay in that fire,           that before had so many

struggles against their Superior.           They suffer punishment,

hot war-flames             in the midst of Hell,

sword-fiery and hot-breathed flames,               similarly also that bitter smoke,                       325

choking and gloomy,               because they the thegnship

of God had cut from their hearts.        Them their folly betrayed,

the swelled heads of those angels;        they did not wish their All-King's

word to honor.            They had punishment enough,

were then thrown         in fire to the bottom                                                                             330

of that hot Hell,           through faithlessness

and through great excess         sought another land,

that was light-less         though full of flames,

a terrible fiery seeing.              The fiends saw

that they had wrenched themselves      into unnumbered punishments                                    335

through their haughtiness        and through the might of God

and through recklessness,        most of all.

 

            Then spoke that berserker king, he who was before the most shining of angels,

brightest in Heaven     and beloved of his Leader,

dear to the Lord,         until he turned to folly                                                                         340

thinking because of his desires            that he could become God Himself,

mightily depraved in mind.      That evil transforms him within,

sends him down to that netherbed,      and shapes for him afterwards a name.

The Highest ordered that        he should be called

Satan afterwards.         He ordered him to over-see                                                                345

that dark Hell,             nor ever to strive against God.

Satan mixed words,     spoke desperately,

he that should hold      Hell forthrightly,

the caretaker of that ground.                He was, before, God's angel

radiant in Heaven,       until he overextended his spirit                                                            350

and through his recklessness               most of all,

so that he refused         to respect the duty of

God's people.               It enraged him inside

his mind around his heart        just as heat surrounded him outside,

wrathlike punishment.             He then spoke words:                                                              355

            "Is this any angel's place,          so excessively unlike

that other home           that we before knew,

high in Heaven's-Land,            that to me my leader gave,

though we        might not claim it,       because of that all-creator,

or possess our kingdom?         He did not give us our rights                                                   360

in having thrown us     into the fire—pit,

titling hell to us,           depriving us of heaven-land;

he has ruled     that Heaven with humans

be settled.        That to me is the greatest misery,

that Adam shall,          he that was made from dirt,                                                                 365

hold my           strong-bodied throne,

live in pleasures,          and we suffer this punishment,

harm in this hell.         Alas!    Had I my hands'  power

and might one time      escape out,

be out for one winter-time,      then I with this band. . .                                                           370

But iron-bands             lie around me.

Ropes of chain ride me.           I am kingdom-less;

so hard have hell weeds           me

fast enveloped.             Here is much fire,

above and below.         I have never seen                                                                                 375

a more loathsome landscape.              The Flames are never assuaged,

hot throughout Hell.    Me have rings spanned;

savage cords    restrict my movements.

My striding is emasculated;     fettered are my feet,

my hands immobilized.           These hell-doors are                                                                380

made to stay shut,        so that I may never go

from this bondage.       Around me lie

hard irons        beaten with heat,

great bars.        With these God has me

imprisoned in this dwelling,     so I know that he understands my mind;                                 385

and that he knows also,            the Lord of all people,

that we should to Adam           work evil

around that heaven-land,         had I any power of my hands.

            But now we suffer abuse in hell,          (those are darkness and burning),

grim and groundless.               God Himself has                                                                     390

swept us into these dark mists.            Because he may not convict us of any crime,

prove that we against him in that land accomplished any injury,  he has tonsured the light for us,

cast us down into the greatest of all punishments.        Nor may we achieve revenge for this,

compensate him with any retaliation               for tonsuring our light.

He has now marked out one middle-earth,     where he has created humans                          395

after his own likeness.              With them, he will afterwards populate

the land of heaven with pure souls.      We should avidly think upon this—

how we in Adam,         if we ever may,

and in his some of his posterity, too,               enclose terror,

deprive him there of those joys of theirs,         if we might think of anything.                           400

I desire no longer that light      that he thinks him long to enjoy,

those  joys, with his angel-knowledge.              Nor may we overcome the fire,

or weaken the resolution of mighty God.         Let us go wrench it away from the children of men,

that Heaven-land, now that we cannot have it--            make it so that they betray their duty,

that they undo what God with his word ordered.         Then he will become wrathful in spirit,    405

exile them from his loyal band.           Then shall they seek this Hell

and these grim grounds.          Then will we have them as our servants

those progeny, suffering in this fast prison.      Begin now to think about that campaign!

If I ever before gave    any thegn

treasures,         when we in that good kingdom                                                                        410

were blessedly seated               and had autonomy in our assembly,

then he never at a better time              might compensate me,

repay my gifts.                         If any one of my thegns

moreover, desires to give        his consent,

he up from here                      might                                                                                       415

come through these gates,       and have craft within him

so that he with feather-limbs    might fly,

wind through the firmament                to where stand, created,

Adam and Eve                         in Earth-kingdom

bewound with joys,                  while we be warped hither                                                       420

in this deep dale.                      Now they are to the Lord

worth much,                            and they might gain that inheritance

that we should have                 in Heaven-land,

our kingdom, by right.             That bequest is granted

to human kind.                        That is in my mind so distressing,                                           425

harrowing to my spirit,            that they heaven-kingdom

should gain as inheritance.      If any of you might

achieve with cleverness that they         the word of God's

law abandon,               they will immediately become hateful to Him.                                   

If they break his commandments,       then He will become irritated with them.                    430

Their joys afterwards will transform    and turn into a spear-sharp punishment,

some hard harm's-shearing.     Think of this, all of you,

how you might betray them!                Afterwards, I might comfortably rest

in these chains,            if he that kingdom loses.

He who makes that happen,    to him will be rewards prepared                                              435

ever after,        that we here in might,

 in this fire,      struggle to bring forth.

He will sit idle right by myself,            whoever comes to say

into this hot Hell,         that they have held contemptible

the words, deeds, and laws      of the Heaven-King.                                                                 440

            One began to prepare himself then     for enmity to God,

eager in his disguise,                (He had a deceitful mind),

he set helmet on head              and then bound it full hard.

Spanned with buckles,             he knew many speeches                                                          445

of false words.                          He wound his way up from there,

turned himself out through the Hell-doors,                 (He was in a determined mood).

Light in air       but with a loathly-turned mind,

he struck that fire in two,         through the craft of the fiends.

He wished darkly        the retainers of the Lord,                                                                     450

with crime-deeds,        people,  to undo,

mis-lead and mis-teach,           so that they would become hateful to God.

He then fared forth                  through fiend's craft

until he Adam found,               on Earth-land,

hand-shaped of God,               prepared,                                                                                 455

worked to be wise,                   and his wife with him,

the fairest of women,               knowing full many

of God's bounties                     which to them as his followers

the Creator of humankind,      had granted Himself.

And they between                    two trees stood                                                                         460

that were laden about               with fruit,

Clothed with a crop,                as them the good Ruler,

high Heaven-king,                   set with his hands

so that there the child of man              must choose

between good and evil,            each man,                                                                                465

between joy and woe.               These fruits were not alike!

One was so joy-like,                 brilliant and shining,

grace-filled and lithesome--      that was the tree of life.

He must in eternity                  after live,

prospering in the world,          who tasted of that fruit.                                                            470

Because of that fruit, age after that       would never harm him,

nor heavy disease,                   but he must continually be

long in pleasure                       and possess his life

in fealty to heaven's king          here in the world,

to have to him, as a covenant,              honor decreed                                                             475

in that high heaven,                  when he went from here.

 

Then was the other                  entirely dark,

dim and smoky.                       That was the tree of death.

It bears many bitter things.      One should recognize them both,

each person,                            of evil and good                                                                       480

woven together in this world.               He will in his heart ever

with sweat and with sorrow                  afterwards live

who tasted the fruit                              of that tree.

Age would bereave him                       of strength and valiant deeds,

of joys and of lordship,                        and Death is allotted him.                                            485

For a short while only                          he enjoys his life,

then seeks that land                             darkest in fire,

to serve the fiends there                       where there is the greatest vileness

for people for much longer time.         All that he knew, the hated one,

dark messenger of the devil                 who strove against the Lord.                                        490

 

            He cast himself into a worm's body     and wound himself around

that death-tree,             through demon's craft.

He took there its fruit              and made his way afterwards

there  where he knew to be      the handiwork of Heaven's King.

He began then the questioning            with his opening words,                                               495

the hateful one, with lying:       "Long you for anything,

Adam, from God?       I am on his errand hither

traveled from far.         Nor was it long ago

that I sat by God Himself.       Then he ordered me to go on this journey

to bid you to eat this fruit.        He said that your ability and wisdom                                      500

and security of mind                would increase

and your body-house               greatly lighten,

your shape become more shining.       He said that for you no need of treasure

would there be in the world.                Now you have joys

earned by your loyalty,                                    given from Heaven's King.                                          505

You have served your superior           with thanks.

You have deeds that are secretly known by the Lord.             I heard him your works and word

praise in His glory                   and speak about your life.

With your wonted devotion I know you will carry out                        the orders that, into this land, hither,

his messenger brings.              In the world are broad,                                                            510

green gardens              and God sits

in the highest kingdom            of Heaven,

the all-wielder, above.              He did not want the difficulty

of going on this journey           Himself,

the Lord of men, but he sent               his subordinate                                                            515

to speak to you.           Now he orders you with declarations

to be crafty.                  Eagerly carry out

his desire.                    Take you this fruit in hand.

Bite it and taste.           Then your mind will widen,

your form be augmented.        The good ruler sends to you,                                                   520

your superior,              this help from heaven's kingdom."

 

            Adam spoke where he stood   on the earth,

self-fated of men:         "When I the Victory-Lord,

Mighty God,                heard speak,

in a stronger voice,      He ordered me standing here                                                              525

to hold to His decree               and granted me this newly-born

white-shining wife        and ordered me to be wary

that I not be deluded,               concerning this death's tree,

betrayed too greatly.                He said that that dark Hell

should hold one who               by his heart anything                                                                530

of hate would perform.            I know not whether you with lying come

with a hidden agenda               or whether you are the Lord's

messenger from heaven.          Listen! I know nothing about your business

nor your words or knowledge              desire to understand more,

nor of your supposed journey.             I know what He Himself bid,                                      535

our Protector,              when I saw Him nearest to me:

he ordered me to revere his word       and hold to His will,

to listen to his law.       You are not like

any of his angels          that I ever saw,

nor do you show me                any token                                                                                 540

that He sends to me                 as troth,

my Leader in loyalty.               Therefore I cannot hear you,

but you must fare forth.           I hold myself fast in faith

up to that almighty God           that me with his arms wrought,

here with his hands.                 He may grant to me from his high kingdom                           545

gifts with all good things           without sending a subordinate."

           

            He slunk away then, wrathful,             where he saw that woman,

Eve, standing               on the earth-land,

shaped shiningly.         He said that the greatest injuries

on all her offspring      ever afterwards                                                                                                550

would devolve in the world:     "I know that at you the good Ruler

will grow angry                        when I this message to him

myself relate,               that when I from my journey came,

over a long way,           yet I accomplished not well

that errand that            he hither from the east                                                                         555

on this journey sent.                 Now shall He himself come

in answer to you.                     His errand

could not be carried by his messenger.   Because of that I know that he will be irritated with you,

mighty in mood.          If you, however, wish,

willing wife,                  to obey my words,                                                                               560

you might then his good counsel,        his advice consider.

Ponder in your breast              that you might from both you two

ward off punishment,               as I you instruct.

Eat this fruit!                Then your eyes will become so light

that you might most widely      over all the world                                                                     565

see afterwards,             even the throne

of your Leader Himself,          and have his devotion forthrightly.

You might, then,                      Adam direct afterwards,

if you have his affection           and he your words trusts.

If you tell him truly                  what you yourself have                                                                        570

in your heart,                           that you the bidding of God,

the truth, carry out,                  he then the hate-strife

the only present evil,                shall relinquish

from his breast-chest,              as both we two to him

successfully speak.                   Envelope him eagerly                                                              575     

so that he carries out your law,            lest the hatred to God

Ruler of you both,                    become a habit.

If you accomplish that enterprise,       most shining of women,

I will hide from your Leader   those many baleful words that

Adam to me spoke,     slothful words.                                                                                     580

He called me untrustworthy,   said that I yearned to harm him,

a hostile messenger,    was not God's angel.

But I know so well all the state of the angels,

the high vault of Heaven;         it wasn't that long a while

that I eagerly                served God                                                                                          585

through loyal spirit,     my Superior,

the Lord Himself;        nor am I like a devil."

            So he led her with lying           and enticed with deceit

the women into that un-right,               until within her began

to well up the worm's thought,             (God had to her the weaker spirit                                590

the Creator, allotted),                          so that she began in her belief

to follow after that teaching;                 therefore she from that hated one took

against the word of the Lord,               the death tree's

pain-working fruit.                   Never was a worse deed

laid out by humans!                 It is a great wonder                                                                  595

that the everlasting God           ever would

suffer, the Lord,                       that a thane

should be misled by so much lying      that came in the shape of teaching.

She then ate that produce,       broke the all-wielder's

word and will.                          Then might she widely see,                                                     600

through the gift of the enemy               who betrayed her with lies,

cunningly deluded,      that came to her criminally,

so that to her seemed brighter             heaven and earth,

and all this world more brilliant,         and God's work

great and mighty,         though she saw it not                                                                           605

through human thought,          but the thief eagerly

enveloped the soul,                  he who before gave that vision,

that she so widely         might see

over Heaven-land.       Then the ill-spoken one said,

through fiendship,        (he taught nothing at all of any profit),                                                 610     

"You might now see for yourself,         as I have no need to tell you,

Eve the good,               that to you the world is not the same

in brightness and form,            since you trusted my words,

listened to my lore.                  Now shines the light far.

Gladness begins           that I brought from God,                                                                     615

brightness from Heaven.         Now you might feel it.

Tell Adam       what vision you have

through the craft of my cunning.          If yet through pure conduct

he listens to my lore,               then I will give him enough of that light

with which I have  so               adorned you with goodness.                                                    620

Nor will I remember his hate-speeches,          that his honor not be for him

too much lessened       by those many hateful things he said to me.

Likewise shall his offspring                  live afterwards:

when they act out of loathing,              they shall earn love,

beat their Superior with injury-words,              yet have his loyalty steadfastly."                        625

 

            Then went to Adam     the most shining of women,

of wives most bright                 that ever entered the world,

because she was the handiwork           of the Heaven-King,

although she then deceitfully                was undone,

misled with lying,         so that she confused                                                                             630

evil for good    Through that wraith's thought,

through that devil's treachery   let go of glory,

loyalty to her Superior,            lost the heaven-kingdom

for a great while.          There will be to that person great woe

that does not warn himself against evil             when he has the chance!                                  635

 

Some she bore in her hands,               some lay at her heart,

the apple unblessed,                that before her forbid

the Lord of Lords,       that produce of the death tree.

 And that word             the Elder of Wonders spoke

so that humankind       would not need great death,                                                                 640

those thegns, suffer,     but he to each servant

offered Heaven-land,               the Holy Lord,

widespread joys,          if they that one fruit

would forgo,                which that evil tree

bore on its boughs,      filled with bitterness.                                                                            645

That was death's tree   that them the Lord forbid.

He deceived her then with lying,         he who was hateful to God,

abhorrent to the Heaven-King,            both Eve's spirit and

the woman's weak thought,      so that she began to trust his words,

listen to his lore,                      and took on faith                                                                      650

that he that business from God                        had brought

that he to her so warily                        had said with words,

showed her a token                  and promised truth,

his honest intent.          Then she to her leader spoke:

            "Adam, my dear,         this crop is so sweet,                                                                655

blithe in my breast,      and this shining messenger,

God's good angel,        I can see by his apparel

that he is the errand-man         of our Leader,

Heaven-King's man.                His loyalty is better for us

to earn             than his enmity.                                                                                               660

If you him today anything        of insult spoke,

he forgives it you,        if you him subservience

will offer.         What?  Shall you so hatefully strive

against your Leader's herald?              We two need his support;

he may intercede for us           to the All-Ruler,                                                                       665

to Heaven-King.          I may see from here

where he Himself sits (that is south and east),

bewound with joys,      He Who the world created;

I see his angels                        swirling around him

with feather-bodies,      greatest of all folk,                                                                               670

a prosperous company.           How might to me such perception be given

if it immediately           God did not send,

Heaven's Ruler?          I can hear hymns

and see so widely         over all the world

over this broad creation.          I may sweet songs                                                                    675

Hear in heaven.           Light transforms my spirit,

without and within,      since I ate that produce.

Now have I it here in my hands,          God's very own;

I give it to you avidly.              I believe that it comes from God,

brought by his bidding,            that to me the herald conveyed                                                680     

with concerned words.             It is like nothing

else on earth,               except as this messenger says,

that it came immediately         from God."

            She spoke thickly to him         and imprisoned him all day

in that dark deed          so that they their Lord's                                                                       685

will broke.       The enemy messenger stood near,

led them on with lust               and pressured them with wiles,

pursued them to danger;          the fiend was full near

that on that dangerous mission            had come

over a long way.                       He was determined the people                                                690

into that great death,                humans to plunge,

mis-taught and misled,             so that they God's joys,

the Almighty's gift,                   once relinquish,

the ownership of Heaven-land.            What!  That hell-thief

new well                                   that they God's ire                                                                    695

should have,                            and hell-torment.

That nasty strife,                      of necessity they took

as soon as God's bidding         they had disobeyed.

She misled him                        with lying words

into that bad decision,              the shining woman,                                                                  700

the brightest of wives,              so that she spoke his desires,

was a help to him,                    God's handiwork,

in mis-teaching.

            She spoke then to Adam,         the most shining of women,

full thickly,       until that thegn began                                                                                       705

to warp his spirit,         so that he that promise trusted

that to him that woman            said with words.

She did it, though, out of loyal intention,         did not know that there harms so many,

doom-fires,                  would pursue

human kind,                because she absorbed in her soul                                                        710

what she from that horrid herald         heard as lessons

But through that she her duty              to Heaven-King

worked with those words.        That woman that man such

tokens showed                         and troths promised,

until Adam                  in his breast                                                                                         715

warped his spirit          and his heart began

to wend to her will.      He from that wife took

Hell and death-journey,           though it was not bidden him to do so,

but it the name of "fruit"           should possess.

It was however a death's dream           and devil's spew,                                                          720

Hell and death-journey            and loss of companions,

death of humankind,                that they took as nourishment,

a pestilent produce.                 So it came into him,

touched at his heart.                Laughed then and pranced

that despicable, bitter messenger,        said thanks to both their                                  725

Leader:                                    "Now have I your loyalty

made certain                            and fulfilled your pleasure

for full many a day.                  Men are misled,

Adam and Eve.            To them is sure rejection

by Creation's Ruler      now they his commandment,                                                               730

his teaching, unlearn.   Therefore they must not hold

Heaven-land for long,              but they to Hell shall go,

on that dim journey.                So you no longer envy of him need

bear in your breast,                 where you lie bound,

mourning in mind                   because here humans inhabit                                                  735

that high heaven,                      while we, now, injuries,

punishment-work, endure,       and a smoky land.

And through your great spirit,                         many are undone,

cast out from the high-built      Heaven-land,

from the godlike gardens.        God grew angry at us                                                               740

because we would not to him               in Heaven's-land

bow our heads             to the Holy Lord

in subservience.           But it was not appealing to us

that we to him, in thegnship,    would act as his servants.

Therefore to us the Ruler turned         wrathful in mood,                                                        745

hard of heart,               and drove us into Hell,

into that most               fire-filled land

and with his hands       afterwards in Heaven-kingdom

our right, the heaven's-stool,    and that land gave out

to human kind.            May your mood brighten,                                                                    750

blithe in breast,            because here are both two of them undone,

for the child of men     shall  from Heaven-land,

a people misled,          and into that flame, to you

come into the heat.      And your injury is made good,

sorrow etched into their minds.           So whatever we here suffer in misery,                         755

it is now to Adam        all repayed

with hate of his Superior          and the disinheritance of his race,

humans overwhelmed by death.          Therefore is my mind healed,

my spirit roomy around my heart.      All injuries to us are completely avenged,

the horrors that we long have suffered.            Now will I afterwards approach that flame,     760

Satan I will seek there;             he is in that dismal hell

held, spanned with rings."        He wove himself then down below,

the most bitter envoy.              He should those broad flames

seek, go laughing into Hell.                 They sorrowed, both the two,

Adam and Eve,                        and between them often                                                            765                                                                   

Groan-words went.                  They dreaded God's,

Their Leader's, hate,               the enmity of Heaven-king

Greatly oppressed them;         they had disinherited themselves,

His word perverted.                That wife groaned,

held her rueful head,               (She had the protection of God's                                                770

teaching let go).                       when she that light saw

departing elsewhere                 that to her through un-truth

as token was shown,                she who counseled him to that wrong                                                                                                                                                                             

so that they enmity in Hell       should have

with uncounted shames.          For that to him spirit-sorrow                                                   775

Burned in breast.                     For a while they fell to prayer

Sin-hued together,                    and the Victory Lord

Greeted as good          and named God,

Heaven's Ruler,            and asked Him

that they his harm-shearing      might have,                                                                              780

eagerly repay               what they had of God's

bidding broken.           Bare they saw

their corpses;               they had not yet in that land

set dwellings,               nor did they know anything

of the sorrow of work,                         but they well might                                                                  785

live on that land           if they would God's teaching

fulfill forthwith.            Then they spoke many

sorrow-words together,            sin-hued, the two of them.

            Adam mixed words     and to Eve spoke:

"What!  You, Eve, have           accomplished with evil                                                                        790

both of our exiles.                    See you now that smoky Hell,

greedy and hungry?                 Now you might the raging ones

hear from here.                       Not like Heaven-land

is that fire.                                But this is the best land

that we two through favor of our Father           might have had                                                795

if you had not listened to that one who counseled this harm to us,

so that we two the Ruler's         word abandoned,

Heaven-king's command.        Now we two must, weeping,

Sorrow for this exile.               Therefore he us both warned Himself

that we two our punishment     should beware,                                                                                    800

greatest of harms.                    Now hunger and thirst cut me,

bitter in my breast,                  from which both of us before

were protected                         for all time.

How shall we two now live      if we must be in this land

when here wind comes,           west or east,                                                                             805

south or north?                        Mist rolls up,

comes the hail shower             pelting down from heaven.

Frost arrives with it;                it is fiercely cold.

Sometimes from heaven          heat shines,

The blinking-bright sun,          and we two stand here naked,                                                  810

Unprotected by cloth.              There is nothing before us

as a shower-shade,                   nor any mortgage-payment

to secure meat,                        but towards us is mighty God,

The Ruler, wrath-minded.       To whom shall we two turn now?

Now I may rue me                  that I begged Heaven's God,                                                    815

the good Ruler,                        that he you here shape for me

from my limbs,                        now that you have me mis-taught

into my Leader's hate.             So now I will rue

ever after                                 that I with my eyes ever saw you."

            Then spoke Eve afterwards,    the most shining of women,                                         820

brightest of wives.        She was God's creation,

though she then in devil's craft             had been enveloped.

"You may reproach me for it,              my friend Adam,

with your words.          Nevertheless, it cannot hurt worse

in your mind, the sorrowing,   than it does me in my heart."                                                   825

            Her then Adam           answered,

"If I the Ruler's             will knew,

what I for his harm's-shearing              would have,

Never would you see one quicker,      although Heaven's God ordered me

to walk on the sea,       immediately hence                                                                              830

to fare on the flood.     Never would be the torment so deep,

the swamp-stream so great       that his courage doubted mine,

but I would go to ground,        if I God's will

might accomplish.       There is no pleasure for me in the world,

in any thegnship,          now that I my High-king's allegiance                                                   835

have destroyed             so that I might not have it.

But us two thus naked must not,          both together                                                                                                                     contend with madness.            Let us go out of this grove

into the shelter of the forest."               They turned themselves then, both the two,

restraining their groaning        in that green grove.                                                                  840

They sat apart from each other,          awaited the ruling against themselves

of Heaven's-king          that they then might not have

what before he bestowed on them,       Almighty God.

Then they their corpses           bedecked with leaves,

covered themselves by means of that grove;    they had no cloth.                                            845

But they fell to prayer,             both two together,

every morning                        begged the Almighty

that he would not forget them,             God Almighty,

and would guide them to him,             to that good Ruler,

teaching how they in that understanding          might live.                                                        850




[1] Susan Burchmore, "Traditional Exegesis and the Question of Guilt in the Old English Genesis B."  Traditio XLI (1985): 117-124.