The Origin of Evil: An Elegy

Royall Tyler

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Of man's first disobedience and the Fruit
Of that FORBIDDEN TREE, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe:
Sing heavenly muse!


Fructus ipse est pulcher sane visu:
Nescio an sit ita dulcis gustatu;
Veruntamen experiar. VAH. QUAM DULCIS EST!!!
Lovely in death the beauteous ruin lay;
And if in death still lovely, lovelier there;
Far lovelier! Pity swells the tide of love,
And will not the severe excuse a sigh?
Scorn the proud man who is asham'd to weep.




Ranting topers, midnight rovers,
Cease to roar your fleshy lays;
Melancholy, moping lovers,
No more your lapsed ladies praise.
Fix your thoughts on heavenly treasure,
Let Virtue now with Wit combine;
Purge your hearts from sensual pleasure,
With Religion mix your wine.
Let each lovely Miss and Madam,
Quit the dear joys of carnal sense,
Weep the fall of Eve and Adam,
From their first state of Innocence.


In the first stillness of the even,
When blushing day began to close,
In the blissful bowers of Eden,
Our chaste Grand Parents sought repose.
No pair to act love's glowing passion,
So fit, in these late days, are seen;
Since girls' shapes are spoil'd by fashion,
And man's nerves unstrung by sin.
Eve, the fairest child of nature,
In naked beauty stood reveal'd,
Exposing every limb and feature,
Save those her jetty locks conceal'd.
Light and wanton curl'd her tresses
Where each sprouting lock should grow,
Her bosom, heaving for caresses,
Seem'd blushing berries cast on snow.
Adam, got by lusty nature,
Form'd to delight a woman's eyes,
Stood confest in manly stature,
The first of men in shape and size!
As Eve cast her arms so slender,
His brawny chest to fondly stroke;
She seem'd an ivy tendril tender
Sporting round a sturdy oak.
Innocent of nuptial blisses,
Unknown to him the balm of life;
With unmeaning, wild caresses,
Adam teaz'd his virgin wife.
As her arm Eve held him hard in,
And toy'd him with her roving hand,
In the middle of Love's Garden,
She saw the Tree of Knowledge stand.
Stately grew the tree forbidden,
Rich curling tendrils grac'd its root;
In its airy pods, half hidden,
Hung the luscious, tempting fruit.
With Love's coyest leer she view'd it,
Then touched it with her glowing hand;
Did just touch, but not renew'd it,
Restrain'd by the divine command.
At her guilty touch the tree seem'd
Against the blue arch'd sky to knock;
With nervous vigour every branch beam'd,
And swell'd the sturdy solid stock.
Softly sigh'd the rib-form'd beauty,
"How love does new desires produce?
This pendant fruit o'ercomes my duty,
I pant to suck its balmy juice.
"Why was this tall tree forbidden,
So sweet and pleasant to my eyes,
Food so fit for hungry women,
Much desir'd to make me wise?"
With sweet blandishment so civil
She finger'd soft its velvet pods;
"Let us now know good from evil,
Dear Adam, let us be like Gods."
With burning cheeks and eyes of fire,
Raving and raging for the bliss,
Blushing and panting with desire,
She glu'd her glowing lips to his.
"Threaten'd death will soon o'ertake me,
If this forbidden tree I pluck,
But life itself will soon forsake me,
Unless its cordial juice I suck."
Her soft hand then half embrac'd it,
Her heaving breasts to his inclin'd,
She op'd her coral lips to taste it,
But first she peel'd its russet rind.
In her lips she scarcely put it,
And nibbl'd 'till its sweets she found,
Then like eager glutton took it,
And, gorg'd with bliss, sunk on the ground.
At that hour, through all creation,
Rode Love sublime in triumph then,
Earth, Sea, Air, gave gratulation,
And all their offspring joy'd like them.
Fish that sported in the Gihon,
Soaring Eagles, cooing Doves,
Leopard, Panther, Wolf and Lion,
Reptile and Insect joy'd their loves.
Love's fierce fire seiz'd e'en the posies,
Which deck'd the gay enammell'd mead,
Amorous pinks and wanton roses,
Dissolv'd in love, all shed their seed!
Eve, transported beyond measure,
Stretch'd in every vital part;
Fainting with excess of pleasure,
For mighty knowledge rift her heart.
But when its nectar'd juice she tasted,
Dissolving Eve could only sigh;
"I feel--I feel, my life is wasted,
This hour I eat, and now I die."
But when she saw the tree so lofty,
Sapless and shrunk in size so small;
Pointing she whisper'd Adam softly:
"See! there is DEATH! and there's the FALL!"


Oh Fruit divine!
Sweet of thyself, but much more sweet THUS cropt.

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