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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Unlike Children of Eve
By Hans Sachs (1494–1576)
 
How God the Lord Talks to Them

Translation of Frank Sewall

ACT I

The Herald comes in, bows, and speaks
HEALTH and grace from God the Lord
Be to all who hear his Word,
Who come from far or come from near
This little comedy to hear,
Which first in Latin speech was done        5
By good Philippus Melanchthon;
And now I put in good plain speech,
That so the commonfolk it reach;
And thus I go without delay
In brief the Argument to say.        10
 
When Adam out of Paradise
Was driven after God’s device,
And set to labor in the field,
Then God did of his mercy yield
And came to pay him a visit,        15
And trust and comfort him a bit;
And specially to better know
If obediently or no
His children feared their heavenly Lord,
And rightly studied in his Word.        20
And so without more preparation
He came and held examination.
And when the Lord did Abel find,
He and his lads quite pleased his mind,
And straightway blessed He him on earth,        25
And all who from him should get birth.
But when thereafter did the Lord
His brother Cain see and his herd,
He found them all so stupid dumb
And godless that they ne’er might come        30
Into his favor, but must live
In hardest toil if they would thrive
At all, and at all times must be
Subject to Abel’s mastery.
At this did Cain so angry get,        35
While Satan stirred still more his fit,
That out he went and Abel slew,
For nothing less his wrath let do.
And then to punish him God said
That wheresoe’er on earth he fled,        40
He ne’er should find a resting-place.
But when the angels by God’s grace
Good Abel’s body had interred,
Then came to Adam and Eve the word
That Seth should in his place be born,        45
Whose death had left them all forlorn,
And comfort them in this world’s pain,
And be through loss the greater gain.
And this you all shall straightway see
In speech and act conveniently.

  [Here follows the scene in the house of the First Pair. Eve, alone, laments the hardships of her lot, driven from Paradise, and condemned to bear children in pain and to be obedient to her husband. Adam enters and asks the reason for her unhappy looks, and learns that she bemoans their being doomed to live under the unending curse of the offended God. Adam comforts her with the assurance that after proper penance, God will pardon and restore them to happiness; and indeed that he has just heard from the angel Gabriel that the Lord will on the morrow pay them a visit.]
        50
 
To-morrow will the Lord arrive
To look in and see how we thrive,
And give us pleasant holiday,
And leave his promise as I say;
He’ll look around the house to find        55
If we do manage to his mind,
And teach the children as they need
To say their Bible and their Creed.
So wash the children well, and dress
Them up in all their comeliness,        60
And sweep the house and strew the floor,
That it may give him sweet odor,
When God the Lord, so morn begin,
With his dear angels shall walk in.
 
Eve speaks
O Adam, my beloved man,
        65
I will do all the best I can;
If God the Lord will but come down,
And cheer the heart that fears his frown.
All praise to my Creator be,
That so in mercy pityeth me.        70
Quick will I make the children clean,
And all the house fit to be seen
By him who comes by morrow’s light,
That he may find it sweet and right,
And so his blessing deign to leave.        75
That so he’ll do I hope and b’lieve.
 
Adam speaks
And where is Abel, my dear son?
 
Eve speaks
He out to feed the sheep is gone.
Pious he is and fears his God,
Obedient to his every nod,        80
And with him do his children go,
Who are obedient also.
 
Adam speaks
And where is Cain, our other son,
That wretch for whom the halter’s spun?
 
Eve speaks
Oh, when of him I hopeless think,
        85
Woeful in me my heart does sink.
Belial’s child, he’s always done
The part of disobedient son.
When told to bring the wood from shed,
He cursed and out the house he fled;        90
And now with angry words and noise
Out in the street he fights the boys.
I can’t endure him in the room:
Above him hangs each day his doom,
And with it I’m near overcome.

  [Abel soon enters, and is asked by his mother to go and bring in Cain, from whom Abel fears violence. Encouraged by the news that the Lord is coming to visit them, Abel promises to go, and Adam thus closes the scene:—]
        95
 
Adam speaks
So in the house we now will go,
And put it all in finest show,
To please God and the angels dear.
Sweet shall it smell and wear good cheer
With wreaths of green and May bedeckt        100
For the high Guests we dare expect.  [They all go out.]
 
ACT II

  [This act represents Abel’s interview with Cain; in which, later, Adam and Eve both take part, urging him to come and be washed and ready for the expected Visitor.]

Abel speaks
Cain, Cain, come quickly here with me.
That you by mother washed may be!
 
Cain speaks
That fellow got well washed by me!
And could they catch me now, you’d see        105
What for a washing they’d me give!
 
Abel speaks
In quarrel wilt thou always live!
I fear a murderer thou’lt grow!
 
Cain speaks
And if I should, I’d prove it so
On thee, thou miserable knave!        110
 
Abel speaks
To-morrow to our house draws near
The Lord God with his angels dear;
So come and let yourself be dressed
To welcome him in all our best!
 
Cain speaks
The feast may go on high or low:
        115
I care not for it, but will go
To play and with my comrades be….
Who says that God will to us come?
 
Abel speaks
The mother just sent word from home.
 
Cain speaks
The Lord stay up there where he is!
        120
 
Abel speaks
How can you blaspheme God that way!
That he will come do not we pray,
And keep us safe from every ill?
 
Cain speaks
I too have prayed, when ’twas my will,
But never that he should come near.        125
I take the life God gave us here,
But leave eternity to him.
Who knows what all up there may be!
 
Abel speaks
How dar’st thou speak so godlessly!
Hast thou no fear of endless hell?        130
 
Cain speaks
What you do call damnation’s spell!
O boy, the father talketh so,
But little of it all I know.
 
Abel speaks
The more thou’rt likely to be there!
 
Cain speaks
Poor fool, thou mayest thy teaching spare!
        135
I know quite well what I’ll believe.
If God no angel wants to make me,
The Devil’s glad enough to take me!…
 
Adam  [calls]
Where art thou, Cain? Come quick to me!
 
Eve speaks
Come, Cain, thy father calls for thee.
        140
 
Cain speaks
I’m sitting here: where should I be?
 
Adam speaks
Come, and be washed and combed and clean,
Fit by the Lord God to be seen,
To offer sacrifice and pray,
And hear what the good preachers say.        145
 
Cain speaks
Unwashed will I forsooth remain.
Just let those rogues catch me again,
My head will be in such a flood
That mouth and eyes shall run with blood!
 
Eve speaks
Just hear the idle fellow’s speech:
        150
What water can such vileness bleach?
 
Cain speaks
Yes, mother, there you speak the truth!
But so I will remain forsooth.
 
Eve speaks
Then, Abel, come and washèd be
With the other sons, obediently.        155
And when the Lord God shall come in,
Stand you before him pure and clean.
And then the Lord will find out Cain,
Where he all careless doth remain,
With those who to rebel incline,        160
And live as stupid as the swine:
There be they in the straw and rot,—
A ragged, miserable lot.
 
Abel speaks
Mother, unto my God and thee
I ever will obedient be;        165
With all good children will I strive
To please thee all days that I live.
 
ACT III

Enter Adam and Eve, and afterward Abel and Cain

Adam speaks
Eva, is the house set right,
So that in the Master’s sight
All shall fine and festive stand,        170
As I gave you due command?
 
Eve speaks
In readiness was all arrayed
By time our vesper prayer was said.
 
Adam speaks
Children, behold the Lord draws near,
Surrounded by the angels dear;        175
Now stand all nicely in a row,
And when the Lord shall see you so,
Bow low and offer him the hand.
See how at the very end do stand
Cain and his gallows-doomèd herd,        180
As if to flee before their Lord.
 
The Lord enters with two Angels, gives Adam his blessing, and speaks
Peace, little ones, be to you all!
 
Adam raises his hand and speaks
O Father mine, who art in heaven,
We thank thee for this mercy given,
That thou in all our need and pain        185
Shouldst deign to visit us again.
 
Eve raises her hand and speaks
O thou true Father and true God,
Wherein have we deserved this lot?
That thou so graciously shouldst come
And visit this our humble home?

  [The pious salutations continue; Adam bidding all his sons to offer the word of welcome, beginning with Cain, who offers the Lord his left hand, and forgets to take off his hat. Then follows the greeting of Abel and all the good children, including Seth, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, and Lamech; each one repeating in turn a petition out of the Lord’s Prayer, concluding with Lamech’s:—]
        190
 
Deliver us from evil, through
That blessed Seed thou’st promised true: Amen.
 
The Lord speaks
Abel, what means that word “Amen”?
 
Abel speaks
That we may be assured then
That God will do our prayer, without        195
We yield to unbelieving doubt.
 
The Lord speaks
Seth, tell me how on earth you know
That all you pray will be heard so?
 
Seth speaks
We know it by thy promise sure,
Which ever faithful must endure;        200
For since the God of truth thou art,
Thy word is done at very start.
 
The Lord speaks
Jared, when God acts not so swift,
What shall a man do in the rift?
 
Jared speaks
Hope must he still in God’s good word,
        205
And trust him to his gracious Lord,
That in good time he’ll find a way
Wherein his mercy to display….

  [So continues the catechizing on the Lord’s Prayer; which being ended, that on the Ten Commandments is taken up.]
 
The Lord speaks
Abel, the First Commandment say!
 
Abel speaks
To one God shalt thou bow and pray,
        210
Nor any strange God have in mind.
 
The Lord speaks
And in that word what dost thou find?
 
Abel speaks
God above all we honor must;
Fear him and love, and in him trust.
 
The Lord speaks
And Seth, how reads the Second Law?
        215
 
Seth speaks
Thy God’s name must thou have in awe,
And never speak in vanity.

  [The children rehearse and explain the Ten Commandments in their turn. Then follows in like manner the recitation and explanation of the Creed.]
 
The Lord speaks
Your answers are in all ways good;
You speak as pious children should.
You now may show me if as right        220
You can the holy Creed recite.

[They all say Yes.]
 
The Lord speaks
Let each in turn his portion say.
 
Abel speaks
I b’lieve in God of highest worth,
Maker of heaven and the earth.
 
Seth speaks
The Savior too in faith I own,
        225
Who was from heaven to earth sent down.
The head of Satan bruisèd he,
And so the human race set free.
 
Jared speaks
I trust too in the Holy Ghost,
Who peace and comfort giveth most.        230
 
Enoch speaks
And I in holy Church believe,
Who shall in heaven her place receive.
 
Methuselah speaks
All sins’ forgiveness do we know,
For the good Lord hath promised so.
 
Lamech speaks
And that our bodies shall arise
        235
And live forever in the skies.
 
The Lord speaks
Abel, what means in God t’ have creed?
 
Abel speaks
That we to him in all our need
Commit ourselves, and on him rest
In heart and soul as Father best….        240
 
The Lord speaks
What is the bodies’ rising up?
 
Lamech speaks
When we have drainèd sorrow’s cup,
From realm of death we free shall go,
The bliss of endless life to know.
 
The Lord speaks
Children, right well my Word ye know,—
        245
Now take ye heed therein to go.
Thereto shall ye my spirit share,
To teach and keep you free from care,
That so ye come above to live;
And here will I full blessing give:        250
On earth, health and prosperity,
That you a mighty folk shall be,
As kings and priests and potentates
And learned preachers and prelates,
So that the world shall know your fame,        255
And every land admire your name.
Thereto your father’s blessing take,
Which nevermore shall you forsake.
 
The Angel Raphael speaks
To God arise your praises let
With harp and song and glad quintette,        260
The while his grace and mercy stand
Displayed to man on every hand,
To guide you to the heavenly land.  [They all depart.]
 
ACT IV

  [In this act Cain takes counsel with his evil companions Dathan, Nabal, Achan, Esau, Nimrod the Tyrant, and Satan the Devil, as to how they, who have always held the Lord’s name and worship in contempt, shall answer his questions. Satan bids them instead to accept his rule and guidance, and assures them the possession of all worldly goods and pleasures in so doing.]

Enter the Lord with Adam and Eve.  Satan hides himself.

The Lord speaks
Cain, come hither with thy crew,
And tell me how ye pray God to?        265
 
Cain speaks
O Lord, we’ve him forgotten quite.
 
The Lord speaks
If I thy speech can read aright,
Thou hast of him but little learned;
His Word in folly hast thou spurned.
But let me hear what you can say.        270
 
Cain speaks
O Father of our heaven, we pray,
Let us right here thy kingdom see;
Give us our debts and bread plenty,
And evil want and misery. Amen.
 
The Lord speaks
Who taught him such a twisted prayer?
        275
 
Eve speaks
O Lord, to teach him I despair.
No whipping helped what I might say:
He drove it to the winds away;
And so did those who with him stand,—
All threw contempt on my command.        280
 
The Lord speaks
Thou, Dathan, canst thou say the Creed?
 
Dathan speaks
I believe in God and heaven and earth,
In woman who of him has birth;
And in the name of Holy Ghost.
Sin and flesh I b’lieve in most.        285
 
The Lord speaks
So briefly has thy faith been told?
 
Dathan speaks
And that is more than I can hold!
 
The Lord speaks
Nabal, tell me the Ten Commands.
 
Nabal speaks
Lord, none I know, for so it stands;
To learn I never thought ’twas need.        290
 
The Lord speaks
But Achan, thou canst tell me this:
Dost thou have hope of heavenly bliss?
 
Achan speaks
I know quite well how here it goes,
But up there what will be, who knows?
If God shall so forgiving be        295
That I that happy state shall see,
So good! What matters what I do?
 
The Lord speaks
Esau, now thou canst tell me true,
What good shall holy offerings do?
 
Esau speaks
I hold that God will take the price
        300
Of endless life in sacrifice,
And so we can with offerings buy
Our right to his eternity!
 
The Lord speaks
Nimrod, now answer me this minute,
Eternal life, believ’st thou in it?        305
 
Nimrod speaks
Now I will tell you straight and plain,
My heart trusts what my eyes have seen.
I lift it not to things on high;
I take of earth’s good my supply,
And leave to thee Eternity.

  [After the Lord administers the Divine reproof for such godlessness and indifference, and warns these wicked children of the awful results of their profanity and idleness, he appoints Abel to the duty of instructing these his wicked brothers; and on his accepting the office with meek obedience, the angel Gabriel closes the Act with an exhortation to praise.]

The Angel Gabriel speaks
That so these poor souls may repent,
        310
Come down ye hosts from heaven sent,
With all your loveliest melody,
To sound abroad God’s majesty,
Who hath done all things righteously!
 
ACT V

Enter Cain with Satan, and speaks
My brother Abel is filled with glee
        315
That he will now our bishop be.
The Lord with him will play great rôle
And give him over us control.
Him must we all in worship greet,
And be like slaves beneath his feet.

  [Satan shows Cain that he, being the first-born, has the right to rule; and advises him to kill Abel. Cain admits that he has long had it in mind to do this. Abel entering asks Cain if they shall go and offer the sacrifice. As they are offering, the Lord comes and admonishes Cain, and departs. Abel kneels by his sacrifice.]
        320
 
Cain, his brother, speaks
Brother, in swinging my flail about
My offering’s fire have I put out;
But thine with fat of lambs flames high.
 
Abel speaks
In all be praised God’s majesty,
Who life and good and soul doth give,        325
And by whose grace alone we live!

  [Satan gives the sign to Abel; Cain strikes him down; Satan helps to conceal him, and flees. The Lord comes and speaks:—]
 
Cain, tell me where thy brother is!
 
Cain speaks
Shall I my brother’s keeper be?
What is my brother’s lot to me?
 
The Lord speaks
O Cain! Alas! What hast thou done?
        330
Through heaven the voice of blood has run;
The earth the curse has understood,
In that she drank thy brother’s blood!
 
Satan whispers in Cain’s ear, and speaks
Now Cain, forever thou art mine,
And bitter martyr’s lot is thine.        335
Within thy conscience endless pain
And biting grief without refrain.
The world for thee is all too small,—
Thou art accursed by one and all.
God and mankind are now thy foe,        340
And all creation this shall show,
For thou thy brother’s blood hast taken:
Hence be thou hated and forsaken;
Thy doom by no deed can be shaken.
 
Cain speaks
My sin is far too great that I
        345
Should dare for God’s forgiveness cry,
So must I wander on and on,
My life the prey of every one.
 
The Lord speaks
No, Cain: who deals to thee a blow
Shall seven times its misery know,        350
And so I put a mark on thee,
That none may do thee injury.
 
Satan leads Cain away, and speaks
Cain, hang thyself upon a tree,
Or else in water drownèd be;
That so thyself from pain thou save,        355
And I in thee a firebrand have.  [They both depart.]

  [Adam and Eve now enter, weeping and lamenting the death of their good son. The Lord comforts them by ordering the angels to bury Abel’s body, and by assuring them that Seth, who shall now be to them as their first-born, shall be the father of a blessed race.]
 
The Lord speaks
Till comes that day when shall be born
That holy Seed, of earth forlorn
And cursed with sin,—the Savior,
Whom every one shall bow before,—        360
So ye to heavenly kingdom come,
And find with me eternal home.  [They all depart.]
 
The Herald comes and concludes
So is the Comedy at end,
And four good lessons may it send.
And first, all people that do live        365
We see in Adam and in Eve.
These are the fallen human race,
Accursed by God and in disgrace,
E’en as to-day we see it so.
We all in misery do go,        370
In sorrow eat our daily bread,
As God the same hath truly said.
And next in Abel may we see,
Described and pictured cleverly,
All people that do fear the Lord,        375
And give good heed unto his word.
And these by Holy Ghost do strive
In love with fellow-man to live,
In soul and body so to prove
What is the heavenly Father’s love,        380
Whose mercy is to them always:
That do they to God’s thank and praise.
Thirdly, however, by this Cain,
The godless people are made plain,
Who mock and jeer at holy grace,        385
And faithless are in every place;
By their own reason, flesh and blood,
Taught what is right and what is good.
And so they know no fear nor shame,
And cast themselves in passion’s flame;        390
In sin and blasphemy forget
What love hath God upon them set.
To them it is but idle sport
That men should bid them heed God’s Word;
And so with murder, envy, hate,        395
On Satan’s wicked will they wait.
His word into their ear is blown,
And safe he claims them as his own.
Fourthly, in God we plainly see
How great is his benignity;        400
How he doth stoop to all mankind
A way from sin and curse to find,
Through that same holy Seed foretold
To Adam and to Eve of old:
And this is Christ, our Savior Lord,        405
Who by the heavenly Father’s word
From Mary’s body has come forth,
And crushed the serpent’s head to earth.
By cruel death upon the cross
He took away all wrath that was        410
’Twixt God and man by Adam’s fall,
That we after earth’s pain may all
Forever come with him to live:
That God may this in mercy give,
When endless joy our soul awakes,        415
With angels all, so prays Hans Sachs.
 
 
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