[The author visited Seneca Lake, and promised a lady friend a description of it, but put it off so long that he forgot what the lake looked like, and what State it was in; wherefore he could only excuse himself and explain, as below. The author afterward offered this Oration or Essay for the Twenty-Dollar Prize at the great National Sunday-School Reunion at Chautauqua Lake, August, 1881. Now first published.]*
After Adam was expelled from Eden, children were born to him, and when they had achieved the age of inquiry they said, “Father, take thou a pen and write of the marvels and the loveliness of the Garden, and of the delight and the charm and the splendor and the bewitchment of the enchanted life which thou and our mother Eve did lead there, that we may read it—and so it shall come to pass that we also shall enjoy it, albeit we see it not, save only through thine eyes and thy memory.” And Adam answering, said, “Lo, wait ye but a little time, and I will do it.”
But Adam procrastinated.
The years waxed and waned, and the grandchildren of Adam lifted up their voices and said, “Grandfather, take thou a pen and write of the marvels and the loveliness of the Garden, and of the delight and the charm and the splendor and the bewitchment of the enchanted life which thou and our mother Eve did lead there, that we may read it—and so it shall come to pass that we also shall enjoy it, albeit we see it not, save only through thine eyes and thy memory.” And Adam answering, said, “Lo, wait ye but a little time and I will do it.”
But Adam procrastinated—for behold, men may be made each after his kind, and Adam was of the kind which put not off until the morrow that which may be done to-day, but do even put it off until the next week, yea even unto the middle thereof, yet do it not then, nevertheless, but again neglect it. Therefore, whosoever is without guile, let him lie down with the lion and the lamb and be not ashamed of his nakedness; for they shall put a ring upon his hand and shoes upon his feet; and all that was his father’s shall be his, and also all that his mother and his sister hath, and likewise the mote that is in his brother’s eye. For it is easier for a rich man to go through the eye of a camel than for another man to break the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
So the years waxed and waned, and the great-grandchildren of Adam lifted up their voices and cried with a mighty tumult, saying, “Write!” even as the generations that had gone before. Wherefore did Adam promise yet once again.
And again did he procrastinate, as in the days of old, he loving his ease the more as the winters did gather upon his head and other the signs and symbols of age accumulate about him. For even so is the estate of man: one day he cometh up as a flower, fair to look upon; but the next day is he cut down and trampled under foot of men and cast into outer darkness, where the grasshopper is a burden and thieves break through and steal and he hath naught of raiment but camel’s hair and ashes, and a leathern girdle about his loins.
So the years waxed and waned, and generations passed, and three centuries came and went, and the fourth was far spent. And behold all the seed of Adam had made the welkin of the drifting ages ring with that petition which they had come to know by heart, and Adam had magnified the clamor with his ancient promise, yet had he still procrastinated, as in that old day when the world was young and Eden a dream of yesterday. Now came forth all the host of his posterity, a mighty and exceeding multitude that no man might number, and did lift up their voices and did utter as it were in quaking thunders, the saying, “Father of the nations and peoples of the earth here gathered in thy presence from the four winds and the uttermost parts beyond the great seas, take thy pen and write of the glories and the joys of Eden, that we may see with thine eyes and be blest in the contemplation of it.”
Then did Adam answering say, “Lo, ages have rolled their waves of care and sorrow over me, and regret for the divine Eden hath grown with my years, until it hath come to pass that now am I no longer able to bring back the memory of that gracious time, so wasted and obliterated is it with these centuries of picturing in my mind that woful day that saw me banished thence.”
Then went that great multitude forth unto the far regions whence they came, saying one to another, “Lo, this old man hath beguiled us to our hurt. Therefore, when it shall come to pass that another Adam departeth out of another Eden, let it be the law that he shall write that which he hath seen whilst yet it basketh in the gold and purple crimson of the morning of his memory, ere the clouds and the night of age close down and hide it away and it be lost forever. Then shall he be clothed in sack-cloth and fine linen, and men shall bow down and worship him, even as did the children the fatted calf in the plain, what time the floods came and the winds blew, and beat upon it, yet it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock; and an exceeding great fear came upon all that saw it, and their legs quaked and their limbs clove to the roof of their mouth and they fled away to the mountains, crying “Hold the fort for I am coming.”
Read, mark, and inwardly digest this parable, for it describes the state of one who enjoyed the lake and the cottage and the people that tarried there, yet wrote not concerning these things at the time, but procrastinated.
* Did not take the prize.