They spoke the loveliest of languages.
Their tongues entwined in Persian, ran
And fused. Words kissed, a phrase embraced,
Verbs conjugated sweetly. Verse began.
So Eve and Adam lapped each other up
The livelong day, the lyric night.

Of all known tongues most suasive
Was the Snake’s. His oratory was Arabic,
Whose simile and rhetoric seduced her
(‘Sovran of creatures, universal dame’).
So potent its appeal—
The apple asked for eating,
To eat it she was game.

Now Gabriel turned up, the scholars say,
Shouting in Turkish. Harsh and menacing,
But late. And sounds like swords were swung.
Error was underlined, and crime defined,
Then sentences were passed.
The gate slammed with the clangour of his tongue.

Eden was gone. A lot of other things
Were won. Or done. Or suffered.
Thorns and thistles, dust and dearth.
The words were all before them, which to choose.
Their tongues now turned to English,
With its colonies of twangs.
And they were down to earth.

This Issue

April 15, 1976