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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mother Eve

(A detail from Eve Naming the Birds by William Blake,
1757-1827, English poet, painter, engraver, and mystic
visionary. This is a companion piece to Blake’s painting
of Adam Naming the Beasts — “And whatever the man
called every living creature [in the garden of Eden], that
was its name.” ~ Genesis 2:19)

We continue to look at the four kinds of love, still focusing on storge or family love in particular. Having featured the affection of fathers, we go on to mothers.

We begin with the first human being to become a mother. As the story is told in Genesis, Eve gave birth to Cain, her first-born, after she and Adam were banished from Paradise for disobeying God — but Cain would later kill his younger brother Abel.

Life on earth now admits sin and pain and suffering.

The voice of one Jewish matriarch cries out in great mourning.

A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are not.

~ Jeremiah 31:15


Of course she never was a child herself,
waking as she did one morning
full grown and perfect,
with only Adam, another innocent,
to love her and instruct.
There was no learning, step by step,
to walk, no bruised elbows or knees —
no small transgressions.
There was only the round, white mound
of the moon rising,
which could neither be suckled
nor leaned against.
And perhaps the serpent spoke
in a woman’s voice, mothering.
Oh, who can blame her?

When she held her own child
in her arms, what did she make
of that new animal? Did she love Cain
too little or too much, looking down
at her now flawed body as if her rib,
like Adam’s, might be gone?
In the litany of naming that continued
for children instead of plants,
no daughter is mentioned.
But generations later there was Rachel,
all mother herself, who knew
that bringing forth a child in pain
is only the start. It is losing them
(and Benjamin so young)
that is the punishment.

~ Linda Pastan, born 1932, American poet

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