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Philip James Bailey (Филип Джеймс Бэйли)

Festus - 19

Law moral one and same all being imbounds,
Compresses, animates, even as natural law
The orb, of light and gravity. Where is soul,
There fallibility, choice, and righteous doom,
Following, of deity. To the bodiless realms
Such abstracts apt, sights spiritually recalled
Our travellers tell; of visioned miracles, this,
All parent nature sees through, not as God
Eternal, but aye immanent in his thought,
Whole impress of the all--creative cause;
Of world--faiths that, each, itself all truth
Boasting, truth sole; its practices foul or vain,
Declaring heaven--imposed, to heaven unknown,
Save by its wrath. Good will, good deed, towards man,
To none confined, in all, like blessed of God,
Like honoured know. To man a prescient view
Of what is true repentance, to the soul
Yet to be realized, spirit--informed, expands.
Heaven's judgments are the spiritual harmonies
On virtues based, the same with earth's, which show
To creatures God's great sceptre justified,
In every sphere. The penitence for sin
God loves, is after holiness of life.

Festus and Lucifer.
Lucifer.  Mark'st thou this vast half--luminous orb we coast,
Not sun, not star?

Festus. I note it, and so much
Admire I would see more of't.

Lucifer. It is a world
God is in act of making. Life not yet
Lifts up her head. Sole, order, first of things,
Begins to arrange the elements.

Festus. There are signs
'Twill be a world where all felicitous ends
Designed by God may be fulfilled; a sphere
Midway 'twixt earth and heaven; a common ground
Where deity and humanity may unite
Forces, and more effect than either 'lone.

Lucifer.  Theories so many, and like this, I have seen
Fall through sheer lack of base, one might despair
Less sanguine than myself. Meanwhile though swift
Our transit, time is ours to hold converse.
Hast aught upon thy mind to impart, or ask?

Festus.  My life is massed with miracles. Wheresoe'er
I be, visions are mine; and late entranced
Some angel surely, upon mine inner eyne,
Life's chart preliminary unrolled, at last,
Ended with painting heaven.

Lucifer. Ere yet expert,
Repeat, 'twere doubtless curious, false or true.

Festus.  Right veritable it is, I trust, if peace
And love and charity are where most God is.

Lucifer.  Say on. It will while our way through this extense,
Dreamlike, itself.

Festus. Many, the greatest, truths
Man hath acquired in visions, or in dreams.
For then it is the soul recalls the spheres
Of preexistent nature, and evokes
The ghosts of coming ages, or, unites
Passed, present, future by one windlike touch,
Which loosens the world's zone, and renders mind
The master of creation. So with me
Once proved it, in a vision; for the crown
Of nature is passivity, and man's
Best mood the pure recipient; in a state
Of twilight--like existence, as when light,
Darkness, sun, moon, earth, sky were nigh all one
Universal substance; nought distinct save souls,
Echoes of light intelligible, towards heaven
Reacting. Matter, mind the All now comprise
In contrary perfections, as the twin
Tide--wave inarms the world. Within the pure
Blue lifeless void, where brightest stars, what else
Than blackest dust illumined from without,
Their central fires being self--consummative
Only of death? no light show, till we hail
From ours, or their own ambient: so with man;
It is only through their sensuous atmospheres
That spirits can view each other, or that soul,
As light all colourless, yet all colours holds,
By search of Being's supremest spheres of thought
Spiritual and moral, which man's nature rule,
Can, by that art sublime, the scheme conceive
Whereby the vital whole, outrayed from God,
His impress takes, and about his feet revolves
In everlasting period: he, all made,
Suffering, affiliating, inheavening; round,
Of effluent life, or influent; this eterne,
That, temporal; known to some, with power and means
Commemorative, of old, endowed, and now
To him who words the wonders he hath seen.
It was the spirit of the universe
In whose deep breast as on twin founts of life
The worlds of heaven were nourished, I beheld.
The fragrance of heaven's fadeless fields, her breath,
The endless blessings of an act of grace,
Or mercy's matron bosom, filled her words:
And each articulate syllable she expired,
Seemed with the lore of ages laden, as earth
O'erheavily with her old baptismal flood.
Her eye profound, which dazed so mine at first,
I scarce might see, immortal quiet homed;
As though all heaven had settled upon one star.
She spake, and I regarded with such awe
As eaglet, when he first beholds the sun:
And though what I recall be true, so far
As worded, it is less than truth; for how
Can a spar utter how it was crystallized?
She spake, I said, the spirit, and at her word,
Behold the heavens were opened as a book,
`I am the world soul, nature's spirit am I.
Ere universe was or constellation, space,
System, or sun, or orb, or element,
Darkness, or light, or atomie, I first lived;
I and necessity, though twain in life,
Yet one in essence. God is, men exist.
Man and all finite natures among themselves
Act freely; between God, and man and all
Nature finite, to this unknown, is fate:
What is divine is of necessity free.'
I heard and I received; and from my soul
Intense in quiet, perfect in repose,
Like sleep's fantastic frostwork, all the sense
Melted of death; and the heaven--surrounding state
Entering, of pure existence among gods,
It grew ignited with divinity.
Again the world--soul voiced itself; and I
Indrank the fruitful glories of her words,
As earth consumes the golden skiey clouds.
`Two books there are which must be read; the one,
The elements exist as leaves in; worlds
As symbols; earth, thus, of humanity;
Water of spirit, fire of divinity,
And air of all things; stars the truths of heaven.
Water and fire are elements divine;
Earth and air, human; heaven and the soul
From one proceed, and the blue--heated skies;
Out of the other bodihood and abode.
Judge doubtful things by certainest; things dark
By what is clear, and dangerous by safe;
And prophesy to all which live of God,
Their aboriginal heaven, and total end
Of spirit in his just love. Of soul, believe,
The other tome I spake of--that man's flesh
His spirit not trulier holds, than in divine
Nature, its contrary, God's infinite soul
Imbounds the universe: thine infinite work
But infinitely less than thee, O God!
The universe is simple; God and I.
Cause and effect are all that in it is,
And more; for cause containeth its effect.
Cause, operation and effect are God,
Nature and man; which both partake of one.
Through error human souls accept the truth,
As through distorting air the light whereby
They live, of sun or starlet. Through the world
The soul receives God, but from God the soul
Receives the spirit, the chosen thus, thus the world;
The cloud--led many, the star--guided wise.
For spirit it is makes times and nature clear,
As of old water purified by fire.'
Methought I answered, as it might be, thus:
`Life, like a floating islet, comes and goes,
We know not, mean not how. From heaven a star
Falls, and we track a cold dark somethingness,
In our conception as unlike all birth
Celestial, astral issue even, as wind
Is unlike wisdom, thunder unlike snow.
We know but that we are, not how, not why.
The distance between finite, howsoe'er
Great, and the infinite being infinite,
Our life shows incomplete and sectional;
And the large unity of the whole, while sought
From morn all musical to blank starred night,
In mind to realize, soon, too soon we see
The wolf--like shadow of death which shameless haunts
With spectre--like eclipse the vital orb,
Creep o'er life's path, and threatening total dark
The fiery marrow freeze of the vauntful world.'
While yet these words were vibrant on my tongue,
I saw the sun--god stall his flamy steeds
In customary splendour; these, in turn,
Shaking their lightning trappings off to earth,
And snatching a few golden grains of sleep,
Solaced them with their corner in the west;
Towards where earth uplifts her crystal crown,
White with all yearèd snows and radiant rime;
While, ever and again, the dancing morn,
Even in the mid abyss of solar night,
With roseate blaze impowers the shining skies,
And pure prismatic fire that lights the stars.
Stretching her hand into the nebulous depths
Of space eterne, again the spirit spake.
`As the aethereal essence of the world,
Matter thereof mere increment, I of earth
Speak to thee now; for, as one Father is
Of all things, and of spirit all act is born,
So, of one substance is all nature made.
Regard not earth as the whole universe;
Nor minify yet the orb into a point
Where all relations vanish. Earth receives
In an immortal influence, from the stars,
And out of her bright and generative heart,
To all conceived and born therefrom, gives back
The vital virtues of the potent heavens,
With their invisible radiance filling up
The interspatial skies. To all the forms
Of plant, fish, brute, bird, insect he who made
Gives, from life's infinite estate, renewal
Ceaseless in mass; to man, soul--crowned, alone
Revival personal; 'mong each other; all
Differing in eminence. Some excel; the rest
Suffer not therefore. Wrong to none is wrought
By honour to a high peculiar few,
Self--meritless, whose sole position stands
By themselves ingenerable. Exists this class
Eclect in all things living; best in man;
In whom heaven's motional harmonies, the world's
Elemental workings, nay the spirit pure
Of fire impassible, and aethereal, all
Incorporate are, in sunlike excellency.
All men, as sons of man, be sons of God;
Yet all like portion nor position have,
In earth, nor heaven: of common promises
Heirs, not like perfectness, nor privilege.
Change arts of earth; the science of the skies,
Immutable, the first man learned of God,
Is elder than the sun; hath hallowed all
Successive firmaments; revealed to man,
Whose soul--star inly burns with living light,
Who holds the constellations in his hand,
Sign manual of his God, and brief of fate,
Truth highest speaks, and certainties most blessed.
Souls these of luminous birth who penetrate
The core of all best wisdom, know all truth
Hath central commune with the infinite;
All faith with truth; thus kingly, till with God
United, and the heavenly fulness shared.
With carnal minds to outward worship prone
And ordinances the spirit race of light,
Consummate in truth's secret discipline, use
But saintly silence, knowing all, of all
Themselves incognizable, but souls who love
Virtue and God. Souls conscious, self convict,
Of wrong and ill; through trial, to be proved;
Through peril, purified from inbred sin;
From surface righteousness; from faith in gods
Many and false; from scorn of the one true;
From gross and giant passions; souls who roam
Life's wilderness, idolatrous, and believe
Their record of perfective life their proof
Of power to save themselves; but these the elect
Of nature, peers of paradise, pitying, serve.
Men are of one kind, therefore, two sorts. All
Shall find desire unite with destiny.
For those, as said; for these, though all the powers
Of air array themselves in lines of fire,
And arm them with death's armoury; though hell's
Hosts camp them, high as tented mountains round;
Yet, at a wave of his hand, like to slaves,
They vanish from the assiegement of the saints:
Spirits which, dominations incarnate,
And sons of stars that darting out of heaven,
Made themselves mortal for the mother's sake;
Here, with original motion, fling off truths
Of perfect light, oracular even of God;
Truths in their minds who worthily receive,
Of inborn virtue full, accompletive
Of wisdom; and like heaven's luminous rudiments,
Which gradually may gravitate to worlds,
Corroborate their nature, and make free
Their souls to course through the blank void of time,
To the bright fulness of eternity.
Beyond, too, souls unnumberable, unnamed,
And orbs all named, all numbered, mortal, know
These be the great initials of the world:
Being is one, the central infinite, cause
Common to both creator and create,
The great substantive essence of the whole.
Knowing and doing and the fact of form,
Laws co--existent of its modal life.
The natural creation ended, first
Commenced the spiritual, which in God ever
Aforetime lived, thus time unfolds the seed
Sown in eternity, and reaped therein:--
The great paternal and invisible fire
Which eateth that it issueth, and wherein,
Being an infinite means as well as end,
All filiated nature ceaseth work.
Now matter makes not one continuous orb,
Nor is light all--where massed alike; the stars,
Like thunderbolts perradiate, clustered stand
Or, separative, seek systems omniform.
God is the sole and self--subsistent one;
From him, the sun--creator, nature was;
Æthereal essences, all elements,
The souls therein indigenous, and man
Symbolic of all being. Out of earth
The matron moon was moulded, and the sea
Filled up the shining chasm: both now fulfil
One orbit and one nature, and all orbs
With them one fate, one universal end.
From light's projective moment, in the earth
The moon was, even as earth i'the sun; the sun
A fiery incarnation of the heavens.
When sun, earth, moon again make one, resumes
Nature her heavenly state; is glorified.'
As, to the sleepless eye, form forth, at last,
The long immeasurable layers of light,
And beams of fire enormous in the east,
The broad foundations of the heaven domed day
All fineless as the future, so uprose
On mine the great celestial certainty.
The mask of matter fell off, I beheld,
Void of all seeming, the sole substance mind,
The actualized ideal of the world.
An absolutest essence filled my soul;
And superseding all its modes and powers,
Gave to the spirit a consciousness divine;
A sense of vast existence in the skies;
Boundless commune with spiritual light, and proof
Self--shown, of heaven commensurate with all life.
And I to the light of the great spirit's eyes
Mine hungry eyes returned which, past the first
Intensifying blindness, clearlier saw
The words she uttered of triumphant truth.
For truly, and as my vision heightened, lo!
The universal volume of the heavens,
Star--lettered in celestial characters,
Moved musically into words her breath framed forth,
And varied momently; and I perceived
That thus she spake of God: I silent still
And hearkening to the sea--swell of her voice.
`From one divine, all permanent unity comes
The many and infinite; from God all just
To himself and others, who to all is love,
Earth and the moon, like syllables of light,
Uttered by him, were with all creatures blessed
By him, and with a sevenfold blessing sealed
To perfect rest, celestial order; all
The double tabled book of heaven and earth,
Despite such due deficiency as cleaves
Inevitably to soul, till God resume,
Progressive aye, possessing too all bliss
Elect and universal in the heavens.'
And silence settled on me deeplier still,
Like a snow--muffled statue.

Lucifer. Need was none
To speak.

Festus. Again, as a gale of light, the spirit
Me wholly in her assumed, so that the words
I heard, like cloudless thunder, wrought in me
Holy recognizance of the source of things.
`God, first and last of being, from out whose hand
Came all things sensible and eternal, all
Forth flowing from, and ebbing back to, him,
Creation's God, regeneration's lord;
And meet perception of their sum and end.
Man's Saviour, like his Maker, must be God.
And, all effect commensurate with its cause,
Each infinite, creation stands redeemed
By him first, last, and mediate, God in all.
Full in the bosom of humanity, he
As on the waters of the imperfect world,
Came down, the God--spirit, thus in soul uniting
The mortal and eterne, and in one word,
Foreuttered ere all time, which legendwise
Still rounds the world, though nigh obliterate now
The best part,--immortality,--gave the key
All mansions opening of paternal heaven.'
`Thy name, O Immortality,' here, I said,
`Sounds clear essential music, through the soul
Thrilling, as through the heartstrings of a star,
In air and sphere--form yet inconsummate,
Its tidal pulses and dim throbs of light,
Ere fraternized in heaven, yet presage sure
In hope, of state to come; yea, round that hope
So vast yet vague, which, like the northern morn,
One hour usurps the mid--sky, and the next
Lies buried 'neath the pole, are gathered thoughts
And truths whose gravity oft determine life;
As motion in an atomie leads at last
To a world's orbit, mote and motion given.
For spirit, self--conscious of its inner life,
Makes all externals subject, and o'er thoughts
And things, maintains that rule which in itself,
Is present proof of what the soul most seeks;
Its boundless union with its God.' Then she,
The world--divining spirit, even as a star
O'erflows with light, still spake of deity. `God,
Untermable in essence, being unnamed,
Men grasping ever at his love, his name
Man--given, in pious perpetuity breathe,
And strive to throw thought--light by act reflex
On being, originative of life and thought,
In hope to know the great unknowable,
Within whose ample essence all conceipt
Respecting it, as good, intelligence, life,
Man born, or angel--mind can frame, is lost
Like a stray gust, which from some aëry height,
Soars, suicidal, up the dark inane.

Lucifer.  Pardon; but say, this speaking vision, how long
Endured it?

Festus. Nay, I know not; hours, it may be,
Moments, perhaps. I was, in truth, entranced.

Lucifer.  Ne'er had I one but once. Ask not, in turn,
How long mine lasted; mine hath lasted me
Thousands of years, in sooth;--I need but shut
Mine eyes, and see it now--and then, I saw
Looking as might be casually towards earth,
Man's sphere, the horizon black with numberless crowds.
Midst these uprose a mountainous altar, shaped
Like a vast inverted pyramid, whereby stood
Four forms stern, solemn: one arrayed in white,
And one in uniformal black; in green,
The third, and of all hues the fourth. And most
I marked at first, the two first named. All bliss
Each claimed, as his alone, denouncing one
The other; both all warning that fierce fire
Burned for their sake who sware not by a creed
Garbled, patched up, and contradictory; text
Confounding oft with comment; by no rule
Interpretative bound; as literal, now,
Now figurative, construing laws like plain.
Love, said this pair, nathless, from first to last,
Its author's nature being, infinite love
To mortal man, his motive sole; their creeds
And deeds, as arctic from antarctic wide.
At either side they stood, and pressed the world;
And honestly and right earnestly prayed all men
To serve God; their incongruous laws obey;
Accept of heaven's free grace; and something do
To help the Omnipotent how to save a soul.
And myriads sought their several priestly sides,
And did as was enjoined them, and rejoiced.
Then something passed between them; and the twain,
Ceasing opponent duarchy, atoned
In friendship for past enmity, and straight
Culling all contraries from holy grounds,
Built up an idol, of all elements,
Most disaccordant. Thus, his deathly feet
They framed of fire, of earth his lower limbs,
His breast of mass terraqueous; his head, air;
Varying with strange and mutable--featured clouds.
Round him, enthroned on the broad and upturned base
Of that earth--piercing altar--pyramid,
They reared at last, earth aiding in all modes,
A circular temple, patent to the sun;
Sea--lavered; mountain--columned; kingdom--paved.
When as he sat his throne, there rose a shout
From the foregathered multitudes, which caused
The circumspatial skies shake, cold with dread,
And to her inmost base earth vibrate. He
In his right hand held the sun and moon, close--linked;
And in his left a wingèd orb cross--crowned;
By his side hung down, curved comet--wise, a sword
Of fire; a rosary of unluminous stars
Decked either wrist. With stars his breast was mailed,
Like to a knight's of old, with scales steel--gilt;
Or like an ice--plant with perpetual dew;
Or diamond beetle, round beglobed with light:
And the unsphered skies darkened momently.
To him was brought, bound hand and foot, the world,
Which more intensely worshipped than the poor
Bewildered devotee in eastern lands
His golden squatting idols, diamond--eyed,
Whose car grinds human dust. The monarch, there,
Upon that central shrine where sate the god,
Laid down his crown; the warrior cast his sword;
The peer, his glittering badge; the merchant prince,
His hoarded coffer. There, the statesman placed
His seal of power; the priest, his robe; the bard,
And the harmonious master, lyre, and pen.
Who soar, or mine, in science, or in art,
Their elements and implements and gifts;
The scribe, and the physician, and the wright,
His several offering. Thither hied the crowds
Of mediate millions between gain and toil;
Thither the brawny--armed and brown--browed hind
Whose wealth was in his will and daily work,
Repaired; and earth's luxurious, toilless, tribes
Followed; each with his hand full of good things,
And felt their conscience lightened; blessed their lot;
And all went well, and ended happily.
Round that great altar, thousand lesser were,
With crowds ringed each, though each the hate and scorn
Of the majestic pair who served the highest,
And sware to make all souls believe alike,
In clockwork--like content. Yet might they not.
The many most succeed. The great few fail.
Some of belief thought most, of practice some,
Some thought of God as darkness, some as light.
And worshipped each; some held that space was God;
While others said, and wiselier, God is what?
Some held that deity, and all heavenly powers
Were of one essence like divine and high,
Even as the starry commonwealth of heaven.
These deemed that, wholly contemplating God,
The soul, suffused in deity, required
No active virtue, but on God's own breast
Lay lulled in glory and in communitive
Life with divinity, its best end fulfilled.
These deemed whate'er is done by men is done
By God's spirit, and they thence conclude no sin
Exists, unless to those who so esteem;
And that to live without all doubt or dread
Were to restore to life the paradise
Initiate of the soul, that pleasant place
Erst disafforested, and so realize
The catholic salvation of the world.
Some held that, now and then, there speaks in all
The word of God, his light enlightening all,
If not resisted carnally. Some adjudged
The evil of sin and punishment alike
Reflected, if eterne, on rule divine.
Some that man's spirit had once forelived in heaven,
A holy creature, but that sinning, earth
Was its amercement made, its prison, flesh;
Emerging whence, it shall by grace resume
Its pre--existence and high powers.

Festus. In dreams
Doubtless, and reveries, oft, sublimed by faith,
Dim glimpses come, I know, of blessed states,
And shadowings of power passed, which to the soul
Seem inborn and accustomed, as a star
To light, when, late immersed, it leaves the sun.

Lucifer.  Some thought perfection gainable still on earth
By their own mean life and efforts, as in heaven;
And that with man it rests to reinstate
The Adamic Eden; and, by converse pure
And holy life, redeem the sacred day
When nature's every work was miracle;
When man, brute, angel, all in happy ease
Communed, and fruits throat--slaking made good, wise;
As ere the immortal seraph--serpent, hid
By the sunset side of earth, stole forth and stung
Heaven's virgin star; brake nature's innocent seal,
And left his lightning trail through all divine
Traditions. Some, strange speculatists thought he
And Other, were two lower powers, whom God
Had pitted in broad duel during time;
But that the final victory would be heaven's;
Not knowing evil's might. A countless train
Of misbeliefs like pure parhelia, these
Which come and vanish and return, new lifed,
With men unstable; unhinderable of priest;
Some grains of truth--gold starring here and there
The vast formations of the false. Meanwhile,
For meddling with such mysteries unmeant
Surely by heaven to be cleared up on earth,
Who have eyes trained to pierce the dark, outtaken,
These twin compellers of conformity,
Erst marked, condemned from time to time to hell,
Rack, massacre and fire, each bubble sect
That in full--blown emptiness rose, to show their own
Familiar, brotherly, charity, and so prove
The inspiration theirs they claim of God,
Who tells all, he is love. Those sects themselves,
Full of molecular motion, fought like mites
Which fill a water--drop, and day by day
Cursed or consumed each other. For the rest,
Who stood round the great altar muttering creeds,
And each had his dissenting heretics,
The third smote simply by the sword who dared
His chequered tale, not wholly truth nor lie
Doubt, but suspended 'twixt, as utter void
Baseless. The fourth, more meek in general mood,
Willed ignorantly, both true and false, 'like scorned,
To tolerate. Now and then he closed his eyes
Wrathful, and slew promiscuously all round.

Festus.  Much doubtless may be meant in that thou hast seen.
A sacred side there is to everything,
As given or else forbidden, as false or true,
According to the greater truth involved;
One side is always bright, one always dark,
Leaflike and moonlike; and each separate life
Is as a leaf which waits the quickening breath
Of nature, our mysterious prophetess,
To give 't due place and order in the world.
Heights too there are profound, and depths sublime
Of thought, faith sole can deal with; for as God's
True name, if known, is uttered not in heaven
Highest, nor on earth, so deeps unnameable are
Which cannot be revealed of human life,
And ought not if they could; the elements
Of the premortal manhood which inhered
In the conception of creative mind,
Since shown to few, and only dimly known.

Lucifer.  The spirit thou namest, then, showed thee not these things?

Festus.  Continue; if thy vision more unveiled
Thou wouldst impart, or me behoves to know.

Lucifer.  Modes next I marked of practice, rite and form,
Strangest of human trusts: here, some would burn
There, others, drown, these maim, those clamm themselves
Or fellows, all in proof of piety;
Some sacrificed their children, some their sires;
Some fruits, some flowers; beasts and the young of beasts,
In honest obstinate hope of earning heaven.
Others heaped stone on stone, shrine piled on shrine,
In emulous mimicry of the threefold heavens;
Silver inlaid with gold, gold decked with gem;
Others dug out the earth and worshipped fumes,
Or paid respect to vapours which inhaled
Bred holiest inspiration; some in warm
And reeking entrails read the signs of God,
Or deemed they did, prophetic: others sun,
Moon, stars, those fixed or wandering those,--adored,
For spiritual good thence down--drawn; earth--born fire
Or sun--born; rivers, mountains, seas, stones, herbs,
Brute, insect, bird, fish; earth and air and man;
All these were sworn by, prayed to, in the wild
Sad faith that man's humanity, by them,
Could gain some earnest of divinity.
Some only ate of certain meats, or laid
Under dread ban, all flesh and milk and wine;
Extolling green food and the sparkling spring,
As though brutes only spiritually lived,
And virtue were a vegetable thing.
Others wore iron spikes around their waists,
Burned fire in their bosoms; with their bread
Mixed dust and filth, ate grass, and naked lived;
Or crawled for leagues like serpents in the dust
In sign of self abasement; sign indeed
Not lacked, where proof of fact much overabounds.
Still, for I hasten now to close the tale
Of those who thus believed, thus acted, still,
Whene'er I looked around me, hour by hour,
The multitudes departed, yet increased.
But one way came they; countless ways they quit,--
Through age, birth, pestilence, vice and folly and war;
Disease, excess, woe, famine, sin and fate;--
The city of life, twelve gated; gazing thus,
Priest, altar, crowd, god, all I seem to have seen,
Vanish, and are no more; till some near day,
When I would see again the earth, and lo!
The vision all recurs in orderly lapse;
From end to end, parts special only changed.

Festus.  'Tis strange, tis sad, and if I now with man
Conversed, I'd say that spirit and nature known
To act contrarious, yet by God's grace, tend
To ultimate harmony, seeming being opposed
To being in seeming only; rises earth
Sunwards, not sun on earth; yet let not man
Deem creatural elevance into heaven his right,
By force of reason, or end necessitate
Of nature truthwards. So, through life God, sought
By act divinely voluntary illumes
Sunwise, the world of soul. Even here, i' the pure
Black, unbeing void, where but for light of stars
Lit by God's vital hand--the brightest star
But blackest dust illumined from without,
Their central fires their death--source sole,--not life
Could be nor mutual influence; so with man;
It is only through their sensuous atmospheres
Spirits can behold each other; and as light
Which, colourless, all colours holds, by such
Becomes itself enlightening, so, too, soul,
Dowered inly with all varieties of belief,
Born in itself to realize all time,
By search of Being's supremest spheres of thought
Moral and rational, which rule man's life,
Learns, while the universe revolves round God
In everlasting period, and the world
Spiritual within, enlightened inly, how
By sweet attraction towards its source, his love,
Balanced by upward gravity of the whole
Towards his divine perfections, he, himself,
Conceiving, bearing, suffering, ending all,
Affiliates finally, and inheavens. For thus
To me appeared the sign the spirit now gave.

Lucifer.  But though man knows not absolutely, at large,
His God, nor many have been in spirit rapt
To heaven; yet hell to outdo in mutual hate,
And threats reciprocal of quenchless fire,
For speculative creeds, earth's foulest crimes
Held easily expiable, seems gross misprise
Of heavenly justice, and God's tolerance.

Festus. Seems!
Behold now heaven, the spirit exclaimed, and I
One vast and universal heaven behold;
God's world--pervading and perpetual smile,
Which, harmonizing, lights all, all light o'erspreads.
There everything hath life, the elements
All vitalized, and glorified, and named
Love, wisdom, strength and beauty, and all hues
Which nature owns, from earth's original blush,
To heaven's eternal azure, hallowed are;
There sentient clouds, the delicate chariots oft
Of journeying souls, inspired by musical winds,
Winds fragrant as the breath of deity, shed
Grateful, their choicest effluence round the skies.
There, spirit exalting joys abide; there flow
The fountains of eternal life and streams
Of perfect virtue for soul--baptism; there,
Roll faith's abysmal mysteries, darkly clear;
Though soundless, shoreless, luminous with life,
Tempting to be explored. There, grow the groves,
Whose trees of golden boles and pearly fruits
Breathe, as wind moved, the harmonious lauds of souls,
Freed from the illusions of more mortal spheres.
Cities and fanes of diamond crown the hills,
Bright with the sole companionship of heaven,
In this pre--earthly paradise, wherein
Who enter are, by kindliest angels, clad
In garments wrought of rainbows; and in robes
Woven as of sunset clouds; while viny wreaths
Gemberries bearing, form their coronals,
Exuberant of all fruitage. Food they need not
Who live on life, and quaff eternal joy;
And rest in peace as in the down of doves.
There, many pass all time, the hour of God,
In pure and whole contentment. Others, still,
In ceaseless, boundless progress, as from star
To star, from bliss to bliss pass, until all
Like rays of light, light all attractive, all
Delightful light redeemed up to the sun,
Return to God renewed. In one band, there,
Souls of all faiths, earth--holden, gracious live,
In mutual forgiveness blessing each
The other; what too in their several creeds
Is proved false, each casts off; what true all keep,
Uniting and amending, for in all
Was truth, if most in one. Thy soul it joys
She said, the spirit, to see this. Search thy heart;
Search, wouldst thou enter these abodes, and know
There is a secret sign, whereby the soul
Feels certainty of safety and of power
Imparted, public to the universe,
By a single world unwist of, but to one
Conscious of soul's divinity a sign
Infallible, of the life immortal; sign
Stamped in the spirit, as is the gleaming seal
Thou sawest on brows of those imparadised,
The true, triliteral monogram of God.
I searched, and in my vision deemed I found.
But what avails it now?

Lucifer. Aught said she more?

Festus.  What need the spirit more speak? No more I heard.
She ceased, the all--create; and gazing down deep,
As into her own breast, she crossed in peace
O'er that abyss her life embracing arms.
She ceased; and all was silence. Earth and heaven,
Like solar seas unfathomably bright,
Rolled forth their inmost radiance in twin tides,
Immeasurable. Since the first begotten day,
Until the last born eve when all shall end,
And life's great vein within the embosoming skies
Be utterly dried up; till night shall come,
As some cloud--monster eats up, star on star,
The children of the light; till dew no more
Shall freshen earth's lip, nor breeze her breast, hath been
Beheld such glory, nor shall be, nor may,
Of nature serving God; she sibyl--like,
Instinct with inspiration, and he her
Endowing with all bliss unendingly.

Lucifer.  The universe is but the gate of heaven.
See from this highest orb, the crown of space
And footstool to the infinite, thou may'st gain
Already, a glimpse of glory unconceived.

Festus.  See how yon angels stretch their shining arms,
Wave their star--haunting wings which gleam like glass,
And locks that look like morning's when she comes
Triumphant in the east. Is this their joy
O'er some world penitent?

Lucifer. Lo! there it rides;
Blessed to discharge on heaven's all peaceful shores
Its long accumulated load of life;
Its deathless freight, pilgrims of time and space.
Yon guilty orb, of hesitating light,
Slow looming there on its dark path, goes up
At the hour forewritten, as do all worlds, to God,
To judgment; and the earthquake groans I hear,
Which rend its adamantine breast forebode
Its agonizing doom.

Festus. And grieves not heaven
With world or soul lost, as with saved it joys?

Lucifer.  How may mortals mourn at the decree
Of righteous wisdom, in itself to them
A bliss to view, being infinite? Is't not just
That justice should be realized? And there,
See one example in the skies prepared,
To admonish and remind of that's to come.

Festus. But why repented it not, in time?

Lucifer. Perchance
It held not penitence needed; what, if proud,
It recked not? Time, maybe, is for it, yet.
Ask of the spirit of the world.

Festus. I dare not.

Lucifer.  What unto us is time, stands before God
Eternity. Repentance is the grief
For, and effectual abstinence from sin,
Creatures can scarce attain to, without God;
But with him all is feasible.

Festus. Cloudy and clear
By turns, thy words as heaven. I know not what
To think, nor how to act.

Lucifer. It is natural. Who
Can hit but as appointed him? Who aim,
But as permitted? God gives all their ground;
Bow, arrow, mark, prize, eye and arm, and all;
All life's conditions, origin, means and end.
Forefixed of God his fates revealed as hid
In words till now concealed of prophet truth,
Under the buried basements of the skies,
Shall yet, I have heard, o'erthrown these, reappear.

Festus.  I seek not of man's fate now. I seek God.
All heavens exterior passed, the seats of soul
Self--purificative, and probational, me
Heaven's threshold now--even where yon radiant sun
Of suns, sphere central and supreme of space,
The aspirant soul forewarns of holier life,
And aims more spiritual than mixed earth needs,
Immediate most to deity,--me attracts
With irresistible force.

Lucifer. Thereto we tend.
Meanwhile glance downwards from this world--coping,
Ere higher risen, and know that to the extreme
Of utter space, where not an atomie mars
The void invisible, easier 'twere to cast
A lead, and total its velocity; pierce
All space, nor cross light's path, than fathom man's
Dark heart, or sound the hollows of his soul.

Festus.  Whether the greater sinner, that mean nature
All these life--spheres which dominates, or thou
The spirit of evil, archfoe of God and doomed,
One day to perish within the eternal fire
Of his wrath, even in deity thus, in whom
As they begin may all things end, I know not.
I only feel God loves but perfectly,
And can, his own, the spirit of good. And now!
Listen! I hear the harmonies of heaven
From sphere to sphere and from the boundless round,
Re--echoing bliss to those serenest heights
Where angels sit and strike their emulous harps,
Wreathed round with flowers and diamonded with dew;
Such dew as gemmed the ever during blooms
Of Eden winterless, or as, night by night,
The tree of life wept from its every leaf,
Unwithering. Now, in solemn lapse, I hear
The music of the murmur of the stream
Which, through the bridal city of the Lord,
Floweth all life for ever; nay, catch the breath,
Through its star--shadowing branches, of that tree
Transplanted now to heaven, but once on earth,
Whose fruit is for all beings,--breathed of God.
Oh, breathe on me, inspiring spirit--breath!
Oh, flow to me, ye soul--reviving waves!
Freshen the fading spirit that droops and dies.

Lucifer.  It is plain that, here, what man craves, God hath willed.

Philip James Bailey's other poems:
  1. Festus - 35
  2. Festus - Proem
  3. Festus - 37
  4. Festus - 8
  5. Festus - Dedication

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