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Philip James Bailey (Филип Джеймс Бэйли)

Festus - 10

After travel, homelier life,
A country merry--making, a village feast
May even please, where, with the local world
We mix in private; seriously converse
Of light things, lightly enough of serious. Skilled
To revive dead lore, and magnify extinct
Arts, and extol symbolic wisdom, here
The world--man in the student finds a friend.
Henceforth a power in life, or open, or hid,
The new star mounts the mid--sky; from his stance
Acts fateful; now opposing, now conjoined.
Record of strange spheres hear, scarce stranger still
Than ours. Let hope just thought of deathless soul
Kind Deity, and the dole which aye itself
Recrowns from ruin's fruit, form. Spirit is here
As at dead water balanced: back no more
Can it; advance 'twill not. How ends the strife?
Weight well with worlds the star--scale, and with ends
Incompassable of man unhelped, who'd win
This soul.

A Village Feast. Evening Twilight.
Festus and Lucifer. Afterwards Others.
Festus.  It is getting dark. One has to walk quite close
To see the pretty faces that we meet.

Lucifer.  A disagreeable necessity, most

Festus. We'll rest upon this bridge. I'm tired.
Yon tall slim tree! does it not seem as made
For its place just there, a kind of natural maypole?
Beyond, the lighted stalls with the good things stored
Of childhood's simple world: and behind them
The shouting showman, and the clashing cymbal;
The open--doored cottages and blazing hearths;
The little ones running up with naked feet,
And cake in either hand, to their mother's lap;
Old and young laughing; schoolboys with their playthings;
Clowns cracking jokes; and lasses with sly eyes,
And the smile settling on their sun--flecked cheek,
Like noon upon the mellow apricot;
Make up a scene I can for once give in to;
It must please all, the social and the selfish:
Are they not happy?

Lucifer. Why, what matters it?
They seem so: that's enough.

Festus. But not the same.

Lucifer.  Yet truth and falsehood meet in seeming, like
The falling leaf and shadow on the pool's face.
And these are joys like beauty, but skin deep.

Festus.  Remove all such, and what's the joy of earth?
It is they create the appetite for life;
Give zest and relish to the lot of millions.
And take the gust for them away, what's left?
A skeleton of existence, soulless, mean.

Lucifer.  It is pleasure men prefer to power. To stoop
Is easier than to climb; and power's above,
Pleasure, below the soul. They are but few
Who feel not, this, a weakness, that a woe.

(Children at play.)
Festus.  Play away, good ones. I could romp with you.
To look, sometimes, upon a child's fair face
Such innocence, outward, and intense, of life
Is resurrection to the heart; and oft,
To those who mole--like grope through an earthy life,
What know they else so indicative of heaven,
So vast in blessing, as these god--sent kings
And queens, according to love's dynasties?
The might and the delight of nations lies
In them, and 'tis for them earth's what it is.

Lucifer.  Another row of dragon's teeth, a row
Of grinders, look ye.

An Old Man. Pity the poor blind man.

Festus. Here is substantial pity.

Old Man. Heaven reward you.

Festus.  Blind as the blue skies after sunset! Blind!
Well I too tire of looking upon what is.
One might as well see beauty never more,
As view with empty eye. Would all were over!
Our pleasures leave us as sighs leave the heart,
Though each sigh leaves it lower; still relieved.
Nought happens but what happens to oneself.
It is sad to think how few life's pleasures are,
Wherefor men risk eternal good. What else,
One's self except, one's self can satisfy?

Lucifer.  Too much, soon tells its tale. I quite feel for you.

Festus.  It is sad success, to antedate life, and reap
'Gainst rule, one's field, ere noon. For what results
But laborous restitution, sowing, reaping,
Losing again? Such toil, such gain alike,
Tire. Live too slowly, can we, to be good,
And happy?

Lucifer. Nay, how suddenly wise!

Festus. But youth,
Burning to forestall nature, will not wait Time,
Stern sculls--man with his barge, to ferry it o'er
Life's stream, but flings itself into the flood,
Intolerantly, and perisheth. Well, what charm's
In time, as time, what good? Are longest days
Happier than short ones? What then can age offer?
It is sometime now since I was here. We leave
Our home in youth--no matter to what end;
Study--or strife--or pleasure, or what not;
And coming back in few short years, we find
All as we left it, outside; the old elms,
The house, grass, gates, and latchet's self--same click;
But lift that latchet,--all is changed as doom:
The servants have forgotten our step, and more
Than half of those who knew us know us not.
Adversity, prosperity, the grave,
Play a round game with friends. On some the world
Hath shot its evil eye, and they are passed
From honour and remembrance; and a stare
Is all the mention of their names receives;
And people know no more of them than they know
The shapes of clouds at midnight, a year hence.

Lucifer.  Let us move on to where the dancing is;
We soon shall see how happy they all are.
Here is a loving couple quarrelling;
And there, another. It is quite distressing.
See yonder. Two men fighting!

Festus. What avail
These vile exceptions to the rule of joy?

Lucifer.  Behold the happiness of which thou spakest!
The highest hills are miles below the sky;
And so far is the lightest heart below
True happiness.

Festus. To one who knows so well
What that is, doubtless 'tis a snake--like world,
Tail aye in mouth, as if it ate itself,
And moralled time. To others kindlier masked,
A make--believing cheat, it shows; to me,
The world seems like yon children's merry--go--round;
What men admire are carriages and hobbies,
Which the exalted manikins enjoy.
There is a noisy ragged crowd below
Of urchins drives it round, who only get
The excitement for their pains--best gain perhaps;
For it is not they who labour that grow dizzy
Nor sick; that's for the idle proud, above;
Who soon dismount, more weary of enjoying,
Than those below of working; and but fair.
It is wretchedness or recklessness alone
Keeps us alive. Were we happy we should die.
Yet what is death? I like to think on death:
It is but the appearance of an apparition.
One ought to tremble; but oughts stand for nothing.
I hate the thought of wrinkling up to rest;
The toothlike, aching, ruin of the body,
With the heart all out, and nothing left but edge.
Give me the long high bounding sense of life,
Which cries, let me but leap into my grave,
And I'll not mind the when, nor where. We never
Care less for life than when enjoying it.
Youth, youth, shrink not to die. What is, to die?
I cannot grasp the meaning more than can
An oak's arms clasp the blast that blows upon it.
There is an air--like something which must be,
And yet not to be seen, nor to be touched.
I am bound to die; for having been to myself,
Every thing, there is nothing left but nothing,
To be again.

Lucifer. Hark! here's a ballad--singer.

Ballad--Singer. All of my own composing!

Festus. Yes, yes--we know.

My gipsy maid! my gipsy maid!
I bless and curse the day
I lost the light of life, and caught
The grief which maketh grey.
Would that the light which blinded me
Had saved me on my way!

My night--haired love! so sweet she was,
So fair and blithe was she;
Her smile was brighter than the moon's,
Her eyes the stars might see.

I met her by her lane--spread tent,
Beside a moss--green stone,
And bade her make, not mock, my fate
My fortune was her own.
Thou art but yet a boy, she said,
And I a woman grown.

I am a man in love, I cried:
My heart was early manned:
She smiled, and only drooped her eyes,
And then let go my hand.
We stood a minute; neither spake
What each must understand.

I told her, so she would be mine,
And follow where I went,
She straight should have a bridal bower
Instead of gipsy tent.

Or would she have me wend with her,
The world between should fall;
For her I would fling up faith and friends,
And name, and fame, and all.

Her smile so bright froze while I spake,
And ice was in her eye;
So near, it seemed ere touch her heart
I might have kissed the sky.

I said that if she loved to rule,
Or if she longed to reign,
I would make her Queen of every race
Which tearlike trod the world's sad face,
Or bleed at every vein.

She laid her finger on her lip,
And pointed to the sky;
There is no God to come, she said:
Dost thou not fear to die?

And what is God, I said, to thee?
Thy people worship not.
The good, the happy, and the free,
She said, they need no God.

I looked until I lost mine eyes;
I felt as though I were
In a dark cave, with one weak light--
The light of life--with her;
And that was wasting fast away;
I watched, but would not stir.

Again she took my hand in hers,
And read it o'er and o'er;
Ah! eyes so young, so sweet, I said,
Make as they read love's lore.

She held my hand--I trembled whilst--
For sorely soon I felt
She made the love--cross she foretold,
And all the woe she dealt.

Unhappy I should be, she said,
And young to death be given:
I told her I believed in her,
Not in the stars of heaven.

Hush! we breathe heaven, she said, and bowed;
And the stars speak through me.
Let heaven, I cried, take care of heaven!
I only care for thee.

She shrank; I looked, and begged a kiss;
I knew she had one for me;
She would deny me not, she said,
But give me none would she.

My gipsy maid! my gipsy maid!
'Tis three long years like this,
Since there I gave and got from thee
That meeting, parting kiss.

I saw the tears start in her eye,
And trickle down her cheek;
Like falling stars across the sky,
Escaping from their Maker's eye:
I saw, but spared to speak.

Go, and forget! she said, and slid
Below her lowly tent;
I will not, cannot;--hear me, girl!
She heard not, and I went.

At eve, by sunset, I was there,
The tent was there no more;
The fire which warmed her flickered still--
The fire she sat before.

I stood by it, till through the dark
I saw not where it lay;
And then like that my heart went out
In ashy grief and grey.

My gipsy maid! my gipsy maid!
Oh! let me bless this day;
This day it was, I met thee first,
And yet it shall be and is cursed,
For thou hast gone away.

Farmer.  And glad we'd be if the whole tribe should follow.

Lucifer.  Another, please--not quite so gloomy, friend.

Girl.  I wonder if the tale it tells be true.

Singer.  I dare say--but you want a merrier. Do you?
Every man's life hath its apocrypha;
Mine has, at least. I have said more than need be.
It happened, too, when I was very young.
We never meet such gipsies when we are old;
And yet we more complain of age than youth.
Now, make a ring, good people. Let me breathe!

Oh! the wee green neuk, the sly green neuk,
The wee sly neuk, for me!
Whare the wheat is wavin' bright and brown,
And the wind is fresh and free.
Whare I weave wild weeds, and out o' reeds
Kerve whissles as I lay;
And a douce low voice is murmurin' by,
Through the lee--lang simmer day.
Oh! the wee green neuk, &c.

And where a' things luik as though they lo'ed
To languish in the sun;
And that if they feed the fire they dree,
They wadna ae pang were gone.
Whare the lift aboon is still as death,
And bright as life can be;
While the douce low voice says, na, na, na!
But ye mauna luik sae at me.
Oh! the wee green neuk, &c.

Whare the lang rank bent is saft and cule,
And freshenin' till the feet;
And the spot is sly, and the spinnie high,
Whare my love and I mak' seat:
And I teaze her till she rins, and then,
I catch her roun' the tree;
While the poppies shak' their heids and blush:
Let them blush till they drap, for me!
Oh! the wee green neuk, &c.

Festus.  And all who know such feelings and such scenes
Will, I am sure, reward you. Here--take this.

Others.  And this, and this--too!

Singer.  Thank ye all, good friends!

Festus.  There's much that hath no merit but its truth,
And no excuse but nature. Nature does
Never wrong: it is society which sins.
Look at the bee upon the wing among flowers;
How brave, how bright his life. Then mark him hived,
Cramped, cringing in his self--built social cell.
Thus is it in the world--hive: most where men
Lie deep in cities as in drifts, death drifts;
Nosing each other like a flock of sheep;
Not knowing and not caring whence nor whither
They come or go, so that they fool together.

Lucifer.  It is quite fair to halve these lives, and say
This life is nature's, that society's,
When both are side--views only of one thing.

Farmer.  Here comes his reverence. Sir, it does one good
To see you come among us, in these days.

Parson.  Why, I have but little comfort in these pastimes;
And any heart, turned Godwards, feels more joy
In one short hour of prayer, than e'er was raised
By all the feasts on earth, since their foundation.
But no one will believe us; as if we
Had never known the vain things of the world,
Nor lain and slept in sin's seducing shade,
Listless, until God woke us; made us feel
We should be up and stirring in the sun;
For everything had to be done ere night.
What is all this joy and jollity about?
Grant there may be no sin. What good is it?

Farmer.  I can't defend these feasts, sir, and can't blame.

Parson.  Good evening, friends! Why, Festus! I rejoice
We meet again. I have a young friend here,
A student--who hath stayed with us of late.
You would be glad I know to know each other;
Therefore be known so.

Festus. You are a student, sir.

Student.  I profess little. But it is a title
A man may claim perhaps with modesty.

Festus.  True. All mankind are students. How to live
And how to die forms the great lesson still.
I know what study is: it is to toil
Hard, through the hours of the sad midnight watch,
At tasks which seem a systematic curse,
And course of bootless penance. Night by night,
To trace one's thought as if on iron leaves;
And sorrowful as though it were the mode
And date of death we wrote on our own tombs:
Wring a slight sleep out of the couch, and see
The self--same moon which lit us to our rest,
Her place scarce changed perceptibly in heaven,
Now light us to renewal of our toils.
This, to the young mind, wild and all in leaf,
Which knowledge, grafting, paineth. Fruit soon comes;
And more than all our troubles pays us powers;
So that we joy to have endured so much:
Slaved, slain ourselves, almost. More; it is to strive
To bring the mind up to one's own esteem:
Who but the generous fail? It is to think,
While thought is standing thick upon the brain,
As dew upon the brow--for thought is brain--sweat--
And gathering quick and dark, like storms in summer,
Until convulsed, condensed, in lightning sport,
It plays upon the heavens of the mind;
Opens the hemisphered abysses here,
And we become revealers to ourselves.

Student.  When night hath set her silver lamp on high,
Then is the time for study: when heaven's light
Pours itself on the page, like prophesy
On time, unglooming all its mighty meanings;
It is then we feel the sweet strength of the stars,
And magic of the moon.

Lucifer. It's a bad habit.

Student.  And wisdom dwells in secret, and on high,
As do the stars. The sun's diurnal glare
Is for the worldly herd; but for the wise,
The cold pure radiance of the night--born light,
Wherewith is inspiration of the truth.
Time was, I ne'er sought rest before the sun
Rose broad; and, maybe, for that sacrifice,
Through a like length of time as that now gone,
The world shall speak of me six thousand years hence.

Lucifer.  How know you that the world won't end to--morrow?

Parson.  I, now, an early riser, love to hail
The dreamy struggles of the stars with light,
And the recovering breath of earth, sleep drowned,
Awakening to the wisdom of the sun,
And life of light within the tent of heaven;
To kiss the feet of Morning as she walks
In dewy light along the hills, while they,
All--odorous as an angel's fresh--culled crown,
Unveil to her their bounteous loveliness.

Student.  I am devote to study. Worthy books
Are not companions; they are solitudes;
We lose ourselves in them and all our cares.
The further back we search the human mind,
Mean in the mass, but in the instance great;
Which starting first with deities, and stars,
And broods of beings earth--born, heaven--begot,
And all the bright side of the broad world, now
Doats upon dreams and dim atomic truths;
Is all for comfort and no more for glory;
The nobler and more marvellous it shows.
Trifles like these make up the present time;
The Iliad and the Pyramids the past.

Festus.  The future will have glory not the less.
I can conceive a time when the world shall be
Much better visibly, and when, as far
As social life and its relations tend,
Men, morals, manners shall be lifted up
To a pure height we know not of nor dream;
When all men's rights and duties shall be clear,
And charitably exercised and borne;
When education, conscience, and good deeds
Shall have just equal sway, and civil claims;
Great crimes shall be cast out, as were of old
Devils possessing madmen; truth shall reign,
Nature shall be rethroned, and man sublimed.

Student.  Oh! then may heaven come down again to earth;
And dwell with her, as once, like to a friend.

Lucifer.  As like each other as a sword and scythe.
Oh! then shall lions mew and lambkins roar.

Festus. And having studied--what next?

Student. Much I long
To view the capital city of the world.
The mountains, the great cities, and the sea,
Are each an era in the life of youth.

Festus.  There to get worldly ways, and thoughts, and schemes;
To learn to detect, distrust, despise mankind;
To ken a false factitious glare amid much
That shines with seeming saintlike purity;
To gloss misdeeds; to trifle with great truths;
To pit the brain against the heart, and plead
Wit before wisdom; these are the world's ways:
It learns us to lose that in crowds, which we
Must after seek alone, our innocence;
And when the crowd is gone.

Student. Not only that:
There, all great things are round one. Interests
Mighty and mountainous even of estimate,
Are daily heaped or scattered 'neath the eye.
Great deeds, great thoughts, great schemes, world--bettering, all
In practice possible, or in purpose great,
Of human nature, there, are common things.
Men make themselves be deathless as in spite;
As if they waged some lineal feud with time;
As though their fathers were immortal, too;
And immortality an every--day

Festus. Fie! fie! it is more for this:
Amid gayer people, and more wanton ways,
To give a loose to all the lists of youth;
To train your passion flowers high ahead,
And bind them on your brow as others do.
The mornlit revel and the shameless mate;
The tabled hues of darkness and of blood;
The published bosom and the crowning smile;
The cup excessive; and if aught there be
More vain than these or wanton,--that to have--
Have all but always in intent, effect,
Or fact. Nay, nay, deny it not: I know.
Youth hath a strange and strong desire to try
All feelings on the heart: it is very wrong,
And dangerous, and deadly: strive against it!

Student.  It might be some old sage was warning us.

Festus.  Youth might be wise. We suffer less from pains
Than pleasures.

Student. I should like to see the world,
And gain that knowledge which is--

Festus. Barrener
Than ice; possessing and producing nought
But means and forms of death or vanity.
The world is just as hollow as an eggshell.
It is a surface, not a solid, mind:
And all this boasted knowledge of the world
Means but acquaintance with low things, it seems
To me, things evil, or things indifferent.

Farmer.  Much more is said of knowledge than its worth.
A man may gain all knowledge here, and yet
Be, after death, as much in the dark as I.

Lucifer.  What makes you know of living after death?

Farmer.  Why, nothing that I know, and there it is!--
But something I am told has told me so.
No angel ever came to me to prove it;
And all my friends have died and left no ghosts.

Festus.  All that is good a man may learn from himself;
And much, too, that is bad.

Parson. Nay, let me speak!
Aught that is good the soul receives of God,
When he hath made it his; and until then,
Man cannot know, nor do, nor be, aught good.
Oh! there is nought on earth worth being known
But God and our own souls--the God we have
Within our hearts; for it is not the hope,
Nor faith, nor fear, nor notions others have
Of God can serve us, but the sense and soul
We have of him within us; and, for men,
God loves us men each individually,
And deals with us in order, soul by soul.

Lucifer. But this is not the place for sermons.

Parson. True.
We heard once, Festus, you were travelling:
Pray, in what parts?

Festus. Among the outer orbs.

Parson.  Nay, surely not so far; except in thought,
Perchance, or calculation.

Festus. A month back
I was in giant land.

Parson. Ah! fee--faw--fum?--
They did not eat you, there?

Festus. Oh! no. They much
Preferred their usual fare.

Parson. What might it be?
Not Englishmen and hasty pudding, eh?

Festus.  They are no more cannibals than you or I;
But are of various tastes, and patronize,
I know, rich diet.

Parson. It's excusable.
And they are great consumers, I dare say.

Festus.  A wheat--stack of our friend's here would but make
One loaf of bread for them. Oak trees they use
As pickles, and tall pines as toothpicks; whales,
In their own blubber fried, serve as mere fish
To bait their appetites. Boiled elephants,
Rhinoceroses, and roasted crocodiles--
Every thing dished up whole--with lions stewed,
Shark sauce, and eagle pie, and young giraffes,
Make up a potluck dinner,--if there's plenty.
Then as for game, the pterodactyles
And ichthyosauri are great dainties there,
Coming in season only once an age.
They reckon there by ages, not by years.

Student. And as to beverage?

Festus. Oh; if thirsty, they
Will lay them down and drink a river dry,
Nor once draw breath.

Parson. Ah! camel, gnat, and all.

Festus.  Others are more abstemious, and consume
Egg--broth and simples chiefly. There was one
Who when I saw him first sat by a fire:
An egg, an hour--glass, and a water bowl
Being before him. All he said was this:--
When the sand is run
The egg is done.
This he first boiled, then roasted, and then ate.

Student.  What sort of one? Perhaps an ostrich egg?

Festus.  Much larger. Here is nothing of the kind.
The yolk was like the sun seen in a fog;
The white was thin and clouded, and the shell,
Heavy and hard, as is our earth--pie crust.

Lucifer.  What kind of bird it was that laid it--guess!

Parson.  Continue. You have travelled in the dark;
But wisdom sometimes inns with ignorance.
What of their persons, habits, language, creed?

Festus.  Huger than Napheleim of old, whose bulk
Cast cloudlike shadows on the eclipsèd earth;
Huger than those our childhood's chap--books brand;
Or all whose deeds till now defile romance;
Albadan, and those monstrous, sire and son,
Whom Amadis, the flower of knights, o'erthrew,
Not counting much of giants--so to win
His Oriana bright at Miréfleur;
In form and stature, these, as mountain--sized,
Could walk through woods like ours as through long grass.
They live seven thousand years of years like man's,
And then die suddenly; when death takes place
They burn the bodies always in a lake,
The spray whereof is ashes, and its depths
Unfathomable fire; and never mourn;
Use little verbal language, but express
All thought by action, and oracular use
Of eye or hand. Their chief religion seems
Self punishment by sin and rites of fire.
'Twould do the godless good to visit once,
One of this awful race whom late I saw;
And who, were time and place more fitting--

Student. Nay,
We are apart from others. Nothing save
Yon heavenly ark which floats among the stars,
Now resting on an Ararat of clouds,
Hath leave to overlook us.

Parson. Pray proceed.

Festus.  Once I had travelled through a weary world,
Than all in heaven more barren and forlorn;
Dark as the wild heart of a thunder--cloud;
Strewn with the wrecks and ashes of all orbs,
Firestranded, rolling in quick agony;
Peopled with burning ghosts dislimbed and charred;
And in the midst a giant, by a fire,
Kindled of burning passions, and full fed
With sins long seasoned; at whose feet there stood
A crystal cistern, brimmed with human tears,
Which sprinkled but inflamed the fire withal;
The giant all while watching with stern mien,
And ruthless interest the whole. Dread sir!
Said I, as I drew near, what angers thee?
He answered not, but pointed; and I saw,
Full in the midst of that infernal fire,
Blazing aghast in solar solitude,
A panting shadow, which, with skeleton eyes,
And woe--gouged countenance, whereon was hung
A white eclipse, like darkness pale with pain,--
Watched for the disappearance of the heavens
With a despairing hope: entranced it lay
In palpitant torments self--perpetuate, racked
Ever; anon turned restlessly, and cried
Woe, woe is me! Eternal Spirit God!
Thy wrath is heaviest when made bearable.
Put forth thy strength and sweep the universe,
With me, into the night of nothingness,
That sin and soul may perish. Woe is me!
Still shine the blessed heavens, and still, like ice
By art fire--frozen, my dole my dole renews.
And the giant laughed, glad in his ministery
Of scathe; and blew, with all his breath, his hell,
Still fiercer--till it bellowed, and the orb
Beneath my foot sole seared, and I took leave;
For there was somewhat in the giant's air,
And his huge balefire, and the naked plain--
Bald as the scalp of Time--which caused me dread.

Parson.  I doubt not all you say is memory's birth,
Conceived of fiction. Never mortal man
Hath travelled in another sphere than this.
It was a vision, Festus, say, a dream.

Festus.  Say as you will, is not a dream a fact?

Parson.  Dreams you have dreamed till you believe in them;
But such as these are awesome. Not the less
View them vouchsafed as warnings. Oft the mind,
Freed by angelic sleep from bodily bonds,
Knows scenes and themes like these you have named, which tend
To edifying much. Such travel is
Like mine, the travail simply of the brain.

Festus. It is pure reality.

Parson. Well, say no more.
We may pursue the sense of things too far.
True travellers they through all the lands of life,
Moral, emotional, or love's sunny zone;
The palm--graced pilgrims of truth's holy land,
Who, all experienced, reason, wisdom find,
And virtue less without than in themselves.
So through all moral schools, the cold, stern porch,
Divine, impassive; garden gay, where still
Dwelled pleasure scarce than virtue less severe
And stately grove of lofty lore select;
The truth sought soul progresses, till we find
Our home is where she leads; and we are guests
But of our guide; the shrine she shows, herself.
The golden side of heaven's great shield is faith;
The silver, reason. You see this, I that;
The junction is invisible to both.

Student.  One thing is sometimes said, another meant.

Lucifer. What are your politics?

Farmer. I have none.

Lucifer. Good.

Farmer.  I have my thoughts. I am no party man.
I care for measures more than men, but think
Some little may depend upon the men;
Something in fires depends upon the grate.

First Boy. What are your colours?

Second. Blue as heaven.

Third. And mine
Are yellow as the sun.

First. Mine, green as grass.

Second.  Green's forsaken, and yellow's forsworn;
And blue's the colour that shall be worn.

Student.  As to religion, politics, law, and war,
But little need be said. All are required,
And all are well enough. Of liberty,
And slavery, and tyranny we hear
Much; but the human mind affects extremes.
The heart is in the middle of the system;
And all affections gather round the truth,
The moderated joys and woes of life.
I love my God, my country, kind and kin;
Nor would I see a dog wronged of his bone.
My country! if a wretch should e'er arise,
Out of thy countless sons, who would curtail
Thy freedom, dim thy glory,--while he lives
May all earth's peoples curse him--for of all
Hast thou secured the blessing; and if one
Exist who would not arm for liberty,
Be he, too, cursèd living: and when dead,
Let him be buried downwards, with his face
Looking to hell; and o'er his coward grave
The hare skulk, in her form.

Lucifer. Nay, gently, friend.
Curse nothing, not the Devil. He's beside you--
For aught you know.

Student.  I neither know nor care.

(They pass some card--players.)
Festus.  Kings, queens, knaves, tens, would trick the world away,
And it were not now and then for some brave ace.

Student.  You see yon wretched starved old man; his brow
Grooved out with wrinkles like the brown dry sand
The tide of life is leaving?

Lucifer. Yes, I see him.

Student.  Last week he thought he was about to die:
So he bade gold be strewn beneath his pillow,
Gold on a chest that he might lie and see,
And gold put in a basin on his bed,
That he might dabble with his fingers in.
He's going now to grope for pence or pins.
He never gave a pin's worth in his life.
What would you do to him?

Lucifer. I would have him wrought
Into a living wire, which beaten out,
Might make a golden network for the world;
Then melt him inch by inch, and hell by hell,
Where is the law of wrath.

Student. Oh, charity!
It is a thought the Devil might be proud of--
Once and away. Misers and spendthrifts may
Torment each other in the world to come.

Lucifer.  And thus do men apportion their own lot;
A grain of comfort and a sack of sin.

Festus.  Men look on death as lightning, always far
Off, or in heaven. They know not it is in
Themselves, a strong and inward tendency,
The soul of every atom, every hair:
That nature's infinite electric life,
Escaping from each isolated frame,
Up out of earth, or down from heaven, becomes
To each its proper death, and adds itself
Thus to the great reunion of the whole.
There is a man in mourning! What does he here?

Student.  He has just buried the only friend he had,
And now comes hither to enjoy himself.

Festus.  Why will we dedicate the dead to God,
And not ourselves the living? Oft we speak,
With tears of joy and trust, of some dear friend
As surely up in heaven; while that same soul,
For aught we know, may be shuddering even in hell
To hear his name named; or a wandering ghost,
Moon--eyed, which gasps to read on marble slab
His virtue--lauding epitaph; or there may be
No soul i' the case, and the fat icy worm,
Give him a tongue, can tell us all about him.

Student.  Here is music. Stay. That simple melody
Comes on the heart like infant innocence,
Pure feeling pure; while yet the new--bodied soul
Is swinging to the motion of the heavens,
And scarce hath caught, as yet, earth's backening course.

Festus.  The heart is formed as earth was--its first age
Formless and void, and fit but for itself;
Then feelings half alive, just organized,
Come next,--then creeping sports and purposes,--
Then animal desires, delights, and loves--
For love is the first and granite--like effect
Of things--the longest and the highest: next
The wild and winged desires, youth's saurian schemes,
Which creep and fly by turns; which kill and eat,
And do disgorge each other; comes at length
Humanity to perfect life, and divide,
By woman. Great their bliss, but ill arrives.
Or the insipidity of an innocent soul
Palls: or some fatal act, a curse, a death,
An exile's laid upon it, and it goes--
Quits its green Eden for the sandy world,
Where it works out its nature, as it may;
In sweat, smiles, blood, tears, cursings, and what not.
And giant sins possess it; and it worships
Works of the hand, head, heart--its own or others--
A creature worship, which excludeth God's:
The less thrusts out the greater. Warning comes,
But the heart fears not--feels not; till at last
Down comes the flood from heaven; and that heart,
Broken inwards, earthlike, to its central hell:
Or like the bright and burning eye we see
Inly, when pressed hard backwards on the brain,
Ends and begins again--destroyed, is saved.
Every man is the first man to himself,
And Eves are just as plentiful as apples;
Nor do we fall, nor are we saved, by proxy.
The Eden we live in is our own heart;
And the first thing we do, of our free choice,
Is sure and necessary to be sin.
Each to himself is also the last man,
And with him bears and earns the world's vast doom.

Lucifer.  The only right men have is to be damned.
What is the good of music, or the beauty?
Music tells no truths.

Festus. True; but it suggests
And illustrates the highest of all truths,
The harmony of all things--even of earth,
With its great Author. Oh! there is nought so sweet
As lying and listening music from the hands,
And singing from the lips, of one we love;
Lips that all others should be tuned to. Then
The world would all be love and song; heaven's harps
And orbs join in; the whole be harmony;
Distinct, yet blended--blending all in one
Long and delicious tremble like a chord.
But to thee, God! all being is a harp
Whereon thou makest mightiest melody.

Lucifer. Hast ever been in love, friend?

Student. Never, I.

Festus.  Spite of morality or of mystery, love
It is, which mostly destinates our life.
What makes the world in after life I know not;
For our horizon alters as we age:
Power only can make up for the lack of love;
Power of some sort. The mind at one time grows
So fast, it fails; and then its stretch is more
Than its strength; but, as it opes, love fills it up,
Like to the stamen in the flower of life,
Till for the time we well--nigh grow all love;
And soon we feel the want of one kind heart
To love what's well, and to forgive what's ill,
In us,--that heart we play for at all risks.

Student.  How can the heart, which lies embodied deep,
In blood and bone, set like a ruby eye
Into the breast, be made a toy for beauty,
And, vane--like, blown about by every wanton sigh?
How can the soul, the rich star--travelled stranger,
Who here sojourneth only for a purchase,
Risk all the riches of his years of toil,
And his God--vouched inheritance of heaven,
For one light taste of love? which makes forget
By force of juice Lethean all beside
Of lore, or studious gain, or so I have heard;
Love being itself most perishable of things,
A vanishing quantity, at the best.

Lucifer. No matter!
It is so; and when once you know the sport,
The crowded pack of passions in full cry,
The sweet deceits, the tempting obstacles,
The smile, the sigh, the tear, and the embrace,
With kisses close as stars in the Milky Way,
In at the death, you cry, though 'twere your own;
Or, so I have heard.

Student. Most sound morality!
Nothing is thought of virtue, then, nor judgment?

Lucifer.  Oh! everything is thought of--but not then.
And--judgment--no! it is nowhere in the field.

Student.  Slow--paced and late arriving, still it comes.
I cannot understand this love; I hear
Of its idolatry, more than its respect.

Festus.  Respect is what we owe; love what we give.
And men would mostly rather give than pay.
Meanwhile let no vain teachings lead aside:
Morality's the sole right rule for all.
Nor could society cohere without
Virtue were loved; there are whose spirits walk
A breast of angels and the future, here.
Respect and love thou such.

Lucifer. Of course you wish
Women to love you rather than love them.
Well, mind! it is folly to tell women truth!
They would rather live on lies so they be sweet.
Never be long in one mind to one love.
You change your practice with your subject. All
Differ. But yet, who knows one woman well
By heart, knows all. It is my experience;
And I advise on good authority.

Festus.  Time laughs at love. It is a hateful sight,
That bald old grey--beard jeering the boy, Love.
Passion is from affection; and there is nought
So maddening and so lowering as to have
The worse in passion. Think, when one by one,
Pride, love, and jealousy, and fifty more
Great feelings column up to force a heart,
And all are beaten back,--all fail--all fall:
The tower intact; but risk it: we must learn.
To know the world, be wise and be a fool.
The heart will have its swing--the world its way:
Who seeks to stop them, only throws himself down.
We must take as we find: go as they go,
Or stand aside. Let the world have the wall.
How do you think, pray, to get through the world?

Student.  I mean not to get through the world at all
But over it.

Festus. Aspiring! you will find
The world is all up--hill when we would do;
All down--hill when we suffer. Nay, it will part
Like the Red Sea, so that the poor may pass.
We make our compliments to wretchedness,
And hope the poor want nothing, and are well.
But I mean, what profession will you choose?
Surely you will do something for a name.

Student.  Names are of much more consequence than things.

Festus.  Well; here's our honest, all--exhorting friend,
The parson--here the doctor. I am sure
The Devil might act as moderator there,
And do mankind some service.

Lucifer. In his way.

Student.  But I care neither for men's souls nor bodies.

Festus.  What say you to the law? Are you ambitious?

Student.  Nor do I mind for other people's business.
I have no heart for their predicaments:
I am for myself. I measure everything
By, what is it to me? from which I find
I have but little in common with the mass,
Except my meals and so forth; dress and sleep.
I have that within me I can live upon:
Spider--like, spin my place out anywhere.

Festus.  To none of all the sciences, nor arts,
Astral, or earthy, you feel your mind, then, drawn!

Student.  Why no; there are so many rise and fail and fall,
One knows not which to choose. As for the stars,
I never look on them without dismay.
Earth hath outrun them in our modern mind
By worlds of odds. We have lost all sympathies
With the e'er moving skies, and seem, ourselves,
To the eternal less, and less concerned
In act and use of heavenly things, than when
Poor earth was almost all. Enough for us
It seems, and our cold reckoners to jot down
Their revolutions, distances, and squares;
While the bright laws which stars and spirits rule,
From deep--toned Saturn; from the sea--god's star,
And thunderous bass of heaven's immediate orb,
Whose inefficient ray, or good or ill
Fails to decide here, to the shrill--voiced moon,
Are buried, grave on grave. Who now will care
To learn of things more spiritual than facts
Totalled up, day by day? Who now aspires,
Aweful, to attain the spells of secret power,
And safety, say, 'gainst spirits supernal, taught
By ancient seers and sages? Who now knows
Of fourfold worlds and elemental spheres
Concentric, like the ring the wizard draws
Round him, which lord our earth; yet in such wise
That still, through them, we may conjoin our souls
To the starry guardians of all worlds, beyond
Moon--mansions, and heaven's burning heart, where dwell
Celestial spirits all--knowing, and divine
Demons? All, infinitely unsought, are deemed
Doubtless, extinct. No danger now of aught
Knowing, which ought not justly to be known.
And you, ye planetary sons of light,
Your aspects, dignities, gifts, and detriments,
And all your heavenly houses and effects,
Unknown to shallow sciolists, shall no more
Meet here, devout expounders. Ye shall shine
Henceforth, in vain, to man; cease to reward,
Or instigate; and you, too, ye juried signs,
Earth's sun--surrounding path illuming, mind
Move ye no more; nought more of faith feel men
In the eternal order, God was deemed
To have made common once 'tween heaven and earth;
But all the starry inclusions of all signs
Shall rise, and rule and pass, and no one know
There are worlds whose spirit--rulers fraternize
With ours; and unsuspect, high commune hold,
In the shining voices of the spheres, with souls
Of astral purity. The mystic charm
In numbers, and the all--various unity
Of being, repetitive, which ones with God
The whole, and coming from, to him returns,
Allures no more man's mind, debased; nor, now,
The mysteries of names; yet wot we well
That natural perfection multiplied
By spiritual, on monadic deity based,
God's names, as known to men and angels, gives;
And how thus Fate rules, really all, by means
Mediate, and nominal. Take, too, chemic art;
What do men now? Weigh atoms; count them; rate
Their mean affinities, laws. The starry stone,
Golden, invisible, principle of life,
Fine quintessence of all the elements,
Is still unbought; still flows the stream of pearl
Beneath the magic mountain; still the scent
As of thousand amaranth wreaths, all life which lures,
Though vainly, unto its sweetness, floats around
Mistlike, the shining bath where Luna laves,
Or Sol, bright brother of that moonèd maid,
Triumphs. The earth celestial, the live land,
Still is, though veiled; still breathe for those who will,
The airs of Paradise. The watery fire,
Destructive, recreative, impalpable,
The initial and conclusion of the world,
The secret of creation shared 'tween God
And man, now nature's only, timewise, still
Waits man's deific choice; soul's simple light
Divine, wherein all rudiments blend, still burns
Our spirits within. The snowy gold, the seed
Nucleate of stars,--by wind impregned, of God,
If arbitrary of favour,--bound, being tracked,
Dismasked, to render rich and deathless all,
Hides not. The water of deathless life still flows;
Still bounds through nature's veins the sanative juice
Absolvent of disease; and still, in fine,
The secrets only to be told by fire,
Starry, or beamless, central and extreme,
Burn to be born. And other natures may
Use them, and do. In Demogorgon's hall
Still sits the universal mystery, life
Hidden in itself, but cognizable in cause,
By its own willing members: of man, sole,
The recreant spirit of the world ignored.
He surface--knowledge loves; the crimes of crowds
Calls virtue; adores the useful vices; licks
The gory dust from off the feet of war,
And swears it food for gods, though fit for fiends
Only; reversing, in his own vile plight,
The Devil's, when first he boarded this our orb,
A fallen angel's form, a reptile's soul.

Lucifer.  Oh! this is libellous to man and fiend
And brute together.

Student. All are art and part
Of the same mystic treason. But enough!
I have seen the end of all earth's loftier lore.
There shall be no more cabala, nor magic;
Nor Rosicrucian nor alchymic skill;
Nor fairy fantasies: no more hobgoblins,
Nor ghosts, nor imps, nor demons. Conjurors,
Enchanters, witches, wizards, shall all die
Hopeless, and heirless; their divining arts
Supernal or infernal, dead, with them.
And so it will doubtless be with other things
In time; therefore will I my brain commit
To none of them.

Festus. Perchance it were wiser not:
Man's heart hath not half uttered itself yet,
And much remains to do as well as say.
The heart is some time ere it finds its focus.
And found, with the whole light of nature strained
To a hair's--breadth through it, oft, the things it burns
To search, it lights, oblivious, to their death.
I had not thought the world within its walls
Held one so versed in ignorance, so expert
In things impracticable. You must have lived
So centrally apart as not to know
That studies once perchance thought loftiest, since,
Have lost their footing by proved uselessness;
While lowlier ones, which merely better man,
Bring him more near his Maker.

Student. I believe
The world will neither better end nor worse
For aught I do, or wish to do, or mean.

Lucifer.  Signs of a conscientious recklessness,
Such thoughts, as touch me and attract. I never
So fortunate seem as in 'lighting upon friends
Bent on their own ends, openly. Good; be wise.

Student.  Wisdom is not to know what others know.
For public science patent to mankind
I reck nought. Secret truth is that I seek.

Lucifer.  And rightly. Pure intelligence alone,
Unmixed with moral aims, is truly wise.
To cheapen truth that every one may buy,
You must so thin the gold as makes it worthless.

Festus.  Nay, but contrariwise; the more you spread
The more you emulate truth's deity,
In his best attribute, the gift of bliss
To others. Truth for its own sake's worth little;
Communicated, priceless. Mix with men;
Not slavewise to the mass; but having gained
In secret freedom, truth, that moral gold
Which mind transmutes, perfective from all thought,
And hath in noblest souls most potent rule,
Impart to all prepared.

Student. This alchemy
How shall I learn, whereby thought truth becomes,
And knowledge, wisdom;--magistery divine?

Lucifer.  We'll speak of this sometime at leisure. I
Know one, who could unseal this hidden lore;
And hold the wine of wisdom to their lips,
Who can appreciate her divinest draught.
Nay, more; perchance can reconcile the aims
Of both; and knowledge supplement with power.

Festus.  Well, farewell, Mr. Student. May you never
Regret those hours which make the mind, if they
Unmake the body; for the sooner we
Are fit to be all mind, the better. Blessed
Is he whose heart is the home of the great dead,
And their great thoughts. Who can mistake great thoughts?
They seize upon the mind; arrest and search,
And shake it; bow the tall soul as by wind;
Rush over it like a river over reeds,
Which quaver in the current; turn us cold,
And pale, and voiceless; leaving in the brain
A rocking and a ringing; glorious,
But momentary, madness might it last,
And close the soul with heaven as with a seal!
In lieu of all these things whose loss thou mournest,
If earnestly or not I know not, use
The great and good and true which ever live;
And are all common to pure eyes and true.
Upon the summit of each mountain--thought
Worship thou God, with heaven uplifted head
And arms horizon stretched; for deity is seen
From every elevation of the soul.
Study the light; attempt the high; seek out
The soul's bright path; and since the soul is fire,
Of heat intelligential, turn it aye
To the all--Fatherly source of light and life:
Piety purifies the soul to see
Visions, perpetually, of grace and power,
Which, to their sight who in ignorant sin abide,
Are now as e'er incognizable. Obey
Thy genius, for a minister it is
Unto the throne of Fate. Draw towards thy soul,
And centralize, the rays which are around
Of the divinity. Keep thy spirit pure
From worldly taint, by the repellant strength
Of virtue. Think on noble thoughts and deeds,
Ever. Count o'er the rosary of truth;
And practise precepts which are proven wise.
It matters not then what thou fearest. Walk
Boldly and wisely in that light thou hast;--
There is a hand above will help thee on.
I am an omnist, and believe in all
Religions; fragments of one golden world
To be relit yet, and take its place in heaven,
Where is the whole, sole truth, in deity.
Meanwhile, his word, his law, writ soulwise here,
Study; its truths love; practise its behests,
They will be with thee when all else have gone.
Mind, body, passion all wear out; not faith
Nor truth. Keep thy heart cool, or rule its heat
To fixed ends; waste it not upon itself.
Not all the agony maybe of the damned
Fused in one pang, vies with that earthquake throb
Which wakens soul from life--waste, to let see
The world rolled by for aye, and we must wait
For our next chance the nigh eternity;
Whether it be in heaven or elsewhere.

Student. Sir,
I will remember this most grave advice
And think of you with all respect.

Festus. Well, mind,
The worst of men may give the best advice.
Our deeds sometimes are better than our thoughts.
Commend me, friend, to everyone you meet.
I am an universal favourite.
All turn to me whenever I speak, full--faced,
As planets to the sun, or owls to a rushlight.

Student. I hope to meet again.

Festus. And I.

Lucifer.  Fear not. Chance favours like recurrences.

Festus.  Yonder's a woman singing. Let us hear her.

In the grey church tower
Were the clear bells ringing,
When a maiden sat in her lonely bower
Sadly and lowly singing;
And thus she sang, that maiden fair
Of the soft blue eyes and the long light hair.

This hand hath oft been held by one
Who now is far away;
And here I sit and sigh alone
Through all the weary day:
Oh when will he I love return?
And when shall I forget to mourn?

Along the dark and dizzy path
Ambition madly runs,
'Tis there they say his course he hath,
And therefore love he shuns;
Oh fame and honour crown his brow,
For so he would be with me now.

In the grey church tower
Kept the clear bells ringing,
When a bounding step in that lonely bower
Broke on the maiden singing;
She turned, she saw; oh happy fair!
For her love who loved her so well was there.

Lucifer.  And we might trust these youths and maidens fair,
The world was made for nothing but love, love.
Now I think it was made most to be burned.

Festus.  The night is glooming on us. It is the hour
When lovers will speak lowly, for the sake
Of being nigh each other; and when love
Shoots up the eye, like morning on the east,
Making amends for the long northern night
They passed, ere either knew the other loved;
The hour of hearts! Say grey--beards what they please,
The heart of age is like an emptied wine--cup;
Its life lies in a heel--tap: how can age judge?
'Twere a waste of time to ask how they wasted theirs;
But while the blood is bright, breath sweet, skin smooth,
And limbs all made to minister delight;
Ere yet we have shed our locks, like trees their leaves,
And we stand staring bare into the air;
He is a fool who is not for love and beauty.
It is I, the young, to the young speak. I am of them;
And always shall be. What are years to me?
You traitor years, that fang the hands ye have licked,
Vicelike; henceforth your venom--sacs are gone.
I have conquered. Ye shall perish: yea, shall fall
Like birdlets beaten by some resistless storm
'Gainst a dead wall, dead. I pity ye, that such
Mean things should have raised, in man, or hope or fear;
Those Titans of the heart that fight at heaven,
And sleep, by fits, on fire, whose slightest stir's
An earthquake. I am bound and blessed to youth.
None but the brave and beautiful can love.
Oh give me to the young, the fair, the free,
The brave, who would breast a rushing, burning world
Which came between him and his heart's delight.
Mad must I be, and what's the world? Like mad
For itself. And I to myself am all things, too.
If my heart thundered would the world rock? Well
Then let the mad world fight its shadow down.
Soon there may be nor sun, nor world, nor shadow.
But thou, my blood, my bright red running soul,
Rejoice thou, like a river in thy rapids.
Rejoice, thou wilt never pale with age, nor thin;
But in thy full dark beauty, vein by vein
Serpent--wise, me encircling, shalt, to the end,
Throb, bubble, sparkle, laugh, and leap along.
Make merry, heart, while the holidays shall last.
Better than daily dwine, break sharp with life;
Like a stag, sunstruck, top thy bounds, and die.
Heart, I could tear thee out, thou fool, thou fool;
And strip thee into shreds upon the wind.
What have I done that thou shouldst maze me thus?

Lucifer.  Let us away; we have had enough of hearts.

Festus.  Oh for the young heart like a fountain playing,
Flinging its bright fresh feelings up to the skies
It loves and strives to reach; strives, loves in vain.
It is of earth, and never meant for heaven,
Let us love both and die. The sphinx--like heart
Loathes life the moment that life's riddle is read.
The knot of our existence solved, all things
Loose--ended lie; and useless. Life is had,
And lo! we sigh, and say, can this be all?
It is not what we thought; it is very well,
But we want something more. There is but death.
And when we have said and seen, done, had, enjoyed
And suffered, maybe, all we have wished, or feared,
From fame to ruin, and from love to loathing,
There can come but one more change--try it--death.
Oh it is great to feel that nought of earth,
Hope, love, nor dread, nor care for what's to come,
Can check the royal lavishment of life;
But, like a streamer strown upon the wind,
We fling our souls to fate and to the future.
For to die young is youth's divinest gift;
To pass from one world fresh into another,
Ere change hath lost the charm of soft regret;
And feel the immortal impulse from within
Which makes the coming, life, cry alway, on!
And follow it while strong, is heaven's last mercy.
There is a fire--fly in the south, but shines
When on the wing. So is't with mind. When once
We rest, we darken. On! saith God to the soul,
As unto the earth for ever. On it goes,
A rejoicing native of the infinite,
As is a bird, of air; an orb, of heaven.

Philip James Bailey's other poems:
  1. Festus - 35
  2. Festus - Proem
  3. Festus - 37
  4. Festus - 8
  5. Festus - 44

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