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Philip James Bailey (Филип Джеймс Бэйли)


Festus - 3


Follows a starry night
Where in the talk of man and spirit we see
Foreproven, the all--grasping mind's inordinate love
For marvels, mysteries, than for goodness more
Nay even for greatness. Miracles we must have.
Whence comes this dream of immortality
And the resurgent essence? Death is change.
But spirit's return, allowed of heaven, is now
To strengthen a fine but fainting faith, and show
Such change for better. Soul reborn, we see,
Stalls not in death; but like the polar sun,
One moment balanced on life's infinite verge,
Rises in roseate splendour to renew
Always a mightier day. The spell, as pledge
Of gifts to come and prouder privilege, works.
Man and his foe shake hands upon their bargain.

Water and Wood. Midnight.
Festus, alone.  All things are calm, and fair, and passive. Earth
Looks as if lulled upon an angel's lap,
Into a breathless dewy sleep: so still
That we can only say of things, they be.
The lakelet now, no longer vexed with gusts,
Replaces on her breast the pictured moon,
Pearled round with stars. Sweet imaged scene of time
To come, perchance, when, this vain life o'erspent,
Earth may some purer beings' presence bear;
Mayhap even God may walk among his saints,
In eminence and brightness like yon moon,
Mildly outbeaming all the beads of light
Strung o'er Night's proud dark brow. How strangely fair
Yon round still star, which looks half suffering from,
And half rejoicing in its own strong fire;
Making itself a lonelihood of light,
Like Deity, where'er in heaven it dwells.
How can the beauty of material things
So win the heart and work upon the mind,
Unless like--natured with them? Are great things
And thoughts of the same blood? They have like effect.
Would one were here who could these knots unloose!

Lucifer.  Why doubt on mind? What matter how we call
That which all feel to be their noblest part?
Even spirits have a better and a worse:
For every thing created must have form;
Form meaning limitation. God, alone,
Is formless and illimitable mind.
Passions they have, somewhat like thine; but less
Of grossness and that downwardness of soul
Which men have. It is true they have no earth;
For what they live on is above themselves.

Festus.  There seems a sameness among things; for mind
And matter speak, in causes, of one God.
The inward and the outward worlds are like;
The pure and gross but differ in degree.
Tears, feeling's bright embodied form, are not
More pure than dewdrops, nature's tears, which she
Sheds in her own breast for the fair which die.
The sun insists on gladness; but at night,
When he is gone, poor nature loves to weep.

Lucifer.  There is less real difference among things
Than men imagine. They overlook the mass,
But fasten each on some particular crumb,
Because they feel that they can equal that,
Of doctrine, or belief, or party cause.

Festus.  That is the madness of the world--and that
Would I remove.

Lucifer. It is imbecility, Not madness.

Festus. Oh! the brave and good who serve
A worthy cause can only one way fail;
By perishing therein. Is it to fail?
No; every great or good man's death is a step
Firm set towards their end, the end of being;
The good of all, and love of God. The world
Must have great minds, even as great spheres or suns,
To govern lesser restless minds, while they
Stand still and burn with life; to keep in place,
Light, heat them. Life immortal do I seek,
For aught, it were most to learn mind's mystery,
And somewhat more of God. Let others rule
Systems or succour saints, if such things please;
To live like light, or die in light like dew;
Either, I should be blessed.

Lucifer. It may not be.
For as not the sun himself thou viewest, but only
The light about him, like the glory ringed
Round a saint's brow; so, God thou wilt never see,
Darkness of light eradiative. Nor seek.
His naked love were terrible. Saints dread more
To be forgiven than sinners do to die.

Festus.  Men have a claim on God; and none who hath
A heart of kindness, reverence, and love,
But dare look God in the face and ask his smile.
He dwells in no fierce light--no cloud of flame;
And if it were, Faith's eye can look through hell,
And through the solid world. We must all think
On God. Yon water must reflect the sky.
Midnight! Day hath too much of light for us,
To see things spiritually. Mind and Night
Will meet, though in silence, like forbidden lovers,
With whom to see each other's sacred form
Must satisfy. The stillness of deep bliss,
Sound as the silence of the high hill--top,
Where thunder finds no echo--like God's voice
Upon the worldling's proud, cold, rocky heart--
Fills full the sky; and the eye shares with heaven
That look, so like to feeling, nature's bright
And glorious things aye wear. There's much to think
And feel of things beyond this earth; which lie,
As we deem, upwards, far from the day's glare
And riot. They are Night's. Oh! could we lift
The future's sable shroud!

Lucifer. Behind a shroud What should'st thou see but death?

Festus. Spirit; the thread
Sightless, whereon are strung life's world--great beads.
It may be here, I shall live again; or there,
In yon strange world whose long nights know no star;
But seven fair maidlike moons attending him
Perfect his sky; perchance in one of those;
But live again I shall, wherever it be.
We long to learn the future; love to guess.

Lucifer.  The science of the future were to man
What the wind's shadow might be, sought he screen
From fire or flood. Save in the effect of act,
And the interlinkèd sequences of things,
Whereby to ourselves we make passed, present, coming,
There is no future. Why so fret this string?
Such thoughts are vain and useless.

Festus. Forced on us.

Lucifer. All things are of necessity.

Festus. Then best.
But the good are never fatalists. The bad
Alone act by necessity, they say.

Lucifer.  It matters not what men assume to be
Or good or bad, they are but what they are.

Festus.  What is necessity? Are we, and thou,
And all the worlds, and the whole infinite
We cannot see, but working out God's thoughts?
And have we no self--action? Are all God?

Lucifer.  Then hath he sin and all absurdity.

Festus.  Yet, if created Being have free--will,
Is it not wrong to judge it may traverse
God's own high will; and yet impossible
To think on't otherwise?

Lucifer. It may be so.
All creature wills, and all their ends and powers
Must come within the boundless scope of God's.

Festus.  And all our powers are but weaknesses
To what we shall have, and to that God hath.
Doth not the wish, too, point the likelihood,
Of life to come?

Lucifer. Boys wish that they were kings.
And so with thee. A deathless spirit's state,
Freed from gross form and bodily weightiness,
Seems kingly by the side of souls like thine.
And boys and men will likely both be balked.
What if,--death after--spirit were loosed, like flesh,
Into its elements? Hold yon worlds, man maps
Constellate, fellowship in nature? Life,
Mind, soul, as he hath planned, perchance no more.
But sooth to say, I know not aught of this.
I have no kind. No nature like to me
Exists; and human spirits must at least
Sleep till the day of doom--if ever it be.

Festus. Hast never known one free from body?

Lucifer. None.

Festus. Why seek then to destroy them?

Lucifer. It is my part.
Let ruin bury ruin. Let it be
Woe here, woe there, woe, woe be everywhere.
It is not for me to know, nor thee, the end
Of evil. I inflict; and thou must bear.
The arrow knoweth not its end nor aim.
And I keep rushing, ruining along,
Like a great river rich with dead men's souls.
For if I knew, I might rejoice; and that
To me by nature is forbidden. I know
Nor joy in ill's success, such as elates
Lesser malevolences; nor sorrow sours
My soul at sight of heaven's unwearying love
Manwards. With me through time, a changeless tone
Of sadness like the nightwind's is the strain
Of what I have of feeling. I am not
As other spirits,--but a solitude
Even to myself; I the sole spirit, sole.

Festus.  Can none of thine immortals answer me?

Lucifer. None, mortal!

Festus. Where then is thy vaunted power?

Lucifer.  It is better seen as thus I stand apart
From all. Mortality is mine--the green
Unripened universe. But as the fruit
Matures, and world by world drops mellowed off
The wrinkling stalk of Time, as thine own race
Hath seen of stars now vanished, all is hid
From me. My part is done. What after comes,
I know not more than thou.

Festus. Raise me a spirit!

Lucifer.  Command o'er natural essence, space, time, matter,
I yield thee. Can I give thee power o'er soul?

Festus.  Awake, ye dead! out with the secret, death;
The grave hath no pride, nor the rise--again.
Let each one bring the bane whereof he died.
Bring the man his, the maiden hers! Oh! half
Mankind are murderers of themselves or souls.
Yea, what is life but lingering suicide?
Wake, dead! Ye know the truth; yet there ye lie
All mingling, mouldering, perishing together,
Like run sand in the hour--glass of old Time.
Death is the mad world's asylum. There is peace:
Destruction's quiet and equality.
Night brings out stars as sorrow shows us truths:
Though many, yet they help not; bright, they light not.
They are too late to serve us; and sad things
Are aye too true. We never see the stars
Till we can see nought but them. So with truth.
And yet if one would look down a deep well,
Even at noon, we might see those same stars
Far fairer than the blinding blue--the truth.
Probe the profound of thine own nature, man!
And thou mayst see reflected, e'en in life,
The worlds, the heavens, the ages; by and by,
The coming come. Then welcome, world--eyed Truth!
But there are other eyes men better love
Than Truth's: for when we have her she is so cold,
And proud, we know not what to do with her.
We cannot understand her, cannot teach;
She makes us love her, but she loves not us;
And quits us as she came and looks back never.
Wherefore we fly to Fiction's warm embrace,
With her to relax and bask ourselves at ease;
And, in her loving and unhindering lap
Voluptuously lulled, we dream at most
On death and truth; she knows them, loves them not;
Therefore we hate them and deny them both.

Lucifer.  But could I make that visible always there?

Festus. Call up the dead.

Lucifer. Let rest while rest they may.
For free from pain and from this world's wear and tear,
It may be a relief to them to rot;
And it must be that at the day of doom,
If mortals should take up immortal life,
They will curse me with a thunder which shall shake
The sun from out the socket of his sphere.
The curse of all created. Think on it.

Festus.  Those souls thou meanest whom thou hast ruined, damned.

Lucifer.  Nor only those; when once the virgin bloom
Of soul is soiled; and rudely hath my hand
Swept o'er the swelling clusters of all life;
Little it matters whether crushed or touched
Scarcely: each speaks the spoiler hath been there.
The saved, the lost, shall curse me both alike:
God too shall curse me, and I, I, myself.
That curse is ever greatening, quick with hell;
The coming consummation of all woe.

Festus.  O man, be happy. Die and cease for ever.
Why wear we not the shroud alway, that robe
Which speaks our rank on earth, our privilege?
To know I have a deathless soul I would lose it.

Lucifer. Believest thou all I tell thee?

Festus. All, I do.
Stringing the stars at random round her head,
Like a pearl network, there she sits--bright Night!
I love night more than day--she is so lovely.
But I love night the most because she brings
My love to me in dreams which scarcely lie;
Oh, all but truth and lovelier oft than truth;
Let me have dreams like these, sweet night, for ever,
When I shall wake no more; an endless dream
Of love and holy beauty amid the stars;
And earth and heaven for me may share between them
The rough realities of other bliss.

Lucifer.  I see thy heart, and I will grant thy wish.
I have lied to thee. I have command over spirits;
And e'er behold them, bodiless as space.
Whom wilt thou that I call?

Festus. Mine Angela!

Lucifer.  There is an Angel ever by thine hand.
What seest thou?

Festus. It is my love. It is she!
My glory, spirit, beauty! let me touch thee.
Nay do not shrink back; well then I am wrong:
Thou wert not wont to shrink from me, my love.
Angela! dost thou hear me? Speak to me.
And thou art there--looking alive and dead.
Thy beauty is then incorruptible.
I thought so, oft as I have looked upon thee.
Thou art too much even now for me as once.
I cannot gather what I raved to say;
Nor why I had thee hither. Stay, sweet sprite!
Dear art thou to me now, as in that hour
When first love's wave of feeling, spray--like, broke
Into bright utterance, and we said we loved.
Yea, but I must come to thee. Move no more!
Art thou in death or heaven, or from the stars?
She speaks not. 'Tis a phantom maybe, only.
Have I done wrong in calling for thee thus?
What art thou? Say, love; whisper me as wont,
In the dear times gone by; or durst not here,
Unfold the mystery of thine own bright being,
And mine? Was't meddling death who hushed thy lips?
Is his cold finger there still? Let me come!
She is not!

Lucifer. And thou canst not bring her back.

Festus.  I will not, cannot be without her. Call her.

Lucifer.  I call on spirits and I make them come:
But they depart according to their own will.
Another time and she shall speak with thee.
For, of thy state no more, to know her thou
Into her sphere must rise.

Festus. What most I'd know
Is how soul acts, how suffers; how the God
Treats, death achieved, man's mind.

Lucifer. She of the passed
Shall there fulfil thy spirit; and, holding forth
The bright clue, which like lightning's friendly flash
Before one, night--lost in a wood, shall guide
The soul its path through life's returnless maze,
And teach the mystery of thyself. All this
Ere long--and she shall show thee where she dwells,
And how doth pass her immortality;
If lengthening decay can so be called.
Can lines finite one way be infinite
Another? And yet such is deathlessness.

Festus.  It is hard to deem that spirits cease, that thought
And feeling flesh--like perish in the dust.
Shall we know those again in a future state
Whom we have known and loved on earth? Say yes!

Lucifer.  The mind hath features as the body hath.

Festus. But is it mind which shall revive?

Lucifer. Man were
Not man without the mind he had in life.
But, think. When dead and buried what remains,--
That such an obscure, contradictory thing
Should be perpetuated anywhere?

Festus.  Oh! if God hates the flesh, why made he it
So beautiful that e'en its semblance maddens?
Am I to credit what I think I have seen?
Or am I suffering some deceit of thine?

Lucifer. I am explaining, not deluding.

Festus. True.
Defining night by darkness, death by dust.
I run the gauntlet of a file of doubts,
Each one of which down hurls me to the ground.
I ask a hundred reasons what they mean,
And every one points gravely to the ground
With one hand, and to heaven with the other.
In vain I shut mine eyes. Truth's burning beam
Forces them open; and when open, blinds them.

Lucifer. Doubly unhappy!

Festus. I am too unhappy
To die; as some too way--worn cannot sleep.
Planets and suns, that set themselves on fire
By their own rapid self--revolvements, are
But like some hearts. Existence I despise.
The shape of man is wearisome; a bird's;
A worm's; a whirlwind's; I would change with aught.
Time! dash thine hour--glass down. Have done with this.
The course of nature seems a course of death;
The prize of life's brief race, to cease to run;
The sole substantial thing, death's nothingness.

Lucifer.  Corruption springs from light; 'tis one same power
Creates, preserves, destroys; matter whereon
It works, one aye self--transmutative form,
Common to now the living, now the dead.

Festus.  I'll not believe a thing which I have known.
Hell was made hell for me, and I am mad.

Lucifer.  True venom churns the froth out of the lips;
It works, and works, like any waterwheel.
And she then was the maiden of thy heart.
Well, I have promised. Ye shall meet again.
But stay; take this, a final warning. Aught
Thou hast seen, hold not too sure. Ofttimes the brain
Dreams waking; with vitality endows
Its own creations; argues; thought's best proofs
Refutes; what not?

Festus. What, all illusion?

Lucifer. Nay;
I say not so. This, that is probable.
Now, shall we go?

Festus. This moment. I am ready.
Farewell ye dear old walks and trees; farewell
Ye waters; I have loved ye well. In youth
And childhood it hath been my life to drift
Across ye lightly as a leaf; or skim
Your waves in yon skiff, swallowlike; or lie
Like a loved locket on your sunny bosom.
Could I, like you, by looking in myself,
Find mine own heaven--farewell! Immortal, come!
The morning peeps her blue eye on the east.

Lucifer.  Think not so fondly as thy foolish race,
Imagining a heaven from things without;
The picture on the passing wave call heaven--
The wavelet, life--the sands beneath it, death;
Daily more seen till, lo! the bed is bare.
This fancy fools the world.

Festus. Let us away!

Lucifer.  Wings of the wind, be ours! once, twice, away!



Philip James Bailey's other poems:
  1. Festus - 35
  2. Festus - Proem
  3. Festus - 4
  4. Festus - 33
  5. Festus - 17


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