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Philip James Bailey (Филип Джеймс Бэйли)


Festus - 13


In one of earth's
Head cities, awaiting this, the effect unknown,
Of evil, not, truly, all--wise, we towerlike rise;
With eminent but indifferent eye survey,
Subdue, in thought, society, now in all
Its greater grades seen. Secret science, since
Divert to aims of power mysterious, schemes
For freedom, wealth, airs; war's surcease; and spread
Of mind--light, social virtue. Here the germ
Of universal sway, sought from the first,
See posited, striking, round an inner world,
Its roots intelligible, but not till the end
Destined to fruit; love, friendship, faith, all things
Ministrant. Plans all feasible, shadowed out,
Of one sublime humanity purified,
Warm even the civic air. And shall not God's
Own peace crown man pacific?

A Metropolis; Public Place.
Festus and Lucifer, Student, and Others.
Festus.  My thoughts go, cloudlike, round the world, nor rest.
I am on fire to realize the fate
Which darkly, in the future's depths, thou hast shown;
Or else am with the mightiest folly mocked
E'er imped a soul to madness? How, meanwhile
Our ends defer? Can we for mellowing suns
Wait? When shall earth acknowledge me?

Lucifer. Not now.
Never, till self--compelled. The time will come.
Have patience. It is the blessing of the angels.

Festus. Patience! say slow self--murder.

Lucifer. Wait for what
Is on the wing already, or reach the end
As of an aimless lunge i' the empty air.
Knowledge, love, power, are thrones thy soul shall sit
In order due as promised. Patience, man!
We are as yet but minors, both of us.

Festus.  Of pleasure one has hardly had a glimpse.

Lucifer.  Each pleasure hastes thee to thine end, and man's.
Each new sought joy, each freshly proven power,
But draws the ends of all things like a hood,
Around thy fated head the closer. Come.
Bethink thee of thy pact.

Festus. I do; a pact
Where abstinence only serves to quicken pain;
Indulgence, shorten pleasure. Which to choose,
To let alone, which, wiser?

Lucifer. In them both
Is reason; but all--wise, man will never be.

Festus.  Nay, come then, pretty patience. Sand by sand,
The world is worn away;--the sea hath sapped,
How oft! earth's vaulted base; times countless whelmed,
'Neath his abysmal bowl, the mountain tops.
'Tis but a matter of days. Most greatest things
Are gradual. Star on star, the heavens fulfil
Their issue; and truth quickens here the soul,
Dipped in substantial lightning of the sun
Spiritual, and with the eternal saving saved,
By every breath inspired of God. I yield.
Let us to that near hand: the end, deferred.
Life to enjoy, not only one must conform
To the world's laws, but bye--laws, customs, moods.
What can be done here?

Lucifer. Oh, a thousand things
As well as elsewhere.

Festus. True; it is a place
Where passion, occupation, or reflection,
May find fit food or field.

Lucifer. Take we our ease
Beside this feathery fountain. It is cool,
And pleasant; and the people, passing by,
Fit subjects for twin moralists like us.
Here, we can speculate freely on policy;
On social manners, fashions, and the news.
Now the political aspect of the world
At present, is most cheerful. To begin,
Like charity, at home. Out of all wrongs
The most atrocious; the most righteous ends
Are happiest wrought.

Festus. Ofttimes it chances so.

Lucifer.  Take of the blood of martyrs, tears of slaves,
The groans of prisoned patriots, and the sweat
Wrung from the bones of famine, like parts; add
The stifled breath of man's free natural thought;
The tyrant's lies, the curses of the meek;
Vapour of orphan's sigh, and wail of all
Whom war hath spoiled, or law first fanged, then gorged;
The usurpations of the lawful heir,
The common weal, which comes to its own, all done;
The treasonous rebellions of the wise;
The poor man's patient prayers; and let all these
Simmer some centuries, o'er the slow red fire
Of human wrath, and there results at last,
A glorious constitution, and a grand
Totality of nothings; for what's all
Weighed with man's destiny?

Festus. Of recipes
Enough. That man's a warful animal,
Soldiers pass; music.
Glories in gunpowder, and loves parade,
Prefers them to all things, see present proof.
Life's but a sword's length at the best.

Lucifer. Past doubt.
Bar--iron, duly smelted, rules the world.

Festus.  How many things want remedying. What next?

Lucifer.  Well, in this seat of empire, by this head,
And nucleus of a nation world--famed, sit
And name your remedies; for, sick to death
Well--nigh, and perishing of rank rotting sores,
That gilded plasters hide, are all these burghs;
Huge populous solitudes, where penury pines
Mid havoc of excess; while guileful wealth
Serves, tremblingly, behind the public board,
Pale want, his stomach stiff from sheer default
Of exercise, is pressed to join, and thank
Compulsory charity, interested to give;
Or, back to shadowy feasts where all things lack;
Save appetite to destroy. What's wanted here?

Festus.  Nought but a total change; true, honest, life,
Holy and simple; peace; a cheerful faith
In God; and nothing spent not purely earned.

Lucifer.  Utopian, I much fear. But look here comes
A man thou knowest.

Festus. I do. Stop, friend, of late
I have not seen thee. Whither goest thou now?

Student.  I am upon my business, and in haste.

Festus.  Business! I thought thou wast a simple schemer;
A theorist of most nebulous mark and views;
Founder of many imaginary states;
And student of all arts impracticable.

Student.  Mayhap, I am. There is a visionary
Business, as well as visionary faith.
My nature is more to sympathize with men,
Than in their actual aims participate.
What these by traffic strive to attain for themselves,
I seek, by the hidden mastery, to achieve
For others. Let but fruit my next thought,--then,
Bid me compete with states, and watch who wins.

Festus.  And holdst thou faith in the art alchemic still?
Still seekst secluded in the ravenous search
For gold to verify thine earlier hopes?

Student.  Though mingling more with men, my mind is yet
Leased to the great invention. I, in sooth,
Have all my life been living in a mine,
Lancing the world for gold. I have not yet
Fingered the right vein. Oh! how oft I wish
The time might come again, pert science prates of,
When earth's bright veins ran ruddy virgin gold.

Lucifer.  When next the world's gold melts 'twill run, I fear,
A pretty steep course towards its natural end.

Student.  Oh! I am not without my moderate hopes.
When in earth's first foundation as an orb,
Her giant elements held, like god--kings, sway
Free, and successive heritage, each his gift
Made earth, to mark his long illustrious reign.
Air, water, with prolific forms and fair,
Their realms made vital; with grain, herb, the mould;
With tall trees towering cloudwards, thousand yeared;
Fire, with all ore, gem, marble, stained with dyes
Stolen from the infant sun, when feeble he lay,
In the orient cradled; and that earth might not,
Mid the first passion of her golden prime,
Exhaust all joy, each power some art arcane
Penned for the cherished future; and to Time,
Earth's scribe and heaven's remembrancer, consigned
The opening of their treasured archives. These,
We, who now hold the keys of wisdom, read;
Translate the fiery tongues of obelisks;
Revive the blackened brain--craft of old scrolls,
A score of centuries tombed; light's radiant chords
Peel naked to the stars; weigh air, theirs, ours;
Count off the sun's vast rudiments, and his brow;
With vaporous iron crown; apt compliment
To our own stern age. One secret only, still,
Of moment, lacks; and this found, earth may rest,
And reap unusual joy. It is my main hope.

Festus.  Were all rich, nothing left but gems and gold,
All things less pure, less precious, all beside
Were worthless, penniless. But what crowds of things
Life hath, more worth than wealth! When, viewed the world,
We mark the mighty ignorance of the mass,
In all lands, their huge servitude of mind,
And think, what sometime it would be, to see
Freedom and wisdom substituted, thought
Fails; and the heart faints at the vast conceipt.

Student.  Truly; but not for gold, as ore, I slave.
As means subservient only to some end,
Great and beneficent, world--wide; end I scarce
Thus casually can name, but holy, high,
And in the face of all earth's worn--out frames
Of civil power, dynastic, popular, all
Alike effete, right justified.

Festus. So? I hear.

Lucifer. For this end, gold is needed.

Festus. I perceive.

Student.  For universal liberty, gold, and more,
Wrongs must be rectified, rights established.

Festus. True;
Where'er a wrong exists, a right is quelled;
And wrongs seem everywhere. Serfs I despise,
For nations, if so, must so be, by choice.
Tyrants, or many or one, elect or born,
I hate. But how will justice--loving time
Reckon with all the despots, many and mean,
Who falsify, by weight of brands and chains,
The balance civil hath over savage life;
Who knows? That Mercy may be satisfied
By so much Justice sweeps, with level hand,
From off the measure's head, we'll hope.

Lucifer. Yes, hope.

Festus.  Hope retributive Mercy may succeed
Her sterner sister Justice, and aye reign
In parity with love. For know, while God
Sits, judging 'mid the heavens, and all things made
Governs by infinite laws, each several sphere
Owns yet his special equity. Even on earth,
A vast invisible seat he hath, like aged
With the unwandering hills. In every soul's
Instinct of right; in all just sympathies;
In every conscience, sensitive to the truth,
As skies to light; in every innocent heart,
Whose strings, like angel lyres, are tuned in heaven;
Built into being, as though its corner--stone,
Towers, core of rule, this seat; and when, crushed down
By popular wrong of kings, or tyrannous crime
Of crowds, man's prayer, to him appealing, steals
Skywards, a shock convictive through all hearts
Shoots: and men's eyes, disfilmed, strange sense receive,
Undreamed of: view, there, in their veriest midst,
The eternal Presence, throned. His judgments, there,
Be very sure are executed. His fines
To the last blood drop paid. Oh may at last
Earth's Lord to all be merciful; but now,
Let God be just; 'tis all we need. I hear,
As faith his gifts recounts, by man misused,
Heaven's reasonable demands withstood, the groans,
Like to an earthquake thundering underground,
That shake, tempestuous, Time's repentant breast.

Student.  Wait, wait; not long. The Rectifier will rise;
A purer and more righteous aera come.
Deep in earth's caverned heart, self--hidden, I see,
Her loins with wisdom's silver serpents girt,
The Nemesis of nations. Stern she sits
Her monumental throne. The hush of death
Spreads round her, halo--like. Even Hope, her friend,
Oft deems her dead. Yet lives she; live she will.
She hath a vital secret in her breast,
As though she nursed a god which scarcely breathes,
The freedom of the future. To all else
Superior, in that secret, nought beside
Heeds she: but hears indifferent o'er her head,
The ebb, or flow, of empire, and the march
Of militant generations; and but smiles,
And rocks her foot, contemptuous. Not for these
Moves she, nor is she moved; nor cares she watch.
Wordless of joy or woe, say why is she
Incarcerate? why abandoned? why suspect
Even of the pure? why in her cell by all
Her lover kings forgot,--could one who hath eyed
Her pale and dominant brow, and mounded breast
Elate with life, nor shuddering shrunk to meet
That stately stare, ever forget? Away!
Name not old wrongs. If wrongs have been, be sure
Some day will right them. Know, she hath never been
Save by her own serene assent, exiled
From the upper earth's face. What then doth she there,
Darkling in central solitudes? Alas!
Of her divine prevision all devoid,
Unwelcome and unworthy suitors she
Hath, many an one, who her to rash attempt
Of empery would entice, and so secure
Her forfeit royalty; wicked these nor reck
God's patience, or her own, prayer--wrung, to abide
The hour of destiny, and the award of love,
The liberator, fore--chosen. For when the dew
Now wet, hath ripened into the thunder--cloud,
And man's breath made God's lightning, one shall come
Who, of things passed intolerant, but divine
In mercifulness, and prompt ere all to free
The captive, and, to the exiled, home restore,
Shall ope her sealèd hand; tear out the spell
Of silence' self invoked eclipse, for ends
Then gained; and give a spear; her queenly brow,
Which ne'er hath stooped before, shall sanctify
With a crown, more holy than the wall--culled wreath
Obsidional of cities saved; and, so,
Lead her compassionate forth with him to head
Revived, regenerate manhood. Speed it heaven!
That we the dawn of that great day may see,
If not for all its mightiest outcomes spared.

Lucifer.  This is the spirit I want to see abroad.
We two can aid each other. Spread these views.

Student.  The wise and good wish well to liberty,
Throughout all lands; but aim to win her cause
By some bold movement, from the heart of all
United nations. Generous souls all joy
To see man's serf, risen up, a prince with God.

Lucifer.  The movement might be secret, nor its end
Till finally, divulged.

Festus. Be it as ye will.
Not, e'er, by war.

Lucifer. From age to age old Time
Hath washed his hands in the heart's blood of earth.
It's rather late to speak against it, now.

Student.  If without war the world could live one year
'Twere well. Yet fields of death, ye are earth's pride,
For what is life to freedom? War must be
While men are what they are; while they have bad
Passions to be roused up: while ruled by men;
While all the powers and treasures of a land
At beck of the ambitious, wrongs may be
Offered, with insult; yea, while rights are worth
Maintaining, freedom keeping, or life having,
So long the sword shall shine.

Festus. Yet war shall cease
All save the heavenly war we wage within.
What of thy next thought?

Student. Ah, the crowning scheme
I hinted?

Festus.  Yes, this golden badge; what may it
Imply, so patently concealed, displayed
So critically?

Student. It means, I have joined myself
To certain circles of the wise; a new
Consociate power, intrinsic to all states,
Self vowed in sacred bonds to holiest ends;
Who, worshipping one sole Lord in heaven, would choose
One sole on earth, peace thus ensured; mankind's
Free brotherhood, and whole unity. To this end
What want we? Wealth, time, numbers, secresy.
For this, all powers subordinate of the earth,
All social schemes, all frames of government
Are now essayed, tried, treated with; all wealth
Sought variously; all wisdom of the passed,
All faiths that move men's souls, and dominate still;
Convergent forces, are folded one by one
Within our politic plan; plan which, at last,
By virtue of rational necessity, must
Make sure, God aidant, earth's whole common--weal.
But how this unity to achieve of choice;
And how, by act, inaugurate and complete
This grand concerted good, seems yet a knot
Time's wearied fingers work at till they bleed,
And baffled races vainly pray for. Such
Our failure.

Lucifer. Such shall be no more. My plans
Are ripening faster than I thought, than need.

Student.  Wilt come with me and join this lordly host
Of brethren, friends of God, to whom pertains
The gift of the world's future?

Lucifer. Well, we have plans.
Our auricrucian friend could doubtless make
His banded brotherhoods well subservient here,
To views, but lateliest treated, of our own.

Festus.  True, if a few, illumined with all truth,
Initiate in all wisdom, hidden and open,
Armed with all wealth, could but forefit the world
For perfect freedom, Man might wish no more
Than add to freedom, peace; and to peace, power.

Student. Be ours.

Festus. I love the initiates wise; but doubt
If freedom e'er, with wisdom, prove the lot
Of all, or most.

Lucifer. Hands seem for manacles made:
And feet for fetters.

Student. Join with us.

Festus. I'll think.
I have passed through all the elements of the world;
Sea's depths, air's heights, the central fires, while 'neath
My feet antipodal thunders pealed; round earth,
Coast, continent, desert, isle, and fruit--fraught plain,
In all their various vastness; and have viewed
Nought venerable in them, of source, nor force,
Self--causative or divine; save vassal powers,
Obsequious to the ends designed of God,
Cohaerent made, and vivified, by laws
Inborn with them, imbreathed, nought. Ocean's tides
Poured o'er my head, in seas, for ages, never
My spirit to meaner faith could disbaptize
Than God's most proveable fatherhood of the world,
Material, mental, spiritual; his just
Rule of't, and loveful care; himself the soul's
Sole trust, judge, saviour, meed. In this faith firm
No tests I dread. And why change faith? Can aught
Than mine be truer?

Student. Change not; keep all thou canst
Of faith. Thus minded thou art most meet to join
Our rational rites, and sacred feasts, truth holds;
Orgies divine.

Festus. Of God, or nature? Comes
Of this, a sorrow unfruitful, and woe--filled.
Her mysteries teem with shrieks of struggling souls,
Doubt's cavernous darkness, and remorseful fires,
I'd not endure for worlds. But heaven's bring bliss;
Light, peace, and soul--joy, such as he the sun,
Felicitative, instils in all that live.

Student.  Fear nought, but prove them. Else am I losing time.

Lucifer.  Nay, time is never lost, if friends are made.
Promise. They all shall aid in our great aim.

Festus.  I will advise me. And when again we meet--

Student. We surely all again meet.

Lucifer. Haply not.
For me I am but poor company. Deem me, rather,
As some returnless meteor, from all ties
Of amity or obedience loosed, that flings,
Careless, his starry store mid space's fields;
Nor, in revisited spheres, dreams e'er to reap
The harvest of his hand. But, touching gold
I have a secret I would fain impart
To one who would make right use of it. Now, mark.
There are fifty elements, chemists say, and more.
Get, then, these fifty principles, or what not.
Mix up together: put to the question, all.
Teaze well with vapour, fire; much triturate.
Add the right quantity of lunar rays.
Boil whole, and let it cool; and watch what comes.

Student.  Thrice greatest Hermes! but it must be. Yes!
I'll go and get them; good day,--instantly.

Lucifer. He'll be astonished probably.

Festus. He will;
In any issue of the experiment.
The nostrum may perhaps explode, and--

Lucifer. Nonsense.

Festus.  There needs no satire on men's rage for gold,
Their nature is the best; and best excuse.
Some news seems stirring.

Lucifer. One of Saturn's moons,
I heard, had flown on his face, and blinded him.
It was also said, in circles I, at times,
Enter, his outer ring was falling off.
If I should find, I'll keep it. It might fit
A little finger such as mine. I doubt
Poor Saturn's breaking up. But for these news;
Some one perhaps has lit on a new vein
Of stars in the far void, or made out at last,
The circulation of the light; or what
Think'st thou?

Festus. I know not. Ask!

Lucifer. Sir, what's the news?

Passer--by.  The news are good news, being none at all.

Lucifer.  Your goodness, sir, I deem of like extent.
We heard the Great Bear was confined of twins.

Stranger.  It is not unlikely; stars do propagate.

Festus.  And so much for civility and news.
This city is one of the world's social poles.
Round which events revolve; here, dial--like,
Time makes no movement but is registered.

Lucifer.  Yon gaudy equipage! hast ever seen
A drowning dragon--fly, floating down a brook,
Topping the sunny ripples as they rise;
Till, in some ambushed eddy, it is sucked down,
By something underneath? Thus with the rich!
Their gilding makes their death conspicuous.

Festus.  This man is nobly rich, that, nobly poor;
These, the reverse. Rank makes no difference.

Lucifer.  The poor may die in swarms, unheeded. They
But swell the mass of columned ciphers earth
Runs up without a thought. Oh wretched poor,
Woe--bowed, thank God for something, though but this,
He fire, ye ashes!

Festus. Thou art surely mad.

Lucifer.  I meant to moralize. I cannot see
A crowd, and not think on the fate of man;
Clinging to error, as a dormant bat
To a dead bough. Well, 'tis his own affair.

Festus.  All homilies, on the sorts and lot of men,
Are vain and wearisome. I desire to know
No more of human nature. As it is,
I honour it, and hate it. Let that do.

Lucifer.  Here is a statue to some mighty man,
Who beat his name on the drum of the world's ear,
Till it was stupefied; and, I suppose,
Not knowing what it was about, reared up
This marble mockery of mortality;
Which shall outlive the memory of the man,
And all like him, who water earth with blood,
And sow with bones, or any good he did,
As eagles, gnats. But failures why indict?
Why carp at insect sins, or crumb--like crimes?
The world, the great imposture, still succeeds;
Still, in Titanic immortality, writhes
Beneath the burning mountain of its sins.

Festus.  There's an old adage about sin and some one.
The world is not exactly what I thought it,
But pretty nearly so; and after all,
It is not so bad as good men make it out,
Nor such a hopeless wretch.

Lucifer. For all the world
Not I would slander it. Dear world, thou art
Of all things under heaven by me most loved;
The most consistent, the least fallible.
Believe me ever thine affectionate
Lucifer. P.S. Sweet, remember me!

Festus. Wilt go to the cathedral?

Lucifer. No, indeed;
I have just confessed.

Festus. Well, to the concert, then?

Lucifer.  Some fifteen hundred thousand million years
Have passed since last I heard a chorus. How?
In sooth, can I time calculate? aeras none
Are in the eternal. Time is as the body;
Eternity, the spirit, of existence.

Festus. That would I learn and prove.

Lucifer. The finite soul
Can never learn the infinite, nor may be
Informed by it, unaided.

Festus. Be it so.
What shall we do?

Lucifer. I put myself in your hands.

Festus. Wilt go on 'Change?

Lucifer. I rarely speculate.
Steady receipts are mostly to my taste.

Festus.  But something must be done to pass the time.

Lucifer.  Let us, then, pass all time.

Festus.  Good! pass; but how?

Lucifer.  I have the power to make thy spirit free
Of its poor frame of flesh, yet not by death;
And reunite them afterwards. Wilt thou, think,
Entrust thyself to me?

Festus. In God I trust,
And in his word of safety. Have thy will.
Where shall it be effected?

Lucifer. Here and now.
Recline thou calmly upon yon marble slab,
As though asleep. The world will miss thee not;
Its complement is perfect. I will mind,
That no impertinent meddler troubles there,
Thy tranced frame. The brain shall cease its life
Engrossing business; and the living blood,
The wine of life, which maketh drunk the soul,
Sleep in the sacred vessels of the heart.
Three steps the sun hath taken from his throne,
Already downwards, and ere he hath gone,
Who calmeth tempests with his mighty light,
We will return; and until then, the bright rain
Of yonder fountain fails not.

Festus. Thus be it.
Come; we are wasting moments here that now
Belong, of right, to immortality,
And to another world.

Lucifer. Prepare!--

Festus. And thou?

Lucifer. I vanish altogether.

Festus. Excellent!

Lucifer.  Body and spirit part!--



Philip James Bailey's other poems:
  1. Festus - 41
  2. Festus - Proem
  3. Festus - 31
  4. Festus - 42
  5. Festus - 11


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