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Philip James Bailey (Филип Джеймс Бэйли)

Festus - 24

Soul's minor mysteries shown by light of faiths,
None wholly false, imperfect all; the true
No secrecies hath, no ritual. But not all
Who love truth, and are brave to seek, are free
To find. Who curiously, else unprepared,
Force themselves into her presence, earth not yet
Ripe for her glorious advent, perish; fruit
Untimely fallen. Death's harvest home begins.
Be the first fruits holy, let us hope, to God.
One of our fair ones dreadly quits life's field:
And he, the enthusiast friendliest, what of him?
Precipitate as a comet, when it dips
Below the undulant edge of the keen sea,
Smoothly serrate as Indian dag, or sword
Flame--waved, cherubic, in the ancient east,
Far--flashing by the gates of Eden, he ends.
How near is utterest failure to success!
Ambitious of all excellence, he, no more,
Save in his life--work, like the luminous shade
Sign, heavenward, of earth's progress 'mong the spheres
From the equinoctial towering high, at eve,
Lightens our orbital path. Ambition's ends
In view, its means being no more needed, love,
Nor friendship, but by ceasing, aid. The spirit
Of woe foretels, and lo! it comes to pass.
A Rocky Promontory, overhanging the Sea.
Festus alone. Afterwards Lucifer. Midnight. Moonlight.
Festus. O starry harp of heaven, O poet's star!
To man, prophetic, since wild earth hath changed
Her astral aim, of worlds to will supreme
Attuned, and soul from death's numb hand redeemed
Godwards; once more, once more in thankful joy
Through midnight's mighty silence, the divine
Vibrations of thy world--strung chords I hear.
Theirs is the strength of ages. Infant time
Smote on them playful; and the eternal toy
Decks, still, heaven's aery halls. Thou, still, unchecked,
And changeless circlest round God's feet; to us
Of life triumphant sign o'er sleepful death
Eternal, and necessity colleagued
In pact resistless save to spirit inspired
Of love; whereto our most of joy and grief
We owe, soul--testing, sacred both. For here,
If fate, our sovran rule, in worlds to come,
Necessity shall be thrall to us divine;
We homaging her each separately; but oned
With God, collectively, her liege. So shown
Life's full communion with its lord, let joy
By his touch imparted, through thy starry strings
Harp of God's hand, thrill; he all creatural strains
Ruling and rectifying to his own ends.
Perchance, in after times, in some far sun,
Less conscious than our serpent--coiled orb,
Whose guilty heart, ghost--haunted, leaps with fear
At all faith's innocent spectres as they pass,
Eyeing, as now, yon sacred shape, the soul
With thy predictive legend pleased, shall view
All heaven rejoicing in perfection; all
Spheres worshipful of God; all liberty,
Love's law whereon the world's wide walls are built,
In harmonies based, become the law of life,
Which all intelligence, passion tamed, shall sue
To live consentient with, and mind supreme;
God's peace o'erarching nature's strife. But me
Bright harp! let gladden in looking on thee, more
In this, augurial, that as he of old
Legendary, who bare thee upon his breast,
By sweet extortion of thy starry strains,
The Hadean powers compelled his spouse to yield
One moment's glimpse of life regenerate; boon
Of gods, disastrous, and of dim record;
Man yet, in happier juncture, buried faith,
His spiritual bride, by pity of deity,
Shall show redeemed to life for aye. Could now
Mortal that bright feat emulate!
Lucifer. Thou wouldst not
Fail, doubtless in intent. But destiny,
As here thou hast felt, hath heavy hands, and strong
Escapeless grasp. Well, he is sensitive
Who can from stars comfort, though cold extract,
And out of fables truth.
Festus. Each soul his star
Of evil or good predominant hath; but me
All heavens betoken woe.
Lucifer. Deeds before words!
I half suspect I know what thou wouldst say:
But saying will soothe full oft the soul sore tried.
Say on. I have time enough for others' dole,
Let be mine own.
Festus. Bride of my heart, O woe!
One instant see I thee both quick and dead.
Oh mystery of most sad bereavement! This
It is, racks me to the core. The good, the wise,
Why snatched away, when prized, when needed, most?
Lucifer. Calm and command thy soul.
Festus. I will. Allured
By hope fraught promises thy words conveyed,
Of revelations of the light occult,
I, long, in kind reserve deemed fitlier hid,
We with our studious friend, at his request
Thrice urged, went forth to meet him, named by thee
Sun--seer, but whom the desolate end of all
Proved rather dread adept of darknesses.
It was the hour of stars. Spring's crescent sphere
Followed the vanishing footsteps of her lord,
For that she loved the light: 'twas eve, I said,
As thou wouldst have; I had marked the setting sun
Calling all kindred glories of the world,
All friendly royalties, earth, sea, and air,
To attest his end imperial, for that they
Must likewise learn to die, who came and stood
Round his orbed bier, death--hallowed; came too, there
Nature, as earth's high priestess fain to screen
The death--throes of titanic light, and drew
High o'er heaven's blood dyed altar, with the fires
Flushed of faith's evening sacrifice, a veil
Celestial, of all hues, rose, amber, pearl,
Lilac, and palest green;--like a faint thought, this,
A half reluctant memory interfused
With dreams, of earth in paradise;--far round
The impurpling sea--flood, fired with opaline gleams,
Heaved, as though pondering every wave; below
Our feet, rough ruddying crags; the horizon barred
With beams of blinding gold shot lancewise forth,
In permanent lightnings, levelled as to pierce
The dying sun--god; high o'erhead, the while,
Heaven's boundless, stainless blue, star--glinting, flecked
With crimson featherings shadowing off towards night,
Pure, peaceful, prayerful, all consoling. Fell
Now round us twilight swift, and as we sped
By wild rough windings through a holy land
Of solar cult primaeval, solemnized
In prehistoric eld, the age of fire,
They, heart full of expectancy, and I
Faithless in aught that might to us conduce
Of wisdom, or of weal,--how fate confirms
All saddest premonitions! deep in thought,
Mute, save in whispered wordlets, or mere signs,
A hill we reached, by moonrise, on whose head
Hearselike, a sable grove nodded. We mount;
And midway the ascent, descend, and strike
A foot--road, forked like a divining rod,
One branch whereof we track, until it lead
To a stone of worship, sun devote, which us
Shrining within its shadow, struck to the heart,
A holy chill, while round its base, earth--tombs,
Crowd, waves immoveable of a sea of death.
Thee wait we long time here; and whiles, this rock,--
As maenhir once by Keltic spouse adored,
Babeless, who oft with lank and fawning breasts,
Fretted, at midnight cold, its bossy side;
Which rustic's eye now shuns, but most abhors
By ghostly twilight, deeming fiend transformed;--
This rock, thrice circling we, as type of ours,
Sun spiritual, supreme rock, hail, hand--linked.
Thence pressing on, breathless, a dell we near
Wherein secreted lay, below a tall
And rugged precipice, a glassy pool,
Like an enchanted mirror, in the breast
Hid of a dreadful wizard, of all speech
Disdeignful, ere he prove his threatened power;
And glowering nigh the foot of the imminent cliff
Opposed, a cave but late discoverable,
And save to us unknown. The arch--seer here
Receiving us, as we advanced, withdrew
Inwards; and as we left the outer world,
A blast premonitory caused the groves
Groan o'er our heads: in vain low thunder--peals
Ejaculated just warning. By command
We enter, hapless all, head bared and foot
Naked; and wade a purifying rill,
Which o'er its couch, pale alabaster, veined
With glittering purple glode. A strait anon,
Jagged and dark, dragged through, we enter crouched,
A high--pitched cave where dwelled of old, if sere
Tradition err not, and what wiselier shows?
The prediluvian giants of the land;
Vault upon vault outbranching; not unlike
The cave close bordering on the coasts of heaven,
Where, in the sub--celestial empire hid
The offended sun his head, till wooed by gods,
And sued by men prostrate, so feign the bards
And bonzes of Zipang--his staff of light
He seized, and reassumed his rolling throne:
Sceptre and staff of light that ere the stars
Were, out of depths chaotic in the hand
Of heaven's supreme the rocky scum of fire
Stirred, whence arose life's morning land divine;--
An underworld abysmal excavate
In masonry divine. His hands here smote
The arch--mage, and the thunder of his palms
Re--echoed palpably o'erhead. A gush
Of blinding lightnings showed us now the roof,
A glimmering void, spar--starred, where travelling lights,
Like planetary seats of social gods,
By craft titanic fulmined into shape,
Self--levered, fabrics of artistic fire,
Mysterious moved; through whose bright art we read
The awful wonders of that uneyed sphere.
Where, as though nature craved to represent,
In forms of time, eternal histories,
That she the scions of the wise might teach,
In one vast, visible lecture, all to come,
All passed, all present, here insculpt were seen
Wrought out from primal matter nebulous,
As in marmoreal epic, deed by deed,
The marvels of the Omnicausal hand,
And end of man triumphal. Here we viewed
The first essay of force to form in laws
The mountain playthings of the infant sun.
Here, wrought in stony flames, the age of fire;
The earth one vast volcano vomiting forth
Her gradual continents and seas of sand;
Islands extemporizing in a breath.
Grouped there the Preadamic races huge,
Of mastodon and mammoth doomed to swell
Some second chaos with their wreck sublime.
Enormous, and now fabulous, shapes of yore
Cross--peopling all the elements; wingèd bulls
Star--yoked, that led the morn an endless chase.
Sad gryphon eagle--sired and lion--born;
Unslumbering gold--ward, jealous of all gems;
And those commingled births whom Belus smote
Headless, and drowned in gore, his mission here;
Mild rokh, simorgh, wise sun--spirit; all these
In amiable converse shown, or strife,
In lifelike petrifactions crowd the walls.
The heavenly age, the age of paradise
Here glowed in gold--veined marbles; darkened sole
By angel treason and the fall of gods;
Wherewith unconscious earth too sympathized.
Here symbolled by the thousand--branched tree,
From whose broad boughs hung constellated gifts,
And every wish delicious of the heart;
The tree of life there deathless; but elsewhere
Withered too soon; and here, with meteor wave
Victorious, o'er the works of God and man
Surging, the all--obliterative flood.
And there, too, limned in adamantine lines,
The age of evil, when to angel hands,
To sceptered Sataël, and to Samaël crowned,
Chiefs of the original hierarchies of heaven
And their base compeers of the mountain oath,
Virtue and leave were given to deluge earth
With woes all natural, shadow and reverse
Of every good gift God had showered on man;
Now checked by pain, or nullified by fine
On every blessing. Swiftly malignant these,
Embittering every element with death,
Taught men the lust of war, beasts thirst of blood;
Gave reptile, insect, herb, venom; and poured
In earth's veins poisons mineral; 'neath the hills
The motive powers of earthquakes rooted; sowed
Death's seed explosive; angered air with storms.
These made the hollow columns of the sea
And lofty as the tower of glass that rose
Mid ocean, sudden, by the astounded bark
Of Partholoin straight--helmed for Ierne's isle;
Those watery pillars, death--black, that oft burst,
Swollen, nigh ship becalmed on sweltering seas,
Beneath the hot line; and, ere now, have quenched
The life--light in some fugitive skiff, escaped
Like truant cygnet from its parent sail,
Stealthy, on lawless quest; in marble here
Portrayed with industry malicious, these,
To man and angel, foes, the lightnings forged,
Which he who owneth all things, after seized,
Wrapped in authentic thunders, and by hands
Angelic, Usdom wracked, with the grim towns
In salt slime sleeping 'neath the sea of death;
Those, fell disease, contagious pest and plague;
These, guileful, taught the craft of sorceries,
Black magic and the daemon--thralling spells;
The blood--draught necromantic, and the charms
Whereat the shadowy nations of the dead
Shudder, and flickering upwards to the light
Unfold the soul--sought secret, or convey
Foreboding fatal to the wretch death--doomed.
These in man's heart all evil passions sowed,
And woman's richer and more fertile mould;
Such snakelike envyings, wolf like jealousies,
As when, for love of fair Khalmanah, Cain
Him slew--since feared as Hades, god of death,
Whom Eva, unhappy mother of mankind,
Beauty of Æden, sinful though revered,
Bewept a hundred years; so long the dead,
While death was new to earth and life, were mourned;
These taught the sword to shape, and those the shield,
Bow, poleaxe, spear; these jewels for the fair,
Brightly seductive; women were their spoil
From the beginning; these, and their spurious brood
Gigantic, in whose ears apostate, preached
That patriarch who, accredited of God,
Ambassador to angels, was in heaven
Received, by death untouched, ere Noah as yet,
With his majestic consort, great Tidea,
Queen--mother of the nations,--deified
After as Vesta or Kybelé, all
Her offspring kings of earth tripartite,--sought
God--warned, the ark, with all their living train.
Instructed by our guide in all we viewed,
Though seen but darkling, and in briefest speech,
Out of the hall of elements slow we passed
Into the fane of life. Here graven the great
And holy war which raged 'twixt earth and heaven,
Betwixt the pious race and impious tribes,
And microcosmically still in man,
In craggy frieze glared round the orbed dome.
Here hundred--handed vices, titan sins,
And giant crimes, seek from the mountain--heart
Of heaven, the high--throned Thunderer to tear;
But he, with fiery hail, hurls all to hell;
Sulphureous remedies there to underlie,
Asbestine; purifying, blanching woes.
Aurmazd and Ahriman there, in balanced strife,
The doubtful sphere contest; and here, in stone
Prophetically white, the conquest glad
Of the beneficent power. Young Orus there,
His sire the sun, his mother mild the moon;
O sacred night--sun, soul of heaven, which through
The starry welkin wanderest, in divine
And radiant sorrow seeking for thy lord,
Him living ne'er thou wilt find; but lo! thy son
The evil godhead Typhon slays, and reigns
Wise, silent child of light. Here next, the god,
Incarnate ninefold, crushed with sole divine
To death, and strangled with resistless hand
The snake--god; holy fiction! The Asoors there,
In armied millions by the deities
Vanquished, draw off their whole malignant host,
Destined some day to perish, fiendish sprites;
But first the tale of their defeat bequeath
In scroll perpetual to these cliff--like walls.
Here, Izdubar's descent, love--led, to hell;
The ascent of Psyche, there, love--led, to heaven;
Insculpt exemplary; virtue's pilgrimage,
Self--guided through all earth, more arduous task.
Towards the opposing side our feet we turned.
Here the divine and human wrestled; there,
Where faith's bright orbit reason's intersects,
The human and angelic; there, in chair
Of starry state, sate the proud queen, condemned
The everlasting sacrifice to see
Of her pure daughter, like humanity
Waiting with outstretched arms to be redeemed
By some divine deliverer; there, with head
Hurled downwards from the topmost height of heaven,
The righteous but self--glorifying king
Who thought mere merit enough to earn a throne
In God's eternal kingdom; fatal fault!
Wherefore, as clutching at, with either hand
A world, but grasping nought, serene reproof
He gives to all immortal. Here, hosts terrene,
Celestial, and infernal, armed with faith,
Or infidel fury fought; these sworn to rase
In ruin, cities reared by hands divine,
Or for like ends; such even as holy Rome,
City of cities, earth's crownèd capital:
Or sacred Troy; fount, fig--tree, temple and all
Sites of that holiest legend, which began
By discord's apple with one all--conquering steed,
Huge, rampant, ends; or that gold builded erst,
On sceptre tridentine of Indian god,
Men's sins degraded into stone, and now
Debased to clay, but still no whit cognate
To common earth, but of time's earliest heaven,
One unadulterate section; those to defend
Their starry battlements; their walls inlaid
With purest virtues, and their streets and squares
Paved with celestial wisdom. Here the north,
Icy but strong; and there the burning south
Led by its passionate queen, contending stood
In fierce and fateful fray; death looking on,
Well pleased; he alway won, whoever lost.
Here nation after nation fought the world
For universal dominance, fought in vain;
One sole elect of creatures hath that gift.
Before all, at the end a female form
Gigantic kneeled, dread guardian of the sphere,
Now interceding for its life; but she,
The fatal sign once given, ordaining death,
Relentless tears the solid universe
Asunder: and on either side, behind,
The final field so feared of old to be
Between the mundane gods and giants fought,
Ere comes the reign of darkness, when with deaths
Commutual, all shall perish. We, our eyes
Edged on the growing blacknesses which now
Mute lightnings lit in mock of light, and now
Blind thunder groped round. Ever and anon,
What spectres seemed, flitted athwart the dark,
But dimly eyeable. Locked hand in hand,
Our fair heroic trembling 'tween her guards,
But firm in spirit as the patriot queen
In golden chains bound Romewards, so to grace
Her victor's triumph, each step doomed to move
Time's ruth, and wrong's eternal recompense;
We through a long laborious road, rock--arched,
Creep speechless, whence emerging in a cave
Like the green grot where Zeus in secret grew
To stripling godhood, hid from cruel time;
Or stalactital palace, subterrene
In Hellas, where the Nine kept secret court,
And crownless ruled o'er kingly servitors;
We meet with for the first time othersome
Ourselves beside, all silent; to the voice
Hearkening, of one, in face and form like him
Who first the name of wisdom's lover claimed;
Heard first of men, heaven's spheral harmonies;
At Metapontum wrote upon the moon;
And at Olympia bared the golden thigh,
In sign of solar lineage; proof supreme.
Listening we stood, charmed; reassured in faith,
Heartlightened, on we fared; and following close
The echoes of our guide's feet, in the heart
Of a dim dome we stood, of sightless bounds,
And named of immortality; nor far
Our haughty leader found, whose steps we had tracked,
Though deigning commune with us scarcely none,
High on an arch 'neath which a torrent foamed,
Red with its torch's glare, bloodlike. Beyond,
A mount of awe there loomed which seemed inspired
With palpitating light, that came and went
Wilderingly; and thither pointing, `lo! the end
Of our emprise;' with these words cut our guide,
As with a sword, the silence; then, `who truth
Would win, as she awaits us, in yon shrine
Yearning the victor soul to satiate
With wisdom, and to crown with life divine,
Earthlife, and her embrace deific give,
Know that to arms untested, hearts untried,
She trusteth nought. Let not yon seething stream
One therefore who would gain such priceless prize
Affright; but let the wight content with less,
Smile colder, and, more conventional embrace,
Tread, after me, the arch.' Here quailed she first,
Of the end too emulative, the mean untried,
Who finally,--but stay. Our student feere
Bolder than I, because incredulous, rid
Not solely of superstition, but mere faith,
As God would have, plunged with me in that tide
And struggled nigh to safety. Once, a prow,
More like a raft, adrift from upper bank,
Help promised falsely; till, at last, a rock
Grasping, this, loose at base betrayed his trust
And crushing, soon that death--flood hurried off
Into earth's caverned darkness, and the abyss
Reverberant always with its watery roar
And funeral wail perpetual; but to me
Now wading, floating now, safe transit vouched,
Though sickening to the sense; nor wist I this,
Till, scaped, and scantly, from the perilous arch
Which crumbled as she crossed, nor left retreat,
My love I met, who saw, and fainting told;
Told, shuddering, like the tree whose sense of sin,
Howbeit involuntary, the ages fail
To calm, as weighted yet with the pendent power.
I meanwhile shore who had reached heard, heard dismayed,
Thrice called his name aloud, which, to no end,
Unanswering silence sadly learned, thenceforth
Wasted, like time upon unquickened stars.
Scant leisure ours was for lament; for now,
Fiercer and far more urgent grew the mien
Of our mysterious leader, who aloof
Held him, and hailed as careless of our loss,
Or witless, for his countenance saw we not.
And now, all light snatched from us, hie we on,
We twain, I bearing up her slackening steps
Amid darknesses successive, each more deep
Than other, and far thunders whence we opined,
Day, egress nearer than they seemed; to us
A time of torture, but determined soon.
And now, the light from out that fane of fire
We seemed unskilled to escape from, and within
Whose slowly quivering bosom, half distent
By smothered splendour, like the sacred side
Of Athyr, when in travail of the sun,
Blew, flowerlike, open, and with arrowy glance
Showed us one only feat to consummate.
From out that lofty shrine of roseate glow,
And 'twixt the stops of stormy thunders now
Voices and harps and far, faint harmonies
We list ecstatic, as though deadliest fate
Would masque it, faëry wise. Here, each one's foot
Instinct with caution, easy seemed ascent
Nor either paused, until the brink we touch
Unseen till lighted on of a horrent chasm,
Sacred in use, defensive of the fane,
Forbidding access uninvited. There
But on the thither side, our sun--seer stood
Who gazed that orb nor blinked; for on his side
New risen upon the summer's narrow night,
Sheer through a mountain fissure shone the sun,
The fane within lightening. That rocky rift,--
Sheer as the ghastly vein, shale blue, earth's heart
Explosive once, through granate shot, league--long,
Now seas persistent have well breathed, and left
Hollow, as tube twixt isle and isle that swings
Echoing; clean, evident, as the iron gash
Helmwise, that 'compts on battle--fields for one,--
I, only bidden o'ervault, one comforting sign
To her, so left, expressed, clear; and clear death.
Enter, to me, he cried; and enter alone;
Soul that would learn truth's sum must learn it sole.
To her who had me companioned then a seat
In the immarbled rock assigning, he
In common silence, all, beside her stood,
Each thenceforth mute. I entering, solitary,
View first mid many an arched recess, star--circled
In order ranged, and from grade to grade of all
Perfection, each mysterious symbol truth
Hath hallowed, every teeming sign faith holds
In old and orient imagery, devote
To sacred use, with mightiest meanings lined,
Which wisdom worthful makes but to those wise,
Lords of best learning, creed--skilled; here conjoined
In secret state emblazoned, rayed with words
Divine, unutterable; each charm by turns
Opening in awful gradual, till achieved
The one sole truth which crowns all creeds and sums.
The thought of God is simple enough; it is man
Makes the world's mystery, who self--warned of powers
Unlimited but for sense, cloud--lifed, conceives
Beyond the impermanent skies the eternal soul
Of all existence transitory or fixed;
Perfect though infinite; knows through virtue truth,
And as an educable divinity schooled
Through Being's grand gradations loves the law,
Of all intelligent life, just, bettering soul,
Soul--freeing, joining whole with God; yet lives
Doubt's thrall and fool. This, one long instant, next
Prostrate within the sanctuary,--and still
My mind the effect sublime of joy retains,
Cleared, elevated, and sanctified by sight
Of all faith's passed perplexities, to one
Key yielding, in result the one same truth.
My spirit grew great with gladness, there, as might
Of old, some riverine god upon his side
Leaning complacent, on his long career
Reflective; foamy fall, still, sunny reach,
Shoal, and bend troublous, ere the bar which bounds
His wave from ocean's, he o'ersurge; so, I,
Shrining within the spirit all faiths, all creeds,
Knew at the last truth's oneness; full content
Of being and satisfaction with all life.
Thus gladdening to have reached that shrine of shrines,
Where light intelligible,--henceforth the sun's
But a shadow shown,--all life illumes, I kneel
In silent worship; and thence rising, saw
On the wrought altar--rock laid gleaming, midst
The fragrant death of flowers all hued, and where
Life, more than flower--life sensitive, ne'er was ta'en
A volume, vamped in ore of Auphir, vast,
On either side with solemn gems, that seemed
Of their own value thoughtful, outwardly
Embossed, which starred the points of some device
Symmetric, shield of God's own bard, or seal
Of wisdom's lord; within, on azure leaves,
Arrowy, constellate, luminous, like night's spheres,
Ranged linearly, at large the law divine,
Life's universal law, the tract of God,
Transcribed from skiey archives; in my mind
This fragmentary sum of truth being all.
Sole, simple, pure, the personal Infinite,
Of necessary essence, perfect, free,
All--present, good, is wise and just; life, love;
Not as space passive, powerless, nor as time
Subject of mere relation between deed
And doer; but of duration source and sum
And of all causes; founder of the skies;
Author of all the elements of the world;
Quickener of tides, of the heart's first beat; as sire
Of natural life, the life of bud, bulb, root;
Of act instinctive in all animate tribes
The kind instructor; in man's kinglier race
Teacher of social law; of sacred rites;
Of family sanctities, and the holy round
Of virtues our humanity attests
As unitive with the heavenly state, and proof
Of our derived divinity; guardian he
To us his kindred though remote, and yet
On the great stem regraftable; who man
With nature guides, exacting righteous fines
And satisfactions from the temporal due
When erring, to the eternal aequity shown
In just proportions verified by love.
Here, turning o'er these mighty leaves, I learned
His primal essence; cause, mean, end of all.
The circular path of worlds in beauty traced;
The total scope of things, viewed thus, heaven taught;
The fruitful round of seasons--as on earth
So in man's life--kind nature's loveliness
All witness made to love and love's deep laws,--
God--laws, not written only on stone, nor graven
Once on a time in granate; but for aye
And everywhere in all things that uphold
The uses and the harmonies of the world,
And the stability of the universe:--
In ocean's trenchèd waves, in earth's broad vales;
In air's wide wind--streams; in birth, growth, and death;
Bloom, fruitage, seed regenerative, decay,
The wholesome waste of storms, the torrent's wrack;
The brooklet's smiling prattle; in love, truth,
Divine fear, provident virtue, hope of peace;
In the heart's aspiration after God's
Just sanctity and approval; for the rule
Of righteousness, a rightlier balanced life
To come; and all the general good that aids:
Even evil, but a less degree of good
Made needful for progression. Separate soul
Struggling against the imperfect and default,
Back to the intelligent Light must needs advance,
By conquered ills to attain the good supreme.
While issuant thus from God's breast, spirit fares
Variously through schooling spheres, and many a turn
Calamitous, to death's nadir; its return,
All progress naturally, and intense delight,
And conscious pressure towards the infinite shows.
For evil, moral and natural, though the proofs
Of imperfection necessary to all
Created things, are, this, annulled by man's
Perfectibleness; by God's foredooming word
That; both concurrent; frames the crucial test
Each soul must pass; and stand thereby, or fall.
The fall hath fatal force, and in all spheres,
As though with gravity's irresistible spell,
Charms to deteriorate, and with low aims
For loftier, cheats the inquisitive spirit. But who
Can love's all saving faithfulness divine,
That hath not erred? nor separated the seeds
Of good and evil, painful task, nor felt
All evil hath temporal origin, and so ends;
But good, identical with God, endures
To all eternity, and subtends the base
Celestial of his universal life?
Thus all things from him, to him witness bear
Assentient, as their source, their good. There's not
An angel relegate to the outmost spheres,
But vaunts his birth divine; no creatural soul,
No animate form that foots the soil, or creeps,
Or ocean nether--tided wanders; nay,
There's not the tiniest lifelet flecks the air
With wing invisible, who through his sires
Preadamite ruled earth, but strange lineage boasts,
And high and azure blood; nor heaven itself
From his proud pedigree spares; but in his coat
Quarters the arms of God. Man only,--skilled
To anticipate the divine as virtue's meed
The ultimate scope of spirit and nature's end;
To know each holy element source and mean
Of spiritual refinement; God to trace
In ocean's rock commuting force, in earth's
Life flowing breast; in air's inspiring breath,
His spirit renovative; in natural fire
And flamy light of sun or star the strength
Annihilant of the whole; in gentlest heat
His recreant force; and in e'er during space
Boundless, of all save deity void, to acquire
Science supreme--in all things God;--so learns
To graduate in heaven's mysteries, and in earth's,
Creation's, holiest orgies as to see
In the great disseverance of the essential One
Sole mean of self--diffusion through freed soul,
And spiritual commune with deity here;
Whereby in all, the One confessing he
His secret of reunion apprehends,
Not to be reached save by adventurous spirit,
On arduous path, man's elevative fall,
Soul richening fine; punition covetable;
Heart clarified through troubles; and final rise
Of meditative perfection to the mind
Of joy deific; to the spirit elect
Made righteous, hallowed, glorified with God,
In essence one, in nature myriadfold.
From every massive page I turned, there came
The spirit of consolation. Ending thus
The book I closed; rejoiced, 'twas mine to know
The truth transformative of life, that God
The conscious Infinite wills by rendering soul
Wistful of his divinity, man to make
Free, blessed; and, striving towards perfection, crown,--
So loves he those that to him turn,--with life
Immortal, his congenerate gift. And now,
Words heard I, whispering me to call within
The beauteous brave who had dared so much and earned
As to her it seemed, albeit I knew, and feared
The attempt to achieve more. Opening, then, intent
Again to approach her I so loved, and seek
Some sign to assure her present entrance, lo!
The chasm which yawned betwixt us, and at first
Scarce pace--wide, now showed fathomless, and broad,
As 'tween two waves, mid sea, rood--wide is stretched
Their tempest cradling hollow, hurricane rocked.
Desperate, I called; but now behold the ground,
As though on rolling hinges nether--hidden,
Slode crabwise; and methought,--nay, could it be?
The temple against whose wall our leader leaned
Tottered, as though deliberant or to stand
Or fall. One moment more than sated sight.
For ah! a shriek I heard; and turning, viewed,
Slow sinking with the slab whereon she stood,
Down, irrecoverably down the abyss,
My loved one, like a sacrifice to night.
Glory and joy of life, creation's crown,
Now lost; already do I feel the weight
Of woes perspective. Therefore time's broad stream
Flows o'er thine end in silence: hides thy doom.
To heaven she raised her finger, and was gone.
Nor saw I, nor aught knew, distinctly, more.
Save that in springing upwards for mere life,
That vast substructure, all, meseemed, was blent
With earth's interior chaos, and I passed,
The mysteries now in mystery all inwombed,
For aye, and ne'er to be by me resought,--
Clear through the death--rift, into heavenly day;
For spirits are e'er born upwards, while in time,
As by Caesarean birth. The orient sun,
Head of the house of heaven, the sire of days,
The manifestive light, the lord of joy,
Saluting prostrate, I beheld: and lo!
As when, in sight the axe, some wrongous wretch
Fear urged, confesseth, but one murtherous deed,
Still unsuspect, keeps back; and with a groan,
And grinding shudder, locks it in his breast;
Nor leaves his lips scarce room to vaunt of breath;
So earth that fatal fissure with a crash
Closing, beheld I hide her deathful deed;
While I, from shutting as from opening death,
Doubly escaped, seem scarce convinced of life.
Thou speakest not.
Lucifer. I have nothing to observe.
The quest of knowledge is man's deadliest pride;
And me nor pride, nor death, surpriseth now.
Festus. Twain of my best supports, as though the earth
Should miss twin elements, my heart hath lost.
Lucifer. This spirit inquisitive which all things would learn,
Learns all things nothing may be.
Festus. Ah! Let be!
Life's intransmissive secret now she knows,
Knows but too well.
Lucifer. Go to. Have done with these,
Whose fates were doubtless fixed before all time;
Coaeval with the atoms.
Festus. Mystery, say,
Accounts for mystery. Meanwhile this to know
Of nature, God, man, truth, of all creeds core,
Outworths all gain beside, annuls all loss,
Pain, suffering; close as to God's feet we have been.
What men believe beside nought helps, nor harms;
Their primal faith this, Godwards. Thus it is
A great deliverance,--like mine own just passed,
Slipped through death's fingers, solemnizes life
Nay, sanctifies. One seems to hold the trust
More straight from God. No earthly mean we need,
No graduated conception of the gift,
To prove its worth, through fellow--creaturehood,
Or test our reasoning; soul, rehomed, restalled,
Renewed, confirms spontaneously its vows,
Ta'en first when scarce intelligible.
Lucifer. And now,
Time threatens to forestall our course. Wilt do
A message for me?
Festus. Aught I will that may
Ease and divert my mind.
Lucifer. True, I had forgot.
Seek then the fair Elissa: and with her
From time to time confer; sometime 'twill need--
Upon thy coming ends, long hoped, which she
May sanction, perchance aid. Go; waste no words.
Improve thy welcome.
Festus. I want something new.
Lucifer. Hence! I assure thee pleasant company;
More so than thine; bright future, and--
Festus. I go.
Guardian Angel. Yes, go. But I unseen attend thee, yet
To warn 'gainst cruel sin; mayhap to save.
Not even he doth know that I am here.
Lucifer. Thus to dissemble suits me: me reminds
Of whilome triumphs. Well wots the world ere now,
That I have starred it on an ampler stage.
Meantime I get impatient for the end.
I trust this fair one so to assume, that she
In spirit commanding may the man's excite
As fitmost for such eminence. Then,--at last,--
Festus. Now though I do what I desire, or fail,
Each were not less an evil.
Lucifer. Nature, friend,
Is given to man to conquer.
Festus. But alas!
Not yet can we o'ercome our nature, here,
Would we.
Lucifer. If therefore passion strike the heart
Let it have length of line and plenteous play;
The safety of superior principles
Lies in exhaustion of the lower ones
However vast or violent.
Festus. Such a thought
Stands in the way of nothing; not even man.
But hesitancy is ominous.
Lucifer. Men and angels
Obey the order of existence.
Festus. Fate!
Who seeks thee everywhere, will find thee there.

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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