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Philip James Bailey (Филип Джеймс Бэйли)

Festus - 4

Now sets the youth out for joy, the city of joy,
Whose walls illuminated with all--hued spheres
Beacon the immense of life. He, 'neath the care
Of his kindly enemy, begins his course;
Each aiding other; all beside abused.
Heaven, hell, life pre--existent, things not yet,
Things passed, immemorable, foreshadowy, show
Briefwise before the all--questful spirit, intent
To prove its dominance o'er the world, till taught
Earth, air, nor fire, nor all the elements fused
Into one subtlest essence, aught avail
The soul to assist or to divert, once charged
God's mighty but mysterious ends to achieve;
Ends more substantial than all solidest things.
A Mountain. Sunrise.
Festus and Lucifer.
Festus. Morn on the mountains! Mark her lifening glow,
Light's blessèd advent prophesying; and now
The awful signals, sensible, but scarce seen,
Of the under--welkin'd sun. Here, midst this fane,
With the awe of space domed, let me, sole with God,
In privacy of his omnipresence, pray;
And while the unboundedness of earth and sky
Seizes in silence all the spirit, let me,
With nature one, for like dependent life,
Grateful, adore.
Lucifer. Oh, pray adore: I'm dumb.
Festus. In silence soul most nears the Infinite.
Hail beauteous Earth! Gazing o'er thee, I all
Forget the bounds of being; and I long
To fill thee, as a lover pines to blend
Soul, passion, yea, existence, with the fair
Creature he calls his own. I ask for nought
Before or after death but this--to lie,
And look, and live, and bask, and bless myself
Upon thy broad bright bosom.
Lucifer. Earth's the Lord's.
Festus. True; I should be more reverent. Thou hast all
Nature's supremest sanctities, earth. From thee
Sprang I, to thee I turn, heart, arm, and brain.
Yes, I am all thine own. Thou art the sole
Parent. To rock and river, plain and wood,
I cry, ye are my kin. While I, O earth!
Am but of thee an atom, and a breath,
Passing unseen and unrecorded, like
The tiny throb here in my temple's pulse.
Thou art for ever; and the sacred bride
Of heaven--worthy the passion of our God.
Oh! full of light, love, grace!--the grace of all
Who owe to thee their life; thy maker's love;
His face's light. All thine rejoice in thee;
Thou in thyself for aye; rolling through air,
As seraphs' song, out of their trumpet lips,
Rolls round the skies of heaven. But who is this,
Burning the clouds before him; the round world
Apt to his golden grasp? his fingers all
Streaming with light effectual to impart
Full fellowship of illuminate life; from out
The depths extreme, who comes, of orient space?
Undo those gilded bars: fling wide yon gates
Eastwards, of changeful pearl; wide o'er his ways,
Strew palms, as 'fore heaven's conqueror, and the night's
Flying hosts, star--standarded, oh, make pure his paths
With rain of liquid crystal. He shall see
How earth can put on majesty, to meet
The king in her own mansion. Let the morn
Pour, penitent for the passed, o'er all his head,
Her wealthful waste of perfumed sweets; his feet
Let kiss, with all her dews. It is he, the sun!
God's crest upon his azure shield the heavens.
Canst thou, a spirit, look upon him?
Lucifer. Ay.
I led him from the void, where he was wrought,
By this right hand, up to the glorious seat
His brightness overshadows; laid on piles
Of gold his chambers, and upon beams of gold
His throne built; flung a fire--veil round his face;
Crowned him with rays reverberant from all clouds:
And bade him reign, and burn, like me. Like me
Fall, too, he must. I have done, do, nought else
From my first thought to this and to my last.
No matter; it is beneath this mind of mine
To reck of aught. I bear, have borne the ill
Of ages, of infinities--and must.
I care not. I shall sway the world as now;
Which worse and worse sinks with me as I sink,
Till finite souls evanish as a vapour;
Till immortality, the proud thing, perish;
And God alone be and eternity.
Then will I clap my hands and cry to him,
I have done; have thy will now; there is none but thee.
I am the first created being. I
Will be the last to perish, and to die.
Festus. Thou art a fit monitor, methinks, of pleasure.
Lucifer. To the high air sunshine and cloud are one;
Pleasure and pain to me. Thou and the earth
Alone feel these as different; for ye
Are under them; the heavens and I above.
Festus. But tell me, have ye scenes like this in hell?
Lucifer. Nay, not in heaven.
Festus. What is heaven? not the toys
Of singing, love, and music? Such a place
Were fit for glee--maids only.
Lucifer. Heaven is no place;
Unless a place with God, allwhere; no more
Therefore conceivably to come than now.
It is the being good; the knowing God;
The consciousness of happiness and power;
With knowledge which no spirit e'er can lose,
But doth increase in every state; and aught
It most delights in the full leave to do.
But why consume me with such questions? Why
Add earth to hell, in the great chain of worlds
God in his wrath hath bound about me?
Festus. Why!
'Twas therefore that I closed with thee, great Fiend!
That thou might'st answer all things I proposed,
Or bring me those who would do.
Lucifer. All these things
Thou wilt know sometime, when to see and know
Are one; to see a thing and comprehend
The nature of it essentially; perceive
The reason and the science of its being,
And the relations with the universe
Of all things actual or possible,
Mortal, immortal, spiritual and gross.
This, when the spirit is made free of heaven,
Is the divine result; proportioned still
To the intelligence as human; for,
There are degrees in heaven, as everything,
By God's will. Unimaginable space,
As full of suns as is earth's sun of atoms,
Faileth to match his boundless variousness:
And ever must do, though a thousand worlds,
As diverse from each other as is thine
From any of thy system's, were elanced
Each minute into life unendingly.
All of yon worlds, and all who dwell in them,
Stand in diverse degrees of bliss and being.
Through the ten thousand times ten thousandth grade
Of blessedness, above this world's, and man's
Ability to feel or to conceive,
The soul may pass and yet know nought of heaven,
More than a dim and miniature reflection
Of its most bright infinity; for God
Makes to each spirit its peculiar heaven.
And yet is heaven a bright reality,
As this or any of yon worlds; a state
Where all is loveliness and power and love;
Where all sublimest qualities of mind
Not infinite, are limited alone
By the surrounding godhood; and where nought,
But what produceth glory and delight,
To creature and Creator, is; where all
Enjoy entire dominion o'er themselves,
Acts, feelings, thoughts, conditions, qualities,
Spirit, and soul, and mind; all under God,
For spirit is soul deified;--while earth,
To the immortal, vast, god--natured spirit,
Is but a spell which, having served to light
A lamp, is cast into consuming fire.
Festus. And hell? Is it nought but pits, and chains, and flames?
Lucifer. An ever greatening sense of ill and woe,
The exhausted soul down crushing, filling never
Its infinite capacity of pain.
Festus. But human nature is not infinite,
And therefore cannot suffer endlessly.
Lucifer. God may create in time what shall endure
Unto eternity. With him is no
Distinction, nor in that which is of him.
Festus. Then is not soul of God, but man and earth.
Soul when made spirit is of earth no more,
Nor time, but of eternity and heaven.
It is but when in the body, and bent down
To worldly ends, that human souls become
Objects of time, as most are, till the hour
Comes when the soul of man shall be made one
With God's spirit; made eternal, made divine,
And where shall woe be then? sin? suffering?
Lucifer. How
Can souls thus favoured, then, predestined thus,
To glory afore all worlds, be deemed of earth,
Festus. Things spiritual as belonging God
Are to and from eternity, by him,
Predestined, known; nor these alone; but flesh
Forms not, nor doth it need the care of fate.
Lucifer. The object of eternal knowledge must
Have like existence.
Festus. Then it cannot be
Bound into torment, that would dreadly bring
Torture on godlike essence.
Lucifer. What if thine
Existence on this sphere were but, as told,
In mystic tales of old spread over earth,
The dark and narrow section of a life
Which was with God, long ere the sun was lit:
And shall be yet, when all the bold bright stars
Are dark as death--dust--Immortality
And Wisdom tending thee on either hand,
Thy divine sisters? What if earth--life prove,
Of thee and thy conceptions head and end,
Who were to blame? Thou canst not surely expect
Me to know all things.
Festus. Truly, I have heard
Sometimes, or deemed, what deepest musings failed
To explain, or render more than dubious, lips,
Uncorporal lips, articulate in mine ear,
Lessons, long ages back learned; deemed I have felt
Oft--times a shadowiest conception seize
My spirit, as though the echo of a life
Far passed, rang through one's being, and thrilled the heart
With sense of joys requickened, of thought rethought,
Of difficulties fore--vanquished, and of truth
Taught by a sacred death regenerative,
Which, justified from sin, as though were mine
A life half conscious of sublimer spheres,
A mind transessenced through all faiths, refined
Through ends divine fulfilled.
Lucifer. Ends thou mayst yet
Clear from the tangled passed, if one sole clue
Thou gloriest in.
Festus. Could thought but realize!--
No, it is incredible.
Lucifer. Well, do thou believe
Even as thou wilt. The science of the passed,
The science of the future, lack them both.
Why seek such? Seize the present.
Festus. 'Tis all doubt.
Lucifer. Doubt's all--where, doubtless, but in heaven.
Festus. And thou
Whose life shows, cataract--like, one ceaseless fall,
Mayst match it! But if doubt bide not in heaven,
Neither dwells certainty upon earth. But say,
Is it the nature or the deed of God,
To render finite follies infinite,
Or to eternize sin and death in fire?
For so long as the punishment endures,
The crime lasts. Were it not for thy presence,
Spirit! I would not deem hell were.
Lucifer. Let not
My presence pass for more than it is worth,
I pray, nor yet my absence. Trust me, I
Could wish, with thee, that hell were blotted out
Of utmost space. 'Tis man himself e'er makes
His own God and his hell. But this is truth.
Festus. The truth is perilous never to the true,
Nor knowledge to the wise; and to the fool,
And to the false, error and truth alike.
Error is worse than ignorance. But say:--
How can eternal punishment be due
To temporal offences, to a pulse
Of momentary madness?
Lucifer. Pardon me.
Sin is not temporary. Nothing is,
Of spiritual nature, but hath cause
Premortal and immortal end in all,
As spirits. Therefore till the soul shall be
By grace redeified, as is the soul,
So is the sin, for ever before God.
Festus. Sin is not of the spirit, but of that
Which blindeth spirit, heart and brain.
Lucifer. Believe so.
The law of all the worlds is retribution.
Festus. But is it so of God?
Lucifer. The laws of heaven
Are not of earth; there law is liberty.
Festus. Thou thundercloud of spirits, darkening
The skies and wrecking earth! Could I hate men
How I should joy with thee, even as an eagle,
Nigh famished, in the fellowship of storms;
But I still love them. What will come of men?
Lucifer. Whatever may, perdition is their meed.
Were heaven dispeopled for a ministry
To warn them of their ways; were thou and I
To monish them; were heaven, and earth, and hell
To preach at once, they still would mock and jeer
As now; but never repent until too late;
Until the everlasting hour had struck.
Festus. Men might be better if we better deemed
Of them. The worst way to improve the world
Is to condemn it. Men may overget
Delusion--not despair.
Lucifer. Why love mankind?
The affections are thy system's weaknesses;
The wasteful outlets of self--maintenance.
Festus. The wild flower's tendril, proof of feebleness,
Proves strength; and so we fling our feelings out,
The tendrils of the heart, to bear us up.
O earth! how drear to think to tear oneself,
Even for an hour, from looks like this of thine;
From features, oh! so fair; to quit for aye
The luxury of thy side. Why, why art thou
Thus glorious, and 'twere not to sate the soul,
And chide us for the senseless dream of heaven?
The still strong stream sweeps seaward to its end,
Unrestful, unrestrainable, like one
Of God's great purposes; or like may be,
A soul that seeks the Eternal; like mine own.
Along yon deep blue vein upon thy bosom,
Earth! I could float for ever. See it there--
Winding among its green and smiling isles,
Like charity amidst her children dear;
Or peace, rejoicing in her olive wreaths,
And gladdening as she glides along the lands.
Lucifer. And yet all this must end; must pass; drop down
Oblivion, like a pebble in a pit:
For God shall lay his hand upon the earth,
And crush it up like a red leaf.
Festus. Not be?
I cannot root the thought, nor hold it firm.
Lucifer. This same sweet world which thou would'st fondly deem
Eternal, may be; which I soon shall see
Destruction suck back as the tide a shell.
Festus. It will not be yet. I'll woo thee, world, again;
And revel in thy loveliness and love.
I have a heart with room for every joy:
And since we must part sometime, while I may,
I'll quaff the nectar in thy flowers, and press
The richest clusters of thy luscious fruit
Into the cup of my desires. But who
Would care to live unless he were loved, and loved
Unless he had all things young and beautiful,
Bound up like pictures in his book of life?
It is vanity, of all things most, makes bear
With life. Some live like unenlightened stars
Of the first darkness; lifeless, timeless, useless;
With nothing but a cold night air about them;
Not suns; not planets; blankness, limbed and framed;
Orbs of a desert gloom: with not one soul
To light its watch--fire in their waste of being;
Or seem so, miserably; but how or why
They live I know not. This to me is life;
That if life be a burden, I will join
To make it but the burden of a song:
I hate the world's coarse thought. And this is life;
To watch young beauty's budlike feelings burst
And load the soul with love; as that pale flower
Which opes at eve, spreads sudden on the dark
Its yellow bloom, and sinks the air down with sweets.
Let heaven take all that's good--hell all that's foul;
Leave us the lovely, and we will ask no more.
Lucifer. To me it seems time all should end. The sky
Grows grey. It is not so bright nor blue as once.
Well I remember, as it were yesterday,
When earth and heaven went happy, hand in hand,
With all the morning dew of youth about them;
With the bright unworldly hearts of youth and truth,
And the maiden bosoms of the beautiful:--
Ere earth sinned, or the pure indignant heavens
Retreated high, nigh God; ere grossening age
Had thicked the eyes of stars; or land was all
A creeping mass alive with shapeless things:
Nay, when there were but three things in the world--
Monsters, mountains, and water; and the sea,
Rejoicing like a ring of saints round God,
Or heaven on heaven about some new--born sun,
Cloud swathed, in holy hilarity laughed out,
And cried, Nor I, like God, I never rest.
Festus. God hath his rest, earth hers. Let me have mine.
Yet must I look on thee, fair scene, again,
Ere I depart. The glory of the world
Is on all hands. In one encircling ken,
I gaze on river, sea, isle, continent,
Mountain, and wood, and wild, and fire--lipped hill,
And lake, and golden plain, and sun, and heaven,
Where the stars brightly die, whose death is day.
City and port and palace, ships and tents,
Lie massed and mapped before me. All is here.
The elements of the world are at my feet,
Above me and about me. Now would I
Be and do somewhat beside that I am.
Canst thou not give me some aethereal slave,
Of the pure essence of an element;
Such as my bondless brain hath ofttimes drawn
In the divine insanity of dreams;
To stand before me, and obey me, spirit?
Lucifer. Call out, and see if aught arise to thee.
Festus. Green dewy earth, who standest at my feet
Singing, and pouring sunshine on thy head,
As naiad native water, speak to me!
I am thy son. Canst thou not now, as once,
Bring forth some being dearer, liker to thee
Than is my race--titan or tiny fay,
Stream--nymph or wood--nymph?
Lucifer. She hath ceased to speak,
Like God, except in thunder; or to look,
Unless in lightning. Miracles, with earth,
Are out of fashion, as with heaven; and more's
The pity. Call elsewhere. Old earth is hard
Of hearing, maybe.
Festus. I beseech thee, sea!
Tossing thy wavy locks in sparkling play,
Like a child awakening with the warmthful light
To laughter; canst not thou disgulph for me,
From thy deep bosom, deep as heaven is high,
Of all thy sea--gods one, or sea--maids?
Lucifer. None?
Festus. Canst not from out that palpable vapour rolled
Shorewards, in misty gusts, thy wave's salt breath,
Mould me some voluntary shadow endowed
With powers of suit or aid?
Lucifer. Shadow, appear!
Festus. I half despair. Fire! that art slumbering there,
Like some stern warrior in his rocky fort,
After the vast invasion of the world,
Hast not some flaming imp, or messenger
Of empyrean element, to whom
In virtue of his nature, are both known
The secrets of the burning, central, void below,
And yon bright heaven, out of whose aëry fire
Are wrought the forms of angels, and the thrones?
Hast none at hand to do my bidding? Come!
Breathe out a spirit for me; not fierce, not gross,
Nor of strength destructive, but of finest force;
Such as flames forth in flowerets, sets, in spring,
The hills ablaze with gorse--light, and with pyres,
Odorous, of floral gold, crowns; one I ask
To be with me always as a friend, an aid;
Not, spirit, like thee, who despotizest o'er
The heart thou seekst to serve. I must be free.
Lucifer. All finite souls must serve: their widest sway
Is but the rule of service. This fair earth
Whose parti--coloured robe thou boast'st of so;
Seest not, in truth, all this but scummy dross
Of the original element whence were framed
She, and her fiery peers? Conditioned still
To the end, by birth--laws, thou and they alike
Must keep at cost of being?--What freedom thou
Canst from that teat draw, draw.
Festus. Air! and thou wind!
Which art the unseen similitude of God
The Spirit, his most meet and mightiest sign:
The earth with all her steadfastness and strength,
Sustaining all, and bound about with chains
Of mountains, as is life with mercies; ranging round
With all her sister orbs the whole of heaven,
Is not so like the unlikenable One
As thou. Ocean is less divine than thee;
For although all but limitless, it is yet
Visible, many a land not visiting.
But thou art, lovelike, everywhere; o'er earth,
O'er main--sea triumphing; and aye with clouds,
That like the ghosts of ocean's billows roll,
Decking or darkening heaven. The sun's light
Floweth and ebbeth daily like the tides;
The moon's doth grow or lessen, night by night;
The stirless stars shine forth by fits and hide;
And our companion planets come and go,
In maze concentric, intercycling, vast;
And all are known, their laws and liberties.
But no man can foreset thy coming, none
Reason against thy going; thou art free,
The type impalpable of spirit, thou,
God's vital breath, great purifier of earth.
Thunder is but a momentary thing,
Like a world's death--rattle, and is like death;
And lightning, like the blaze of sin, can blind
Only and slay. But what are these to thee,
In thine all--present variousness? So light
As not to awaken, now, the snowiest down
Upon the dove's breast, winning her bright way
Calm and sublime as grace to suffering soul,
Towards her far native grove; now, stern and strong
As ordnance, overturning tree and tower;
Cooling the white brows of the peaks of fire;
Turning the sea's broad furrows like a plough;
Fanning the fruitening plains; breathing the sweets
Of meadows; wandering over blinding snows;
And sands like sea--beds; and the streets of cities,
Where men as garnered grain lie heaped together;
Freshening the cheeks, and mingling oft the locks
Of youth and beauty 'neath star--speaking eve;
Swelling the pride of canvas, or, in wrath,
Scattering the fleets of nations like dead leaves;
In all, the same o'ermastering sightless force;
Bowing the highest things of earth to earth,
And lifting up the dust to the stars; fatelike,
Confounding finite reason, and like God's
Spirit, conferring life upon the world;
Midst all corruption incorruptible:
Monarch of all the elements! hast no soft
Æolian sylph, with strong but sightless wing,
To spare a suppliant for an hour?
Lucifer. Peace, peace!
All nature knows that I am with thee here;
And that thou need'st no minor minister.
To thee I personate the world--its powers,
Beliefs, and doubts, and practices.
Festus. Are all
Mine invocations fruitless, then?
Lucifer. They are.
Let us enjoy the world.
Festus. 'Twere well.
Lucifer. 'Tis time.
As when, in boreal climes, the southening sun,
One hour on heaven's aërial rood suspense,
The ecliptic cleared, thereafter, east and west,
More liberal day flings round; pleased earth responds;
And the ice--fettered rivulet, joyed, breaks up,
Clattering, in fluvial freedom, thenceforth flowing
Deeplier and more impulsive; so thy heart
For a season chilled, contracted, in unseen
Currents constrained, shall now its course resume,
Leaping with life redundant.
Festus. Wer't God's will
That thou shouldst visit me, he shall not send
Temptation to my heart in vain. Sweet world!
We all still cling to thee. Though thou thyself
Passest away, yet men will hanker about thee,
Like mad ones by their moping haunts. Men pass
Cleaving to things themselves which pass away,
Like leaves on waves. Thus all things pass for ever,
Save mind and the mind's meed.
Lucifer. Let us too pass!

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

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