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Philip James Bailey (Филип Джеймс Бэйли)

Festus - 26

Hearts, like moons,
Mature apace; and while one half the world
Is busy, and one half dreaming, Passion's path
Is miled of perilous ventures scarcely 'scaped
By sheer precipitancy, as ice unsafe
Oft rends not till we are sped. Pity the fair
Embodiment of thrice passionate love, by man
From his fiend friend won; the lure yet laid of power,
Ambition's highest to attract, learn, justly fails;
Nor less the false solution this would seek
Of selfish luxury, and a life unlawed
By relevance to the eternal, and its dues.
Thus wiled, lo! life's defeat we fame; with cups
Of air inebriate, or more substanced, drain
Deceived, the wine of our own death--feast; plot,
Ravenous of doom, self--ruin; but this withheld.
See wars of soul with soul that but half--won
Half lost on either side feints prove contrived,
By the bad spirit's means for his own worst ends:
Whom we know not when come; so dark we grow.
Mansion overlooking the Sea. Interior. A Drawing--room.
Festus and Elissa. Guardian Angel. Lucifer.
Festus. Who says he loves and is not wretched, lies,
Or that love is madness, mad from his mother came.
It is the most reasonable thing in nature.
What can we do but love? It is our cup;
Our fine, our passion. In heaven's name, Elissa!
What was it made us love?
Elissa. I know not, what?
I am not happy. I have wept all day.
Festus. It was thine own fault. What wouldst thou have of me?
I tell thee we must--no: I cannot tell thee.
I cannot brook those tears. Thou knowest I love thee,
Worship thee; oh it's a world more than worship,
The cold obedience given to God. Elissa,
Turn towards me thy fair brow.
Elissa. Nay, let me weep.
Festus. Thou hadst no need, no call, no cause to have loved me.
One was, who well loved thee.
Elissa. I could not help
His loving me; nor, woe is me! prevent
My loving thee. Alas! it is our fate.
Festus. Then fate hath fee'd the passion for our end;
And we are sold to ruin.
Elissa. Then we will die
Together; quit together body and life;
But while I live, none can I love but thee.
Look at me; heart and arms, I am thine own;
Have been, must be. Oh! I was happy once;
Ere I knew thee. And thou, why wast thou kind
To me, kind cruelly, or this had not been
Ever. But now, be cruel, if thou wilt.
Hate me, still I am thine; disown me, thine;
Desert me, no thou canst not. Look at me,
I am half blind with weeping, and mine eyes
Have scarce a tear left in them, for I yet
Dread how 'twill end. Thou wilt leave me, leave me, lone,
Loveless, forgot.
Festus. Nay, if we are given to forge
Adventures, let it be so. Say, we part.
Say, we must part. Think that I come again.
Elissa. Not be again with thee, nor thou with me!
It is too much. Let me go mad, or die.
Festus. Live mine, Elissa; and I will ever love thee.
Elissa. Wilt thou? Oh make me happy. Say it again.
I cannot know too often of my bliss.
(apart). As shakes the continent 'neath the solid fall
Of mighty stream, lake--gorged, appalling air,
Thought wildering, so my heart by passion's force
Stunned, rests nor night nor day, but rocks with one
Ceaseless vibration. Does the very air
Whisper forbiddance to my will?
Guardian Angel. O soul,
Be wise! The vast invisible witness all
Elissa. But say, dost love me? wilt thou love me?
Festus. Since I have known thee I have done nought else.
All hours not spent with thee are blanks between stars.
Love thee? I love thee madly. Thou hast drained,
Of all its love, mine heart. It will empty be
To aught after thee. Ay, now relume thine eyes,
Those eyes that might a moment win the glance
Of any seraph gazing not the throne.
Elissa. No wonder thine. What! tears! 'Tis thy turn now.
Sad formulary with me of speechless grief!
One retributive tear is there. Nay, why?
Festus. 'Tis strange, 'tis startling, is the first hot tear
We have shed, may be for years; and which hath lain
Like a water--fairy in the eye's blue depths,
Spell--bound; death freed it not; pain, not; nor shame;
Nor penitence, nor much pity, nor despair;
What else but love could? For a fearful time
We can keep down the floodgates of the heart,
But somewhile we must draw them, or it will burst
Like sand, this brave embankment of the breast,
And drain itself to dry death. When pride thaws,
Look for floods. I have that in thought that sets
Between me and the world a bar, no power
Can loose.
Elissa. What thought? Our time may soon be over.
Festus. I cannot think of time; there is no time.
Time, time, I hate thee with the hate of hell
For aught that's good, but thou art infamous.
I will give thee half mine immortality
To keep back one for an hour. Leave me to--night,
And wither me to--morrow like a weed.
Elissa. Where is he now?
Festus. In Hades, hope!
Elissa. What mean'st thou?
He wronged thee never. Say, when cometh he?
Festus. To--night.
Elissa. He comes to sever us like fate.
But shall he part us?
Festus. Never. Let him part
The sun in twain first.
Elissa. Now, would I, he came
Right speedily, for it frets me until freed
Frankly, from all allegiance.
Festus. See him not,
He will re--lure thy spirit with vain deceits;
Or try. No, hence with me. Trust me. Away,
Ere he come.
Elissa. I may not. It was ever thus;
I am born to make unhappy all around me.
Festus. Of thy being wrong I will not hear; it is I;
I am the false usurper. And since one
Must be a sacrifice, be it me.
Elissa. Thou swarest,
Even now to love me ever!
Festus. Be it so.
I have sworn, and now and then I keep my oath;
I will not give thee up.
Elissa. We have been too happy.
We might have known woe follows bliss as clos
As death, life.
Festus. Ah! how cold thy hand is. Here,
Warm it upon my heart. Nay, let it be.
The hand that is on the heart is on the soul.
And it is thus some moments take the heart,
Life's wheel, and steer us through eternity.
Elissa. Loose, now, my hand.
Festus. Look beautiful on me then!
Speak to me. Keep my name upon thy lips,
Steeped in their roseate dew, lips sacred aye
To the word that shall be; and the unexpressed sweets
Of possible music; hither turn those eyes,
Within whose depths one streaming star, the soul's
Ascendant, radiant rules, that mine may share
Their dear translated light; that cheek, just tinged
As with the visible echo of a blush;
Pale as the sumptuous bosom'd rose, which, save
For its heart, might vie with snow; that crescent brow
Beaming with soul--light, oh, incline to mine.
Nay, do not weep. We never trust your tears.
Tears, even as spirits within a magic glass,
Upon practised witchery, wait on woman's will.
Elissa. Wrong me not thus. The end of love is woe;
And of woe, death, and of death, death alone.
And there is no redemption for the heart.
Festus. Love hath no end except itself. We only
Felt we loved, and were happy.
Elissa. Ah, it was so.
Our sole misfortune is, we have been happy.
We never shall be happy here again.
Festus. Nay, say not so. Let us be happy, now.
Happy? To fling aside thy wavy locks,
And feed upon thy white brow mine eyes; to look
Deep into thine, till mine I feel have drank
Full of that soft wet fire which floats in them;
Eyes I would never leave, yet when most near
Then, most astray, I; nay, but to glance, as one
Who hath eyed the inconceivable forms on high,--
Where midst upon the beauty of thy breast
Sits Love, like one between the cherubim;
To name thee, dream thee, but one moment mine
Delights me more than all that earth can lend
The good or bad, or heaven--
Elissa. Oh name not heaven!
With thoughts so foolish and so wrong.
Festus. What's wrong?
Shall my blood never bound 'neath beauty's touch,
Heart throb, nor eye thaw with hers when her tears
Drop quick and bright upon the glowing brow
Bowed at her feet, because, forsooth, it is wrong?
Let it be wrong, it is wrong, it is wretchedness,
I seek to suffer.
Elissa. Nay, be calm. I never
So love thee as when calm. Even then, 'tis strange!
How dare we love each other as we do!
Festus. Give me some wine; more wine. It pleasures me
One's blood to impurple with the pall--black wine
Of southern slopes, where years agone this grape
Clustered mayhap o'erhead, and my brow screened
With the strong dark shadows cast by lustier suns.
Good, now. It feeds my will. And I have plans,
Oh, plans! 'twould take a realm to execute.
Elissa. Drink; but the vintage of a hundred years
Would never slake shame's memory, heed thou well,
Nor quench the thirst of folly.
Festus. Fill again,
My beauty. Sing to me and make me glad.
Thy sweet words drop as softly upon the ear
As rose leaves on a well; and I could listen,
As though the immortal melodies of heaven
Were wrought into one word, that word a whisper,
That whisper all I would from all I love.
Elissa. I am not happy; cannot sing. Thou lookest
Happy. Would I were!
Festus. The sun's body, they say,
Is dark, hard, hollow; light but a floating fluid
Veiling him.
Elissa. Ah! how truly like man's heart;
Most when, self--hid in passion's bright disguise,
Festus. Dost moralize? Oh, I'm with thee, there!
entering. A singer told to come is here.
Festus. Wilt hear him?
Elissa. Gladly, love. Bid him enter.
Festus. What hast there?
Singer. Oh, everything, I think.
Festus. Well anything
Will serve, this once.
Singer. The last new song?
Festus. Begin.
Singer. Oh! let not a lovely form
With feeling fill thine eye;
Oh! let not the bosom warm
At love--lorn lady's sigh;
For how false is the fairest breast;
How little worth, if true;
And who would wish possessed,
What all must scorn or rue?
Then pass by beauty with looks above;
Oh! seek never--share never--woman's love!
Oh! let not a planet--like eye
Imbeam its tale on thine;
In truth 'tis a lie--though a lie
Scarce less than truth divine.
And the light of its look on the young
Is wildfire with the soul;
Ye follow and follow it long,
But find nor good nor goal.
Then pass by beauty with looks above;
Oh! seek never--share never--woman's love!
Elissa. Methinks I must have heard that voice before.
Festus. And I, though I forget me where.
Elissa. I, too.
Singer. Oh! let not a wildering tongue
Weave bright webs o'er thine ear;
Nor thy spirit be said nor sung
To the air of smile or tear.
And say it hath melody far
More than the spheres of heaven,
Though to man and the morning star
They sang, Ye be forgiven!
Yet pass by beauty with looks above;
Oh! seek never--share never--woman's love!
Oh! let not a soft bosom pour
Itself in thine! It is vain.
Love cheateth the heart, oh! be sure,
Worse even than wine the brain.
Then snatch up thy soul from his snare,
Ere e'en from the goblet's brim,
Thy lip; for the wise declare,
There is none that can blind like him.
Then pass by beauty with looks above;
Oh! seek never--share never--woman's love!
Festus. Come hither, I would look on thee. I have seen
Some one much like thee.
Elissa. It was a brother, maybe?
Singer. I have none, lady.
Festus. Go; but leave your song.
Elissa. Go not as yet. Even yon unfolding door
Hath cleared the sultry--passion'd air, which hangs
Heavy as with idolatrous incense. Wait.
There was a steadying coolness of the stars
Came with those footsteps. Stay!--Again, I prithee.
Festus. Sing something burning, passionate, and sweet.
For oh! I am in the mood to realize
All deep and dear enjoyment. Trill away,
The lilt perchance may dovetail with the time.
Singer. Thou art for happiness with me.
Love, love me as thou wilt!
I care not, so I live with thee,
For goodness or for guilt.
I leave repentance to the weak,
And to the good all gladness:
I only feel, that while I speak,
Reason to me seems madness.
This heart at once went wild for thee,
While yet thou wert not mine;
And now thine eye is law to me--
Law human and divine.
I leave despair to all who fail,
Who love and lose thee, sadness;
For what 'gainst beauty can avail,
Which, moon--like, maketh madness?
Is this sufficient?
Festus. Ample, excellent.
His words perplex me not a little. But now
Bid him depart.
Elissa. Let fate fulfil itself.
Servant. Here, follow me.
Singer. Soft, friend. Await me here,
While I assort my ditties, and concert
What on re--entry may be just.
Servant. Art bidden
To reappear?
Singer. Truth, I may be recalled.
Elissa. How is't my heart misgives me so? How is't
I long, yet dread, to meet this regent once,
Now outcast, of my spirit? How break to him
That change which o'er the firmament of my life
Hath swept, and stormily even now, where once,
Calm homed. Alas for me! Thou knowst not, thou
Though dear, my troubles.
Festus. Weeping again, my love?
Thou art by turns the proudest, humblest, creature
Earth owns. The least thing, now, dints thy soft heart;
Now, thou couldst face unblenched, a menacing world.
Oh, if to say I love laid all the sins
Of all the worlds on me I'd say it, still.
Elissa. If love be blind, it must be by his tears:
For love and sorrow alway come together,
Love with his sister, Sorrow, by the hand.
Festus. Nay, I will conquer thee again to smile,
To jet forth thy soul's radiance, once again,
Or lose my right to love thee. Let me kneel.
Come! I will have no other gods but thee;
To none but thee will I bow down and worship.
Thy bosom be mine altar, and thine eyes
Stars manifestive that lead me hourly on
To the shrine of thy divinity. Shine! Appear!
Oh cruel as the week--day gods of old
Wilt thou have human victims? Not content
With fire and water, kisses, tears, is't thou
Wilt have life's subtler element? must needs
On immortality feast? Here, take me, then;
I offer up myself, in sacrifice,
To thee.
Elissa. Where will thy passionate folly end?
I love thee.
Festus. I conjure thee, let me swear
By some sweet oath that shall to both be holy,
By arms which hold; by knees which worship thee;
By that dark eye, the dark divine of beauty,
Yet trembling o'er its lid all tears and light;
Glory, and eye of eyes which yet have shone;
By this lone heart which longeth for a mate;
By love's sweet will and sweeter way, by all
I love, by thyself, myself, let me, let me,
Let me,--but draw the lightnings from thine eye;
Kisses be my conductors; do not frown;
Nor look so temptingly angry. I was but trifling.
The cold, calm kiss which cometh as an alms
Not a necessity is not for me,
Whose bliss, whose woe, whose life, whose all is love.
Elissa. We both wrong whom we love, love whom we wrong.
Festus. But I am even as a dog that fondles o'er,
And licks the wound he dies of. Would I could
Create or suffer within myself enough
Of love to kill.
Elissa. Thou lovest one whom, maybe,
Thou oughtst not to have loved.
Festus. Love hath its own
Belief, own worship, own morality,
Own laws. It were better that all love were sin
Than that love were not. By--laws it must have,
Exceptions to earth's rules, and heaven's, not meaning
The good it doth, nor ill.
Elissa. Oh, plead not thus;
It is wrong, it is unjust, unkind.
Festus. It is.
But I am half mad and half dead with it.
I have loved thee till I can love nought beside.
My heart is drenched with love, as with a cloud
A sky aspiring hill. So much I have
Of lifefulness I seem to o'erlive myself.
I hate all things but thee; shun men like snakes;
Women, like pits. To me thou art all woman,
All life, all love, and more than all my kind.
I love thee more than I shall love and look for
Death, dare he take thee from me. But who dreams
Of death and thee together?
Elissa. I dream so, not
Rarely; and know not but that now and again,
I would such dreams were verified. The best
Of all things are dreams realized.
Festus. Ah me!
Dreams such as gods may dream thy soul possess
For aye i' the Hadean Eden, death; but here,
Me bless with love's divine reality.
So live we ever; thou in thyself, with me
Happy; and I of thee all wise, all blessed.
I have gone round the compass of all life
And can find nought worthy of thee. I but feel
That were I, as I ought to be, a god
I would sacrifice to thee the sun, in bright
And burning honour of thy love; proof sought
Of mine oblation's worthfulness; for know,
Miracles are not miracles with gods.
Elissa. Dearer thou canst not be to me, unless
I die in telling how dear.
Festus. Mine! be mine!
My soul is stung with thy beauty to the quick.
Oh but thou art too good or else too bad;
Be colder or be warmer.
Elissa. Leave me.
Festus. Well
It is most cruel, first to light the heart
With love completely, boundlessly; and then,
Moonlike, slowly to edge aside, and leave
One only little line of all so bright,
Once; teach and unteach; nay, to use more arts
Than would outdo the devil of his throne,
To make us ignorant of all we know;
To take the heart to pieces carefully;
For it is love alone can build the heart;
To root the tree up, 'neath whose shade we have lived,
And give us back a sliver. Let it die.
Guardian Angel. Thus dares he brave fate's end. With her to reign
Forbid, he would drive dominion from his mind,
As drives the wind some day--besetting cloud
Though ne'er so grand and gorgeous, down the skies,
So he might soothe his heart with this new love
And rest in peace. False peace! not thus grants Heaven.
She only shares pride's seat, pride banned--whose soul
Turned prayerful Godwards, power can sanctify
By teaching rule to serve. Haste, heaven, the hour.
Elissa. Hark, he is coming.
Festus. Who is coming?
Elissa. He
Thou knowst, I wait for.
Festus. No! he cannot come;
For I have driven an oath into his heart,
And hanged a curse about his neck, might sink
The Prince of Air to the centre.
Elissa. But thou saidst
He was to come, and at fixed time.
Festus. I said so?
I'm, sure, bewildered. Time it is indeed
To do what most I am here to do.
Guardian Angel. Beware!
Oh! I beseech thee. Nay, he hears me not,
More than 'mid foamy turmoil of a sea
Storm--lashed is heard the sigh of land--locked gale,
State--severed, hid in continents.
Festus. All concurs.
With what malefic providence, will men say,
Success hath covenanted with wrong. The hour
Burns as it passes o'er me with a wing
Stifling of fire, till all's done; and we here
Enjoy perfection. Have, have, cries a voice,
As of a crowd within me. All one's life
Lies past the vast horizon there, unseen,
But must be sought and had. I would do aught
To throw this dark desire which wrestles with me.
It answers not to hold it at arm's length.
It must be hurled, dashed, trampled down, or see
It soars, and all subdues. O lady, hear!
Never did angel love his heaven, nor king
Crown, as I thee. As some fire--hearted star,
By beauteousness of sister sphere allured,
His ancient seat mid everlasting space,
And self--sufficing harmonies quits, to round
The idol orb, ceaseless, and to hers add
His pomp of light subservient, nor would leave
Such luminous vortex, but the unlidded eye
Burns to her always,--I for thee, most fair!
Mind's self rule, earth's forego; nor other end
Seek than thyself.
Elissa. But to what end? The world
Is ripening with the plans thyself hast sown,
And waits its reaper. Would not earth contend?
Festus. Let others notions fit them to our need.
I have effaced my nature in the hope
To conciliate love with fate. In vain! As might
One resolute to die, the shore sought, cry
To the wide embattled wave whose twin white arms,
And stretched out fingers, streamy with latent light,
All things before them conquering, at last, close,
Arched like the bow of death, resplendent, `Come,
Wreck me with thine embrace, it is my doom.'
So, to thy destinative hands, my brow
Now circling as a moveable aureole, I
My spirit reserveless trust.
Elissa. See, now, the moon,
As one whose soul, sole conversant with heaven,
But by immortal memories saddened, still
Considers silently the excuseful mirth
Of wavelets in their twinkling play, and dance
Of even the eternal elements, which will take
Now, and once more their pleasure.
Festus. Oh! far off!
That everlasting shimmering; 'tis indeed
Too notable; and anon--
Elissa. Yon fountain's fall!
How sweetly it lulls the ear, and ringed in groves
Of fragrant fruitage, and by showers suspense
And permanent of the myrtle's pearly stars
Shocks not with love's own murmured words.
Festus. Peace, peace!
I cannot grant tame audience, thou with me,
To outward nature.
Elissa. Think then of thine own.
Nay, let me look then on the impassive hills,
Their swell unchangeful, stirless rise and fall;
The sea is all too mutable, and the moon.
I breathe now, 'neath this trellis.
Festus. Breathe, and know
The might and truth of hearts is ne'er so shown
As in loving those we ought not, may be, love;
Or cannot have.
Elissa. Let me not wrong thee, Festus.
Let me not think I have thought too well of thee;
And that to rebel 'gainst thee were heaven to obey.
What is't thou meditatest? Hast aught conceived
Would contrary God's ends? and edge aside
Thy path from duty and destiny?
Festus. I am here
To act, not ask, nor answer; to myself
I am henceforth sole responsible.
Elissa. Alas!
I do begin to fear thee.
Festus. That were well.
Elissa. Wouldst thou God's law and man's evade? Then know,
I cannot fly the world; more than defy
Earth's bodily gravity; still less wouldst thou deem
Soul to disconsecrate?
Festus. Not a moment. Not
One spot thy shadow hallows. But these climes!
This plot of earth is all too mean, too tame,
Too moderate in its temperament; its range
Of act too average; nor enough profound
Its total rest. I love the pitiless sun;
Soil that reeks high with rankest fruitfulness;
Law such as lurks in storms; each day a day
Of history; and a sleep lawn--pillowed, now
'Neath moonlight, now in savage sun--blaze trapped;
Half down some steep ravine, safe hutted; lulled
By boom of waters, black with molten snows;
The passionate lands where women live to love,
And men 'twixt war and worship halve their days.
Elissa. Is't thou sayst war?
Festus. I prate not now of peace.
I reck not were the world all war, and thou
Queen of the south to head a hemisphere
Of foes against me challenging so the throne
Of a plight orb, I'd care not. Thee to bind
In bands of love triumphant, 'twere enough
For me the great tradition's sum and close.
Elissa. What dreadful words are these! What change hast thou,
Change utter and unutterable, endured
In spirit, who once wert most humane of men
Not manwards sole, but towards all life. Be calm.
Truth, thou affrightest me.
Festus. Oh, I am calm,
As husbandman when midst the harvest field
And the soft shadelets thrown by autumnal moons
From sheaf and shock, he eyes the upbuilded wealth,
Builded breast high, shake to his passing foot,
Anticipative of whitest wealth. Nay, see;
Calm as the heartiest circlet of a wheel
Whose visible movement's lost, to myself I seem
Still absolutely. Oh feel my pulse; I'm calm;
Elissa. We trifle.
Festus. Trifle then no more.
Let us away, away! Yon innocent moon
Sacred, sequestrate, virgin of the skies,
Us following with her patient power shall tend
Our homeward track nor leave us till we reach
With thy fair following, holiest peace.
Elissa. I cannot.
Festus. Oh say not so. Slay me at once, I die.
I look upon thy beauty, and forget,
As in a dream of drowning all things else.
Right, wrong, seem one, seem nothing. Thou art beauty;
That beauty everything. Speak not. It may be
I shall look on thee as looks the sun on earth,
Until like him I gaze myself away
From heaven. But if thou wouldst I look no longer,
Change then the action of thy loveliness,
Lest long same--seemingness should send me mad.
Blind me with kisses. I would ruin sight,
To give its virtue to those lips whereon
I would die now or ever live. Away!
For as wearied wanderer snow--blinded, sinks,
And swoons upon the swelling drift and dies;
So on that dazzling bosom would I lay
These famished lips, and end their wanderings there.
Come, let us balk the future of its end
Hoped for, forfeared by some. Oh! I'll be all
Thou ask'st for in the coming, placable, calm,
Most moderate, most amenable to right;
But know the present pressant! know, I still
Am earnest, still resolved; and shall I now
For scare of covetise, and the curt commands
Of law, whose thunderous negatives awe the world,
And pale the lips of weekly posturists,
Shall I cheat thee, bonny heart of mine, of this
Thy long expected spoil? No, minion, no!
But if meanwhile thy word hope certify
With promise of thyself;--what! not appeased?
Nay, rage not, dove of mine!--ferocious dove!
Elissa. Be as thou wert. What will become of us?
Festus. Be mine, be me, be aught but so far from me.
Let us from hence. The south expects our feet
With tremulous burnings. Winds await our flight,
Breathless, till hailed. My heart is numb with ire
Of love. I rage to be with thee where none
Can eye or awe us, of the incarnate world.
All nature waits our will, all skill of art.
Our sloop in moonshade hid, beyond yon crag,
Impatient, rocks from head to heel, to hear
One footstep crash the beach! For thy dear sake,
The world may go a begging for a king.
And say, we jilt our destiny, and so void
Their ends who would foreclose earth's leading life;
What ail we? length of rapturous days our own,
And respited humanity? It were something
Both earth and heaven, hell aidant, to defeat;
Defeat the stars 'gainst us concoursed.
Elissa. Alas!
Alas! I dread thee now.
Festus. Nay, fear not me.
Whither we wend, once there, while earth attends
The marvellous rumour, blessings not, nor banns
Shall lack, nor unspanned leisure; quashed all hopes
Of abnegated empire, what shall be
Ours, but love boundless, sateless?
Elissa. Listen!
Festus. No!
I list to no conditions, here nor now.
Give me thyself. Rise, come with me, with me!
Surely, some whirlwind waits to lackey us hence!
Guardian Angel. Where art thou, Lucifer? Part them!
Lucifer. Is't my part
To order, or hinder fate? As yet, let be.
Festus. Far off, on the obscure disk of earth, is mine
Originally by sword--right of my sires,
Upon a mountain spur which dips its foot
Death--deep in the sea, a stern stronghold, that boasts,
In ruinous luxury, still sufficing state,
An exiled tyrant liberally to guest,
And all his wastrel court; high peaked, far back
Snows everduring blanch; below, thick woods
Lush leaved, broad fanned, fruit breedful, stretch; and there,
All night around the crowns of favourite palms,
Their winged and intricate reel, the fireflies,--sparks
Vivid, as 'twere of life's divinity, weave,
Mocking the star--maze; and in rapid act
Of light, self regulative, law heed nor need,
Being of surpassing nature; there, too, pour,
From their encoigning huts, leaf--roofed, when dews
And shadows thicken at mid--moon, for dance,
Feastful, hot--breath'd, the lithe and dusky array
Who call me master, adulative, and mouth
Maybe a common creed; but coyly, adore,
Some uncouth idolet to their glebe adstrict,
With whom I have whiles done battle; there, with me,
Most excellentest of things, be thou their pride,
Their providence, their supreme! Nay, linger not,
See, all the way is water. Moons but three
Shall waste their light upon our flamy wake,
Ere we are there: there rest in lavish peace
And pall--less pleasures. Oh it is not for me
Enough to have gazed and doted on thee until
Mine eye is dazzled, and brain dizzied. Thou
All worship must exhaust; it is not enough
That in long dreams my soul hath torrent--like,
Swept this majestic make; nor, that it now
Fails in the sight of heaven and thee, nay, falls
As a summer sunset, seawards, hot and tired
With the o'erlong day, that slowly degrades itself
Of absolute beauty to a noteless mass
Uncomeliest of all things--reck I. The cost,
The fine, I have summed, and yet have sworn to fill,
Sometime, mine arms with bliss.
Elissa. Sit, Festus!
Lucifer. Friends!
Did ye not know me? No! Then know me now.
Elissa. It was he.
Festus. Thou--
Lucifer. Hush; thou art not to utter what
I am. Bethink thee: it was our covenant.
Guardian Angel. Man from thyself saved although as 'gainst thy will,
Give thanks thou mayst for life snatched from remorse,
And sin's soul--blinding sophistries: and learn
How even by the hands of evil God worketh good,
Nor dream his fates can fail, or plans succeed
Without his part of the fortune.
Festus. I, content,
Submit me to the award of God.
Guardian Angel. Farewell.
Lucifer. Thee, lady, said I, once, I again would see.
Elissa. Thou didst, and I must thank thee. Waiting here
Thy visit, all uncharmed by the ripple of seas
On summer eve, moonlit, 'twere well I staid
To render back to thee my troth, or one,
Too daring thoughtless, would have borne me off
Whither I know not, might have smirched a name
Though meaning not, that shall be stainless still.
'Twas wrong, but I forgive. He hears me not.
Lucifer. I hear. Thou knowest what once I was to thee
One who for love of one I loved, for thee,
Would have done or borne the sins of all the world;
Who did thy bidding at thy lightest look
And had it been to have snatched an angel's crown,
Off his bright brow, as he sate singing, throned,
I would have cut these heart strings that tie down
My spirit, and spite of thunder and sacrilege,
Had laid it at thy feet. I loved thee, lady.
I am one whose love was greater than the world's,
And might have vied with God's; a boundless ring
All pressing upon one point, that point thy heart.
And now, but should I call on my revenge;
It were at hand in armies. But thou art woman;
And I forget my purpose and my wrongs
In looking, and in loving.
Elissa. Was it sin
To have loved once ignorantly?
Lucifer. Oh, hear her heaven.
There is no blasphemy in love, but doubt;
No sin but to deceive.
Festus. Then is she sinless.
Thy heart's embrace though close was snakelike cold.
And mine was warm, and more, was welcome.
Lucifer. Patience;
Of thee I spake not, cared not, thought not, I.
Be sure, it was not from reverence for thee,
I saved ye, but for her sake and mine own.
I have excused so much there is little left
To make more words about; but, for the future,
I would almost vow, so variable it seems,
It were as well expect to entice a star
To perch upon one's finger, or the wind
To follow one like a dog, as think to fix
To aught a woman's heart. Answer me not.
Let me say what I have to say, and go.
Thou art all will and passion, that is thine
Excuse and condemnation.
Elissa. While that will
Was turned towards thee, thou saw'st in it no harm.
Lucifer. Oh I have heard what rather than have heard
I would have stopped mine ears with thunder; words
That have gone singing through my soul, as arrows
Through the air, their death--song.
Elissa. Not from me expect
Defence, nor accusation. Both I scorn.
Lucifer. Now, let us part, or I shall die of wrath.
Elissa. Part then.
Lucifer. Thank God it is for eternity.
Elissa. I do. Away.
Lucifer. Festus, I wait for thee.
I have fulfilled the word between us passed
So far as is permitted me. Look back!
There is little unaccomplished.
Festus. One thing yet.
Lucifer. And that mayhap anon. Wouldst rather power
To sow in millions or in units reap?
Festus. Spirit, beyond compute, beyond compare,
Both I must have.
Lucifer. So then, this womanish love,
Brain--feebling, heart unmanning sentiment,
Must be put by, which is to neither gain,
Honour, nor need nor meed. Enough of love.
True, it hath served a purpose with myself;
Although constrained the very end to avert
All forecast had led up to. Nor in this
Seemed I myself quite, but as urged by power
Unseen, resistless.
Festus. Well, I will think of it.
Lucifer. It is thought and done with. Soon, 'twill lead thee whither
Thou shalt behold more marvels than man e'er
Hath known; perceive earth spirit--wise, and know
All nature tributary.
Festus. 'Twere well; in time.
Lucifer. Said I, in this strange deed, I to myself
Seemed not myself, quite? But though baffled here,
By what a good deed seems, one cipher less
In the great evil's boundless deficience,
It were base to flee the field, one chance yet left.
If in the lure of power, my next, he fail
Self--magnifying, he forfeits all.
Festus. But now,--
And come! thou art not the first deceived in love;
Yet is not love so much love as a dream
Of madness, whence we wake, scared and astound
To find that what we have loved, must love, is not
That we had meant to love; and all we deemed
To be, proves nought;--from each, like guerdon reaped.
Lucifer. Well, doubtless well.
Festus. Perhaps I profit ed
Too much by thy good lessons.
Lucifer. Lady, ere
I hence, grant yet one favour. Take this rose
Fresh from its parent stem; make much of it;
And as it fades, let all remembrance fade
Of him who gave.
Elissa. I cast it down at once.
The eagle needs no omens who to all
Himself is ominous; and not with me
Shall memory, like a whirlpool 'neath a fall,
Whose watery resurrection scares the bold,
Revolve the mangled moments of the passed
In wearisome dissolution: no! at once--
Lucifer. The furies hint it, let the fates advise.
Take heed. A nobler life may sometime cross
The path of spirit perplexed, intempested;
Inexorable; and like that--
Festus. Go. I follow.
Lucifer. Now therefore would I wager, and I might
The great archangel's trump to a dog--whistle
That whatsoever happens, worse ensues.
Festus. Even the unwise may prophesy, now and then.
Forgive, love, him; and me forgive for all.
Elissa. Yes, I forgive. What is there not and whom
That I forgive not? Let me be forgiven
By the Great Spirit in death as I, in life,
Pardon who would me wrong, if such soul live.
The love which giveth all, forgiveth aught.
And thou to me art more than earth or heaven.
They have but given me life, thou gavest love;
The lord of life, thou my life, love, and lord.
Take me again, my kindest, dearest, best.
Him who hath gone I never loved like thee.
Was in his eye a desolation, seemed
To prey upon all the light, whate'er, in mine.
But it is passed; and he with it. I think
I know, thou lovest me.
Festus. And I think, as now,
For perfect love there should be but one god,
One worshipper.
Elissa. We know the gods of old
Worshipped each other, equal deities.
For the poets surely spake the truth of gods
Who dare not speak but truth.
Festus. O breathing beauty!
Bards seek ideally, dost believe the gods
Of old, toys, terrors, of an infant world?
Elissa. If I do not believe, I scorn them not.
Nay, I could mourn for them and pray for them.
I can scorn nought a nation's honest heart
Hath held for ages holy: for the heart
Is alike holy in its strength and weakness.
All things to me are sacred that have been;
And though earth, like a stream, blood--streaked, which tells
A long and silent tale of wrongful death,
May mostly, blush her history, and her eyes
Hide, yet the passed is sacred; it is God's;
Not ours; let her, let us, do better, now.
Festus. O re--inspired, retowered in spirit, arise;
Go mate thee with the stars; thou are not made
For mortal 'spousals. Tears all gone, all dread.
All dubiousness, beams forth thy soul again.
Lo! there are veins of diamonds in thine eyes,
Might furnish crowns for all the queens of earth.
Oh! I could sooner price the sun, than set
A value earth could pay, upon thy look.
Look! I would rather look upon thee one minute,
Than a whole day on Paradise;--such days
As are, and only, in heaven. But now I have seen
Fate's all compelling nod, and must away.
What wilt thou? Is there aught dost fear?
Elissa. I dread
But too long separation; nothing else.
Festus. Would I could more assure thee than by words.
Elissa. When heaven and earth were first betrothed, they brake
The rainbow 'tween them as a ring, for each
A part, in token of their troth--plight, till
Their sacred bridals, when both fragments oned,
It shall conclude the eternal covenant.
But we, we need no signal, need we?
Festus. None.
Here have I fixed my rest. It may be none
Shall compass all the ends he hopes, in gift
Of hands divine sole; but for the destiny,
Mightiest, which e'er awaited man, earth's crown,
I spurn it for thy sake; renounce.
Elissa. For me?
I fear me, love of power is more than power
Of love were't tried.
Festus. Till tried, 'twere well to trust.
But I have heard the call I must obey.
It hastens me away.
Elissa. And am I nothing?
Who masters not his fate is weak indeed.
Festus. What if by serving thee, I vanquish mine?
Guardian Angel. Vain boast; thou canst not God resist, his eye
Foreseeing, preordains what comes to pass.
Festus. We are the lords of our own destiny, we;
Our own fates, furies, graces. All the gods
Are we to ourselves because we love.
Elissa. Nay, tremble.
Thou utterest treasonable truth against
The dead divinities.
Festus. Who shall reconcile
Their powers, or 'venge their slighted worship.
Elissa. God.
For the divine, though dimlier, being of old
As now, adored, what 'gainst our sense of God
Sins, chiefliest pride, heaven alway punisheth
With death or madness.
Festus. Nay, convert me quite.
Thou art at heart, a pagan.
Elissa. I am one
In whose free faith the truth, whate'er, is holy,
And what is good is sacred.
Festus. I am too.
Elissa. I cannot bid thee hence. Nay, sit. From thee
Parted, I feel as a tree might feel, half riven,
And my soul acheth to spring to,--as thus.
Festus. Still must I loose these arms; and while heart--filled
With memories of sweet thefts, a thousand years
In Saturn, nor ten thousand in the sun
Approximative to bliss should rob me of,
My parting gift I know thou wilt not refuse
Nor would I proffer aught which emblemed less
Than life celestial and the light divine;
Expect me ere it wither; ere the scent
Sweet effluence of its perfectness of leaf
Hath fled its starry censer, look for me.
Let the death--destined perish. We shall live.
Elissa. My life is one long loving thought of thee.
If any ask me what I do, I say
I love.
Festus. All that? It is enough. Farewell!
Elissa. And he is gone! and the world seems gone with him.
Shine on, ye heavens! why can ye not impart
Light to my heart? Have ye no feeling in ye?
Why are ye bright when I am so unhappy?
Yet would not I my woes untold, unthought,
Unseen o' the world, blind lightnings which still strike
With secret scathe and fiery, change for thrice
The joys of others, since they are love for thee.
Our very wretchedness grows dear to us,
When suffering for one we love. Sweet stars!
I cannot look upon this your loveliness
Without sadness; for ye are too beautiful
And beauty makes unhappy. So men say.
Ye stars, it is true. We read our fate in ye.
Bright through all ages, are ye not happy there?
With years, many as your light--rays, are ye not
Immortal? space pervading, oh ye must be,
Spirit--like infinite! O All--being God,
Who art in all things, and in whom all are,
And it is thus we most can worship thee,
When soul to soul, with one we love we are gods,
Let us believe that if thou gavest earth,
For our bodies, then the stars were for our souls,
For perfect beauty and unbounded love.
Let us believe they look upon us here,
As their inheritors, and save themselves,
For us, as we for thee, and thou for all.

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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