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Philip James Bailey (Филип Джеймс Бэйли)

Festus - 34

First love recalled
Not yet reanimate, joy and grief disguised
Each as the other, neither gains, perplexed,
His way. Even they who play round wisdom's knee
Miss sometimes worthiest ends. Knowing no mean,
Ambition's high demands too close encroach
On nature's pious privileges. Not less
True tenderness rejoices to conceive
The happy evangel, world--vast, of God's love;
His alliance with all life create and how
Heaven's mercy ends sin's mystery, as made clear
To the great gathering of the spheres, round God
Convoked; and thanks with holiest warnings blends.
O grace forgiving, how in heaven divine,
How sweet on earth love reconciled; how dear
Virtue in both; though trode down or ignored,
Still precious, goldlike, as in southern isle,
Vastest of isles, to Asian continent
Rich counterpoise, o'er mount and vale and plain
Tribes senseless, salvage, tramped the o'ertreasured earth
For ages, nor its charm, nor value knew.
Colonnade and Lawn.
Festus and Clara.
Festus. Henceforth this spot be sacred; here, where first
I shrined thee, flower of beauty, in my heart.
None holier to the tribes of earth; not thou,
Divine Elborz, now cold and crowned with snow,
Since rested on thy brow the ark; but once
Peak paradisal whereupon God's sons
Of saintliest lineage helped the harps of heaven,
And joined each eve, ere rest the angelic hymn:--
Earth's first communion with the immortal blessed.
Not holier thou, though meanest mound on earth,
Nigh Moslem city of the moon, where, first,
After long severance for their death--fraught sin,
And world wide wanderings lonely, from afar,
Our great original mother him espied,
Tall as the crownèd palm, though bowed with woe,
Whom her soul clave to; one whole age had passed;
Nought more divine than demons had she seen,
More human than the ape; when her hot tears,
And his repentant groans drew down from heaven
Permission for their dear reunion there;
The mount of recognition; hallowed, thence,
To after ages, by that blessed embrace,
Obliterative of woe. Come, come; oh come!
As in arctic climes Spring, wandering through the air,
His long lost consort earth, all frozen at heart
Finds 'tranced 'neath wicked winter's deathly spell,
Stretched corselike; he full soon by gentle embrace,
Warm breath, and sedulous skill calls back to life
His star--browed bride; she wakes; her stiffened limbs
Requickening, stirs; casts off the sheeted snows;
Trees, jocund with the loosening life--sap, freed
Through all their veinlets, don their greenery; birds
Their voice refound, in song each other greet;
And, like some hoary grandsire's wrinkled front,
Ridgy with life--long cares, touched suddenly
By infant's playful finger--ocean's face,
Dimpled by gambolling gust, lights up, and breaks
Into a running smile, and laughs for leagues;--
Heaven and all--pitying nature o'er the glad
Reunion weep their joy; so, found by me,
Sweet solace of my soul, I long to make
To thee atonement. Reconciled to thee,
All parenthetic passions sacrificed,
The world shall slip off easy from our hands,
And we not miss her. Long! how long I wait!
I wait for thee, even as the weary west
Waits for the evening star,
With whom the eternal promises of rest
And glory are.
I wait, as waits a storm--cloud in the sky,
The bow divine of peace,
Which bids the thunders and the lightnings lie
Down, and fear cease.
I long to meet thee, as earth longs to view
Icebound, spring's golden flowers;
Thy beauty soothes my spirit, as the dew
Day's burning hours.
As heaven's own light upon some sainted shrine
Where mouldering relics be,
Thou shinest in upon this heart of mine,
Sacred to thee.
And as a line erased some trace still bears
Of words therein first writ,
Which neither pen can hide, nor penitent tears
As 'twas refit;
It matters not what other powers around
Here graved their conquering name;
Below all depth thy love will still be found
Truth's secret fame.
Known to ourselves, we only share with heaven
The secret yet by me ineffable.
Lo! now I see thee coming, come, at last.
Clara. At thy desire I come, though hard to me.
We have lived separate lives, unlike, unsought
Each by the other. Wherefore meet we now?
Festus. Thee seeking in thy sacred solitude,
I told thee I had somewhat to impart,
Somewhat to ask; if asking were not vain,
Which springs despondingly from dubious heart.
Clara. Time was it was not thus. But others came
Whose tyrant beauty and more soaring souls
Thee dazzled, me eclipsed. Already years
Have passed since first we were, what now we are,
Festus. I do confess to my reproach
A friend too well forgotten, and thine image
By time's colleaguèd forces with the world's,
Effaced half from this monumental breast;
And as the effigy of a saint, insculpt
On alabastrine tomb some unroofed shrine,
Faithless fiduciary, hath bared to moon
And winds star--iced, wastes plenteously away,
Thinned pitifully by the upper elements;
Compassionate woods their leafy tresses strew
Winterly, o'er it perishing, and bemoan
In gusty suspiration; so of thee,
My thought memorial, while impaired, had joined
Well nigh for aye life's lengthening dusk; and now,
Let but the passed be buried, where it lies
In mine awed memory hidden, like to a blade
Sore rusted, in its sheath, no more to flash
In the grey air upon the eyes of men,
And all the future is our own. One's own
Resistless weakness 'tis which overcomes,
More than another's strength. Oh! I confess,
Oft hath this heart allured by glittering rites
And sacred titles, and celestial names,
Offered at others' altars, and decreed
Wildly, profanely, negligence of thine.
True, I have worshipped idols and forsworn
The loving faith I owed to thee alone;
Canst thou forgive? reconsecrate the heart,
Rededicate the temple? Do not all
Beliefs how far soever from God's truth,
Circle around the same in mode prescribed,
As round heaven's secret and all--central sun,
The constellated skies? And shall then love
Lack like justification, or in vain
Plead the necessity of liberty?--
For truly I was destined for this end,
And in myself believed the most at first.
For mortal knowledge, which is error, dies,
And spiritual truth alone outlasts
All nature; love insensibly with heaven
Here blending, thither wending, thence derived.
Clara. Wert thou as I such need had never been;
But we had lived serene and sinless here,
Aimless, save loving God and bettering man.
Nay, let it be so still, with thee, I pray.
As in a round wide view from some tall hill,
Central and isolate, it happeneth oft,
The furthest things on all sides eyeable
Are village temples tapering to the skies,
Be such, too, the horizon of the soul;
And every ultimate object, unto heaven
Calmly aspiring, indicate its end,
And sanctify the limits of our life.
For as in gentlest exhalations earth
Breathes forth the glistening steams which, high in air,
Glow, sunlipped, into clouds of rosy gold,
Or seek again her breast in fruitful dew;
So of our aspirations and desires,
Might we endow life's skiey calm, they all
Made retributive blessings, and a clime
Of love create about us bright and boon;
An everlasting spring of holy good,
And venerable beauty. But, alas!
Men breathe forth passions which fall back in blights,
And stormy desolations, that defile
The sky--born streams, and flood life's fields with woe.
Festus. The evil in our nature we can act
Alway and utter; but the inner good
Hath inexpressive boundlessness. Earthlike,
Each carries with him his own atmosphere,
Or pure or foul, where'er we orbitate.
Who knows himself in spirit, all things knows;
As in nature even the atom and the all
Commune and know each other; and as the slant
Invisible axis of the earth too fine
For fairy to find footing tiptoe, bears
All superincumbent continents and seas,
Mountains and air realms. Knowing thus, that once,
My own heart like a wizard's magic book,
Studded with spells despotic to call up
Sprite, spectre, and familiar fiend, must needs
Assoilzied be from every fiery sign
And fateful cipher, ere made safe for aye;
Thee as a priestess pure of old seek I,
That thou mightst hold to me the holy branch,
Dipped in soul--cleansing wave, the branch of peace:
That peace thou lovest so well and both desire;
And from thee ask absolvement of passed sin.
For as when the sun's light in some high--domed fane
On golden altar gleaming, finds itself
In face of something holier, more divine;
So on thy sacred soul heaven's truths, confirmed,
Beam in subservient blessings.
Clara. If thou meanest
That thou dost hope forgiveness, it is given;
Thine hath it been ere asked for; always thine.
Festus. Bright soul be blessèd. Take again thy name
Unto thee; sign of reunited love.
Clara. Name which because it hath lingered on thy lips,
In love's pure tones full oft, always to me
Is sacred. None shall name me so but thou,
Thou only. When thou changest, that shall change.
Festus. Breathe not to me of change; albeit I lived
On earth, till like some desert builded fane,
Though based on astral laws, she ceased from sight,
Wasted by winds, worn down by elements,
Smoothed level under time's insatiate sands;
Oh, I should change no more. Henceforth to me
Be thou, thou art, the type of holiest things;
The symbol and fulfilment of all good;
Truth's promises and prophesies inspired,
Bound in one saintly volume love--illumed;
A book of benedictions sealed to me;
A second covenant; oh, a spirit--bride,
A new alliance, sanctified of heaven.
This fallible heart, enchanted long, distraught
By charms of luxury, sense, art, knowledge now
To truth's allegiance, and to thine returns.
Clara. 'Twas not for pleasure, power, or knowledge I
First loved thee; no! but for thyself, thy soul;
And now I seek not these, I dare not have.
As some great glacier from its icy breast,
Expelling aught of baser nature, seeks,
By this mysterious means, to purify
Its visible essence; so the saintly soul,
Out of its high and bright vitality,
Rejects, in silent scorn, those worldly taints
And aims extraneous, which itself debar
From inmost commune, and most high with heaven;
Why, then, thy spirit degrade with greed of power,
Thankless, unblessed, as I have heard? To me
This were forbiddance. Aught that clogs the soul,
Or clouds its aspirations, I abhor.
Be it not therefore that though one in heart,
We are in spirit twain.
Festus. Nay, speak not thus.
All things are full of presage; winds and streams
And cloud--shapes, which in heaven's inverted bowl
Forecast our future. The presage of some vast
And world--wide revolution, nigh at hand,
In a sonorous whisper broods o'er earth.
Clara. True, I have heard it. Would it were untrue!
Hearts may be sad at parting, but at meeting
They should spring light as birds upon the spray.
Festus. As stars the sea, thy thoughts light up my mind.
Heaven's son am I, and am by heaven made free
From all low laws and lesser fealties.
This is the age that men are destined evil;
But say not fate doth not fulfil itself.
What if my cause before men seem askant,
Yet is it straight as light in the eye of heaven.
To God I am no mystery. Well he knows
All motives; and my objects I avow
Each night to him, who each morn sanctions them.
It is not the world which makes me great. It is I
Greaten the nations.
Clara. I foresee the end,
In utter and inevitable woe.
Festus. True to my purpose, what if I be false
To others, and their objects, it is nothing;
Mine good, I'll hold it great and holy still.
Have I not seen this among coming things
For what seems ages? Knew I not the fate
Out of all others? That star--studded crown,
Which hangs as though a hand out of the air
Held it before mine eyes, where'er I wend?
Rather let earth and truth and all things fail,
Than I fulfilling fate. Let these bring forth,
Whose unbethought of duty it is to serve,
Not reign, crown, robe and sceptre, the bright signs
And constellations of dominion. World!
Go, toss thy head and shake thy shoulders, like
A horse unharnessed. Wars cease. Never more
Shalt thou, blood--blotted brand, allure men on,
To practice of thy fascinating sin;
Nor crimson cloud--bath of the evening sun,
The dreams of sleeping city or hamlet, dye
With visionary death. Remains for thee
Nothing, O earth! but penitence and peace;
All strife composed. Wilt share with me this throne?
Clara. The only throne I hope for is a throne
Which neither policy can found, nor power;
Which never war can overthrow, nor blood
Befoul, nor treachery undermine, nor kin
Succeed to or thrust off; a throne upon
The right hand of the Humblest. Praise him, earth.
Festus. I am at peace with all men save myself.
My rule is safe; nay, warranted of fate.
Clara. Thousands of enemies must be thine even now.
No mortal man is safe; and least of all,
A mortal foe. The terror of a tyrant
Knows no distinction. If he does not fear,
He hates; and if he does not hate, he scorns;
And scorn and hate and fear are all with him,
And alike deadly; he, therefore, insecure;
For man by man, each slays him in his mind.
But this is not the future I, in heart,
Have dared so long to dream of. Even although
Thy will should vaunt immortal dominance,
To me it brings scant pleasure. I had hoped
New love to welcome like the morning air,
Which wakes the buds in roseland; and that still,
If like twin hands around the face of life,
Thou hadst a wider scope and bolder course,
Our end and object were yet one and same,
To note the hours, and years fulfil of love.
But now, since I this mighty rumour heard,
My thoughts, though many, are all sad, and cast
In one mould, tearlike. I behold them come,
The long, long train of states depute and powers,
Leading earth's empire after them. And now
Thy glory my soul's lord is like the sky;
Nothing is to be seen beyond it. Minds
Of lesser space may sparkle in it starlike,
But thine embraceth and outstretcheth all.
Nothing can wrong nor ruffle it, nor endanger
More than a wild bird's wandering wing, the air.
Festus. Faithful and dreadful like a lioness,
There spake the bride of empire.
Clara. Nay, I see
Thy triumph, and abjure it. Would I might
For thee disclaim it, even as for myself.
It is meat forbidden unto my fasting soul,
Unclean, accursèd. Thou canst not enjoy
World--service and heaven's favour.
Festus. Both be mine.
Clara. Choose thou between thy destiny and me.
How great soe'er things being or done of man,
To be, to do, is less than to believe:
For to believe God is to know him love.
As on some hill at day dawn we see born
Of maiden light the sun, head of all worlds,
Who hour by hour exalts his own place; Truth
Instructing us the while it is earth beneath
Which rolls away; he, lord of time, in his
Eternal zenith throned, climbs not nor stoops;
So they, in spirit knowledge wisest, know,
As more and more the soul is purified,
It is their own fleshly ignorance from them rolled,
Which opens them to heaven, and to God's light,
Unvarying and supreme, due ingress gives.
It is we who change towards him, not he towards us;
As therefore to the sun, nor east nor west,
Nor day nor night is, but all timeless noon;
So from the lord of life unbounded beams
One everlasting effluence which is love.
To gain this; to prepare for this, is all.
Festus. Sweetest and dearest, kindest, best of beings!
Truth I have both to realize and impart;
And would, while yet time serves, thy spirit enrich.
Clara. This vaunted future I mistrust, nor know I
How 'tis of God secured. I fear to share.
Festus. But though foredoomed to lose thy late--gained love,
Fate I must follow. Said I not my soul
Had taken up its freedom, and assumed
The birthright of creation?
Clara. Truly so.
Festus. And that holding in itself the omnitude
Of being, God endowed, it doth become
World representative?
Clara. Well, be it thus.
Festus. Thus versant with an absolute life, the spirit
Makes towards its end and great reward, in peace,
O'erpassing all earth's lesser joys.
Clara. Say on!
I would not have thy soul abase itself
By one thought about me.
Festus. Nay, speak not so.
But love's career is over in my heart.
A vaster sphere expands before me. Power
And knowledge I can give thee for thy love,
But scarce repay in kind.
Clara. I hear thy words.
The fragrance of the flower of life is fled;--
Still let it linger where thou laidst it, here!
Festus. It is I who suffer. Suffer therefore me,
While I am with thee. The sole love I feel
That might have, that hath, blessed me--but what eye
Can see the circuit of an orb at once?
The orb of life, alas! is on the wane.
And much must yet be said, much yet be done.
All things have premonition of their end;
And mighty states exhausted of old faith,
Have sought extremest unction of the new,
Which can alone regenerate. Nations now
Stand sponsors for the right divine of man,
To every blessing earth can give, or heaven.
The earth--flower closeth, even now its leaves.
Death's dews are falling. We are verging nigh
On sundown of time's universal day;
And these be life's last vespers. It remains,
As promised by the all--granting power, to change
The essential for the real, and to translate
The virtual into practice. All that truth,
Mining her way through policy profound,
Secretes from masses skilless to commute
Force into power; all that the holy bond
Of man's most high fraternity secures,
Is mine, unthought of by the obsequious world,
Unfeared, unprized. One right exists, one sole,
Whereto man's regal race, all times conceived,
Yields sacred loyalty, the right of doom
Divine, the destiny imposed of God.
God now elects a nation, now a man,
A child, maybe, a dagger, or a dream,
To work his will, and sanctify his means.
That mean, that man am I: the seal of time,
And closure of the canon of all kings.
It is the imperial soul alone can make
The sacrifice supreme. And as in spring,
By Nanking, courtly seat of T'sin's high lord,
What time the winds harmoniously inclined,
Tinkling the white pagoda's gilded bells,
Meet music make to heaven propitiable;
He priest imperial, sovereign labourer, sole
With royal rights and sacerdotal crowned,
Who year by year on the rebirth of things,
Driving his furrow deep in earth both soil
And toil doth sanctify, and with the hand
That curbs a hundred kinglings, grain of life
Insows; the steps of that bright tower then scales
In solemn solitude; and upon its peak,
Struggles alone with heaven; prostrate in prayer,
Heart scourged, and with confession expiates thrice
Those sins the sun saw in his golden rounds;
Then of the stars inquisitive, by wise
And perfect intuition of the heavens,
And social signs, and seasons of the spheres,
The horoscope of nations, and of all
His diligent lands he learns; and so descends
Vicarious, bringing with him prosperous days;
So seek I, who have sown so long the seed
Of peace, on man's broad field, the peace of God;--
Such may he grant! The sacrifice be mine!
Clara. I wonder; yet my soul its balance keeps;
Not prizing, not approving all I hear:
More marvelling how thou knowest of these truths;
And how the end of all things blends with thine.
Festus. God's thoughts are as a firmament of stars,
Fixed suns; the heavenly truths which he inspires
Or we by nature know of him, the all
Revealed, all--hidden, eternal show to us,
Innumerable, vast: man's loftiest thoughts,
Even on his own destinies, as one soul,
Or volumed into nations, or as all,
Mind's momentary meteors, which, flashed through
Life's hemisphere illume it, whose counterpart
Is death, heaven, what? with but decadent light,
Gleam, yet are truly perfect each, each true;
Eternal those, these temporal, not the less
Whose union constitutes the universe.
As when some mighty Mage, intent to know
Life's coming secrets, 'gainst the reticent skies
Wagers his skill, and notes how from the breast
Of tempting virgin by her side who holds
The golden cluster; or his marital hand
Who heads the mourning triad, leap they forth,
The instantaneous starlets: or, from his blade
Galactic, trenchant, waved to save from death
By spatial passion, his belovèd fair
With starlets girdled, whence full many an orb,
In meteoric nights autumnal, fills
In falling half the firmament with light;
And thus from fixed and transient spheres combined,
Draws astral fate destructive, or of war,
Or death, deliverance, love, nay, what he would;
So I, although in lowliest wise, forebent
To know, from God's fixed truths, and natural thoughts,
Which, like heaven's evanescent spherelets, light
Together, man's high brain, my destined end
Deduce, and future of the universe.
And weighing all these things, the sum I find
As fortunate; for at man's, the native's birth,
The star of love, peace, power benefic ruled.
In mid--life all the houses of the heavens,
Law, science, power, faith, health, wealth, dearth, death,
He suffered, well or ill; and when at last
Dying betwixt time's trembling lights ere yet
His eyes lost sight, he hailed the eternal dawn;
Hailed prophetwise the ascendant sun, arch--priest
Of nature in whose law of wisest love
He had walked as faithful votary; saw approach
His head to shrive him and his soul release
Mid blessings humbly conquered, he foreknew
His future rich with joys won, unconceived.
So the same star which led him into life,
His spirit restores all kindly to the heavens;
And earth's vast horoscope is verified.
Wherefore let us rejoice together; each
Congratulating on destiny divine
The other; and the world.
Clara. How sayest thou, then,
Destroyed? Mysterious judgment, as when God,
With ruinous fire from heaven, hurls down the fane
Wherein his faithful worship; or salutes
With death this holier temple of the soul,
Sudden and swift,--no time for penitence,
Nor prayer.
Festus. Arraign not I, God's deep decrees.
I cannot tell thee all I know nor dare;
For wisdom seals the lips which wonder opes.
The dread initiation into light
Saddens the soul it hallows and expands.
But thou because thou knowest much of truth--
Clara. What is it thou wilt tell me?
Festus. I have seen
What ne'er again may be, nor e'er till now hath been.
Clara. Where didst thou see--and what?
Festus. In space. He took me there,
Of whom I oft have told thee. Midst in air
Was God. I'll tell thee that he told the spheres;
For the great family of the universe
Round him were gathered as a fire: but we
Held back; and saving God, none did us see;
Though round his throne in sunny halo rolls
A ceaseless, countless throng of sainted souls.
Clara. Say on, love! Let me hear.
Festus. A sound, then, first
I heard as of a pent--up flood just burst:
It was the rush of God's world--winnowing wing;
Which bowed the orbs as flowers are bowed by breath of spring.
And then a voice I heard, a voice sublime--
To which the hoarded thunders of all time
Pealing earth's death--knell shall a whisper be--
Saying these words--Where will ye worship me?
Ay, where shall be your Maker's holy place?
The heaven of heavens is poor before his face.
How shall ye mete my temple, ye who die?
Look! can ye span your God's infinity?
Hear, mighty universe, thy Creator's voice!
Let all thy myriad, myriad worlds rejoice!
Lo! I, your Maker, do amid ye come,
To choose my worship and to name my home.
This heard each sphere; and all throughout the sky
Came crowding round. Our earth was rolling by,
When God said to it--Rest! And fast it stood.
With voice like winds through some wide olden wood,
Thus spake the One again: Behold, O earth!
Thy parent, God! it is I who gave thee birth.
With all my love I did thee once endow;
With all my mercy--and thou hast them now.
But hear my words! thou never lovedst me well,
Nor fearedst my wrath: dreadst thou no longer hell?
Dream'st thou that guilt shall alway mock those fires?
That deathless death which hell for aye expires?
Should all creation its rebellion raise,
I speak, and this broad universe doth blaze--
Pass like a dew--drop 'neath mine angry rays--
Blaze like the fat in sacrificial flame:
And that burned offering, when I come to claim,
Its scorching, quenchless mass, all I will pour
Upon thy naked soul:--canst thou endure?
He spake; and, as the fear--fraught words flew past,
Earth fluttered like a dead leaf in their blast.
Am not I God? Answer me! Hope not thou,
Impenitent, to ward my righteous blow.
Yet, come again! my proffered mercy hear!
Rejoice and sing! sweet music in thine ear,
And peace I speak: seek but to be forgiven:
Repent! and thou shalt meet thy God in heaven.
Go! cleanse thy brow from blood, thy heart from crime,
And on thy Saviour call while yet is time!
Now to this universe of pride and sin
I speak, ere yet I call mine angels in.
Draw nigh, ye worlds!--and, lo! their light did seem
Before his eye paled to a pearl's dull beam.
Attend! said God--o'er all he lifts his hand;
Where will ye set my tent? where shall my temple stand?
And all were dumb. Distracting silence spread
Throughout that host as each were stricken dead.
I made ye. I endowed ye. Ye are mine.
Then trembled out each orb: thine, God! for ever thine!
All that ye have, within myself have I;
God, am complete; full inexhaustibly.
I dwell within myself, and ye in me,
Not in yourselves; I have infinity.
The everything in all things is my throne;
Your might is my might, and your wealth mine own:
'Tis by my power and sufferance that ye shine:
I live in light, and all your light is mine.
Be dark! said God. Night was. Each glowing sphere
Dulled. Night seemed everything and everywhere;
Save that in utter space a feeble flare
Told that the pits of hell were sunken there.
Shuddered in fear the universe the while,
Till God again embraced it with a smile.
Divine delight responsive spread through space;
Till like a serious smile, whose gradual grace
Expands its soul--born sunshine o'er the face,
Lo, all things made were glad. Come now and hear,
Ye worlds! said God, the truth I thus make clear:
My words are mercy, wherefore should ye fear?
And straight, obedient to his sacred will,
One great concentrate globe they crowd to fill;
Systems and suns pour forth their glowing urns;
Full in the face of God the glory burns.
Hearken, thou host! thy trembling hope to raise,
I to all being thus make plain my ways:
God, the creator, bade creation rise,
And matter came in void like clouds in skies;
Lifeless and cold it spread throughout all space,
And darkness dwelled and frowned upon its face:
Chaos I bade depart this work of mine,
And straight the mighty elements disjoin.
Then light I lit; then order I ordained,
And put the dance of atoms to an end.
Matter I brake, and scattered into globes,
And clad ye each in green and growing robes:
Your sizes, places, forms, I fixed with laws,
And wrought the link between effect and cause.
Your spheres I framed; your stations, motions, planned;
These compass fingers all your orbits spanned.
Then formed I lives for each, which might inherit
Will, reason, form, and power--not deathless spirit.
Then I made spirits, things of heavenly worth,
Deathless, divine. Round these from every earth,
I gathered forms and features fit for love,
Trust, pleasure, power, and all I could approve.
One universal nature spread through space,
Free, faulty, human, born for better place.
To every spirit I disclosed my name,
My love, my might, and whence all being came:
To deathless souls I righteously decreed
Accountability for thought, word, deed.
Then every orb complete, along the sky,
In glory, beauty, order, harmony,
I launched. Souls, worlds did every thing possess
Which could a mortal and immortal bless.
To all the hope of happier state was given--
For all I keep one common boundless heaven.
Ye all have freedom, and ye all do sin,
For ye are creatures: but ye all may win
Life everlasting--everlasting joy,
If ye do but the love of sin destroy:
This only is offence; for sin ye must
Not by my will; but weakness dwells with dust.
Unless ye have sinned ye cannot enter heaven.
How shall a sinless creature be forgiven?
And by forgiveness only can ye claim
Hope in my mercy, trust upon my name.
I knew that ye would all to sin be given;
But I, even God, have paid your price to heaven:
And if ye will not journey on that way--
The truth--the life--what do ye merit? say!
Death is the gate of life, and sin, of bliss:
Mark the dread truth! but mourn your deeds amiss.
Cast off your guilt! abandon folly's path!
Turn to the Lord your God ere hell his wrath!
Turn from your madness, wicked ones, and live!
Take, take the bliss which God alone can give.
God, the Creator, me all beings own;
God, the Redeemer, I will still be known;
God, too, the Judge--the each--the three--the one.
Again the Everlasting cried--Repent!
To bless or curse I am omnipotent.
And what art thou created being? Round
That world of worlds his arm the Almighty wound;
The bright immensity he raised, and pressed,
All trembling, like a babe, unto his breast.
There, in the Father's bosom rose again,
Of filial love, the universal strain;
Strong and exultant--blissful, pure, sublime,
It rolled, and thrilled, and swelled, in notes unknown to time.
Think ye that I, who thus do ye maintain;
Thus alway cherish ye, or all were vain;
Ye all would drop into your native void,
If by my hand ye were not held and buoyed:
Think ye that I cannot uphold in heaven,
In righteous state, the souls I have forgiven?
Be this a weightier task? with God, 'tis one
To guide a sunbeam or create a sun;
To rule ten thousand thousand worlds, or none.
Art thou not with thy Lord, O host of heaven?
Answered all spirits, Yea,--then first forgiven;
The primal covenant, Lord! thou mad'st with us
Is sealed and sanctified and fulfilled thus.
Go, worlds! said God, but learn, ere ye depart,
My favoured temple is an humble heart:
Therein to dwell I leave my loftiest skies--
There shall my holy of all holies rise!
He spake; and swiftly reverent to his will,
Sprang each bright orb on high its sphere to fill.
Glory to God! they chanted as they soared,
Father Almighty! be thou all--adored.
Thou art the glory--we, thine universe,
Serve but abroad thy lustre to disperse
Unsearchable, and yet to all made known!
The world at once thy kingdom and thy throne;
Pity us, God! nor chase us quite away
Before thy wrath, as night before the day.
In thee, our God, we live; from thee we came;
The feeble sparks of thine eternal flame.
Thy breath from nothing filled us all at first,
And could again as soon the bubble burst.
In thee, like motes in the sunbeam, do we move;
Glow in thy light, and gladden in thy love.
Earth only, like a spot upon the sun,
Sullen remained in that grand union
Of joy, praise, harmony. Word spake she none.
Clara. Earth only had been chidden.
Festus. Not alone.
High o'er all height, God gat upon his throne.
Downwards he bent: and, like a meteor ball
From Cepheus' hand we see, green burning fall,
God, as in pity, through the extense of space,
Again to run its e'er contracting race,
Bowled the all favoured but the ingrate sphere,
Which rushed like ruin down its dark career.
And high the air's blue billows rolled and swelled
On many an island world mine eye beheld.
Clara. And where and what is he, this mighty friend,
Who to thee, human, thus his might doth lend?
Who bore thee harmless, as thou sayst, through space,
And brought thee front before thy Maker's face?
Festus. I know not where he is. It is but at times
That he is with me; but he aye sublimes
His visits thus, by lending me his might
O'er things more bright than day, more deep than night;
And he obeys me--whether good or ill
His or my object, he obeys me still.
Clara. O Festus! I conjure thee to beware
Lest thus the evil one thy soul ensnare.
Festus. What! may not a free spirit have preferred
A mortal to his heart--as thou thy bird
Lovest, because it singeth of the sky,
Although it is as far below thy soul
As I 'neath an archangel's majesty?
God will protect the atom as the whole.
Clara. Him, then, I pray: the spirit full must share
The truths it feels with God himself in prayer.
So guide us, God! in all our works and ways,
That heart may feel, hand act, mouth show thy praise;
That when they meet, who love, and when they part,
Each may be high in hope, and pure in heart:
That they who have seen, and they who have but heard
Of thy great deeds, may both obey thy word!
Festus. Unto the wise belongs the sphere of light,
And to the spirit world--compelling might.
Yon sun, now setting in the golden main,
Shall count me his ere next he rise again.
One farewell round I long to make above,
As now with thee this leavetaking of love;
Once more to circle round the central skies,
And sound the silent infinite, where rise
Creation's outflows, and the new--born light
Smiles babe--like on the lap of ancient nursing night.
Would that the earth had nothing fair to lure,
Nor being more to answer or endure!
But I foresee, foresuffer. Bound to earth,
Wrecked in the deeps of heaven, in death's expiring birth!
Clara. Is all then over? I ask not what hath come
Of those who once were thine, but fear, nor speak.
Fate brooks not to be questioned in the light.
But shall we part? Is this ordained or not!
Or is the earth--star struggling still with death?
Festus. Being of beauty, whose yet unfilled arms
Form an incarnate Eden, and whose eyes
The angel watchers o'er it--mine exiled,
And gazing on thee gainless--smile no more.
For if life's feelings flow not now as erst,
It is not that they are vanished like a stream,
Sun dwindled or earth drained, but that their face
Is frozen 'neath the world's wide winter. No!
The liquid lightning of thine eye no more,
Nor flowery light which blooms upon thy cheek,
Nor delicate perfection of pure form,
A breathing revelation incarnate--
Illumes for me the dusk of life. Night reigns.
My heart's poles now are fixed like earth's in heaven,
Shining in solid silence to the moon,
Starry and icy silence; and all ceased
Their torrid oscillances. Once it rolled
In tropic splendour. Now experience treads
Deep in the snow of blossoms. Maid of love!
Were thy heart now free as a zoneless nymph,
And on life's race of rapture mad to start,
Like her of old, ere dropped the golden pome,
'Twere vain to me; immoveable is mine;
Still as a statue studying stony tome.
Unite we may not. In this fatal life
There is no real union. All things here
Seem of monadic nature; and with God,
All oneness and sole allness lives alone.
Still even in this--time's age penultimate--
And in my heart's exhausted mine, I feel--
But I for ever have forsworn it--both
The magic might of beauty, and the fierce
Deliciousness of love. Yes! I must be
In soul, in sacrifice alone. Thoughts once
My masters, now in bonds retributive round
My soul's invisible centre titan--like
Hold I; and 'scaped from thrall to dominance feel
As liberated god of old who heaven's
Unbounded calm is eyeing as he returns,
Rejoicing the eternals to rejoin.
I hold life's feast, death's fast indifferent.
There is divorce between my heart and me;
And I have neither bride nor brethren--I;
But I achieve my end--the end of all.
From this is no appeal to death nor fate,
Nor the just Gods; herein are all at one.
Love me not therefore now; but when with me
The great cessation happens; when the poles
Are icing, and this tyrant of life's realm
Totters to execution, and well--earned
Ruin--attend me; whether in the flesh
Or in the spirit be with me; and, mark:
One birdlike thought through death's wide void shall fly
Right to thy bosom home, the thought of thee.
Cherish it there as mine, and royally
In its snow palace. It will bear the gaze
Of all the star souls and the spirit stars
Which will the living land of light indwell.
I feel earth slacken in rotation. Time
Lays down his weary length, as though the work
Wherefore he had his hire were finished. Go!
Now there is nothing left for us on earth
Save separation.
Clara. Still I love thee, still.
Hast thou no further word?
Festus. No, death alone
Is that I live for, ever in mine eye;
Death, white--robed doorkeeper of heaven, whose sword
Soul from the spirit severeth. For one,
In wisdom reinstated, and brought back
Into the sovereign presence, the golden soul
Which sees things as they are, nor as they are,
Only, but as through eternity they shall be
Known, justifiable, is thenceforth still;
As he who in the mystic caldron bathed
Immortal grew, but dumb. Henceforth am I
Death--mute; for all things else with me consent.
Clara. But this is not the end.
Festus. Go! I have said it.
I am henceforth alone. My thought of thee
Above all passionate fire--peaks, and above
The sacred snowline of my heart where soul
And spirit in extatic stillness join,
Bides in perpetual purity. Farewell.

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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