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Philip James Bailey (Филип Джеймс Бэйли)

Festus - 29

Traversed the void,
Hell's fires, unholy not, not hopeless, reached,
The initials even of good in the sad mock
Of mortal revelry mark; the quelling truth
That all life's sinful follies run to hell;
Lies, wrongs, debauches, murders, die not; live
In hell for ever; make, are hell; till just
Amendment expiate, and the soul's right will,
Set heavenward, lead those lost to happier end.
Perdition to the impenitent certain; yet,
Redemption as creation vast; all soul
Of every kind, angelical or humane,
Amenable sometime to God's saving truth,
And mercifullest forbearance, more than force
Convictive; by long suffering conquering all.
There, awed, the visitant spirit, in joy endowed
With heaven's self justifying message,--less
Man's soul to free from dread of pain eterne,
Than God's name from the injustice measureless
They to his rule, corrective, just, impute
Falsely who such affirm,--hell's end foretels.
Hell. Lucifer and Festus entering.
Lucifer. Behold my world. Man's science counts it not
Upon the brightest sky. He never knows
How near it comes to him, but swathed in clouds
As though in plumed and palled state, it steals
Hearselike round the universe, and thieflike; aye
Rolling, returning not; robbing all worlds,
Of many an angel soul; its light hid deep
In its breast which burns with woe concentrate, woe
Superfluent, woe self generate and eterne.
Nor sun nor moon illume it; and to those
Who dwell in it, not live, the starry skies
Have told no time since first they entered there.
Worlds have been built and to their central base
Ruined, nay razed to the last atom; they
Of neither know nor care, unconscious save
To agony, nought knowing even of God,
But his omnipotence so to execute
Torture on those he hath in wrath endowed
With heaven's own immortality, as to make
Them feel what scathe the Almighty can inflict,
And the all feeble endure, nor--as they would--
Be annihilated. Be sure that this is hell.
The blood which hath embrued earth's breast since first
Men met in war may hope to be reformed, yet,
And reascend, each individual drop,
Its vein; the foam--bubble from sea, sun--drawn
Cloudwards, to scale the fall it fell down, erst;
Or seek its primal source in earth's hot heart;
But for the lost to rise towards heaven, regain,
Or hope it, ne'er can be.
Guardian Angel. Who are the lost
For aye? But here thou shalt behold the truth.
How shall the mere immortal unredeemed,
Impenitent, with no sense of hating sin,
Know God the righteous Maker, Judge?
Lucifer. Art here?
Guardian Angel. Here am I, as elsewhere.
Festus. Protect; instruct.
Guardian Angel. Behold me, by heaven missioned, so to clear
From all illusion spiritual and wrong
Conceit, that tyrant sin as now would teach,
Or ignorantly misrule, that thou mayst both,
While in soul agonized by that thou seek'st
As just reward for wilful wrong, than thine
Worse only by the unfrustrate act of dread
Betrayal, now too self condemned, take good
To thyself; and so instructed here, the world
After, forewarn, as hopeless not; and God
Prove therefore just in this his judgment hall
Of hell.
Lucifer. Believe me in mine own domain.
Festus. Are all these angels then, or men, or both?
Or mortals of all worlds?
Lucifer. Immortals all.
Festus. Countless as meteorites that strew the breast
Of some quenched orb where yet they lie aglow,
Panting away their life--fires!
Lucifer. Fallen through sin,
At various periods of eternity, all,
And not by one offence to one same doom,
And at one moment did they down from heaven,
Like to the rapid droppings of a shower;
No; each distinct as thunderpeals they fell.
Save those that fell with me. With me began
Sin even in heaven, with me but sin remains.
Once I alone was hell. Behold my fruits.
Festus. What do yon fiends? Some 'mong them look like mortals
Whose hearts shine through their frames as living coals
Through ashes. These, a torture agonised
Express; those madness gone delirious; all
By excess of evil and woe, in clinging strife
Contort, like nested snakes, that fang each other
With wounds that wake to life, and struggling deaths
Ceaseless, requickened as if from mortal pangs.
Oh horror! let me hence.
Lucifer. Nay, hear.
Festus. I hear
A strain incongruous as a merry dirge,
Or sacramental bacchanal. Oh shame!
Guardian Angel. Truly, for here is spiritual chaos; deeps
Wherein, distraught to their own first rudiments,
Souls must reseek their ends, refound themselves;
Each worsening other, deepening life's despair;
Till sin be from the spirit eliminate clean.
Festus. O sad and pitiable ye souls of men,
Self--torturing without end; hell's alien fiends.
Lucifer. Men are they not, but devils at their best.
And I would have thee mark them.
Festus. I attend.
Lucifer. Behold the cup of demons and their board;
Their fellowship, their triumph, their self hate,
Who so much loved themselves, their wretched joy.
Heap high the fires of hell; let woe not languish,
Heap up with everlasting flames, heap higher.
There, let the man--fiend, consummate in anguish,
Howl through the fathomless profound of fire.
To tempt and ruin those that once were solely
God's, and torment them, when with us they dwell,
This is our end, and their existence wholly
Hid in the doom no demon dares to tell,
But is shadowed in the harrowing eternity of hell.
Deeper than the bowl the drunkard drained so gladly;
Deadlier than the lie which scorched the liar's tongue;
Keener than the blade the murderer plied so madly,
Eats aye into the essence, the worm that all hath stung;
And for that they succumbed to the toils wherewith we bound them,
Their bread is burning brimstone, their drink is bubbling fire;
For they live upon the nature of the tortures that surround them;
And their life is in the death they shall never see expire,
Lo! it floweth from the fountains of the ever--seething ire.
Festus. Nay, let me quit. Now know I what hell is.
Guardian Angel. Be not deceived even here, by the show of things.
Lift up this veil of fire and look beneath.
Here is nought seen save justice, strict, supreme,
By all approvable; by the spirit which bears,
Inflicts, or views, remedial, fruiting good;
Unworthy not of God to doom, nor man
To endure. See midst this basement of all soul,
Antipodal to heaven, hate, envy, base
Desire, revenge, wrath, inhumanity, pride,
All crime engendering vice, by sense of sin,
Here forced inevitably upon the spirit,
Patience, and slow conviction of God's truth
And justice, gradually but surely change
To qualities substitute, that time by time
Mature, and fit the soul to seek a sphere
More congruous with its altered state; in fine
Passing to virtue's realm, and joy's. For know,
Evil is not an ultimate, even in hell,
Either as law of being, or state; but here
Elsewhere, allwhere, through Being's avoidless shade,
Probational, and convertible by our God
To luminous good, restorative of life.
See, now, how seeks this soul, in true remorse
Gradual, but unrelaxed, to amend; and there,
As when some mountain rivulet through black gorge
And jagged chasm, hurried, with thunderous plunge
Leaps suicidal, down; its bed,--thenceforth
Of agony, with the death--foam of its lips
Whitening, and rage regretful at its fall;--
So here, the atrocious spirit, self cursed with sin,
Writhes in his lengthening torments, till more calm
Conviction penitence teach, and peace to soul,
Of future ends considerate, bring.
Festus. O heaven!
Can such things come to pass?
Guardian Angel. They may, and do.
Festus. What means yon fiendish chant, then?
Lucifer. It means this;--
Sin with deep draughts of fiery venom fed,
Drains, to the latest dreg of murderous flame,
Its own consuming fate, self punitive; thus
Constructing its own death, its own defeat
Scheming with fatal skill, as I myself
The lord of evil, fear I am.
Festus. But if God's
Good will gave all things being, then his hate,--
What is unholy he detests to death,
Cannot do less than, were it even the all,
Guardian Angel. What if evil, left to itself,
Corrupt itself away?
Lucifer. When ends the world,
I end.
Guardian Angel. A glorious hope. But God's intent
Unsearchable, as his will unbattleable,
O'errides, o'errules the all, child of his hand.
Hence, it means, too, when all's done, and at last,
Time's sun, declining down the eternal skies,
Leaves his last shining shadow upon the sea,
And in the boundless abyss entombs his beams;
When final evening folds the universe
Heavily round, then hell shall drain the dread
Cup of perdition to the last drop.
Lucifer. Death
Is of all things thou thinkest, most like sleep.
The dead think otherwise. But wherefore thus?
What mean my words to thee?
Festus. In sooth I know not.
I am constrained to hear them.
Lucifer. They mean this;
Words, shapes, like easily are by spirits assumed.
Festus. So, then, these palpable torments,--
Guardian Angel. Whatsoe'er
Thou seest, see most thou err not. Burning racks
Conscience self--agonized bears, corrective griefs,
Fires of remorse refining, pains soul--wringing,
Whereby the spirit, of evil dispollute,
Conscious, its clarity reattains; and strained
Through many a mediate check, which fuller sense
Of others' rights and God's prerogative gives,
Steps upwards towards perfection, though still far,
Proofs fiery show of the inward struggles waged
In spirits immortal by rebellious will,
Proud once of self idolatry; now shame--burned
With hot humiliation 'neath God's eye,
Sightful of all things to their inmost core,
At forfeiture of noblest privileges,
By creature owned, once for the world's worst cheats,
Life's worthlessest impostures bartered; sin
And her false felonry. Contrarious, there
High o'er hell's reek and roar of clashing lies,
Which now obscure, now deafen, now all affright,
By truth's calm utterance gradually subdued,
Like foul things perishing simply of the light,
See virtue, wisdom, love, peace, righteousness,
Harmonious with themselves and her, up soar
Towards their all--central source, as satellites
Their light, their beauty, to renew; and showing
How pitiable the counterfeits men praised,
Make to the obdurate infidel hells of shame;
To betterward tending soul, an aim right high
To aspire to; and a standard of rise gained.
Festus. That these poor souls, so self--distort, should e'er
By justice straightened, hope to again see God!
Guardian Angel. Not unreturnless are the paths of hell,
More than inevitable: whence now the soul,
Sifted through outraged conscience' scapeless bars,
Given up to retribution just, weighed, proved,
May issue purified, and through cleansing rounds
Of nature, self--wise chastened, happiest life
Win; and the heart's ill lusts exorcised, seek
Sin--freed, and humble, acceptance of its God.
End only worthy, this, of God; who,--all
Things aptliest planned,--to finite reason gave
Virtue, as test of heavenliness, and hell
Reserved as his displeasure souls must feel
Who, erring wilfully, impenitent end
Their day on earth; his laws world--wise who scorn,
His provident control, his just commands,
They answerable, and his retributive rule.
Festus. How changed in this heaven--justifying truth,
Show all things now! no sin of man, by man
Not duly expiable; all life to come,
And passed, like witness of his righteousness.
Hell terminable makes heaven an actual joy.
Guardian Angel. Behold these nations of iniquitous soul,
Which, mixed in misery here, all orderless lie;
Who God forgat on earth, or wronged; false priests
Whose lips the prayers they made for peace, defiled;
Blessing ambition's bloody--bannered war;
The apostate hypocrites of every faith;
Death--ravening demagogues worshippers of the axe;
Murderous inquisitors of contending creeds;
Remorseless mobs who urged to death the pure,
The patriot, benefactor of his race;
Peoples, not less than tyrannous kings unjust,
See called on here to pay their righteous dues;
Nor less than soul of craftiest statesman, proud
Erst of iniquitous war for trivial end,
Heroes whose spirits adhere to forceful fight,
Still as a sword blood--rusted cleaves to its sheath;
Blasphemers; perjurers; stirrers up of strife;
Impure, the innocent ravishing with their eyes;
Torturers of humbler lives, idolaters;
Of sinners chief the impenitent, and those
Who in life were most severe on others' sins;
Ignoble souls, who quench in sensual ends
Reason's divine light, given as guide. Nor these,
Doomed justly, deem, through purgatorial pains.
Their way to upper spheres, pure and serene,
May lightlier win. Who have long time outraged man,
Have God to appease at last; and his great heart
Long suffering, oh unwearyable, aye beats
For justice, mercy crowned. So then let once,
Repentance, reason's first deflective step
From sin's dark ways, ascendant, mark the soul's
Path, and the atonement's virtually achieved.
The essential fires they burn in, patient fires
Which leprous soul unscurf from sin, contract
Grossly and wilfully, eat in time the curse
Would else consume them, and to childlike state
Of innocence, not ineligible, restore.
Here, all the guilty passions cleansed from self's
False pleadings, and the indulgence of the sense,
Show monstrous, shame judicial reason's eye.
Remorse, repentance, follows; all things thus
Work, worldlike round to their due end; and hell's orb
Hath its proper place in heaven as thine, and all.
For that earth--life not sufficeth to God's ends,
And man's immortal destinies, hell, here
As timely chastisement affirms, yon heaven,
As prize eternal; that a mildened doom,
A doubled bliss this; and, equivalent deemed
Of earth's iniquities and her virtues, shows
O infinite universe, thou hast no like to man,
The conscious breath of the world's deity,
No second favourite of our God's. Not hell,
Not sin, destroys the soul. Can falsest creed
The innocence unmake of sinless babe?
Can lewd idolaters who adore the world,
Gold, or as savages, the stars and heaven,
And elements of earth, obstruct, defraud
God of his worship true? None worship him,
But with, and in, his spirit; nought attains
His love, but that proceedeth from it first.
His praise is ever vastening in all worlds,
Through all the ages. Nought eternal is
But that's of God; all pain and woe, finite
Are, therefore. Can thief steal from heaven the soul?
Can liar make God to lie? Can poisoner drug
Soul's immortality? Great the sin, flesh--born,
But expiable by this, by that forgiven,
It may be, shall the dead slay e'er the living?
Shall God, all love, here, ages afterwards,
Reserving these misdeeds, himself, reverse?
And because man a moment sinned, all crime
Crown in unending scourgings for the wrong?
Shall such be justice called? 'Twere more than vengeance.
Said One, five hundred times, forgive! Shall God
Act by less perfect law than he bids men heed?
Yet such the deity men will fable; such
The hell whereto they doom themselves.
Festus. No more!
Not I will so misjudge life's gracious lord.
As in earth's skies, whate'er the mutable day
Of rosy or lurid hue brings, high o'er all,
Beams at last heaven's eternal azure, firm
Unfathomable; so here and allwhere, see,
Rule wrath or justice whiles they may, the whole
In his ever--enduring mercy wrapped.
Guardian Angel. How else
Could earth's and heaven's Creator glory find
In hell, or creature good, if God be just,
Or man a being salvable?
Festus. See now,
Yon spirit whose brow seems calmer than the wont
Of most, as though suffused with trustful hope.
What doth he here?
Guardian Angel. If, spirit, it grieve thee not,
And thou mayst speak, alleviate for the time
From woe, say why here; and when hope,--for hope
I judge, is thine,--may lead thee hence; that so
This man, by God permit, may on return
Earthwards, to his relate thy tale of truth.
Festus. 'Twill much content me. Say what brought thee hither?
Spirit. God's angel was I once, ages agone;
But though doing good, not glorifying God
Who me empowered, he sent me here to fire
The proud spot from my heart.
Festus. And when wilt thou
Do this, and own thou hast wronged God?
Spirit. Even now,
I do repent me, and confess it here.
I do not beseech God now to let me be
What once I was; but might I only sit
A footstool for some other worthier far
Who owneth now my throne, I should be happy:
Happier than ever I was in my proud prayers,
That God would give me worlds on worlds to govern;
Happier than in receiving prayers and blessings
From prostrate priests of old and crowded fanes.
O God remember me, O save me!
Festus. See!
I do believe there is an angel coming
This way, from heaven.
Spirit. He comes to me, to me.
Angel. Hail, sufferer; sinner now no more. God bids me
Bring thee on high. Thy throne is kept for thee;
And all the hosts of heaven are on the wing,
To welcome thee again.
Spirit. I dare not come.
I am not worthy heaven.
Angel. But God will make thee.
Festus. Spirit, adieu! May we meet again in place
Better and happier time.
Spirit. Glory to God!
Mortal, I go. Farewell. Say thou to all
On earth, Repent; be humble, and despair not.
Lucifer. Here one may go, and there, one. Thousands come.
I have seen and have contemned. Sometimes I hear
Of ominous defections, such as, late,
Of Samiaza, Azazyel and the sires
To foreworld giants, Molech, Bel, and those
World moulding spirits depute, I named, who each
His rites idolatrous claimed, pretended gods,
The several nations once who ruled, but since,
Ill expiative, have here, and for long transferred
Their hopes to Hades; and--so angels feign,--
Commenced, conceptive of Saturnian times,
Their long return. I miss them not o'ermuch.
But think, when all are judged, what hosts of souls
Will then be mine at last; what wings of fire.
Hell is the wrath of God; his hate of sin.
God hates man's nature; be it said of his,
As of all beings.
Festus. How hates he that he hath made?
Lucifer. The infinite opposite of perfection
To imperfection leaves nor choice nor mean.
Thus the demeanour of thy world grieved God,
Till its destruction pleased him, and its name
Was struck out of the starry scroll; thus all
Creation worketh infinite grief in time.
When human nature is most perfect, then,
Its fall is nearest, as of ripest fruit.
Guardian Angel. To hate is not to approve. All signs God hates
Of imperfection as unworthy of him
To mark, and as from him leading far away
Selfwards; but every proof of progress towards
Perfection, towards his own pure mind and ends,
He loves, aids, seals. Such ween God's hate and love.
Lucifer. Thinkst thou as mortals think yet?
Festus. This is not
As thou didst speak of hell, nor as I judged.
Guardian Angel. Deem as thou seest: these hells eternal be
Only in endurance, not in pains applied
To the individual spirit, which, taught of God
Whose universal aim is to redeem
All he hath made, as part--wise of himself,
So long as good, or goodwards tending, learns
Its mountain of demerit, grain by grain
To wash away with penitent tears. But look!
Who hither cometh.
Lucifer. It is the Son of God;
For He, in his humanity's also here,
All gracious being, against whose world--great throne
These now all strengthless, hopeless, godless, here,
Rose once in tide of war, and ebbed for ever,
These, in their fieriest abyss of woe,
Unbent, unbettered will again rush forth
In all the might of mad despair, to prove
Of thee, and of his love their hatred. Know
Salvation is the scorn of angels fallen.
Son of God. I know it; it is divine humanity
Shall rescue all from ruin. The Father makes
And orders every instant what is best.
Festus. This is God's truth. Hell feels a moment cool.
Son of God. Hell is his justice; heaven is his love;
Earth his long suffering: nought create but shows
A quality of God; therefore come I
By him sent, these to announce as tempered; peace
To accord to strife, to give to justice mercy,
Even to long suffering longer; everywhere
God's justice shall to his humanity yield.
He hath made that lord of all things; of all worlds
And all the souls therein; yea world by world,
And soul by soul he hath all redeemed, or given
The means of their salvation; why not, then, Hell?
Festus. Every spirit is to be redeemed.
Son of God. Mortal, it hath: the best and worse need one
And same salvation. Final in his world
Nought is, but God; therefore these souls to be seen
And pitied much for their woes, for their evil more,
Need not, shall not, cannot be inhelled for aye.
For albeit on earth or here they have put God from them,
Disowned his prophets, mocked his angels, stormed
His threatenings back to him; yet God is such
He can still pity, suffer for them still
And save them. Heavenly father! mercy fears not
But by thy love hell can be saved from hell.
See, here be they which fell of old, through pride.
Created mind could ne'er the thought conceive
Of equalness with God, unless by first
Debasing the idea. They err who feign
The devil by vain ambition fell from heaven.
He in the God state first with all his hosts,
By fate inhered; by fate, as cloud to cloud
On the hill side succeeds, with all his host,
They darkened and declined and passed away.
Through pride in what they were they fell, and not
Ambition to be highest. These while yet
The dew lay of creation's morn; and now
Glistens the dew of evening o'er the world.
Mixed in one stormy ruin with the rest,
Lo! mortal those, who lost by mortal love
Their lot in the eternal.
Festus. Save them, Lord!
Son of God. Salvation is the will supreme of God,
And final cause of all things. But to some
He grants, as proof and earnest of the truth
Ere yet fate take the tangled skein of time,
And weave it into one surpassing web,
Fit for the glorious garment of our God,
Bliss precedent o'er all else: the angels' such;
While he the Maker, sole omniscient, knows
The boundless sum of being, and its end.
Fiends hear ye me; wash, bathe ye in truth's fount;
Your sins confess; your judgment justly earned;
Implunge in life's pure well, the spring of peace.
Revere God's righteousness; to his just will
Assentient, peace shall then your souls o'erflood.
I who am God's humanity, his all
Of mercy, his equity, subjecting law,
Bid ye immortal fallen, rise again:
There is a resurrection for the dead,
And for the second dead. And though ye died,
And fell, and fell again, and again died,
There's life to come, a rise for all, a life
For ever, a rise aye as the spring's i' the year.
A Fiend. Son, thou, of God, what wilt with us? Is ours
Not hell enough, remorse, strife always, hate
Mutual of all? Why double with thy mild eyes?
Son of God. Spirit I come to show thee how remorse
For God offended, violated law,
Iniquity done, may save thee.
Fiend. How save fiends?
Son of God. How any save, save by the spirit of truth,
And love, of him whose mercy so outdures
All things, it must at last all things persuade?
Repentant, God forgives thee, and the truth
Enlightening, the all--holy Spirit shall hallow
With sense of justly inflicted chastisement,
And of an equity, lenient more than law,
Wiser. Repent still; judgment is at hand;
But these means, times, for repentance given, o'erslurred,
Tremble; this hell is nought to that which comes.
Believest thou God can save thee?
Fiend. I believe,
And I adore.
Son of God. Faith sanctifies the soul,
See all ye fallen, even in the heart of woe.
Come to me; lo! faith hath but touched thy brow,
And thou art bright as morning is in heaven.
Spirit. Angel of light, ye lost, am I again;
See, this is to be saved.
Lucifer. I like it not.
Son of God. Hear ye immortals, dead in evil and sin
Yet unrepented of, oh repent, and be
All angels.
Spirit. Oh, repent. He comes to show
How penitence yet available all may save.
A Lost Soul. I, too, who while on earth believed not God
Nor death's result; nor, partly by defect
Of nature, teaching, and self--will, heaven, nor hell,
Nor deathless spirit; who, faithless, trusted not
God's universal fatherhood, nor man's
Eternal sonship, nor that e'er the All--good
Still heaven indwelling self--incarnate came
To man, and 'bode in him; but myself believed,
And mine own fleshly being only;--I,
Repentant sore, that disbelief condemn,
And glory now in a worthier faith. Shall hope
Me visit here?
Son of God. Though in hell's deepest hell,
Thy soul shall she salute, and God redeem.
Soul. Divine one! all the world of life
To thee is debtor; thy supreme command
Thou betterest by exampling; all forgiven.
Another Soul. I, too, 'mid scenes of violence, sins of soul,
And crimes of head and hand, justly cut off,--
In fullest fruitage of iniquity,
My fellow men to save from basest wrongs,
Then plotting in my brain, by God all good,--
Repent me of my wickedness; and still
Acknowledging the mercy of the pains
So grievously imposed, so long endured,
Dare hope his pardon, who me power hath dealt
His justice to confess. Thou couldst not be
True to divinity, were not sin condemned,
Nor to humanity were it pardoned not;
Thou, Lord, whose faithfulness from heaven to earth
Reacheth, and hell's hot roots. Death on my soul
Darted. I died, red--handed in my guilt.
Through woeful ages hath my spirit burned
With expiative remorse, and longing sore
Sometime to serve those I upon earth had wronged;
Desire that God's divine compassionateness
Would grant me leave, for them to sacrifice
This self I am, this whole essential pang,
Nor elsewise seek I not release from woe.
Son of God. Be of good heart, poor soul. Thou art not lost
Assure thyself, for aye. Time puts no term
To God's divinest attributes; to love
Compassion, mercy, truth; or time, and time's
Events would dominate his, the eternal mind.
Lo now these human with the angelic mixed
In process of purgation; angels these
Retributive, who by God ordained, their own
Misdeeds to expiate in judicial acts,
Self--punitive, while towards others penal, thus
The united betterment work out of both.
Mark, too, who 'twixt due penitence and remorse,
Contrition's upper stone and nethermost, grind
The spirit self--convict, self--condemned, as through
A mill of fire, to pure repentance; whence
Reframed, revivified, the heart again
Warms with new love towards God and man. Be sure,
Mortal, through all our God's intelligent world,
Through all its infinite multitudes of soul,
Its testing earths, its proof fraught spheres, its orbs
Of purifying progress, near or far,
Central, or clustering round some parent globe,
Not man alone aspires to himwards; not
Man only worships wholly. Spirits elect,
Through all mind's conscious orders, fraught with gifts
Of reason, and answerable for act and choice,
Made just, made holy, glorified, e'er seek
With him essential union. Nay, even here,
Through all hell's haunts of burning anguish, woe
Unslaked, for follies voidable once, closed now,
With seal judicial of the passed; regrets
Unstifleable, for secret sins, to the world
Since patent; for applauded lies life--long;
The wail of self--deception undeceived;
The gnawing curse of conscience tricked in vain;
The torturing memories of life's every grace,
Each innocent joy, each natural pleasure fouled,
Degraded, desecrated by sin; through all
The guilty spirit, still purifiable, keeps
Deep in its inmost essence consciousness
Of divine origin, nor misdoubts its own
Capacity of redemption. Change may be
That moment quickening in them, not in vain.
Though here be weepings of repentant tears,
Enough to quench hell's sinlit fires; though here
Be wailings like the moan of dying worlds,
Over impossible restitutions; wrongs
Ne'er to be righted, now: o'er virtue's last
Resolves for future amendment lost; not less
Believe the world's God's field of culture; sin's
Tares into ashes burned, more fertile making
Creation; and his heavenly garner helping
With time's more glorious harvestage to fill.
Festus. O saviour spirit, first--born of deity, mould
And ideal of the mental world of man
And angels both, divine humanity, tell,
Man fallen his final doom, and angels lost;
Exceptions, or examples, these?
Son of God. This know;
All things are intermediate; God, his name
For aye be praised and magnified; alone
Is first and last, creation circling midst.
The pre--existent life of spirit spheres,
Is that of preparation; on the earth's
Probation; after death, purgation. All
Begins, all ends, all mediates sole in God!
It is just that sin should suffer. It is unjust,
Alike to made and maker, to believe
The Eternal should a creatural soul invest
With deathlessness to suffer pain alone;
No possible betterment to the sufferer,
Resultant, proof 'twere of pure tyrant rule;
Birth but a penalty; and mortal life
One cruel and continuous curse of God.
Lucifer. But here annihilation is their hope,
Who be not hopeless. How shall aught create
Sustain the onslaught of him, the Almighty God?
Or how, if hell be but his justice, bear
The wrath of the Omnipotent? Who despair,
And proud to suffer being, deem nought ends,
Live on, in untamed energy of ill.
If matter indestructible, why not mind?
Son of God. Yea, who the depths of deity can conceive,
That only see its surface creature--wards?
Their punishment is partly to believe
Hell's pain perpetual; but it ends.
Lucifer. Ends?
Son of God. Ends.
Fires these Æonian, not eternal; thoughts
Distinguishable. Eternal's nought, save God.
In like sense, and the spirit with him made one.
As purgatory 'tis everlasting, this;
The fires eternal, not the punishment
On individual soul, or man's, or fiend's;
Age lasting and life lasting such alone.
For just so much as a man hath lived in sin,
In wilful wickedness or contempt of good;
Corrupt, corrupting others; unrepentant:
So much the spirit suffers for wrong of sense;
So much for worst offence he pays, soul--racked;
Who tempts or wrongs another mulcts himself
In misery he not reckons, nor conceives.
So long remorse, as with a burning rasp,
In venom steeped, shall bite his quivering heart;
Till, blanched and purified, sin's pantherine spots
Vanish in whiteness as the wool of lambs.
For the foundations of the intelligent world
Are laid in imperfection; and all soul
The purifying pain of fire divine
Must pass through, in its holy reascent,
To the supreme perfection of pure cause.
But 'gainst unending woe, the love of God
Towards every soul avails, all covering, aye.
Festus. O thou who art the humanity of God,
Impersonate and our nature's type foreplanned
By the Eternal in himself, ere time,
Holy and kindly are thy words; wise, true;
Befitting one who like communion holds
With deity and with creature. In thy breast
The weakness of all worlds dwells; on thy brow
The glory of their Maker and thine. All life's
Most holiest sympathies, all mind's virtues meet
Heavenwards preponderating, in thee, and last,
Even in God's bosom centre. And thus love,
The heart's deep gulph--stream, that with warmer wave
Sun--gilded, soothes the abysses of our life,
And tempers, with its mild divinity,
The universal breath all part--wise breathe,
Its end celestial hasting with serene
Progress to compass, makes us transient feel
In loving God the soul reseeks its source;
Being to being answering, name to name.
While every evil passion, which man's soul
With flesh engendering, fostered while in life,
Becomes, in death, a living fiend to scourge
With patricidal and Briarean hand,
Its guilty parent, shrinking, shrieking, lost;
But vanquished, grows an angel pure, transformed,
Attracting to salvation in the heavens.
Son of God. Oh vainly never from the contrite soul,
Stabbed with the golden dagger of remorse,
For sin, pours forth the penitential prayer.
The enlightened conscience quickened by blessed grief,
Man's self--condemning judgment torturing him,
Death were too cheap a pain, man's life a fine
Too trivial to appease God's proud revenge,
But that with reason faith ones; the less ill
Men do, less will they suffer; the more good
On earth men do to men, the more will God
Do unto them in heaven, for he repays
Always a hundred, ofttimes thousand--fold.
Guardian Angel. Wherefore should all men purge the soul of sin
Conscience of criminal desire; self--love;
Concupiscence, ire, envy, hatred, sloth;
The mind, of all perturbing passion; heart,
Of all propensity not made clear to bear
Heaven's fullest, holiest light; whereof by love,
Divine and human, wisdom, charity,
Immortal mediators of the world and soul,
Man may become the blessed recipient;
And heaven be filled with spirit, as air with motes
Prismatic, the vivacious seed of worlds.
Spirit Redeemed. Who knoweth this and sinneth, great his sin.
Spirit Saved. But greater towards the sinner is God's love.
Son of God. One grain of good whose sheafings shall at last
Choke out perdition, and with glorious death
All evil ruin, see mortal! here insown.
Lucifer. It is not that I cannot credit truth
But that I rather fear as once of old,
God hath inspired false prophets with a lie,
To wreak me further wretchedness. But now
Stand thou--while this great reaper reaps his ear
Elsewhere; beside me. I will speak to mine;
Or they will sure believe him. Hell, O hell;
Powers of perdition, thrones of darkness, hear!
Wrath, ruin, torment hear ye me. It is I.
Thanks, fiends, I know ye hate me well, and may.
I tempted, ruined all. But wherefore, now,
So ominously supine? Earth's fate, and all
Her many--kingdomed tribes, now, know ye not,
Is oscillating in air? List, then, to me.
Be still, ye thunderblasts and hills of fire;
Hell doth out--din itself. Weak hearted slaves,
What are ye that I thus should toil for you?
Power I have proffered, kingdoms I've prepared.
Nothing is for ye, but your fiery fate.
Slaves, slaves, ye are too much at ease. Ye leave
Me single in evil's work of woe. I, sole,
Go forth to sow destruction. I, alone,
Reap ruin. But had ye been as I, ere now
The universe had been, doubt not, all hell;
And for a pit each fiend had had a world
To rule. But rise! To strive 'gainst God is life;
Evil to spread is more than joy, its shade
Dims all that yet may happen. Up, hell, and act!
Who knows but from its central chair we, good
May yet dis--seat; and, hurling, each his orb,
Scatter it in fine as sand? To reign is nought
Like to dethrone; each greater then than God;
Or, is it ye dream of peace--like theirs late lost--
Submiss, and pity, of power restorative?
And if dethrone we may not, that we can
We will, withdraw from spirits, even, one by one
The allegiance owed the Lord of life in heaven,
Or elsewhere; leave him lonely in the skies
Desert; and grieving on his liegeless throne:
While we o'er all the populous spheres hold rule,
And spite of right and good, ill deify.
With these, or those, new ranks of spirit sublime,
Succeed we may, nor fail one perfect soul.
If elsewise, us it irks not; for at last,
Time perfected, if ever, and all souls freed
As promised, from the tomb--like clay they boast,
Rise, ere the threshold of eternity, one
Crosseth, a deed of note I have in mind
May yet be achieved; whereof more news anon.
Methinks I see ye captives, suppliants, bound.
But will ye, fiends, give up your hopes of heaven
And entrance as young conquerors fresh from spoil,
And choice of thrones, won by your death--red hands,
For pitiful penitence, like yon angel there,
Garbed though in sheeny white, star--tiar'd, lyre armed?
Forbid it, all sin's pride, sin's prowess; all
Hell's pains we have borne, unblenched. Be it not. Meanwhile
Know ye, man's world's adjudged not long to endure.
And though time's orb so waneth, fields there are
Twain to be foughten as yet, with man, with God.
Be glad; be glad; earth's sons may soon be here;
And here, as earnest of my word, behold
This visitant earthling, standing by my side.
Speak to them, Festus.
Festus. Nay, I dread them.
Lucifer. Speak.
Great spirits he scarce is worthy to address ye,
In that I cannot say he is yet, like you--
Festus. But I am here. What matters how? God's will,
And his who sets me here, for all suffice;
I, saved or lost. It is enough 'tis fate;
Fate that I come, fate that I quit; and though
Soul--racked to view such woe, yet mercy approves
The means remedial of God's righteousness,
And justice satisfied; for wrath which not
Ends, nor appeaseable is, is brute revenge,
Not divine equity. Souls, doubt I not,
Are, which be better, some, some worse than mine,
More illy qualified these than I to brook
Hell's restorative stripes and chastening storms,
Fiery; but though none less, and would 'twere so!
Yet have I never mocked the word of God,
Nor torn it into fuel for my scorn;
Nor doubted saving tremblingly, his being;
His love to man, his right to be adored;
Never have hated, never wronged my race,
Deluded nor rejoiced in their delusion;
Never have beckoned off the good from good;
Never have mocked nor scattered hopes; nor e'er
Have wasted hearts nor desolated hearths;
And if I have, once, twice, as who hath not,
Toyed with temptation, yet even he will say,
Who there stands, I have never yielded up
To his burning dalliance, this my soul. And though
God's everlasting hate were sin, sin's not
In the spirit of man, not even in yours eterne;
As I from lips divinely inspired have learned
Here, and now haste, confirmed of love, to impart
To man. Yet he's my friend, the evil one.
And why is wondrous; judge ye wherefore, too.
I have no malice, envy, nor revenge;
None of those petty passions which bad hearts
Scourge red into themselves, for passions are
Sufferings,--and which to nourish is his wont,
Wherein's his power; and save enjoying earth
Have nought done he could share in. But he came
From God he said, to give, and I believed,
Great spirits lie not, nor doubt.
Lucifer. Hear! He says truth.
He knows not; nor is't his nor yours to know
The reason of all my doings. It is that unfeared,
Unforethought, tempts, betrays; and that I who bait,
Who teaze the world to do its will, most use.
Proceed we therefore to the future. Though
Racked with undying pain, all pain must end,
As born of life create, though life must cease.
Eternal nought is, nought can be; save God.
But how Creator's glory reconcile
With all creation's sin, save those his grace
Sustains perforce, in heaven, 'twere wise to leave
In his hands; since nor ye nor I can say.
As to this mortal, what I have done is all
Sanctioned of heaven, all I may do, to the end.
God, go on making; I will go on marring:
Go on believing man; I will go on tempting;
Saint, angel, cherub, seraph and archangel,
Good genius, guardian of the soul o' the world,
Go all on blessing! My being it is to curse.
Now back to earth to work out what remains
Of this man's fate, and wait his world's destruction.
What next may hap I reck not.
Festus. Let us hence.
Lucifer. Where now is he whose advent wheresoe'er
O'er evil triumphing, makes heavenly good
Persistent? Nought I fear save him, and him
Festus. There; see, many do believe.
Lucifer. It likes me not. Though what seemed fated aye
A happier fate annuls, yet who shall hope
Fall such as mine redeemable? Away
The vain, impossible thought.
Festus. Impossible not.
For hell remedial proves God's love. The world
Devoutly sworn to error deems the spirit
Create, tormented aye: but finite soul
Bears not, nor can, pain ever. Hell's itself
God's everlasting ordinance. Nought he does
But is with his own eternity impressed
And divine wisdom. Hell, therefore, the force
Corrective and ameliorative of ill
Done wilfully 'gainst conscience, reason, seems
Rightliest prepared for temporal wrongs; itself
Of terminable appliance to finite
Transgressor, as were just; and just God is:
Not punishing minor sins with major pains,
But penalty appropriating to offence
With nicest equity. Greater need in truth
Were that the base or ignorant soul should rise
Through grades of penitence and amendment, sought
Freely, and be made noble, wise and blessed
With final pardon of God, than slave in hell,
Through burning ages endlessly, to adjust
The balance sin on earth left wronged; for sin
To human soul inevitable, to God
Irreconcileable, and wherefore he hath made
His own hands answerable, shall yet become
The contrary of all things, and not be.
Lucifer. This is to me a mystery. How can hell
Dwindle, betimes, thus; God being just?
Festus. I see
Truly in this God's wisdom; yea, foresee
A time when creatural opposition ceased
All temporal misconception ended, soul
Though limited, so instructed, shall confess
God's justice and benevolence in all things.
All spirits then one with might divine, this hell
Shall in the fiery lake, of old ordained
Annihilative of all ill, cease for ever.
Orb of perdition, thou too shalt die out,
And thy red sheeted flames shall fail for aye.
Thy palpitating piles of ruin, hot
With ever active agony, and quick
With soul immortal, down whose midnight heights
The wrath of God, in cataracts of fire,
Precipitates itself unceasingly,
Shall rush into destruction as a steed
Rushes into the battle, there to die.
Thy quivering hills of black and bloody hue,
Death--breathing, shall collapse like lifeless lungs,
And end in air and ashes. Thou shalt be
Dashed from creation sparklike from a hand
Scarless; pass like a rollèd syllable
Of midnight thunder from the coming day.
The river of all life which flows through heaven,
Shall yet reach thee and overflood thy flames.
Thou shalt no more vex God, nor man, nor all
The seekings of the soul shall hunt thee out.
Thy day is sometime over. Be it soon;
And thou the lost world which the world hath lost.

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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