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Poem by Philip James Bailey


Festus - 22


Not all regardless, meanwhile, for dear heart
So lost, but elsewhere bent, through many a sphere,
Celestial precincts quit, our venturous soul,
Heaven's varied vast of worlds having long essayed,
Of spirits sublime consociate, now returned,
To his life's new liege;--and joyously they greet
As boat by breeze, and billow, backed by tide,
His bright experiences of heavenly homes
Relates, where spiritual natures kind and high,
Light--born, which can divine eternal things,
Passed and to come, dwell; of the friendly fiend,
Tells ominously,--uneyeable of the mass,
Strange forms will show;--and something comforting speaks,
From angel lips learned, of lost Eden's crown.
The walls of Paradise are built up of stones,
All virtues. Help we God to edify
Within ourselves, his spiritual temple here.
House, Garden, and Terrace, by a River.
Festus and Helen: afterwards Lucifer.
Helen. Come to the light, love! Let me look on thee.
Let me make sure I have thee. Is it thou?
Is this thy hand? Are these thy velvet lips,--
Thy lips so lovable? Nay, speak not yet!
For oft as I have dreamed of thee, it was
Thy speaking woke me. I will dream no more.
Am I alive? And do I really look
Upon these soft and sea--blue eyes of thine,
Wherein I half believe I can espy
The riches of the sea? Nay, heavenly hued
As though they had gained from gazing on the skies
Their high and starry beauty. These dark rolled locks!
Oh God! art thou not glad, too, he is here?--
Where hast thou been so long? Never to hear,
Never to see, nor see one who had seen thee--
Come now, confess it was not kind to treat
Me in this manner.
Festus. I confess, my love.
But there I have been whence tongue, nor pen, nor hand,
Could token thee; and seen enough! It is thee
I see now, and thy shadow to me more
Than all above essential.
Helen. Where hast been?
Festus. Say, am I altered?
Helen. Nowise.
Festus. It is well.
Then, in the resurrection we may know
Each other. I have been among the worlds;
Angels, and spirits bodiless.
Helen. Is this true?
Can it be so?
Festus. It is:--and that both here,
And elsewhere. When the stars come, thou shalt see
The track I have travelled through the light of night;
Where I have been, and whence my visitors.
Helen. And thou hast been with angels all the while,
And still dost love me?
Festus. Constantly as now.
But for the time I did devote my soul
To their divine society, I knew
Thou wouldst forgive; yet dared not trust myself
To see thee, or to wing one word, for fear
Thy love should overpower the plan conceived,
And acting, in my mind, of visiting
The spirits in their space--embosomed homes.
Helen. Forgive thee! 'tis a deed which merits love.
And should I not be proud, too, who can say,
For me he left all angels?
Festus. I forethought
So thou wouldst say; but with an offering
Came I provided, even with a trophy
Of love angelic, given me for thee;
For angel bosoms know no jealousy.
Helen. Show me.
Festus. It is of jewels I received
From one who snatched them from the richest wreck
Of matter ever made, the holiest
And most resplendent.
Helen. Why, what could it be?
Jewels are baubles only; whether pearls
From the sea's lightless depths, or diamonds
Culled from the mountain's crown, or chrysolith,
Cat's eye or moonstone; or hot carbuncle,
That from the bed of Eden's sunniest stream
Extracted, lamped the ark, what time the roar
Of lions pining for their free sands, smote
The hungry darkness; toys are they at best.
Jewels are not of all things in my sight
Most precious.
Festus. Nor in mine. It is in their use
Their value lies, the pure thoughts they call up
Of beauty unearthly, and the qualities high,
Virtuous, each emblems. For as diamonds show
Purest of things, light densed, which fire restores
To air, nought left, so these let sign to thee
The faith we need, all purity, all light,
Through fervency resolving into heaven.
Each bears his cross; may thine ne'er heavier be,
Nor darker than the jewel which there illumes
Thy bosom, as even to wanderer southward bound,
Rises, how lovelily! o'er the calm blue wave,
The star--cross of the skies, so light, so bright.
Helen. I thank thee for that wish, and for the love
Which prompts it--the immeasurable love
I know is mine, and I with none would share.
Forgive me; I have not yet felt my wings.
Now have I not been patient? Let me see
My promised present.
Festus. Look, then--they are here;
Bracelets of chrysoprase.
Helen. Most beautiful!
Henceforth to me these gems more dear shall be,
More sacred, than to followers of Islâm,
The diamond star, where, under golden pall,
The prophet lies of kingless Arabie;
Than that mysterious stone which Japhet's son
Stole from his grandsire, weather foul and fair
Ruling, the tempest--generating gem;
Than the green brilliance of that luminous throne,
Carved from an emerald block, where once sat young
Vieija, king of solar blood, mid towers
Palatial, by Serendib's pearly seas,
Reared airily; topped now by swart diver's heel;
Than those which decked the standard lost for aye
To Persia, and the proud Iranian line,
At Kadesieh, where Khaled, sword of God,
The victory gained of victories; and those gems
Doled to his hosts, for every warrior one;
Though these more numerous than the winged cloud,
Which flays a province of its greenery;
Yea, than that solar jewel, one solid spark
Erupted from the sun, which rife with all
Mysterious powers and virtues, Krishna sought
I' the north's bear--guarded cavern, and one long moon
Fought for, both night and day ere he could gain
Triumphant;--gem divine; their every gleam,
When I speak not, shall thank thee, they are mine.
Festus. Come, let me clasp them, dearest, on thine arms;
For these of those are worthy, and are named
In the foundation stones of the bright city,
Built, blessed abode! for the immortal saved;
And such their hue, the golden green of plains
Paradisal stretched about it boundlessly;
Tinted intenselier with the burning beauty
Of God's eye, which alone doth light that land,
Than our earth's cold grass garment with the sun;
Though even in the bright, hot, blue--skied east,
Where he doth live the life of light and heaven;
Where, o'er the mountains, at midday is seen
The morning star; and the moon tans, at night,
The cheek of careless sleeper. Take them, love.
There are no nobler earthly ornaments
Than jewels of the city of the saved.
Helen. But how are these of that bright city? I
Am eager for their history.
Festus. They are
Thereof prophetically; and have been--
What I will show thee presently, when I
The angel's story tell, who gave to me.
Helen. Well; I will wait till then; it is enough
That I believe thee always;--but would know,
If not in me too curious to enquire,
How came about these miracles? Hast thou raised
The fiend of fiends, and made a compact dark,
Sealed with thy blood, symbolic of the soul,
Whereby all power is given thee for a time,
All means, all knowledge, to make more secure
Thy spirit's dread perdition at the end?
I of such awful stories oft have heard,
And lore, soul--jeopardying; nor know not whither
Conceit like fascinative might lead even me.
Myself have charms; foresee events in dreams;
Can prophesy; and not unskilled to tell
The secret ties between many a magic herb
And mortal feeling, faculty, scarce myself
Condemn for arts so innocent; but thou!
Thy helps are mightier far and more obscure.
Was it with wand and circle, book and skull,
With rites forbid, and backward--jabbered prayers,
In cross--roads, or in church--yard, at full moon,
By strange instruction of the ghostly dead,
Thou hast achieved these wonders, and attained
Such high transcendent powers and secrets? Speak!
Or is man's mastery over spirits not
Of such a vile and vulgar consequence?
Festus. Were not my heart as guiltless of all mirth,
As is the oracle of an extinct god
Of its priest--prompted answer, I might smile
To list such askings. Mind's command o'er mind,
Spirit's o'er spirit, is the clear effect
And natural action of an inward gift,
God--given, whereby the incarnate soul hath power
To pass free out of earth and death to heaven
And immortality, and with beings mate
Diverse of kind, lot, state. This mastery
Means but communion; means but power to quit
Life's little globule here, and coalesce
With the great mass about us. For the rest,
To raise the devil were an infant's task,
To that of raising man. Why, every one
Conjures the fiend from hell into himself,
When passion chokes or blinds him. Sin is hell.
Helen. How bringst a spirit to thee?
Festus. It is my will
Makes visible.
Helen. Shape me one in words.
Festus. They come,
The denizens of other worlds, arrayed
In diverse form and feature, mostly lovely;
In limb and wing ethereal, finer far
Than an ephemeris' pinion; others, armed
With gleaming plumes, void--conquering, pranked with fire.
These of like offices and unlike strengths,
Powers, orders, tendencies, in such degrees
As men, with even more variety, show
Glories dissimilar, duties, and delights.
Even as the ray of meteor, satellite,
Planet and comet, nebula, sun, or star,
Differ, and nature also, so do theirs.
With them is neither need, nor sex, nor age,
Nor generation, growth, decay, nor death;
Or none I have known; such may be; each mature,
Created, and complete with all required
Experience, seems. Perfect from God they come.
Yet have they different degrees of beauty,
Even as of strength and holy excellence.
Sexless, I said, are angels, but the seals
Mental of either holy kind in all
Prevail. Of milder and more feminine strain
Than others seem some, beauty's proper sex,
Shown but by softer qualities of soul,
More lovable than awful; more devote
To deeds of individual piety, such,
And grace, than mighty missions fit to task
Sublimest spirits; the toil, intense and vast,
Of cultivating nations of their kind;
Of working out from the problem of the world
The great results of God,--result, sum, cause.
These, ofttimes, charged with delegated powers,
Formative or destructive; those, in chief,
Ordained to better and skilled to beautify
Existence as it is; with careful love
To tend upon particular worlds or souls;
Warning and training whom they love, to tread
The soft and blossom--bordered, silvery paths,
Which lead and lure the soul to paradise;
Making the feet shine which do walk on them;
While each doth God's great will alike, and both,
With their whole nature's fulness, love his works.
To love them lifts the soul to heaven.
Helen. Let me, then!
Whence come they?
Festus. Some from orbs whose rudest mould's
More worth, more fair, than queenly gem; the dust
Dullest they foot is rosy diamond:--
Others from heaven immediate; but in high
And serious love towards those they come to, all.
Free be the blessed, none else, to visit whom,
And where they choose: the lost, slaves ever; here,
Never but on their Master's merciless
Business, nor elsewhere. Still with these dark spirits
Have I conversed, and in their soul's gross shade,
That, like a mountain cavern of the moon,
To fixed sight deepening seems the more we gaze,
Searched them, and wormed from them the gnawing truth
Of their extreme perdition; marking oft
Nature revealed by torture, as a leaf
Unfolds in fire, writhes, burns, yet unconsumed:
Spirits who devastative of weaker soul,
And fighting obstinately the glad belief,
God's foresight and disposure of the world,
Hold all hap--hazard come; from bad to worst
Led mainly, self--tempested. Others are,
Who garlanded with flowers unwithering, come,
Or crowned with sunny jewels, clad in light,
And girded with the lightning; in their hands
Wands of pure rays or arrowy starbeams; some
Bright as the sun self--lit, in stature tall,
Strong, straight, and splendid as the golden reed
Which heaven's all mothering city, seat of saints,
Descendible, God shall sometime tread with man,
Was measured with by the angel; reed that found
Aforetime by that angel, nigh the cross,
And on high taken, God made gold, and now
Stretched sceptrewise o'er all the skies, the scale
'Tis held of power and glory infinite.
Some gorgeous and gigantic, who with wings,
Wide as the wings of armies in the field,
Drawn out for death, sweep over heaven; and eyes
Deep, dark as sea--worn caverns, with a torch
Glaring at the end far back. With pinions some
Like an unfainting rainbow, studded round
With stones of every hue and excellence,
Writ o'er with mystic words which none may read,
But those to whom their spiritual state
Gives correlate meaning. Me do some in dreams
Visit; with some in visions 'mid their own
Abodes of brightness, bliss, and power, have I
Made one; and know full well I shall joy with them
Ere long their sacred guest, through ages yet
To come, in worlds not now perhaps create,
As they have been mine here: and some of them,
Have walked with, through their wingèd worlds of light,
Double and triple particoloured suns,
And systems circling each the other, clad
In tints of light and air, earth knows not of,
Nor man; orbs heaped with mountains, ours to theirs,
Mere grave mounds; and their concave flowered with stars,
All--hued; their light now blent, now variant; moons
Many, and planets crescent, waning, full,
In periodic change and intricate beauty,
At once those strange and most felicitous skies,
Illumining. As the nature of those spheres
Their natives are; some human--like, and some
Of great gigantic grace and happiest air,
Yet solemn as the sun; they walk like winds,
Whose dwelling is all immaterial space,
And vanish slowly in the hollow heavens.
Some of still vaster size and mightier mien,
Whose movement is as thunder in a cloud,
Devouring space; some, like to flickering ghosts
Of fire, while underneath their every step
Spring perfumes up and flowers; bedight in rays
Aerial of the purest, brightest skies;
Others, of sanguine hue, whose step is like
An instantaneous trembling of the heavens;
Others, again, whose forms for utter bright
Are indefinable; from place to place
Their feet pass like the twinklings of the stars;
Some of a cold, pure bodily rayonnance
As is the moon's of naked light, ungarbed
In circumspheral air, who glide like clouds;
And some in bands, some singly, some in groups;
For all perchance is starlife after death;
While others sworded, sceptred, crowned, and robed,
Spirits of power who rule each one his star,
Whose form is fire, whose life strength, and as storms
Precipitate, come, and go; nor e'er all known.
For angels can assume the form they please,
And transform things inanimate, as once
With earth's angelic watcher I beheld;
The lonely diamond which bedecked her pale
Transparent brow, was oh! so pure and clear;
Like one large drop of paradisal dew,
Immortalized, it shone; and such, she said,
It was; from a leaflet gathered of the tree
Of perfect life, on Eden's natal morn.
Helen. I would 'twere mine to visit other worlds,
Or see an angel.
Festus. Wilt thou now?
Helen. I dare not.
Not now, at least. I am not in the mood.
Ere I behold a spirit, methinks, I'd pray.
Festus. Light as a leaf they step, or the arrowy
Footing of breeze, upon a waveless pool.
Sudden and soft, too, like a waft of light,
The beautiful immortals come to me.
Helen. But why art thou of all men favoured thus?
To say there is a mystery in this,
Or aught, is only to confess God. Speak!
Festus. It is God's will that I possess this power
Thus to attract to mine great spirits, as steel
Magnetically charged, steel draws; himself
The magnet of the whole, round and towards whom
All spirits do tremblingly tend.
Helen. If, as thou sayest,
'Tis good, be it to thee good, perduring ever.
Festus. He hath no power who hath not power to use.
Spirit's to soul, as wind to air; and those
Livelier, think less of earth, these duller, more:
Such give me all I seek; at an unsaid wish
Would furnish treasures, thrones, or palaces.
But all these things have I eschewed, and chosen
Command of mind alone, and of the world
Unbodied, and all lovely.
Helen. Is not this
Pleasure too much for mortal to be good?
Festus. All pleasure is with thee, God; elsewhere, none.
Not silver ceilèd hall, nor golden throne,
Set thick with priceless gems as heaven with stars;
Or the high heart of youth with its bright hopes;
Nor marble gleaming like the white moonlight,
As 'twere an apparition of a palace;
Inlaid with light, as is a waterfall;
Not angel pinions coloured like yon cloud
Bannering the sun's broad evening tent, can match
Child--musings on life's glorious years to come;
How, then, his faith to whom the All--kind vouchsafes
The heaven of his own bosom? What can tempt
In its performance, equal to that promise?
My soul stands fast to heaven, as doth a star,
And only God can move it, who moves all.
There are who might have soared to what I spurned;
And like to heavenly orders human souls:
Some fitted most for contemplation, some
For action; those for thrones, and these for wheels.
Helen. Tell me what they discourse upon, these angels.
Festus. Much speak they of what's passed, or coming; less
Of present things and actions. These most tell
Of heavenly histories, rich in vast events;
God's dealings with especial worlds; of tests
Pending, to come, those; others of the gone,
The dim traditions of eternity,
Or time's first golden moments. One there was,
From whose sweet lips elapsed, as from a well,
Continuous, truths, which my soul fertilized
With richest thoughts, spake to me oft of heaven,
Salvation, immortality, angels, God.
Our talk was of divine things alway: soul,
The diverse states of spirit; time's testing grades;
Truth's, faith's progressive steps; the varied kinds
Of Being in different spheres, these physical,
Those intellectual most. I never tired
Preferring questions, but at each response,
My soul drew backwards, sealike, into its depths,
To urge another charge on him. This spirit
Long time came to me daily, and whene'er
I prayed his presence. Many a world he knew
Right well, eye ne'er hath marked on earth, nor may;
Yet perfect variedly. Still more, each time
He came, had grown his knowledge on mind's truths,
Inmost, and spirit's sublimest themes. His thoughts,
Like the immensest features of an orb,
Whose eyes are blue seas, and whose clear broad brow
Some cultured continent, showed from time to time,
Revolved, some mightiest truth. Interpretant, he,
Teaching divine things by analogy, oft,
With mortal and material, thus of God,
Forbidding even, in soul--idolatry,
To shape a mental image of the one
Unlikenable, he showed that as, to mind,
Skimming the abyss of being, like a bird,
Which thinks with its wing's tip to sound the sea,
Godhead triune,--as through three primal rays,
None without other, beams the heavenly light;
So, soul reborn of deity, sees all oned
In God, the alone and infinite unity.
And one of all I knew most, yet the least
Can I of him speak adequately; for oft
Our thoughts drown speech, like to a foaming force,
Which thunders down the echo it creates.
Yet must I somewhat tell of him, the world's
Spirit evil, impersonate; strange and wild to know,
Perdition and destruction in him dwelled
Like to a pair of eagles in one nest.
Hollow and wasteful, whirlwindlike, his soul;
Now, in mysterious grandeur, wasting heaven;
Contracted, now, to human littleness
And most minute malevolence, as though God
In life reversing, wrecking one poor soul.
The sphere which met, aside rolled, him to let
Pass on his piercing path, whose space--spread wings,--
Wide as the wings of darkness when she rose
Scowling and backing upwards, as the sun,
Giant of light, first donned his burning crown,
Gladdening all heaven with his inaugural smile,--
Make sad creation. Mightiest in this sphere,
He stood a match for mountains. Ocean's depths
He clave to their rock--bed, as a sword to bone,
With one swoop of his arm. As falls on face
Of some fair planet, lapped in heaven, eclipse
Intimidative, his thought fell on the heart
Shuddering, like angel, who, the thunder curse
O'er--hears, of demon foe. His voice, oppressed
With desolateness, not otherwise than gust
Autumnal, strewing earth with leafy death,
Words bore of fatal cast, both heart and ear
Startling; words harsh, words heavy, like the first
Handfuls of mould, cast on the coffined dead,
Whose end we see for good.
Lucifer
(entering). Dost recognise
The portrait, lady?
Helen. Festus, who is this?--
What portrait?
Festus. Wherefore comest thou? Did I not
Claim privacy, one evening?
Lucifer. Why, I called
To keep the proverbs simply in countenance.
Festus. Dost not remember, loveliest, some few moons
Agone, and he, who--
Helen. Surely, I recall
His presence now. Where all were, he was, too,
Welcome. Bright hours, now faded.
Lucifer. Queen of joy!
Thy soul--thought, like the fragrance of a flower,
Speaks the bright essence whence it emanates.
Unwelcome I should not be, I felt sure.
Pardon my abrupt entrance; and believe,
If for those hours' contentment, it were e'er
Mine to do thanks, in place of uttering, what
More than that crown of knowledge, high minds like thine
Affect, and if world--hidden, the more, could I
Proffer, as now?
Helen. And I, could I aught do,
Say, think, were worth reward, would nought else choose.
Festus. Like the bright fish sphered southwards, fed from age
To age, on midnight's luminous food, and still
Of the starry streamlet unreplete, man's mind,
Insaturable of knowledge seems, though bound
To use secrete, most selfish.
Helen. Be it. For me,
To know more is to live more.
Lucifer. Both are ripe
For truth's reception. Wherefore not be sealed
With wisdom's sacred seal? One is, I know,
Who underneath the sun nought better loves
Than heaven--aspiring souls to initiate here,
Into those solemn mysteries, which, once proved,
Stretch through death's sea of shadows, and the world
Of mortal and immortal life make one;
Illuminative rites, all times maligned
By shallow wits, which yet o'ertopped the flood,
Known but to the white--souled race of light, who born
In heaven, may insight claim of solar truth,
And evermore receive?
Helen. Thou givest me
Somewhat to look for, live for, die for, now.
I feel the Sibylline nature in my soul
Uncoil its secret strength. I long to act.
Lucifer. Who loves or would achieve perfection here,
Lives, like the sun, in restful action, best;
Imparting light, disclosing not its source.
The sage I mean, full well I know, have known
Long, and ye him shall know. Our student friend
Bring with ye, for his earnest soul, athirst
For the pure draught from wisdom's pearl--lipped bowl
And keen with wholesome hunger for the truth,
Shall chant its thankful compline with your own.
The more so as I doubt not that he hath done
In furtherance of our ends is all he can
Accomplish; and 'tis fit he have his meed.
Prepare him secretly for our emprise.
Trust everything to me, and at the hour
And spot, hereafter to be named, we meet;
All eager to enjoy the feast of light.
Festus. Faith sometimes more expects than truth can grant,
And brings a jar for what scarce fills a phial.
But faith, not knowledge, mates with bliss. To some
Not matters, how much knowing, or unknown.
I have seen a grisly bedesman, in the porch
Of a church he'd weep to enter, all aflaunt
With tatters,--like a tree which sheds its bark,
And begs its way to ruin, up and down,--
Whose starry--headed sceptre, warded, watched
By angels under oath, waits but in heaven
His regal hand; hand here outstretched for alms.
The more I know, the quicklier comes the sum
Of all things. Therefore urge me not; nor thou,
Charm of my being, haste me to forego
For even divine accomplishments, this life
In love now lapsing as a summer stream
In the sun, of nought reflective save of heaven.
Rather forgive me, both; if, dreading change,
I feel an ominous instinct to avoid,
Though now might be fulfilled my once best aims,
The mystic science proffered.
Helen. Nay, I pray,
Beseech, command thee on thine allegiance;
Force me not to compel thee.
Festus. Still, content
With present drift, I would not.
Helen. Alas! that I
Should live at once to beg of thee, and spurn
That unaccustomed dulness which slow creeps,
And mosses o'er the marble of thy clear mind.
We yet will gain our point.
Lucifer. I trust so. Me
It much concerns, for I have ends in view
I cannot yet accomplish, this undone.
There are, whose curiousness were quite enough
To ruin half a galaxy of earths,
Let each but have his, her, bent. Seems to me,
They scent their self--destruction from afar,
And hound themselves to their own stark end. No more!
Festus. This way and that way swayed, but guideless still,
Like to a sunk skiff, lurching in the ooze,
My heart lies; and the sport of every wave
Of feeling, once contemptuously it keeled,
Nor floats, nor falls. Time must I have to think.
Lucifer. Then time be thou, as heretofore, my friend.
But what shall I do, all this wretched while,
Thou art engrossed thus?
Festus. Do as I; make love.
Lucifer. But that were to fall up. Well, I'll think, too.
For now, as I remember, and to learn
Of equal beauty, doubtless, pleases all;
Last night, not far from hence, a form I marked
Of queenly beauty seated by the sea
As eyeing heaven, the birthland of her soul;
What time the westering sun, magician--like
His golden wand had levelled on the main
And soothed it into silence; face and form
Once seen before by me in saddest wise,
Beside the bier of one, fame held like fair.
Festus. Name it not now; the harvest of my heart
Is always woe, whate'er the joy of bloom;
Nor raise the ghost of grief to haunt henceforth
Life's desolate tenement.
Helen. Oh! I know her well,
She is the occultation of my soul
Prospective; for I dread lest we should meet.
It is Elissa. Friendship's favourites once
Were we, till lordlier likings since, made us
Distant and cold as earth's opposing poles.
Seek her, sue if thou carest. I wish her much
Too well to wish her here. She makes my dreams
Ghastly.
Lucifer. Nay, dread her not.
Helen. Away! 'Twere well.
Lucifer. As rival elements that strive to impress
Their power on mountains, lower and lessen them,
Nor can aught else; so peradventure, these.
One talks of science, one of knowledge. What's
All science but the last vague certainty,
Safe to be superseded? Soon, in sooth,
We shall have done with knowledge, and their help
Who have best served us; all in time, and turn.
The wise foresee things which,--let fools foretel;
With me it is enough to act. And now;
Any commands for our planetary friends?
I go, make my excuses.
Festus. A mistake,
Dearest, but rectified.
Helen. Will he return?
Festus. No.
Helen. Thou art troubled.
Festus. Truly. I, far off
Feel the perturbing influence of his star,
Ere visible: knew him coming, not yet come.
Helen. Let us rejoice together, and both hope
Such strange effects may cease, or I shall dread
Him to accompany elsewhere, or to meet
As predisposed, but now--
Festus. And he is gone!
Hell hath its own again. Some sorrow chills
Ever the spirit, like to a cloudlet nursed
In the star--giant's bosom.
Helen. Tell me, love,
More of these angels.
Festus. One there was I loved
Of these immortals of a lofty air,
Dimly divine and sad; and side by side
Him I first spake of, she, with me, would stand,--
Listing his converse, shadow illuminate,
Like to the old moon in the young one's arms.
She murmured never at the doom which made
Her sorrow, all enfolding, as air earth;
But God's will alway named as good and wise.
Pleasure but little was hers; that, all in plans
Devising of a bliss to come, and tales
Untold of time, or the sweet early earth,
While Eden's dews yet glistened upon her feet.
She was, in truth, our earth's own angel. Oft
In long and luminous sweetness would she treat
These themes, unwearying, pauseless, as a world.
Rise would the sun, and set; the soul--like moon,
In passive beauty, light from him absorbing,
As prophet inspiration aye from God,
Would set, and rise; and the far stars, the third
Estate of light, complete day's round divine.
Still spake our angel; still to the eloquent tongue
On earth heaven's tones retaining, lent I ear.
The shadow of a cloudlet on a lake
The wind is holding now his breath o'er, shows
Not calmlier, fairlier not, than thy dear face,
Consoling spirit, when summing even earth's end!
Save that her eye grew darker, and her brow
Brighter with thought as with galactic light
Mid--heaven when clearest, at such times, not I
Had known our earth meant more, or dearer were
To her, than other visitants divine
Which hallow oft mine hours;--save too that then
As but to touch that chord, numbed icily, thought,
She would cease converse, suddenly; kneeling, pray
In silent earnestness; and, anon, rise
And vanish into heaven. My mind is full
Of stories she hath told me of our world.
No word an angel utters lose I ever.
One I will tell thee, now.
Helen. Do; let me hear.
Thy talk is the sweet extract of all speech,
And holds mine ear in blissful slavery.
Festus. It was on a golden summer afternoon
Close by the grassy marge of a deep tarn,
Nigh half way up a mountain, that we stood,
I and the angel, when she told me this.
Above us rose the grey rocks, by our side
Forests of pines; and the bright breaking wavelets
Came crowding dancing to the brink, like thoughts
To our lips. Before us shone the sun. We, peaked
As on some finial of the templed earth,
Peer round the infinite, far and near. Then I,
In ecstasie of thought: What need hath man
Of Eden passed, or Paradise to come,
When heaven is round us and within ourselves?
God's peace, if anywhere, is surely here,
So boundless, so intense this sensible awe
Of nature 'neath his eye; my soul, with thine,
With all, this hour consentient. Need, the world
Hath always, said Earth's Spirit, of loftier ends,
And meanings, than men's daily duties raise,
Howe'er well done; of something holier, more
Akin with perfect, or to be, or gone,
To live by, as a pattern. Speak, I said.
The angel waved her hand e'er she began
As bidding earth be still. The birds ceased singing;
The trees scarce breathing: and the lake smoothed down
Each shining wrinklet; and the wind drew off.
Time leaned him o'er his scythe, and listening, wept.
The circling sphere reined in her lightning pace
A moment. Ocean hushed his snow--maned steeds,
And a cloud hid the sun, as hides the face
A meditative hand. Then spake she thus.
Scarce had the sweet song of the morning stars,
Which rang through space at the first sign of life
Our earth gave, springing from the lap of God
On to her orbit ended, when from heaven
Came down a white--winged host, and eastwards, where
Lay Eden's pleasaunce, first their pinions furled,
Alighting reverently. There, marked whate'er
Could be of good, as seemed, for man secured
By care divine, one brief debate in vow
Ended, that they on his behalf should build
Out of the riches of the soil around
A house to God. Here were the ruby rocks;
And there in blocks the unquarried diamond lay;
Topaz and emerald mountain, chrysoprase,
Sardonyx, sunstone, crystal, jacinth, stood
All light, with the stilly action of a star,
Or sea--based iceberg, blinding, to such sight
As men now boast, degenerate. These with tools
Tempered in heaven, the band angelic wrought,
Raised, fitted, polished, aptly imbedding first
The deep foundations of the holy dome
On bright and beaten gold. And all the while,
Songs to God's glory hovered around the work,
Like rainbows round a fountain. Day and night,
Went on the hallowed labour till 'twas done:
And yet but thrice the sun set; more than thrice
Rose not the moon; so quick is work divine.
Tower all, and roof and pinnacle, without,
Were solid diamond. Based on chrysoprase,
Gold--green, of meek humility sign, the wall
Opalline, emblem of all virtues; soared
Lustrous, with amethystine fruitage topped,
Of temperance type;--expressive these to man
Of loftiest excellences and deepest needs
In edifying his soul, the angels strove
Symbolically to show how best, by these
Of earthly things transpicuousest, men might
The beauty of purity learn, the joy of peace
With God, and bliss of perfectness in him,
Sole source, sole end of worship, or in heaven
Or earth, to all intelligences. Within,
The dome was eye--blue sapphire, truth supreme,
God's infinite unity, shadowing,--sown with stars
And glittering spheres constellate. The wide floor,
One emerald, earthlike, veined with silver and gold,
Marble and mineral, glowed, of every hue
And marvellous quality. There, the meanest thing
Earth's most magnificent now, was gold, to God
First due, to him sole. Of one ruby shaped
Stood the high altar, heartwise. Columned round
With alabaster pure was all. And now,
So high and bright it shone in the midday light,
It could be seen from heaven. Upon their thrones
The sun--eyed angels hailed it; and there rose
In heaven, a hurricane shout of angel--joy
Which echoed for a thousand years. One dark,
One solitary, and far foreseeing thought
Passed, like a planet's transit o'er the sun,
Across the brow of God. But soon he smiles
Earthwards on the angels, and that smile, to himself
The temple consecrates. And they who built
Bowed themselves down, and worshipped in its walls.
High on the front were writ these words:--To God;
The heavenlies built this for the earthly ones,
That in his worship both might mix on earth,
As afterwards they hope to do in heaven.
Had man stood good in Eden this had been.
He fell, and Eden vanished. The shining shrine,
Piled by the angels of all precious things,
For the joint worship of heaven's sons and earth's,
Fell with him, on the fixed and looked--for day
He should have met God and his angels, there:
The very day he disobeyed, and joined
Death's host black--bannered. Man fell. Eden fell.
The groves and grounds which God the Lord's own feet
Had hallowed; the all--hued and odorous bowers
Where angels wandered, wishing them in heaven;
The trees of life and knowledge, trees of death
And madness as they proved to man, all fell;
And that bright fane fell first. No death--doomed eye
Gazed on its glory. Earthquakes gulped it down.
Long, to the world unknown, and half forgotten
In heaven, the angels' temple, reared to embrace
All nations, with God's hosts, in saintliest rites
Ceaseless of sequence worshipping, at once,--
Lay in its grave, the cherubs' flaming swords
The sole sad torches of its funeral; till,
When the just flood sin 'venging pure itself
And purifying, came, doomed, earth's giant heart
Burst shell--like, and so scattered far and wide
The fragments of that angel--builded fane,
High, holy, happy, stainless, as a star,
In Eden once,--whereof all gems men still
Deem precious, are; and yet may find imbased
Potentially in those pure walls whose towers
Of light, the extense of space o'erawing, bar
From ill or false, the abode to be of saints,
Glorious. For they who, truth--taught, now, the right
Significance of things,--more worthful far
Than the things themselves, can recognize--all gems
Perceive, in their best use, but mystic signs
And types of virtue, tests foundational
Of spirit reborn on high, and proofs of soul's
Most perfect qualities: love's deep rubied glow,
Of charity towards mankind; hope's emerald gleam,
Of ultimate grace; faith's adamantine flame,
Godwards; crown these of spiritual life; these, base;
These, midst; of the celestial city of God,
And capital of his kingdom, state divine,
Star--mansioned; state imperishable, of heaven.
The angel ended: and the winds, waves, clouds,
Woods undulative, and merry birds went on
As theretofore in brightness, strength, and music.
One scarce could think that earth at all had fallen,
To see her beauty. If sin's errless brand
Dimmed her predestined brow, 'twas surely hid
In natural art, from every eye but God's.
All things seemed innocence and happiness.
I was all thanks. And look! the angel said;
Take these, and give to one thou lovest best.
Mine own hands saved them from the shining ruin
I late have told thee of; and me she gave
What now are greenly glowing upon thine arms.
Ere I could answer, she was up, star--high,
Winning her way through heaven.
Helen. How shall I thank thee
Enough, or that kind angel, who hath made
The gift to me dear doubly, by the advice
Hidden in the present? 'Tis that, humility,
Doubtless I lack. We'll see to it. I shall be
Afraid almost to wear; but part with them
I would not, for the treasures of all stars.
How show my thanks?
Festus. Love me as now, dear beauty,
Present or absent, always, and 'twill be
More than enough for me, of recompense.
Helen. Hast met our angel latewhile?
Festus. I have not.
Yet oft methinks I see her; catch a glimpse
Of her sun--circling pinions or bright feet
Which, than for earth, for rainbows fitter seem,
Or heaven's triumphal arch more firm and pure
Than whitest marble; see her, seated oft
On some high snowy cloud--cliff, harp in hand,
Singing the sun to sleep, as down he lays
His head of glory upon the rocking deep.
And so sing thou to me.
Helen. There, rest thy brow.
Bow thyself down, before my feet. Rest! rest!
Oh not the diamond starry bright
Can so delight my view,
As doth the moonstone's changing light,
And gleaming glowing hue:
Now blue as heaven, and then anon,
As golden as the sun;
It hath a charm in every change;
In brightening, darkening one.
And so with beauty, so with love,
And everlasting mind;
Each takes its tint from things above,
And shines as it's inclined,
Or from, or towards, celestial truth,
With blind, or brilliant, eye;
And only lights as it reflects
The life--light of the sky.
He sleeps! the fate of many a gracious moral
This! to be stranded on a drowsy ear.



Philip James Bailey


Philip James Bailey's other poems:
  1. Festus - 35
  2. Festus - Proem
  3. Festus - 17
  4. Festus - 24
  5. Festus - 21.2


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