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Poem by Philip James Bailey


Festus - 37


Not on one plane indeviable, the soul
Makes way, but moonlike waveringly as though
Not to advance for a time content; the while
Urged by interior fate to compass heaven
Pauseless; the spirit's instruction still proceeds;
And God's original end itself fulfil.
Soul commune solitary with God; faith, prayer
Strengthen the spirit meekly sustained by sense
Of travail, for the world's weal fate to endure
And rule. God, through his angel, tidings blessed
To man sends of acceptance sealed; his choice
Pacific ratified. Yet welcome though,
The heaven imputed charge, now imminent, weights
The aspiring soul with prescient grief, if heaven's
Free testimony make glad, and man's assent
General, but unproclaimed to power God--vouched
With calm fill now inalienable for aye.
A lonely Lodge among the Snowy Mountains.
Festus alone; afterwards Guardian Angel.
Festus. I feel as if I could devour the days
Till the time came when I shall gain mine end;
God shall have made me ruler, and all worlds
Signed the sublime recognizance. Till then,
Even as a boat lies rocking on the beach,
Waiting the one white wave to float it free,
Wait I the great event;--too great it seems.
Yet, Lord! thou knowest the power I seek for sought
For man's good and thy glory, and its desire
By thee inspired. As I use it use thou me.
Thou hast said that such I shall enjoy, and then,
My mission and thine ends accomplished, here,
I seek a world where souls begin again,
Or life take up from where death broke it at.
Like disproportion there 'tween will and power
As here, may not be. If not, I shall be happy.
I feel no bounds. I cannot think but thought
On thought springs up, illimitably, around,
As a great forest sows itself; but here
There is nor ground nor light enough to live.
Sealike, I would be everywhere at once;
And, sensible of the natural competence
To outspread my spirit o'er all the endless world,
Would act at all points. Bound to one, I feel,
So poor mere place is, with ubiquity weighed,
As well nigh nowhere. Sense, flesh, feeling, fail
Before the imperious mind's feet as the dust
She treads, windlike lifts up and leaves behind.
How mind will act with body glorified
And spiritualized, and senses fined,
And pointed brilliantwise, we know not. Here,
Even, it may be wrong in us to deem
The senses degradations, otherwise
Than as fine steps, whereby the queenly soul
Comes down from her bright throne to view the mass
She hath dominion over, and the things
Of her inheritance; and reascends,
With an indignant fiery purity,
Not to be touched, her seat. The visible world,
Whereby God maketh nature known to us,
Is not derogatory unto himself,
As the pure Spirit Infinite. A world
Is but, perhaps, a sense of God's whereby
He may explain his nature, and receive
Fit pleasure. But the hour is hard at hand,
When time's gray wing shall winnow all away,
Heavens, stars, earth's atoms: when Creator mind
And mind create shall know each other; worlds,
Bodies put off, and man his Maker meet
Where all, who through the universe do well,
Embrace their hearts' desire; what things they will
And whom remember; live, too, where they list;
And with the beings they love best, and God,
Inherit and inhabit boundless bliss.
Hear me, all--favouring God! my latest prayer;
Thou unto whom all nations of the world
Lift up their hearts, like grass--blades to the sun;
Who all things hast, save need of aught; who hast given me
Earth and her all; give from thy garner stored
With good, some sign Lord now in proof to earth
My prayers are with thee; that they rend the clouds,
And, rising through the sightless dark of space,
Reach to thy central throne. Oh! let me feel,
What was my constant dream in my young years,
And is in all my better moments now,--
My hope, my faith, my nature's sum and end,
Oneness with thee and heaven. Lord! make me sure
My soul already is in unison
With the triumphant. Ah! I surely hear
The voices of the spirits of the saints,
And witnesses to the redeeming truth;
Not, as of old, in scanty scattered strains,
Breathed from the caves of earth and cells of cities,--
Nor as the voice of martyr choked with fire,--
But in one solemn hymn of joy as when
From the bright walls of the heavenly city they
Looked on the war of hell, host upon host,
Foiled by God's single sword before their gates
Of perfect pearl;--nearer and nearer now!
This is the sign, O God! which thou hast given,
And I will praise thee through eternity.
Saints from Heaven.
Call all who love thee, Lord! to thee,
Thou knowest how they long
To leave these broken lays, and aid
In heaven's unceasing song;
How they long, Lord! to go to thee,
And hail thee with their eyes,--
Thee in thy blessedness, and all
The nations of the skies;
All who have loved thee and done well,
Of every age, creed, clime;
The host of saved ones from the ends
And all the worlds of time:
The wise in matter and in mind,
The soldier, sage, and priest,
King, prophet, hero, saint, and bard,
The greatest soul and least;
The old and young and very babe,
The maiden and the youth,
All re--born angels of one age--
The age of heaven and truth;
The rich, the poor, the good, the bad,
Redeemed alike from sin;
Lord! close the book of time, and let
Eternity begin.
Festus. Will ye away, ye blessed? To God I then
Commend ye, and my soul with yours; and midst
The light ye live, in, oh! mind ye of the days
Sunless, and starless nights, myriads on earth
Pass without faith's one ray, and pray for those
Who in the world's dark womb bound, know not yet,
Through indifference, ignorance, or disbelief,
Their sire, God. Lord of all earth, all worlds, all heavens,
Lift up to thine my spirit; let me so share
The comfort of thy love, that while ordained
To my great task, no more misgivings, fears,
Nor mortal doubts, the soul chill, thou by thy love
Hast hallowed, and so made like molten gold
The mould that holds it precious; or for thine
Own ends, if such thou suffer, may they pass
Quickly and traceless, perish; all thoughts of earth
All deathpangs too o'ercome, may I with thy chosen,
Seraphs and saints, and all--possessing souls,
Which minister through the universe, to thee,
Enthroned in spirit's intensest bliss, succeed
To heaven for ever.
Guardian Angel. Hear, mortal, and believe.
The soul once saved shall never cease from bliss.
She doth not sin. The deeds which look like sin,
The flesh and the false world, are all to her
Hallowed and glorified. The world is changed.
She hath a resurrection unto God,
While in the flesh, before the final one,
And is with God. Her state shall never fail.
Even the molten granite which hath split
Mountains, and lieth now like curdled blood
In marble veins, shall flow again when comes
The heat which is to end all; when the air
Is as a ravening fire, and what at first
Produced, at last consumeth; but the soul
Redeemed is dear to God as his own throne,
And shall no sooner perish. Hearken, man!
Will thou distrust God?
Festus. God I ne'er distrust.
Guardian Angel. Perchance his dooms perplex thee; thou wouldst know
Why this, why that, were ta'en. If that, by charm
Of world--lore and all mysteries abstruse,
Art's secular sanctities and accomplishments,
Would have divert thy heart, thy life absorbed
As fain she would, to her own ends: if this,
Of sway ambitious, had foreurged the arm
Of empire, ere among men's minds the need
And good of universal peace became
Compeer, in thine, of conscience purified
And life sublimed and hallowed; had life's friend,
Though cordial and sincere, infected thine
With his soul's selfish purports, love of power,
Wealth, knowledge, state and rule for any good
Narrower than all thy kind's; the stars had stopped
Their sacred march. All fates are in God's hand;
And whether by their own presumption, pride,
Passion or ignorance, this or that one cease,
Perish, man knows not, angel knows not. All
Know it is just. Doubt thou on doubt no more.
Prepare then for the power and lot most high
Whereto the Lord hath called thee. He hath heard
The prayers thou hast now besought him with, heart--strained,
And bids me tell thee, shrink not, doubt not. He
Will comfort and uphold thee at the end.
Festus. Thou art mine angel guard! I recognize,
In every holy feature of thy face,
The instigated thoughts of heaven which oft
In my world wanderings blessed me; in thy touch,
The virtuous resolution; in thy voice,
The warning and foreknowledge unexplained,
Not unesteemed, prompting to do or shun;
And in thy smile joy total and supreme.
Guardian Angel. But death's eternal secret all must hear.
Festus. I fear, I fear this miracle of death
Is something terrible.
Guardian Angel. Where faith were not
In God's all--moulding hand, such fear were well.
As when aërial voyager--in car
Strung pensile 'neath some huge and gaseous globe,
That but by loftier levity attains
Life's limit, upwards eyes the Infinite,
Formless and vast as deity; then, while through
His mind, himself a wind--steered atom--pass
Inexplicable thoughts and doubts sublime,
And troublous forecast of his travel's end,
Pores, wistful, downwards on the sea of clouds,
Peaked far below his feet in billowy hills,
Sea over sea, whose vaporous baptism he
Must plunge through, ere he sets where fortune lists,
Or tyrant gusts decree; so 'twixt all truth
And death, the uncertain soul, sustained alone
By its own insubstantive powers, less free
Than mutable, sees no safety in its course,
Nor fixèd goal afar. But, soul--assured,
Rests on the rock--foundations of God's word;
Nor brooks the awful liberty to doubt.
Festus. My soul feels firmer; fitter for the end,
Too soon, come when it will. But while life lasts
This holy mystery of incertitude,
Lawed of God, doubtless, to some good, rules all.
As when from some broad bluff where rival winds,
Hold haughty revelry, by night we see
The lurid lights of a huge city lie
Below, like an abyss of fallen stars,
Marked dully from those heavenly ones, and feel
The storm and stress of transit, though subdued,
And as with deadened thunder, still the ear,
More than day's roar and the tempestuous tides
Of social strife; so, calling back our years,
We note where youth's bright aspirations soar
O'er life's dim actions; how, too, as we age,
Life's recollections more than present deeds
Or hopes, mind's courts judicial crowd; while there,
Still, by her balance, sits everlasting doubt
Poising and pondering all things. But to God,
Go angel, and declare that I repent
Of all misdeeds; that but for his own grace
I should repent of my whole life; that on
That grace, which now hath sanctified the whole,
I trust for all the rest of it, and then
For ever; that I am prepared to act
And suffer as he bids, and in all things
To do his will rejoicing.
Guardian Angel. It is done.
Festus. Oh! I repent me of a thousand sins,
In number as the breaths which I have breathed.
Am I forgiven?
Guardian Angel. Child of God, thou art.
It is God prompts, inspires, and answers prayer;
Not sin, nor yet repentance, which avails:
And none can truly worship but who have
The earnest of their glory from on high,
God's nature in them. It is the love of God
The extatic sense of oneness with all things,
And special worship towards himself that thrills
Through life's self--conscious chord, vibrant in him,
Harmonious with the universe, which makes
Our sole fit claim to being immortal; that
Wanting nor willing, the world cannot worship.
And whether the lip speak, or in inspired
Silence, we clasp our hearts as a shut book
Of song unsung, the silence and the speech
Is each his; and as coming from and going
To him, is worthy of him and his love.
Prayer is the spirit speaking truth to truth;
The expiration of the thing inspired.
Above the battling rock--storm of this world
Lies heaven's great calm, through which as through a bell,
Tolleth the tongue of God eternally,
Calling to worship. Whoso hears that tongue
Worships. The spirit enters with the sound,
Preaching the one and universal word,
The God word, which is spirit, life, and light;
The written word to one race, the unwrit
Revealment to the thousand peopled world.
The ear which hears is preattuned in heaven,
The eye which sees prevision hath ere birth.
But the just future shall to many give,
Gifts which the partial present doles to few;
To all the glory of obeying God.
Festus. The knowledge of God is the wisdom of man--
This is the end of being, wisdom; this
Of wisdom, action; and of action, rest;
And of rest, bliss; that by experience sage
Of good and ill, the diametric powers
Which thwart the world, the thrice--born might discern,
With the undeflected spirit pure from heaven,
That he who makes, unbuilding, saves the whole;
In wisdom's holy spirit all renewed.
To know this, is to read the runes of old,
Wrought in the time--outlasting rock; to see
Unblinded in the heart of light; to feel
Keen through the soul, the same essential strain,
Which vivifies the clear and fire--eyed stars,
Still harping their serene and silvery spell
In the perpetual presence of the skies,
And of the world--cored calm, where silence sits
In secret light all hidden; this to know--
Brings down the fiery unction from on high,
Chrism spiritual of heaven's eternal sun,
Which hallows and ordains the regnant soul;
Transmutes the splendid fluid of the frame
Into a fountain of divine delight,
And renovative nature;--shows us earth,
One with the great galactic line of life
Which parts the hemispheral palm of heaven;
This with all spheres of being makes concord
As at the first creation, in that peace,
Earth's hope, heaven's joy, the choice of the elect,
Life's grace, God's blessing. And as time's vesper hymn
The starry matins of eternity
Precedes, and dawn of being in the new heavens,
To know this, is to know we shall depart
Into the storm--surrounding calm on high,
The sacred cirque, the all--central infinite,
Of that self--blessedness wherein abides
Our God, all kind, all loving, all beloved;--
To feel life one great ritual, and its laws,
Writ in the vital rubric of the blood,
Flow in obedience, and flow out command,
In sealike circulation; and be here
Accepted as a gift by him who gives
An empire as an alms, nor counts it aught,
So long as all his creatures joy in him,
The great Rejoicer of the universe,
Whom all the boundless spheres of being bless.
Angel. I go. Thy God is with thee. We shall meet
Ere long, no more to part.
Festus. Hear, angel--guard!
Hie thee to heaven, and say in man's behalf,
Perfect as creatural limits will let be,
All aptnesses of heaven and earth complete,
All being's best aims accomplished, God's and man's,
Truth, union, peace, society's triple crown
Secured, 'twere well, ere fall befal, earth cease.
I have chosen; and all the ambitious hopes of life,
Proud schemes of power prolonged; huge length of days;
And all that secret wisdom toiled to achieve
One hour shall wreck.
Guardian Angel. It is best for all. Farewell!
Festus. It is sweet to feel we are encircled here
By breath of angels as the stars by heaven;
And the soul's own relations, all divine,
As kind as even those of blood;--and thus,
While friends and kin, like Saturn's double rings,
Cheer us along our orbit, we may feel
We are not lone in life, but that earth's part
Of heaven and all things. Left now lonely here,
Like a gray gaunt menhir by the all--wasting sea,
The solitude impersonate, nature's ebb
Surviewing, let me my life o'erlook. I see,
Not inconspicuous, hence:--an islet fair
Fertile; with waste spots; washed by death's wide main,
All streams of life emotional gulphing; skyed
By boundless thought; and, albeit sunned by faith,
And heavenly love, sin--clouded; passion swept
As though the nest of storms; ribbed through by chains
Of mountain acts; immoveable shackles these;
No subtlest sophist can dislink; no priest
Pretentious loose; no angel bid fall off.
Acts are for ever. Thoughts, like dreamclouds, come
Unbidden, and go: nay, oft 'neath reason's ray
Evaporate, cease, unknown to the heart or God.
But deeds die not; though trodden below the ground
They seed for ever. Yet the coming clears;
The chaos of uncertainties, the storm--fires
Of thought--search, feeling, I have passed through, henceforth
By force of fate foregone, though scarcely now,
Shadows to me, of truth, life sure--no more
Vex; nor, dragged captive, groan I, where'er doubt
Skims in his fugitive tents, pitched here, pitched there;
But the well--built walls of castled certainty
Me, voluntary, detain, faith's guest, faith's friend
Undauntable--dreadless of all siege; nor awed
Of the twinned strife, waged ere the birth of things,
Of freedom against fate, mere liberty,
The inferior marking; spirit more high, the stress
Of virtue's laws, and reason's despotry;
Until through every range is reached the soul
In whose great essence fate with freedom ones.
Called by his sovereign mandate thus to reign
In earth and death beyond, my spirit, as air
No arrow wounds, passive to every hest
The All--sire sends forth, abides. Are God's ways now
Less marvellous than of old, with men? Lacks one
Due witness in his own considerate heart,
Of impulse, guidance, warning, sway divine?
All things controlling to concerted ends
Material or of mind? Through what dim paths,
Unconscious seemingly of all approach
Truthwards, I have trode; how secret wisdom's ways;
And through what mazy discipline at last,
In thought's free centre summed and ended, I
Soul perfected am come. How things despised
Once ignorantly, have since in life's complete,
But graduated evolvement, gained just power,
True trust and dignity. How the spirit, cleared
From every doubt,--the black o'erbelted clouds
Of mystery rounding the orbed world, is now
To faith, pure simple life, and conscious joy
Of being with deity concentrate, returned.
See love and knowledge, superficial tests,
Though once deemed satisfying, now proved but means
Soul perfective for heavenlier ends. Command,
Life's crowning proof I feel, if or towards self,
Or man's good bent. And this now nerves me, I
Obedient though reluctant, armed for fight,
By faithful love, wisdom divine, and meek
Philosophy, whose broad and rational fan,
All doctrine winnowing, windlike leaves truth sole,
The vital seed of science; with such food
Celestial, the sense quickening that nought bars
Man's conscience from commune divine, and heaven's
Own inspiration; she, life's guard and guide,
From creeds opposed like verities draws; annuls
All rancour; mediatizes the proud points
Of old and worldwide worships, and declares,
As every faith begins and ends in God,
The virtual spirit of all, love; earth--life, rite
Initiative to life divine. Man's heart,
So bettered in its aims shall yet with all
In heaven beat tunably. Pursuits, desires,
Affections, passions which once specious made
Existence and experience seeming sage,
Paled 'fore death's breathless stride shall cease, and leave
Rapt union only with the eternal mind
And concourse with its ends. For, once approved
The illusoriness of things, the barrenness
Of knowledge, and occupation; the unworth
Life's solid--seeming bubble infilms, the cares,
The needs which here disfigure time, the wrongs
Society most in virtue's name enacts,
Maugre the prime decrees staunch conscience owns
Heaven sown, innate; man spiritually framed
Upon the scale of gods, with broods of stars
Coaeval, vast in years, perfectible even
To the mid point where mixed humanity blends
With pure divinity and parental, views,
In God's unbounded and immediate being,
All secondary existence reunite;
By beauty of purity drawn; by holiness
Of thought and godliest love of love supreme;
All hopes amassed, all ends concentrate there.
To know the truth of God, by none without
His special love known; in accord to act
With sanctified intelligences that rule,
Each, as the finger of God, a world; to feel
Heart and mind one, with all we rule or serve;
Mind, everywhere like--motived, passioned; ours
Toned all to endure, but hopeful of things best,
As ultimately and only bound to be;
To know each new conception gained of God's
All blessing nature, proof of commune pure
With deity, and of his divine embrace;
Makes the round good I have longed for, and by grace
God, now, such capabilities perfected, grants.
Come then, the end at once. Nay, wherefore not?
Content with recognition just from spirits
Of orders highest, selectest round me,--even
As when Jove's prosperous star, upclimbing slow
Behind some hill--based city, obscured at first
By urban exhalations, and confused
With earthlier luminaries, draws soon, serene
Towards the upper rooms of space, and the bays bridging,
And flat wide wastes of wet and weedy sand;
With beamy path, shows plainly planetwise,
Through grandeur of patience, and the ascent to heights
More and more pure continually, by hosts
Fraternal, in bright conclave welcomed, there
With them heaven's arch to tread, and the rare blue air
Respire, of immortality, let my soul,
By fate and faith empowered all eminence here
To o'erpass; misjudgment's fog cleared, and rank mists
Of slander: passion's cloud--scud, and all fires
Fatuous or vaporous, ignorant praise ill rates
As lights perennial, henceforth of this high end
Assured, and state celestial, life's last aim
And holiest duty, God to obey, fulfil.
The world's precipitate opposition changed
To tolerant acquiescence, man's whole strength
May still need marshalling 'gainst destruction's ranks
Should these contest the world--realm yet, or those
Their Lord's disposal of time's ultimate gifts
Defy, and power's supreme arrangements. Hence
I live but in the future; earth in me
Breathes only, and in my choice; choice, heaven--approved.
Too long perhaps withdrawn, too glad to escape
Once the o'ermastering world, my solitude,
Myself, it is now for me to quit, and life's
Opposing interests, influences, contemned,
Work out for all a freer, worthier fate.
As one on coast half cave, half crag, but caught
By tempest, savage breast--room finds, and peace,
In the sudden silence of a rocky rift,
Nought visible thence but storm of foam--flakes floating
Before its mouth like wild words, from white lips
Wrung reckless, desperate tossed; save roar of sea
Nought heard, and his own, his hurried breathing;--awed
By the sensible stillness round him of all else,
And vague unreasoning fears lest thunders thrice
Reverberant smote, should casually unloose
The natural vault--work o'er his head, and make
Safer to face, without, the hurricane drift
Rock shivering, than abide in that grim cell
Its calm, so deathful possibly; tides the while
Mounting, night falling, his now dread retreat
By lightning searched, he at last from his niche burst forth,
Braves resolute, all; so I, long periods passed,
Of dolorous exile and seclusion, seek
Through the tempestuous clash of human wills,
And general hate, save of the good and wise,
Mightier than others, or themselves deem, earth's,
Mine own, and man's convergent destinies.



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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