English poetry

Poets Х Biographies Х Poem Themes Х Random Poem Х
The Rating of Poets Х The Rating of Poems

Poem by Philip James Bailey


Festus - 25


Our story binds us still for a while to earth,
And sea all agèd, gray at once with years,
And green with youth. Oft those unhappiest have
Their heart's desire in dreams; we dreaming that
Not seldom shall befal us. And when love
In creature worship merges, who can tell
What 'tis we love? Perchance incarnate evil.
For now the evillest one's designs take shape;
Through beauty to be impressed upon the soul
Tempted, that each in other rapt, and love
Of world--pomp, chosen his final gift, all power,
The end might swiftlier happen. Not the less,
One grain of holiest hope is sown, whence fields
Other than ours, by patience tilled, shall wave
With unimagined harvests.
Garden and Bower by the Sea.
Lucifer and Elissa. Afterwards Festus.
Lucifer. Night comes, world jewelled, as my bride should be.
Start forth the stars in myriads, at the sign
Of light, divine usurper, as to wage
War with the lines of darkness; and the moon
Pale ghost of light, comes haunting the cold earth
After the sun's red sea--death, quietless.
Immortal night! I love thee. Thou and I
Are of one strain. Heaven's eldest issue, we.
He makes; we mar together all things; all
But our own selves. Let love not make thee cold
And tremble, or thou'lt chill me. That starry robe
Thou wearest, makes thee lovelier. Love me, night!
Catch me up to thee, mightiest one. To thee
Thee only, fatal power might I unveil
A plot so great, so just it must succeed,
Were success merit's predicate. The friend
Whose fate momentous most to man I treat,
Long launched with me on a tempestuous track
See, and still hotlier must I urge, that hurled
On passion's treacherous shoals, his barque may yet
Founder, o'erfraught as 'tis with human doom;
Doom, thou, O precreative night, who holdst
Within thy breast, the prime conceipt of things,
And their last outcome, mightst impart, wert thou
Oracular, as of old, as of old, kind.
Small help get I, elsewhere. But surely, here
Cometh mine earthly. I, in mine own toils
Seem to me tangled. Her high--natured soul
Takes seriously all. But to me no end,
In show, or earnest, save the end of all,
Remains. To that end all things be mere means.
Him for whose fall I care this beauteous dame
Shall duly dazzle; and, for I think not much
Of ultimate perseverance, with their fates
So blent, if the threads prove pliable enough,
This way or that, by suffering, or by sin,
Or patent power, sublimed in secresy,
The world's works running gently down, no check
Will likely mar the smooth decline I mean.
All things have so far answered the sage plans
Friends, some, alack! defunct of life and aim,
Long toiled, nor fruitlessly, to attain. At last
Earth shows in travail of an unborn king;
The imperial infant, he; and sooner now
Than he or any knows man's mightiest choice
Is being destined. See slowly, solemnly,
As riseth from the main the sacred moon,
Stately and still, she grows upon the night.
She sees me not. Ere yet she comes is time
To rectify my spirit to its just points
Above, around. How is it that now I thrill
More deeply 'neath her eye--glance than the gaze
Of spirit or angel? Can this negative
Eternal be subdued by things of time?
And paltriest affirmations of mere power,
If by him guided, bear the brunt of worlds?
As still, when set the sun, in summer's tide,
Earth feels, though faintly, his presence; and the night
Hath never total dark; but round her head
In starry silence, light invisible feels
Mysteriously his blind way; so, I now
Oppressed with what seems coming, as one doomed,
At day--dawn, which to all beside brings life:
To him death only. It is Elissa! Welcome!--
Elissa. Is't not a lovely, nay, a heavenly eve?
Lucifer. Thy presence only makes it so to me.
The moments thou art with me are like stars
Peering through my dark life.
Elissa. Nay, speak not so,
Or I shall weep, and thou wilt turn away
From woman's tears: yet are they woman's wealth.
Lucifer. Then keep thy treasures, lady! I would not have
The world, if prized at one sad tear of thine.
One tear of beauty can outweigh a world
Even of sin and sorrow, heavy as this;
But beauty cannot sin, and should not weep,
For she is mortal. Oh! let deathless things
Alone weep. Why should aught that dies be sad?
Elissa. The noble mind is oft too generous,
And, by protecting, weakens lesser ones;
And tears must come of feeling, though they quench
As oft the light which love lit in the eye.
Lucifer. I meant not to be mournful. Tell me, now,
How hast thou passed the hours since last we met?
Elissa. I have stayed the livelong day within this bower;
It was here that thou didst promise me to come;
Watching from wanton morn to repentant eve,
The self--same roses ope and close; untired,
Listening the same birds first and latest songs.
And still thou camest not. To the mind which waits
Upon one hour, the others are but slaves.
The week hath but one day--the day one hour;
That hour of the heart--that lord of time.
Lucifer. Sweet one! I raced with light, and passed the laggard
To meet thee--or, I mean I could have done--
Yea, have outsped the very dart of death--
So much I sought; and were I living light
From God, with leave to range the world, and choose
Another brow than his whereon to beam;
To mark what even an angel could but covet;
A something lovelier than heaven's loveliness;
To thee I straight would dart, unheeding all
The lives of other worlds, even those who name
Themselves thy kind; for oft my mind o'ersoars
The stars; and, pondering upon what may be
Of their chief lording natures, man's seems worst--
The darkest, meanest, which, through all these worlds,
Drags what is deathless, may be, down to dust.
Elissa. Speak not so bitterly of human kind;
I know that thou dost love it. Hast not heard
Of those great spirits, who the greater grow
The better we are able them to prize?
Great minds can never cease; yet have they not
A separate estate of deathlessness:
The future is a remnant of their life:
Our time is part of theirs, not theirs of ours;
They know the thoughts of ages long before.
It is not the weak mind feels the great mind's might;
None but the great can test it. Feels the oak
Or reed the strong storm keenlier? Oh, unsay
What thou hast said of man; nor deem me wrong.
Mind cannot mind despise--it is itself.
Mind must love mind: the great and good are friends;
And he is but half great who is not good.
And, oh! humanity is the fairest flower
Blooming in earthly breasts; so sweet and pure,
That it might freshen even the fadeless wreaths
Twined round the golden harps of those in heaven.
Lucifer. For thy sake I will love even man, or aught.
Spirit were I, and a mere mortal thou,
For thy sake I would even seek to die;
That, dead or living, I might still be with thee.
But no! I'll deem thee deathless--mind and make,
And worthier of some spirit's love than mine;
Yea, of the first born of God's sons, could he,
In that sweet shade thy beauty casts o'er all,
One moment lay and cool his burning soul;
Or might the ark of his wide flood--like woe
But rest upon that mount of peace and bliss,
Thy heart imbosomed in all beauteousness.
Nay, lady! shrink not. Thinkest thou I am he?
Elissa. Thou art too noble, far. I oft have wished,
Ere I knew thee, I had some spirit's love;
But thou art more like what I sought than man:
And a forbidden quest, it seems; for thou
Hast more of awe than love about thee, like
The mystery of dreams which we can feel,
But cannot touch.
Lucifer. Nay, think not so! It is wrong.
Come, let us sit in this thy favourite bower,
And I will hear thee sing. I love that voice,
Dipping more softly on the subject ear
Than that calm kiss the willow gives the wave;
A soft rich tone, a rainbow of sweet sounds,
Just spanning the soothed sense. Come, nay me not.
Elissa. Do thou lead out some lay; I'll follow thine.
Lucifer. Well, I agree. It will spare me much of shame
In coming after thee. My song is said
Of Lucifer the star. See, there he shines!
I am Lucifer, the star;
Oh! think on me,
As I lighten from afar
The heavens and thee;
In town, or tower,
Or this fair bower,
Oh! think on me;
Though a wandering star,
As the loveliest are,
I love but thee.
Lady! when I brightest beam,
Love, look on me;
I am not what I may seem
To the world or thee;
But fain would love
With thee above,
Where thou wilt be.
But if love be a dream,
As the world doth deem,
What is't to me?
Elissa. Could we but deem the stars had hearts, and loved,
They would seem happier, holier, even than now;
And, ah! why not? they are so beautiful.
And love is part and union in itself
Of all that is in nature brilliant, pure;
Of all in feeling sacred and sublime.
Surely the stars are images of love:
The sunbeam and the starbeam doth bring love.
The sky, the sea, the rainbow, and the stream,
And dark blue hill, where all the loveliness
Of earth and heaven, in sweet ecstatic strife,
Seem mingling hues which might immortal be,
If length of life by height of beauty went:
All seem but made for love--love made for all:
We do become all heart with those we love:
It is nature's self--it is everywhere--it is here.
Lucifer. To me there is but one place in the world,
And that where thou art; for where'er I be,
Thy love doth seek its way into my heart,
As will a bird into her secret nest:
Then sit and sing; sweet wing of beauty, sing.
Elissa. Bright one! who dwellest in the happy skies,
Rejoicing in thy light as does the brave
In his keen flashing sword, and his strong arm's
Swift swoop, canst thou, from among the sons of men
Single out those who love thee as do I
Thee from thy fellow glories? If so, star,
Turn hither thy bright front; I love thee, friend.
Thou hast no deeds of darkness. All thou dost
Is to us light and beauty: yea, thou art
A globe all glory; thou who at the first
Didst answer to the angels which in heaven
Sang the bright birth of earth, and even now,
As star by star is born, dost sing the same
With countless hosts in infinite delight,
Be unto me a moment! Write thy bright
Light on my heart before the sun shall rise
And vanquish sight. Thou art the prophesy
Of light which he fulfils. Speak, shining star,
Drop from thy golden lips the truths of heaven.
First of all stars and favourite of the skies,
Apostle of the sun--thou upon whom
His mantle resteth--speak, prophetic beauty!
Speak, shining star out of the heights of heaven,
Beautiful being, speak to God for man!
Is it because of beauty thou wast chosen
To be the sign of sin? For surely sin
Must be surpassing lovely when for her
Men forfeit God's reward of deathless bliss,
And life divine; or, is it that such beauty,
Sometimes before the truth, and sometimes after,
As is a moral or a prophesy,
Is ever warning? Why wert thou accorded
To the great Evil? Is it because thou art
Of all the sun's bright servants nearest earth?
Star of the morning! unto us thou art
The présage of a day of power. Like thee
Let us rejoice in life, then, and proclaim
A glory coming greater than our own.
All ages are but stars to that which comes,
Sunlike. Oh! speak, star! Lift thou up thy voice
Out of yon radiant ranks, and I on earth,
As thou in heaven, will bless the Lord God ever.
Hear, Lucifer, thou star! I answer thee.
Oh! ask me not to look and love,
But bid me worship thee;
For thou art earthly things above,
As far as angels be:
Then whether in the eve or morn
Thou dost the maiden skies adorn,
Oh! let me worship thee!
I am but as this drop of dew;
Oh! let me worship thee!
Thy light, thy strength, is ever new,
Even as the angels' be:
And as this dewdrop, till it dies,
Bosoms the golden stars and skies,
Oh! let me worship thee!
But, dearest, why that dark look?
Lucifer. Let it not
Cloud thine even with its shadow: but the ground
Of all great thoughts is sadness; and I mused
Upon passed happiness. Well--be it passed!
Did Lucifer, as I do, gaze on thee,
The flame of woe would flicker in his breast,
And straight die out--the brightness of thy beauty
Quenching it as the sun doth earthly fire.
Elissa. Nay, look not on me so intensely sad.
Lucifer. Forgive me: it was an agony of bliss.
I love thee, and am full of happiness.
My bosom bounds beneath thy smile as bounds
The sea's unto the moon, his mighty mistress;
Lying and looking up to her, and saying,
Lovely! lovely! lovely! lady of the heavens!
Oh! when the thoughts of other joyous days,
Perchance, if such may be, of happier times,
Are falling gently on the memory
Like autumn's leaves distained with dusky gold,
Yet softly as a snowflake; and the smile
Of kindliness, like thine, is beaming on me,
Oh! pardon, if I lose myself, nor know
Whether I be with heaven or thee.
Elissa. Use not
Such ardent phrase, nor mix the claim of aught
On earth with thoughts more than with hopes of heaven.
Lucifer. Hopes, lady! I have none.
Elissa. Thou must have. All
Have hopes, however wretched they may be,
Or blessed. It is hope which lifts the lark so high,
Hope of a lighter air and bluer sky;
And the poor hack which drops down on the flints,
Upon whose eye the dust is settling, he
Hopes, but to die. No being exists, of hope
Of love, void.
Lucifer. Yes, one is; the ancient Ill,
Dwelling and damned through all which is: that spirit
Whose heart is hate--who is the foe of God--
The foe of all.
Elissa. How knowest thou such doth live?
If one there be, the spirit foe of man,
It is only that inferiors still must strive.
With God they cannot strive nor dare to deem.
What single star could in itself abide
The onset of the armies of the heavens?
How then all armies his, who all hath made?
And made in love? Oh, trust me, never fell
By love, a spirit or earthly or of heaven.
Rather by love they are regenerate; love,
Mind's happiest privilege, of all living things
The sole sufficing reason. A trinity
There seems of principles, which represent
And rule created life; the love of self,
Our fellows, and our God. In all there reigns
One common feeling; each maintains the other;
Compatible all--all needful; this to life,
To virtue, that, to bliss, all. All, together,
Source, end, perfection show of being create.
From these three principles cometh every deed,
Desire, will, reasoning, good or bad; to these
They all determine--sum and scheme: the three
In centre and in round one--wrap life's world
Sky--wise. Hail! air of love, whereby we live;
How sweet, how fragrant! Spirit, though unseen--
Void of gross sign--is scarce a simple essence,
Immortal, immaterial, though it be.
One only simple essence liveth--God,--
Creator, uncreate. The brutes beneath,
The angels high above us, with ourselves,
Are but compounded things of mind and form.
In all things animate is therefore cored
An elemental sameness of existence;
For God, being love, in love created all,
As he contains the whole, and penetrates.
Seraphs love God, and angels love the good:
We love each other; and these lower lives,
Which walk the earth in thousand diverse shapes,
In whose mean being see God's humility,
According to their reason, love us too;
The most intelligent affect us most.
Nay, man's chief wisdom's love--the love of God.
The new religion--final, perfect, pure--
Is that of mercy and love. Heaven's great command--
Our all--sufficing precept--is't not love?
Truly to love ourselves we must love God--
To love God we must all his creatures love--
To love his creatures, both ourselves and him.
Thus love is all that's wise, fair, good, and happy.
Lucifer. How knowest thou God doth live? Why did he not,
With that same hand which scattered o'er the sky,
As this small dust I strew upon the wind,
Yon countless orbs, aye fixing each on him
Its flaming eye, which winks and blenches oft
Beneath his glance,--with the finger of that hand
Which spangled o'er infinity with suns,
And wrapped it round about him as a robe,
Why did he not write out his own great name
In spheres of fire, that heaven might alway tell
To every creature, God? If not, then why
Should I believe when I behold around me
Nought, scarce, save ill and woe?
Elissa. God surely lives!
Without God all things are in tunnel darkness.
Let there be God, and all are sun--all God.
And to the just soul, in a future state,
Defect's dark mist, thick--spreading o'er this vale,
Shall dim the eye no more, nor bound survey;
And evil, now which boweth being down
As dew the grass, shall only fit all life
For fresher growth and for intenser day,
Where God shall dry all tears as the sun dew.
Lucifer. O lady! I am wretched.
Elissa. Say not so.
With thee I could not deem myself unhappy.
Hark to the sea! Like the near hum it sounds
Of a great city.
Lucifer. Say, the city earth;
For such these orbs are in the realms of space.
Elissa. I dreamed once that the night came down to me;
In figure, oh! too like thine own for truth,
And looked into me with his thousand eyes;
And that made me unhappy; but it passed;
And I half wished it back. Mind hath its earth
And heaven. The many petty common thoughts
Whereon we daily tread, as it were, make one,
And above which few look; the other is
That high and welkin--like infinity,--
The brighter, upper half of the mind's world,
Thick with great sun--like and constellate thoughts;
And in the night of mind, which is our sleep,
These thoughts shine out in dreams. Dreams double life;
They are the heart's bright shadow on life's flood;
And even the step from death to deathlessness,
From this earth's gross existence unto heaven,
Can scarce be more than from the harsh hot day,
To sleep's soft scenes, the moonlight of the mind.
The wave is never weary of the wind,
And in mountainous playfulness leaps to it always.
But mind, world--wearied, glooms itself in sleep,
Like a sweet smile, settling into proper sadness;
For sleep seems part of our immortality:
And why should anything that dies be sad?
Last night I dreamed I walked within a hall--
The concave of the world. Long shroud--like lights
Lit up its lift--like dome, and pale wide walls,
Horizon--like; and every one was there;
It was the house of death, and Death was there.
We could not see him, but he was a feeling:
We knew he was around us--heard us--eyed us;
But where wast thou? I never met thee once.
And all was still as nothingness; or as God,
Deep judging, when the thought of making first
Quickened and stirred within him; and he made
All heaven at one thought as at a glance.
Noise was there none; and yet there was a sound,
Which seemed to be half like silence, half like sound.
All crept about still as the cold wet worms,
Which slid among our feet, we could not 'scape from.
Round me were ruined fragments of dead gods--
Those shadows of the mystery of One--
And the red worms, too, flourished over these,
For marble is a shadow weighed with mind;
Each being, as men of old believed, who 'neath
A dim starlight of truth religious lived,
A moral night, contrast with ours,--distinct
In form, and place, and power, But oh! not all
The gathered gods of eld could shine like ours,
No more than all yon stars could make a sun.
I felt my spirit's spring gush out more clear,
Gazing on these: they beautified my mind,
As rocks and flowers reflected do a well.
Mind makes itself like that it lives amidst,
And on; and thus, among dreams, imaginings,
And scenes of awe, and purity, and power,
Grows sternly sweet and calm--all beautiful
With godlike coldness and unconsciousness
Of mortal passion, mental toil; until,
Like to the marble model of a god,
It doth assume a firm and dazzling form,
Scarcely less incorruptible than that
It emblems: and so grew, methought, my mind.
Matter hath many qualities; mind, one:
It is irresistible: pure power--pure god.
While wandering on I met what seemed myself:
Was it not strange that we should meet, and there?
But all is strange in dreaming, as in death,
And waking, as in life: nought is not strange.
Methought that I was happy, because dead.
All hurried to and fro; and many cried
To each other--Can I do thee any good?
But no one heeded: nothing could avail:
The world was one great grave. I looked, and saw
Time on his two great wings--one, night--one, day--
Fly moth--like, right into the flickering sun;
So that the sun went out, and they both perished.
And one gat up and spake--a holy man--
Exhorting them; but each and all cried out--
Go to!--it helps not--means not; we are dead.
Death spake no word methought, but me he made
Speak for him; and I dreamed that I was death;
Then, that Death only lived: all things were mixed;
Up and down shooting, like the brain's fierce dance
In a delirium, when we are apt to die.
`Hell is my heir: what kin to me is heaven?
Bring out your hearts before me. Give your limbs
To whom ye list or love. My son, Decay,
Will take them: give them him. I want your hearts,
That I may take them up to God.' There came
These words amongst us, but we knew not whence;
It was as if the air spake. And there rose
Out of the earth a giant thing, all earth;
His eye was earthy, and his arm was earthy;
He had no heart. He but said, I am Decay;
And as he spake, he crumbled into earth,
And there was nothing of him. But we all
Lifted our faces up at the word, God,
And spied a dark star high above in the midst
Of others, numberless as are the dead.
And all plucked out their hearts, and held them in
Their right hands. Many tried to pick out specks
And stains, but could not; each gave up his heart.
And something--all things--nothing--it was Death,
Said, as before, from air--Let us to God!
And straight we rose, leaving behind the raw
Worms and dead gods, all of us--soared and soared
Right upwards, till the star I told thee of,
Looked like a moon--the moon became a sun:
The sun--there came a hand between the sun and us,
And its five fingers made five nights in air.
God tore the crown from off the sun's broad brow,
And flung the flaming glory flat to hell.
And then I heard a long, cold, skeleton scream,
Like a trumpet whining through a catacomb,
Which made the sides of that great grave shake in.
I saw the world and vision of the dead
Dim itself off--and all was life. I woke,
And felt the high sun blazoning on my brow,
His own almighty mockery of woe,
And fierce and infinite laugh at things which cease.
Hell hath its light--and heaven; he burns with both,
And my dream broke, like life from the last limb--
Quivering; so loth I felt to let it go,
Just as I thought I had caught sight of heaven,
And seen my last of life's unhappiness.
It came to nought, as dreams of heaven on earth
Do always. Have I touched some spirit--chord,
Adroitless, jars within thy mind? For, see!
Like to a mountain battlemented with cloud,
Some gloomy thought,--what is't? o'erpents thy brow?
Lucifer. It is only this; we are to part.
Elissa. So soon!
Farewell, then, gentle stars! To--night, farewell!
For we all part at once. It is thus the bright
Visions and joy of youth break up--but they
For ever. When ye shine again I will
Be with ye; for I love ye next to him.
To all, adieu! When shall I see thee next?
Lucifer. Lady, I know not.
Elissa. Say!
Lucifer. Never, perchance.
Elissa. There is but one immortal in the world
Who need say--never!
Lucifer. What if I were he?
Elissa. But thou art not he; and thou shalt not say it.
There is not a thing so ill I would not save
Had I the power, from ill, and from itself.
Lucifer. A thought inspired; it might have come from heaven.
Thou art the soul of kindness.
Elissa. Who so speaks
The soul of kindness, speaks the mind of God;
For nature is all kind, and all he made.
Justice and power are attributes of God,
But love his essence. How then harmonize
Infinite love with creatures' endless woe?
If every creatural act be finite, all
God's infinite, then must his love at last
Win every spirit, and all hate subdue.
Can God's will fail for ever? But he wills,
And must, that all souls should be saved and blessed.
As man could never be more just than God,
Shall God, too, be less merciful than man?
The soul create imperfect therefore sins
Because imperfect; but by him redeemed,
As by an universal sacrifice,
Being is saved; and sin gone, suffering ends.
Then, finite nature, which can only know
Imperfect good, by purifying spheres
Of wisdom and progression, grace sustained,
Harmonious lives with the eternal heavens.
Oh! let us meet and talk of things like these,
Always. I love the thought of boundless good.
Stars rise and set, like beauteous, through all time,
With a sublime exactitude to meet
Each other's faces. Why not we, like them?
Lucifer. I see no beauty--feel no love--all things
Are unlovely.
Elissa. O earth! be deaf; and heaven
Shut thy blue eye. He doth blaspheme the world.
Dost not love me?
Lucifer. Love thee? Ay! earth and heaven,
Together, could not make a love like mine!
Elissa. When wilt thou come again? To--morrow?
Lucifer. Well.
And then I cross yon sea ere I return;
For I have matters in another land.
Fear not.
Elissa. When will our parting days be over?
Lucifer. Oh! soon--soon! Think of me, love, on the waters!
Be happy! and, for me, I love few things more
Than at night to ride upon the broad--backed billow,
Seeing along and plunging on his precipitous path;
While the red moon is westering low away,
And the mad waves are fighting for the stars,
Or, say, their transient imagery, sea--sown,
Like men for--what they know not.
Elissa. Scorner!
Lucifer. Saint!
Elissa. Much that is great hath earth; and but one sea,
To her as is her spirit; impulsive oft,
As the mad monarch passion to the heart,
Fathomless, overwhelming, which receives
The rivers of all feeling; in whose depths
Lie wrecked all nature's riches; God, O! sea!
Stainless, immaculable by death, by earth
Of grossliest burthened stream, unfiled; while all
Accepting, purifying, commuting; God
When first he made thee, moved upon thee then,
And left his impress there, the same even now,
As when thy last wave leapt from chaos.--Hark!
Nay, there is some one coming.
Festus
(entering). It is I.
I said we should be sure to meet thee here:
For I have brought one who would speak with thee.
Lucifer. Thanks! and where is he?
Festus. Yonder. He would not
Come up so far as this.
Lucifer. Who is it?
Festus. I know not
Who he may be, or what; but I can guess.
Lucifer. Remain a moment, love, till I return.
Elissa. Nay--let me leave!
Lucifer. Not yet: do not dislike him.
He is a friend, and more another time.
Festus. I am sorry, lady, to have caused this parting.
I fear I am unwelcome.
Elissa. We were parting.
Festus. Then am I doubly sorry; for I know
It is the saddest and the sacredest
Moment of all with those who love.
Elissa. He is coming!
So I forgive thee.
Lucifer. I must leave thee, love:
I know not for how long: it rests with thee
If it seem long at all. Eternity
Might pass, and I not know it in thy love.
Elissa. If to believe that I do love thee always
May make time fly the fleeter--
Lucifer. I'll believe it--
Trust me. I leave this lady in thy charge,
Festus. Be kind--wait on her--may he, love?
Elissa. Thou knowest. I receive him as thy friend,
Whenever he come.
Festus. I ask no higher title
Than friend of the lovely and the generous.
Elissa. Farewell!
Festus. Lady! I will not forget my trust.
(Apart)
The breeze which curls the lake's bright lip but lifts
A purer, deeper, water to the light;
The ruffling of the wild bird's wing but wakes
A warmer beauty and a downier depth.
That startled shrink, that faintest blossom--blush
Of constancy alarmed!--Love! if thou hast
One weapon in that shining armoury,
The quiver on thy shoulder, where thou keep'st
Each arrowy eye--beam feathered with a sigh;--
If from that bow, shaped so like beauty's lip,
Strung with its string of pearls, thou wilt twang forth
But one dart, fair into the mark I mean,--
Do it, and I will worship thee for ever:
Yea, I will give thee glory and a name
Known, sunlike, in all nations. Heart be still!
Lucifer. This parting over--
Elissa. Yes, this one--and then?
Lucifer. Why, then another, may be.
Elissa. No--no more.
I'll be unhappy if thou tell'st me so.
Lucifer. Well, then--no more.
Elissa. But when wilt thou come back?
Lucifer. Almost before thou wishest. He will know.
Elissa. I shall be always asking him.
Lucifer. One word
Apart with thee ere yet thou leavest. Know,
I have with him a purpose thou mayst aid.
Conscious though careless of the future, he
Thou wot'st of, breathes premarked to mighty ends,
The heir of fate; and though to states unknown,
The destined head he lives of power mundane,
Than grandest monarch's more. His soul, as yet
Absorbed in love of wisdom, and his heart
In beauty's starry smile steeped, lack the lure
To climb ambition's heights, where yet his foot,
Outstepping all, is due. If thou, possessed
With aught of friendly impulse, to that end
Couldst wake into a glow the torpid gleeds
Which wait the inspiring breath, words, as may suit,
Of ardour or contempt--forms audible--
Thy fealty to mewards I hold firm,--
It will much advantage me, and mine own ends
Advance.
Elissa. I doubt not, but in worthy purposes,
One might adventure more than words; and this
Towers on the mind more grandly, as the thought
Is contemplated.
Lucifer. True. Perchance himself
Urged warily may to thine ears confide
The future, and success concert with thee.
Tempt him, and he might name thee queen of earth.
Yea, stamped by thine ascendant soul, commence
That bright career the world awaits.
Elissa. And thou?
What part hast thou in this?
Lucifer. A great one I,
Though not like his.
Elissa. Ah, me! A second--best.
Lucifer. Who doeth not great things with equal ease,
And small, doth but indifferently.
Elissa. We all
Have met ere now.
Lucifer. My fault it shall not be
That ye are strangers.
Elissa. Say for me--farewell!
Lucifer. Shine on, ye stars! and light her to her rest;
Scarce are ye worthy for her handmaidens.
Why, hell would laugh to learn I had been in love.
As rumour through some impish spy may blab,
And would be blind, as they oft are who laugh;
Not seeing their own folly, nor the flaw
Which stars their self--deceit. These twain I bring
Together as prime factors in my sum,
The evil most profound I can achieve--
Earth's sudden death. Yet, through the boundless mist
Of mockery I have played with, one bright peak,
Sharp, solid, peers into the upper light;
One thought of good, one seed of sacred truth,
One priceless pearl fallen from love's fairy lips,
Hath sunk into my soul. It irks me not,
Though, like the projective powder of adept,
Hell's base metallic mass it should transmute
Into one pure and perfect orb of gold,
The future is to be; and not as yet
Can I be balked. Eradicated good
Hath heretofore the aim been of my being.
Shall I not strive to root it out then, hence?
See which is stronger, that, or I? though helped
By all creation's wrong and wretchedness?
The war of good and evil narrowed here
To mine own spirit, it is time to force the strife.
All obstacles must be removed, the fates
Are fast maturing to their end, at once.
Thou seemest fixed in thought, as a star in space.
Hast thought of that, I whilom promised thee?
Festus. Soon, then soon.
My mind is now intent on other aims.
Lucifer. The world perhaps will hear of?
Festus. Ay, anon.
Lucifer. I have affairs in hell. Wilt go with me?
Festus. Yes, in a month or two:--not just this minute.
Lucifer. I shall be there and back again ere then.
Festus. Meanwhile I can amuse myself; so, go!
But some time I would fain behold thy home,
And pass the gates of fire.
Lucifer. Thou shalt, and soon.
My home is everywhere where spirit is.
Festus. The strongest passion which I have is honour:
I would I had none: it is in my way.
Guardian Angel. One moment, Festus; go! I follow.
Lucifer. Gone?
All things are as I meant them. On the ridge
Of ruin, how we brave it; as though one,
Ambitious of a seat in heaven, above
The cloud--encumbered pathway of the wind,
Should sit the tremulous bridge all--hued, which spans
Air's stormy realms, fate scorned. To mark an eagle,
Batting the sunny ceiling of the world,
With his dark wings, one well might deem his heart
On heaven; but no! it is fixed on flesh and blood;
And soon his talons tell it. Let me think.
Guardian Angel. Thy great decrees, O God of grace! be given
To humblest spirits to know: too blessed if they,
Thy holy secrets sharing, live, depute,
To work thy universal will, and ground
In thine intents the all--embracing heavens.
Empowered by thee to serve thine ends divine,
We learn the thoughts of others; and in this wise
Now know I thine, O Lucifer! thy schemes
'Gainst God's elect, by mortal, fatal sin
To ruin; but the words within thy spirit,
Let fall by her thou once wouldst sacrifice--
I, and her angel here together prayed--
Like the atomic seed of worlds, the heart
And nucleus of new nature shall betimes,
By will of God regenerate; and all aims
Of creatural evil frustrate, God's sole end
Of universal good o'erride all bounds;
And in his infinite satisfaction close
The world of life:--words which, truth--soul'd, have struck
To the main root of being; thoughts of good
Thou canst not now annihilate; hopes which bear,
Though silent, witness not to be suppressed
By time, like earth's immarbled sediments,
To age--compressing floods. Thou wilt not brook
To her, harm; even this can I foresee;
And thus thy first good deed, rebuking thought
Of ill in other, shall both her and him
Whom thou wouldst lure to ill, and loss of bliss,
Them and thee profit. Time, and God's high will
Shall all things else educe, as writ in heaven.
But he shall know my presence ere I go.
Spirit, I warn thee!
Lucifer. What! celestial friend!
Meet we once more?
Guardian Angel. At last, let mockery cease.
Lucifer. Let mockery cease. I have--is this not true?
To be is something, to believe is more--
While owning him supreme, believed his good,
Yet bounded by mine evil?
Guardian Angel. O, conceit
Most false, most fearful! How then shall he gain
The victories he hath promised to himself,
And all, in everlasting prophesies,
If he subdue not evil and transform
All ill to good? That were a victory vast,
And of none other hand achievable;
Worthy indeed of God.
Lucifer. This sole I see;
All evil I must elaborate to the end,
Both in this mortal and myself. Meanwhile
Can I not, in his heart--bad, base return
True, for that late to me vouchsafed,--one thought
Evil, one wild desire, instil; of soul
Perilous, if ruinous not? 'Gainst both, in sooth,
Must I take arms; as the audacious main
Combats twin elements at once, the land
Lashing with breakers, while with clouded foam,
The neutral air intimidate, he invades.
But dare I meet the fate mysterious, now
Threatened, or promised is't? awaits me? Well;
It recks not. I can brave it to the last.
Guardian Angel. My lips are sealed, mine eyes.
Lucifer. Mine, too. Around
The cavèd heavens I grope, nor see escape;
This everlasting vault, these tombing skies.



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


Poem to print Print

977 Views



Last Poems


To Russian version


–ейтинг@Mail.ru

English Poetry. E-mail eng-poetry.ru@yandex.ru