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Poem by Philip James Bailey


Festus - 40


The skies, the skies reclaim us. Earth dissolved,
God's will prevails now sole. As when o'er vast
And shoreward flats at murkiest noon of night,
No single element, not high heaven, not earth,
Not sea is visible; one wide searching wind,
Sign solitary of life, blows; blows; so sweeps
Through death's unsubstanced state, God's vital thought.
He, as he will, builds, rebuilds; but to all
Create, most just, the soul--world opes, that time
Foreclosed, unthought of men, as by some huge
Judgment self--wrought of nature, each spirit might make
Of evil or good, preponderant choice. Behold
The war all souls must wage; war justified
By God, forefixed; for good fought; war divine;
War spiritual; war heavenly:--and because
The good forgive the evil, all justice done,
God too forgives the good; and hope weds joy.
After inferior nature is subdued
The all--evil see confined. Earth's elements
Conglobe themselves from chaos, purified.

The Skies.
Deity, Angels, Angel of Earth, Luniel, Guardian Angel, Festus, Lucifer.
God.  The age of matter consummates itself.
All things that are shall end, save that is mine.
As with one world so shall it be with all;
For all false, human, fallible, as towards
Creator creature must be, while defect
Of separate life their being vitiates, are.
Prepare ye not the less for all at last,
Grade upon grade of glory, sons of God!

Angels.  Lord! we thy souls ministrant but to effect
Thy loveable will in all things, live.

Angel of Earth. One sphere
Yon prophet of perdition, who saw not
In it destroyed, his own discomfiture,
Space lacks already; and life the great retreat
Begins.

Angels.  Thy hand regenerative, we wait
Author of all, its place to fill in heaven.

Angel of Earth.  Earth's annals are accomplished, and her tale
Told in the eternal archives, closed for good.
Behold the ruinous rudiments of a star,
Once mine; nor let repose in death; but since,
Tortured and torn by hands malevolent. See!
Hath any seen discerption like to this
Titanic, of an orb's once radiant limbs?

Angels.  Despair not thou, the nucleate heart still is,
Doubtless: and, purified, may yet revive.

Luniel.  Meanst thou yon mass unsphered, suspense 'tween heaven's
Calm upward, and these detrimental deeps,
Down dragging, all destructive, part without
Mine orbit, part within; was that once earth?
I see no feature, like.

Angel of Earth. Ah, yes! not quite
Void, yet, of nature's cardinal shapes, each hour
Tending to wonted settlements, waiting still
The word compulsory, quickening, to reform;
Or, to disperse, permissive, earth it was.

Luniel.  Seems something wanting to perfection. Lacks
Force, may be for inception of new worlds;
Lacks will; perchance mislike feels deity towards
That mould of being.

Angel of Earth.  I go. Earth! man, farewell.

Luniel.  One moment, angel, fold thy wing. Stay yet
Thy star--flight; and,--if gained God's leave, while thus
Colleagued, we parle, we, hosts ubiquitous, soon
Eradiated, to part, on quests divine,
From this spot, God's now presence central makes
To the whole unlimited,--say, we all would know
Who circling with the whirlwind of our wings
Yon rude compost, the earth, have, curious, marked,--
What mean these grouped below us; that side, fiend,
And man, this? this triumphant, that abject?
What, too, yon guardian spirit, hovering near?
Why silent all in God? To most it bodes
Mystery; nor me can these, consociate here,
But for the hour, from spheres far off, inform
Touching events strange, vast, late happed in heaven.
Speak, friendliest spirit; for, when thine orb, dispersed
In fiery fragments, lessening more and more
By self--resolvent forces from all claim
Cohaesive, robbed my memory of a form
I once so dearly loved, tears so mine eyes
Drowned, grief my heart so panged, I fled; yes, far
Space--winging, fled that world--wrack. But now say
Ere yet, sweet angel--ward of earth, thou joinest
Again, thy charge, say, heard not I resound
Late on these aëry shores, the shock of war?
For view I might not, since the sun's bright ball
Rayless, upon his ebon throne, the void,
Between me and this dread combat intervened?

Angel of Earth.  War, Luniel? Yes! I there. Not I could quit
Even earth's ashes: nor was't for me to shrink
From sharing all her woe. Nor only this
Knew I, but all predestined in the passed;
The hostile forces, good and evil, each
Head in man's spirit contentious, wisely framed
For advance perpetual, conflict consecrate
By virtue's laws whose powers preponderant tend
Through nature, Godwards; if to ill devote
Wrenched therefore culpably 'gainst God's end,--and all
To that grand crisis pertinent, whose just
Effect, as earth with heaven reharmonized,
Foretold, we have yet to see. Meanwhile, be sure
'Twas a fair foughten fight, this field of fields.

Luniel.  Rehearse, dear spirit, this contest, for the sense
Intense of joy in extreme action makes
Wish one had there been.

Angel of Earth. War unmatched in time;
Holiest of wars, and best, the war of good
'Gainst evil.

Phanuel. O amiablest of angels, say
As thou beheldst, it may be, sharedst the strife,
Its varying course.

Angel of Earth. Slight part in this was mine,
O angel of salvation! but to encheer
The heaven--prized spirits with hope and holy strength.
Nor is it I can tell ye best. Behold!
Couched 'neath yon cloudy precipice, the soul
War--proven, who watch keeps o'er the conquered fiend,
Heaven's late antagonist, and earth's; he, best,
He, or the fiend, how fared the fight, can say.
For need I show that in yon prostrate shape,
Lies evil o'erthrown, its doom from God's just lips
Here waiting; not with weak reproach, nor shame
Boisterous, nor mock contempt; but as evil sage,
Not wholly execrable, nor yet to be
Deemed desperate infinitely; but aptest sense
His of necessitate being, and consciousness
While gaining all his limited ends, of ends
Wider opposed, his mastering; we, not he,
Unless through blind and fluttering instinct, him
Knowing by alchemy of force divine,
God's sole will, yet transformable.

Luniel. Draw nigh,
Mortal. And, if I err not, we, ere now,
Have met, traversed and seen together much.
Much joy I, that such good conceived hath borne
In thee, though late enough, fair fruit. And now
Wouldst me repay for favours passed, or these
Spirits of amity please; and if of deeds
Glorious at once and good, thou lovest to tell
Not less than aid,--speak on! that we, informed,
With all benevolent souls, that joy which crowns
And sums celestial life may share whene'er,
And in what spheres soever, through all space
Good prospers, good in all because of God.

Guardian Angel.  Approach, my Festus, spirit beloved, nor fear
Trespass again of evil, nor dread escape
From God's unmeasured grasp. This conflict passed,
Know all ye angels, earth's, with time, with life
Coördinate, and the victory God's, of good.

Festus.  O heavenly angels, denizens of state
Celestial, pardon ye, if words of mine,
Conceptions human failing to translate,
Fall shorter miserably of minds divine;
But that ye part, made wise in order due
Of all things, hear, bright spirits this tale in few:
And may the all present, but invisible One,
Inspire me to declare what sole is true!
Ere yet, and this ye wot of, earth attained
Her supreme end, man's race,--so gracious grown
Their instinct of perfection to be gained
In all things, had, in outward life, so won
Comfort refined, and moderate plenty, ease,
Free faith, and learning's temperate luxuries,
That, in self--flattery, they would whisper, none
Of souls create, or kinds to be, unknown,
In social law, weal, polity, might proceed
Further; scarce 'scaped they angels to become,
In charity and all knowledge. Underneath
This outward life of mind was spirit--death,
Wide spread, not tainting all. Heaven saw the need,--
Here, prophecy and pagan foresight one,--
Of a great purifying strife, the doom
Self--wrought, of woe or bliss, from good or ill
Practised by fallible souls but free, wherein
God's aims they might adopt, or side with sin:
And conscience so with fate, one end fulfil.
Earth's final scenes avails not now to unroll;
Her agony was o'er, and death's, mine own,
For we had died together: and my soul,
Freed from life's bonds, God's universal throne
Touched instant, and the immaterial whole
Henceforth intuitive grasped; and knowing, knew
Some all composing purgatorial strife,
Conclusive of all contests passed through life,
Some vast impending struggle foredoomed and due.
Such conflict God permitting for his ends
To be deferred till earth had ceased, outburned,
The bliss of his elect from first decerned,
Secured, that souls all else might prove themselves his friends
Or foes, self--judged; and ere these hellwards turned,
Those heavenwards, each their principles foreshow
To all their fellow spirits on high, below;
And if to wisdom's godlier life inclined,
Or ignorance dark and selfish lusts their mind.
I had passed then through death's cloud; my spirit dilate;
Like to a flower which suddenly expands
Seemed with all force fraught fourfold, and the fate
Of life--worlds trembling in my single hands.
I looked around; and though earth's sphere no more
Loomed 'neath my feet as memory sought, nor wore
The masque impenetrable she wont before,
Yet to my spiritual sense seemed all as when
First conscious, nature knew I, matter, men.
Save that the elements midst transition seemed
Somewhat; incongruous; bent to interchange;
Not friends, not foes, but each to other strange,
Unfixed, unfinished, as things had but dreamed
Their passed life over again; with many a gap
Of orderly sequence blanked; faults still, mayhap,
Of unrecognizant mind; to be disesteemed.
Thus, then the prospect stood; an obscure plain
Showed spread far out before the face of heaven,
Where solitude, if generable, once given
To life, might have presumed an endless reign,--
When, suddenly, on either hand, arose
And marvellously, as though compact of air,
Ere the whole eye were of the fact made 'ware,
A world in arms, though mixed, instinctive foes.
Souls, these, humane, which filled earth's every land,
When death's stern angel, at a sign, life's scroll,
Stretched 'tween his hands, did ruthlessly uproll;--
Not numbered 'mongst the chosen, but free to prove
By virtuous tests, amenable to love,
Who, foes of God, would fall, or, friends, would stand:
Sufficing thus to vindicate the end
God in creating free doth aye perpend;--
That good should master ill; heaven's hoped for life
Mere death outworth; God's peace, all creatural strife.
For every soul, unwittingly in the passed
Self--quit or self--condemned,--no proofless plea
Of faith in carnal gods, no unbased trust
To magical words or symbols in the eye
'Vailing, of God the Father, kind as just
Towards all his children, he uplifting none
At cost of others; asking not of one
More than his strength or light could owe; this last
Of all earth's human generations, he
Mildliest of all, as cut off timelessly,
Would treat. His ways how holy, and how fair!
Quick as by passion's step, that vast array,--
By trumpets silver or brazen, which each one told
Inly, beneath what pennons to repair,
That either side their visible tongues unrolled,
Divided, sought its side and took its way.
Soon, distant hills gleamed with long ranks of foes,
Illimitable, as sunset lines which bar
Eve's skies, or sphere broad belted, as for war,
Eager to outlap or with the opponent close:
Each gorged horizon tremulous with the crowds,
O'er plain and mount self--urged like armied clouds.
On either side, two eminences I viewed,
Tall, ominous, like twin monsters on the plain,
Fallen brooding. Each vast mound, of arms was reared
Carnal and spiritual mingled; bright appeared
Those, with a sickly polish which by use
Wears off; by use, a dazzling hue these gain,
Intensitive, that of dulness dares accuse
The glareful lightnings earth midst all her path
Fronts: and 'tween these the ghostly multitude
By brotherly love commoved, or scorn, which hath
With hell fell concert, each, his arms to choose,
Passed and repassed. Whiles marked I, unconcerned,
The gathering tempest rolling down the hills,
And storm of men their hurricane way that burned
Before them; and though, time now passed, averse
From war, and deeming it earth's crowning curse,
Her worst and least defensible of all ills,
Yet now it sacred seemed; and, strange fatality!
Who should be vanquished, or who victor, while
My course and choice awaiting to decide,
Borne in, it seemed, upon me as a tide
O'erwrothed, that all the blood--feuds which defile
Earth's annals, were but mocks of this reality,
Their end, their antitype; yet, so secure
My trust in good passed all things framed to endure,
No fear my heart from steadiest state might lure;
Nor mote I marvel more what should create
Such mighty armaments, should thus draw forth
Those, as of southern fire--gloom born, with hate
Hot, these, as storms of splendour from the north
Issuant, in long keen lines o'er half the earth,
When I beheld in these commilitant bands
Men of all faiths, all tongues, all strains, all lands,
All names; on that side all co--variants massed
Votaries of error, falsehood, mystery, each
Leagued 'gainst the faith on this, earth's first, earth's last;
Held by the wise of every age and speech;
Which saints sing, angels celebrate and teach,
God's unity, and his love; man's deathless soul
Judged with just mercy; so that he, the whole,
Who made, made pure, will ultimately ally
With him. Not long stood dallying with suspense.
I, who had `whither,' alway paired with `whence,'
While pondering on man's end, as source, like high;--
When, hark! from form invisible, but close by,
An angel voice--

Guardian Angel. 'Twas I, dear Festus, I,
Thy soul--ward!

Festus. Thou!--cried, `Arm, for thy defence;
The idolaters, thy foes, and truth's, appear;
And all the hosts of evildom, since life
Began, revived to wage earth's deadliest strife.'
And, in a moment, ere the anxious eye
Could glance around, a shadowy hand was near;
Dight me in armour; gave a glittering brand
Which, lurid as the flash tempestuous heaven
Hurls to sea, queller of cloud--sundering levin,--
Shook forth its permanent lightnings in mine hand;
Soul--trenchant; wrought of star--steel which endures,--
Even as of old the mystic meteor sword,
By nomad Scythian idolwise adored,--
No sheath; its ingrained fire all cloak combures
Disdainful; gave this spiky shield; this spear,
Floweret of fight, of war's keen crop bright ear:
Then, vanished visibly. I wordless stand,
Waiting the approach of some one to dispel
The mist of doubt upon my spirit that fell.
While thus I stood expectant, from on high
Yon angel came,--oh! can I ever tell
His guardian love?--and touching thrice mine eye,
With force endowed it prism--wise, whereby
All motives to themselves men justify
As stimulating their acts, it could disblend,
Even to their innate elements which the soul,
With either host, according to their end
Coördinated, and lawed to sin's control,
Or virtue's. Thus apprised, I straightways view,
Who served false gods, if but with piety, drew
Toward us; who homaged even the sole and true,
As hypocrites, sought the enemy; and so knew,
God just, self--doomed all. There, with those, I eyed
All selfish passions, envy, avarice, hate,
Impiety and impurity close allied,
Sloth, wrath, intemperance, cruelty and false pride,
Within the enemy's breast self--generate,
Each several vice the bad have deified
Corrupting inwardly; each contagious side
To his neighbour's heart infecting. Here, elate,
The pure determining reasons when I saw,
The love of God, of mercy, virtue's law,
Truth, wisdom and their friends impersonate,
Though fewer than the foe, of loftier state,
I, as by rational gravitation, sped
Swift towards the array of light, and made mine own
The cause they served. No sooner joined, than head
Stood I, meseemed, o'er all, leave asked of none,
Nor of sway wishful: for no longer fired
With love of place pre--eminent as desired
Erstwhile, nathless these ends my seekers sought
Prizing, ends virtue sanctioned, wisdom loved,
To save from error's doom, give heaven its aught,
Predestined; capture in pure mercy; win
The soul self--blinded to the effects of sin
Godwards; ends worthy of him, by him approved;
And truth's friends:--all resistlessly concurred
My soul to attract. Their foemen, rebels vile
Showed, who his rule spurned, scorned his power and word;
Strove aye his works to depreciate, defile;
Colleagued to impair the just; to impugn the true;
To blacken every fault thought had but blurred:--
To vaunt their arms could all the Gods subdue,
Or chase them out of heaven,--an atheist crew,
And disbeliefful host,--and their seats give
To creatural born pretenders, fortune, chance;
Developed force, wed atoms with the expanse;
To mere material powers that be, not live;
All godliest truths ignored;--such, these who fought--
So learned I, from the spiritual inview given
Mine eye,--for falsehood, and, for God, would nought.
And now, nor time for more served; for, self--massed,
With treacherous speed, and ranked, their lines as driven
By inward tempests, on, the foe came fast;
From every eye--ball rage and malice gleamed;
Like burning floods along the plain they passed.
High on their ensigns strange devices beamed
Forbidden, of blackest magic scrolled in light
Of vicious glamour; spells of murderous might;
And weapons weird, with mottoes base bedight,
Such as around the lips of Circe's bowl,
Or on siren's tongues suffice to slay the soul;
Here, as though stolen from the heraldry of hell,
On many a shield, `eternal death,' imblazed;
Here, the illumined lie, `no God!' we gazed,
Imbannered. Still no terror us befell.
But as when earth's forceful orb, ancient of night,
Rolling serene on her foresmoothened way,
Some dimly insultant shower of meteor light
Breasts listless, undeflect; so our array
Dense, but with crush of splendours, all their charge
Hurled on us, each receives, contemns at large;
So certain seem we of our ultimate day.
But not too wisely this, nor then. Still on,
On sweeping still, with shouts and cursings dire,
Their brows as brass, their squadrons swift as storm
When arrowy lightnings nature's face deform;
Before them darkness, and behind them fire,
They, hosted, rushed; and as a sea its banks
Strikes foaming, thundering, smote our faithful ranks.
Then closed the armies. Cloud 'gainst cloud when thrown
By adverse winds, first straggles into thin strife
From different levels, till, storm--crushed in one,
Darkness 'mid darkness wedged, with horrors rife,
The gloomy concave no distinction shows;
So blended in one vast intricate fray,
These, bellowing, called destruction on their foes,
And with a terrible onset nought could stay,
Left havoc scarcely room his arm to play.
From our own hearts unspoken prayers arose;
And praise of God who the beginnings knows
Of all things from the end; and to defeat
Ever subjects, at first, the cause he hath chose.
Reeled earth beneath the madness of the shock;
The mountains smoked; the hills broke from their seat;
Their banks streams leaped; groans burst from hardest rock;
The seas convulsed against their barriers beat;
The sun, like one who, fear--struck, drops his hands,
Withdraws his beams, and all astonied stands,
Rayless; re--waked, lifts her red torch the moon,
Lest all should yet be lost in total night.
The trembling stars, unchecked by fervid noon,
Rush from their bowers, with censers burning bright;
Even hell was moved, and weltering where he lay,
A howl of joy sent forth commingled with dismay.
Scarce was a pause bethought of, either side,
And fiercelier e'er the war waxed, for betide
What might of conflict or conquest, ere long
The sun; all saw, must set;--incentive strong
With us to fight so as to win, who light
Even as God's shadow love; to them, too, night
Who worship as the friend of fraud. Now, 'mong
The traitor ranks whose leaders we had guessed
Nowise, nor knew what griefs their manifest
Of war set forth,--a chief had late appeared,
Of towering stature, and of visage fell,
Who in his hand a dreadful weapon reared
Macelike, entwined with serpents, seed of hell;
While round his neck a burnished shield its blaze
Far o'er the war--field flashed with blinding rays.
Quailed all the faithful 'neath the impending might
Of this impersonate awe; a withering spell
Bode in his eyes that struck with deathly blight
Men's souls; scarce 'scaping one, a fatal daze
Who on those wide--scanning orbs but paused to gaze.
As when, through sheaf--piled fields, a ball of fire,
Elanced from cloud electric, speeds its way,
Scorching and wasting with unwavering ire,
Each feeble obstacle nought but surer prey;
So, through ranks prostrated, the eye might trace
His devastations by a trenchèd tract
Of souls slain seemingly; and still his pace,
Precipitate as a lava cataract,
Death--fraught, he urged; now, as he nearlier drew,
Amazed, I gazed; for well that form I knew;
And, hailing, would have stayed; in vain; for aye
The desolation round him graver grew.
His step, his mien alas! I could but know,
His ominous air; and from his eye's deep glow,
Pulsant, requickening like to ember fanned
By the owlet's wing, all sequent things in hand
My soul conceives, undeeded, done, foreplanned.
`Hold, spirit;' I cried; grant all thy doomed array
One moment's truce, and these just proffers weigh.
God willeth not the death ye seek this day;
But that ye live. Submit yourselves to heaven,
Quit evil, and all sin's false pretence eschew;
Repent, believe, be good and be forgiven.
'Tis God's will.' `Art thou,' quoth the fiend, `the man
I stood by, late?' `I am,' I said. `And can
These souls, think'st thou, who live beyond the grave,
Freed from death's law, who now destruction brave,
To other will subject them than their own?
Speak, all ye hosts!' `We serve ourselves alone';
Broke in low thunders from those lurid lines,
Shadowy. `Accept thy answer, nor again
Obstruct,' the demon said, `with projects vain,
Our course.'--Grieved, scarce surprised, retain
All ours, perseverant, one sublime consent,
One fixed resolve; through all our columns shines
On every face the firm but sweet intent
To prove, by love's resistless argument
God kind as just; and how sin's worst endeavour
Being finite, must at last fail all to outbrave
His boundless goodness which, perforce, for ever
Endures; not he more prone to love than save
The souls he hath made. This too we let them hear
By herald's lips; and vowed to persevere
While life remained. Like hardly obstinate, they,
Motive and end impugned, word sent to say
No God they knew; nor, if they won their way
O'er us, should we great nature's mysteries
Traduce, and live. Forewarned by taunts like these
We nerve ourselves once more to war, and strain
Our strength to o'erthrow the mountainous juggleries
They forge against us. Strange and monstrous shows
Of all imaginary ills, portents,
Such only as inventive madness knows,
Forbye their own, of hideous armaments
O'erhead in air; seemed even to join the fray
The elements bodily; and whilst fieriest rain
And winds sulphureous storms contrariant threw
'Gainst our firm--footed forces, earth and main
By turns retaliating dismay, now drew
Hither, the fight, now thither. Fixed retain
Both hosts the intent, as yet, the day to gain.
As when some ocean--flood to circumvent
An island obstacle, its strifeful tides,
Though to collide at last doomed, first, divides,
This polewards, linewards that, while each intent
On its own course, half with its rival's blent,
Conscious not yet of check, nor rise nor fall
Brooks, till at last, one turbulent level all
In vast libration holds;--so we this war
And strenuous aequipoise of discontent
Wage, doubt--crowned, nor, who victors know thus far.
We most had suffered; ours, most wounded, showed.
Yet still meseemed we had gained the ground where stood
Their streamy standards first; and gained for good.
But as when athwart some broad far--stretching beach
The seaward wind ascendant, hour by hour,
With huge and inexhaustible greed of death,
Sweep sand--clouds suicidal, mad to reach
The invasive waves white plumed who at every breath
A land born levy engulph, insatiate;--so
Like endless, fruitless like, this strife of power
With power, to feud eternal threats to grow;
As though even fate prevaricated. Again
From point to point the rebel chieftains flew
And, passing, on us faithful, looks oft threw
Of proud contempt, to mark the swathes of slain;
So seemed our vanquished to their treacherous view.
In splendid mien and lofty port they shone,
Dazzling the eye; and as from out the mass,
They sudden broke, and then were lost anon,
Like stars they showed, when tempests break and pass
In quivering fragments of dark clouds away,
Casting around a brief but baleful ray.
The faithful checked, a moment, now resumed
Hotlier the fight; and though the rebel arms
Bright bannered, far and wide, the field illumed,
In guise triumphant, brooked no base alarms.
No foot now flinched; no hand now failed; no heart
Grew faint, of those who filled, still firm, our throng,
Of sacred ranks; each soul, inspired, his part
Heaven--named, performed, in zeal and reason strong;
For reason strengthened every hand that fought
That day for faith. How tense the strain was ours
One moment proved extatic, when, faith--brought;
Truth, virtue, 'like their cause, their ends, their powers,
Our camp seek; stay; and midst our vaunt--guard bide;
In panoply of proof, with hosts allied,
Givers of victory; choosers they of all
Whose choice is life eternal; by our ranks
Hailed rapturously, and their pure aid with thanks;
Maids of immortal sanctity, we forestal
Their triumph; and regard half--deified;--
Invincible, they at least. By our content,
So audibly voiced, the foe at last alarmed,
And at such access of high powers, so armed,
To madness wrought, and upon nought less bent
Than us to at once annihilate, formed behind
Each wing, fresh myriads massed; and passion--blind
Our lines unmoved assail; till, flagging they,
We, our main strength reserved, renew the affray:
Impatient, dreadless, on the enemy rush,
And 'neath our might, in turn, their legions crush.
As when 'neath spring's bright sun, clouds broken fly
Before the impulsive wind, and, through the sky
Routed, as by rejoicing gusts of light,
Pass, shamed and dulled, so these their fated flight,
Beneath our swift assaults, speed sullenly.
Exultant we pursue our conquests; yield
They seem to do on all sides; everywhere
We spread our terror; overrun the field;
Surrender some; some clamour to be led
'Gainst their late friends;--too weary we, instead,
These guard for later discipline;--but the snare
We are in, mark not; for, as a rock--foiled wave,
Instinct with treachery, scoops an envious grave
For the pursuing surge; so us, our foe
Had into straits enticed we could not know
Aforewhile. Sudden spread around our feet
Quicksands, where hollower hills redoubled cheat
With hope of fugitive rest. And some, no few,
By deftest witchery dazed and drawn, pursue
A high--road broad, which brings their camp in view,
Rich in all luxuries, tent and provant there,
Tempting repose, refreshment. `O beware!'
Our angel cried, o'er watchful in the sky,
`'Tis all illusion, 'tis a visible lie.
Retreat, reframe yourselves.' Ashamed in time,
They 'scape the torments of remembered crime,
And seek circuitously their peers and friends;
When lo! their backs scarce turned, the enchantment ends
As suddenly. But the enemy boastful now
Of least success, thought even to countervail
Our vantage late, by aids that could not fail,
Suborned of all the powers unjust below;
Sin, superstition, passion, vice, hate, pain;
He called, and hell's delusions thronged the inane:
Phantoms and fiendish spectres, such as glow
Preposterous, on the horizon long and low,
Where lies, cloud--stifled, on his golden bed
The tyrant sun; shapes, that from foot to head,
Distort themselves fanatically, and change
Their misconceived proportions every breath
They draw, ere throes of self--dissolving death
Scatter o'er space their writhing limbs. So strange
And to distract our spirits, these shapes appear,
Foul, threatening, that on high assailed by fear,
Below by force, we might less mightily ply
Our arms, this wise enfeebled;--arm nor eye
Quailed, or to phalanxed host, or imminent sky.
Not impious force, not ghastliest wizardry,
Prevailed. The tempest of enchantment passed,
Calm, we resumed our freer, safer ground;
Defend, and for reward brief respite found.
`Hear, fellow--warriors,' soon I cried, `not long
Behoves us to recruit our strength with rest.
'Tis action, and its sole end, fair conquest,
Heaven of our arms demands; 'twere like them wrong,
To stand not ever and instantly on guard.'
Assent all eagerly. Thus, not unprepared
The enemy find us; but still bent to wage
What war they might, who fought because we spared,
In mean, sparse, unsustained attacks they cast
Their failing strategy 'gainst us; till, at last,
Not daring longer openly to engage
Our conquering standards, they for parle applied;
But parley served not; for we, loyal, pressed
Now keenly on, and all their wiles defied;
More traitorous than we knew them yet untried.
As vulture trapped our enemy found too late,
Strife nor submission freed from fore--fixed fate,
Of them unthought; of us, yet unconfessed.
Anon, our faithful pause; for now the foe
Desperate, turned 'gainst each other, nor expressed
One plan, but for their Head hate sole possessed;
Whose errors grossest ignorance seemed to show
And whose misfeats all ills to premonstrate;--
Less seriously concerned our force to wreck
They, than their own league;--crazed! More potent check,
No more sufficing punishment could know,
'Twas plain, the adversary. Blow now 'gainst blow
Answering no more from ours, war lulled. While thus
In separate commonalties resolved, and while
By open conflict or by scarce hidden guile,
Each thwarting other, gradually they wound
Their battle from off this world--contested ground,
As though some likelier schemes to rediscuss.
Their leader, prompt to prove his weight in war,
To every foe, or open or envious,
In face of all his gleamy squadrons round,
Stood, as in summer's dawn the morning star
Is wont, in the young orient to protect
Night's astral troops, retreating nigh and far
Into heaven's fastnesses, ere o'ermastering light
All rout; and seems, while any shadows are,
With his sole tutelar spear, day's whole effect
To outworth; such craft of bravery in sight
Of our chafed legions, haughtily dared deploy
Their chief, who would our hopes, God's ends, destroy.
Yet seize we not the moment to embroil
Our arms afresh; but pause from battailous toil.
For now day dimmed, though long seemed dark delayed;
And hills, themselves but shadowy, shadows made.
Now, set the sun; but who of all forecast
That sunset he beheld was nature's last?
Man's little day, foreweighted on the beam
Of God's eternal poise, time's day supreme,
Closed now for aye on that aetherial field;
And all to night primaeval looked to yield;
That strife of strengths supernal, once of old,
Time's twilight, and the god--war, seer foretold;
That contest so to conquest near, as deemed,
Our hosts, thus ended, worse than doubtful seemed,
In pardonable distrust; and some forebode,
The world's passed, they should see no day of God:
Not reckoning how all being our God can bend
To his vast aim, nor whither all things tend.
Now 'mongst the opposing powers strange factions showed,
And 'gainst their chief in mutinous hatred glowed.
Plot plot supplanted: each malign device
This one a feint proposing, that, a snare,
Foiled by his craft they sought to sacrifice;
He, pondering all, all deems unworth his care.
Till, galled at bruited failure of his plans,
The cause of good to ruin, God's and man's,
As boasted of in hell, and hatched first there,
Swells ultimately within the demon's breast
Lust for one more, one crucial, last contest.
His scheme imparted, animates the rest.
'Tis fixed; the friendly powers of darkness aid
Their columns thickening 'neath night's fraudful shade.
Yet not such secret guile was theirs to vaunt,
But Virtue,--who an eminence hard by
Had conquered, whence she might unseen descry
All hostile evildom,--she, aye vigilant,
Forewarned us; nay, presentient, had divined
From ominous silence what dumb fiend stood nigh;
And thence what proximate peril to first defy.
As therefore, when, times passed, to obey man's mind,
The electric harpstrings humming in the wind,
With latent lightning charged, strange news of birth
Imperial, peace, war, or loved patriot's death,
In viewless miracle flashed o'er half the earth,
By land, by sea, while one could hold his breath,
So through our serried squares the tidings passed,
Presignalled by the rise of time--fixed star,--
From the pure power--`The foe prepares a last
Assault. Be equal all, anear, afar;
Nor doubt the event, God's champions as ye are.'
And soon, in full extent of all their host,
On us they advance, wide--horned; as rock--bound coast,
Curved crescent--wise, shuts in some helpless bay;
Though cheered by wavelets bright which know nathless
A spell to check their enemies' forwardness;--
So we the impending foe abide, and pray.
With a shock they burst upon us, as a cloud,
Rampant in air, hail--fraught, no mean that knows
'Tween the still step of its aerial snows
From this to that horizon, and the breach
Of all heaven's laws by abruptest thunder--speech
In burning bolts articulated, they blast
Our ranks, not foreadvised for nought. Allowed
Scarce time our files again to form, such blows
Dealt they, as might to all subjection teach,
Save their born masters. We, our foes irate,
Instinctive foes, by birth these, those by fate,
By reason more, but all as foes self--classed,
Fight leniently; nor strive to exterminate,
So much as to chastise and teach. Vain care!
Roused by one wide tempestuous thunder--blast,
Wild brief of all the discordry of war,
They bore down on us, with the sickening sweep
Of an eclipse's wing, which, shadowy, chilled
To its fiery heart, the sphere, and the storm stilled
Of foregone strife; down on us, in the deep
The murk, unmorrowing, darkness, as it seemed;
Cleared all mid spatial checks; closed for the fray;
Singled every soul his man, as who should say
Each spirit hath sworn its separate sheaf to reap
From that stupendous tilth, fate's harvest field,
Where all the vanquished, to perdition sealed,
Sank down, to horrible ruin unrepealed
Unmatched; or so they opined. Not one but dreamed
Of worsting us by truculent rage, or sheer
O'erbearingness; nor knew their doom how near.
Through all their vast platoons, as lightning ploughs
Black storm--clouds, pierce we; all our forces rouse
In flying raids their wings clip, and attack,
Lighter, their masses dense and dazed; drive back
To where their main reserves, not yet too late
For one grand stroke, in ignorance stand of fate.
We pause. They form; charge; but not all the weight
Their force disorderly could accumulate,
Nor vehement fury gave them, our array
Indented permanently. At this, abashed,
As one who by sheer selfwill hath lost his way,
Our rebels round them glared with dumb dismay,
Like to a storm whose last faint lightnings flashed
Soundless, ere yet it ceased, mid heaven's blithe vault,
In impotent vapourings. We, meanwhile, who rest,
With one sole resolute purpose prepossessed,
Such thankful tears shed, each on other's breast,
As one life hazarding 'gainst some grim assault
Of the elements, and still extant, sternly glad
Despite the escape from judgment lately had,
To know his vital virtue not at fault,
Nor all his lifelong training at last vain,
Who feels that not to have lost is all to gain;
Now, like elate, from rank to rank we tossed,--
As waves the columned shadow of the sun,
From this to that spray--crested, ever lost
In rearward depths, fresh framed in front,--the smile
Self--luminous of success, so dearly won,
So scarcely, that disdainful of all wile,
All force, presumptuous, I at length began
To accredit fate with faith's too facile plan,
And dream all might to one sole duel bend
This battlefield of good and evil man.
How act? `Stand forth, fell foe; man's, God's,' I cried,
`Who dost to both all ill, dost more intend.
Thy praepotence dread not I; but fortified
Built up and towered in spirit by strength divine,
I wait to seal this woe, thine end or mine,
With mine all these!' As glides a cloud from far,
Lone scout of tempests, towards some paly star,
Pale, not appalled, in silence one may feel
Perfusive even to fainting, ere it rend
Its heart in fiery thunders, so reveal
Our foe storm--massed 'gainst us, their mighty head,
Towards me advancing on slow foot;--but ere
That occultation, crowds on either hand
Between us rush, and each to his command
Deliberately returned, reform instead
Their front, their lines redress. Fell now from heaven,
As I the event sought of this strife in prayer,
These words, space--sundering; `To nought made is given
This war to end, but to God sole. Persever
Ye righteous souls. Ye win, if late, win ever.'
Heart warm with joy I heard. To us who know
We no defection have to mourn, to show,--
With growth of disciplined forces everywhere,
No breast but glows recuperative, no arm
But touched one moment by the sacred charm
Of that soul--medicine, he, within his tent
The great Physician, gives to all who will;
To us, of strength vouchsafed proud, ardent, still,
As warriors of the light to fight 'gainst ill,
Scarce other plan than this seemed left, untried,
God's mind, diffused abroad in us, our guide,
The enemy now to charge in chief; and while
Their force by ours outmastering, force and guile
Alike crushed, bind, in love's constraining bands;
For in our camp was store of griefless chains
Unloosenable, which nought, not pride withstands,
Of golden patience wrought and purest pains,--
Nor slay, but relegate solely to God's hands.
This vow by each partook, and ministered
Mutually, as though by comforting wine and bread,
Refreshed, each heaven--devote battalion stands;
One moment pray we silently; then form;
Then forward, by one impulse, like a storm.
But oh! a storm of tenderness and fear
For them, not of them, even as streams o'erbear,
But not uproot, the sedgy crop they hold;
Thus irresistibly we outsweep, enfold,
Thus, peace--inspired, we war; pass hope; each hand
Mightier than aught known evil might gainstand,
Evil, cloud--lifed. Boots not to tell how last
O'erthrown, cowed, conquered, 'neath our yoke they passed,
Nor how, heaven therefor thanked, we testified
Our boundless joy. But as the earth--conquering tide,--
Who many a green and purple braid, at large,
Twist gorgeously in trebly tincted strand,
Like desert sanctuary's symbolic band,
Casts careless on the shore's wide shining marge;
With giant globelets gemmed of rainbow foam,
Seed of the sea, whence beauty first was born;--
A mass ingarlanded of jewelled weeds;
His prostrate foe thus decked in divine scorn
Of strength, strength sterner had o'erborne;--so we
All honours quartering with the enemy,
Nor longer counting possible strife to come,
Our vanquished load with spoil of generous deeds;
Drive, jubilant, all our glittering triumph home,
With song, and loud conclaim of victory.
Thus warred, thus win we. Time shall sink in night
But never shall from memory pass the sight
Transcendant, when the foe their sign first gave
Of full submission. Like the smile of light,
The silent lightning of the moonlipped wave,
Which, lengthening gradual, parts now, now extends;
Beams from far points at once, there central breaks;
Here from the midst its flight extremeward takes;
Then, sudden ceased; revives; revives, nor ever ends;--
Gleamed forth the inexhaustible joy, now ours
Through all our dazzling lines. There are, meanwhile,
With our changed adversaries, no longer powers
Of ill, who fain with fate would reconcile
Their late discomfited chief. He, too, in mien
By sudden sorcery changed, both hosts between,
On wing malefic hung, as, poised o'er sands,
Shadowy, a black and jagged cloud will lie,
Monstrous and solitary. Too fierce to fly
But, braving doom, with uplift impious hands
Clenched, clubbed with threats, he glowered upon the sky,
The great infortune of the universe;
All winding, man and God, in one unuttered curse.
`O thou All--good!' I cried, `to yon dark power,
Malevolent, in the air, betwixt thy throne
And us, our cause arraigning in thine own,
Be thy miraculous might, conversive, shown,
And all thy mercy usward, this dread hour;
Or show us how our foe to annihilate.'
Presumptuous, thus, impatient, if I prayed
Yet not unacceptably all, as fate
To the world reveals. For lo! all life create,
As warrior's breast of arrowy bolt relieved
Flesh racking,--groaned with joy, as down he fell,--
God's passive hand withdrawn, without whose aid
Things nathless evil, were all of force bereaved,--
With thunderous shock, reverberant even in hell,
The spirit, disrealmed, of ill; there stirless laid.
All being seemed now aswound, and smitten as dumb.
Grew a presage in every breast of some
Solemn and saintly act of God to come.
As when, at eve, some cloud, which long hath lain
The oppression of the heavens, and of a realm
The terror,--fled,--redeemed from nameless fear,
Anarchal, of earth--quakings, and the train
Of ills conflagrant, which by larcenous wile
By chance, by lightning, oft whole states o'erwhelm;--
Make glad the citizens, seeing, slow, appear
In air, a pearly calm, as though of sphere
Happier than theirs; the young moon's maiden smile
Lands, sullen late, lights up; the tranquil main
Rests to its roots;--so we, war gone, heaven's peace,
Coheir of bliss, and all their vast release,
Welcome. The day of God, to us the day
Of joy, to theirs destined of dire dismay,
Dawned o'er our heads; the sun of justice, sphere
Of righteousness, no setting more to fear,
Beamed manwards; and his seat assumed for aye.
All now the end of ends knew nigh; and lo!
Each eye intent on heaven's aspect, there shone
Instant, on light's enlargening horizon,
As crystalled by the spirit which round us blew
Perfect, in symmetry divine to view
A long slim cloudlet, like to a golden bow
Knapped just i' the midst; its loose and listless chord
Tangled about it. Thus showed God the Lord
That fight was finished; good's great victory won;
Earth's war of spiritual light and darkness done;
The strife of ages closed. Then all the sun
Helped us to note our foemen's piteous state,
And know thereby our victory half achieved
Onely, while charity failed to renovate
With hope those fallen; with faith those sin--deceived;
With trust in God those erst who misbelieved.
These humbled now, submissive, silent, gave
Ruth first its power to amend, grace, hope to save;
Us, spirit to help that ardent multitude
'Gainst ours so lately arrayed, but whom we viewed
Now, burying out of sight, in one deep grave,
Their carnal arms, ashamed. Disharnessed, nude
They watched their banners burn. Then first we saw,
Glancing on our own arms, each arm a law
Of God, each weapon a virtue; shield and glaive
A truth divine, strong to subdue or save;
Wrought of God's hand, God's art! without a flaw;
Forged in heaven's fire; impenetrable, alike,
This, faith to guard; by reason, that, to strike.
While myriads thus their arms laid down, subdued
By kindness, patience, grace, love, mansuetude;
All human excellences and God's combined;
And while truth, wisdom, virtue all things viewed
Approvingly, and holped one mighty mind
From all to mould, some few start out, of kind
Indomitable, and for meet punishment,
Conform to holy reason's just intent,
And his, divine, reserved,--who from the age
Initial of the world, life's every stage
Hath loved to advance and sought to ameliorate.
We, these things knowing, and with the great effect
Secured, well pleased, thanks first to God direct;--
Which done, in every wound we pour the balm
Of heavenly all--heal; every conscience calm
With mercy's anodyne; strengthen every mind
With just belief of strife man's vital need
By one all wise, who good and ill so twined
With freedom, that his fate man rules,--decreed
Until to nature's war heaven's peace succeed;
And God's pure truth triumphant prove the intent
He, world--wise providence, from the first hath planned,
That good, 'gainst ill, in free arbitrement
Of spirit, fair fought, should final conqueror stand;
Reason, faith serving, sin and self command;
And bale and bliss, life's vast contrariant whole,
One cause confess, one universal soul.
Now all earth's old distinctions ceased; sea, land
Lapsing into their primal essence grew
Ætherial, and the wind, world--warning, threw--
As wretched seer who some state--ruinous ill
Foretelling, helps his woeful weird fulfil,
The popular mind distraught by such sad skill,--
Into each dying gust, as breathed of fate,
Force, our mixed tribes once more to segregate;
Soul winnowing far from soul. These banned,--the word
Compellant, sternly mild, in fatherly tone
Said, as by one who willed to amend their state,
Not utterly ruined nor all reprobate,
Who favoured error, sin, the imperfect,--heard
Wistful: not ignorant how to reatone
With God the spirit, and knowing so concurred
In their just doom; knew, all the long career
Of pains abstersive, pains heaven's nether sphere
Opes aye to all, ere filled the soul's great year
Before them; knew their kind remedial end
Necessitated; and went. As one by one
Like rags of darkness from night's mantle riven,
Eve's tempest slackened, clouds, the face of heaven
Long shadowingly deform, loath to be gone;
But all at last mass up the horizon,
So they: their chief in bonds, once seeming friend,
Prey of my falchion, spoil now of this spear,
Out--taken; he, still reserved for judgment here:--
God's will so said. Meanwhile we, warned, attend
A further sign; and instantly 'twas given;
A fire--voice; gathering gradual out of heaven,
Sense hallowing, mind transfiguring, round us came;
A voice; as when within some homely shrine
Our God comes down in answer to his name
Invoked, and with a wordlessness divine
Holds converse inmostly; and us, who had striven
Through this soul conflict, calling, straight we know,--
As lived things dead, touched, erst, by prophet's rod,
In us the spirit regenerant's deathless glow;
A fire, that all with purifying zest
Before it, burned; consuming, midst our breast
Nature's whole evil; and this fire was God.
I, then:--`As reeflet, long from parent shore
Orphaned, that save at hollowest ebb of all
Year--tides, peers not the savage surges o'er,
Nor airs her pearl and coral, childish store,
I' the golden light; nor ever,--while befal
Others, such less joys oft,--rejoins, by chance
Her kindred lands; gift compensative none
Desiring for life--long suppression more
Than this, eternized to her,--the sun's glance;
So, from time's deeps emergent, and the flood
Refluous, of life and death, my soul, in thine,
O God! sole spirit of universal good,
Oned with all blessed, the unnumbered multitude;
Immortal, mystic, militant, and divine,
Would in thine eye--light bask, thy governance.'
No after sound nor sign. The renovate sphere
Good thus world victor, evil o'erthrown,--us, here
Biding God's ends, see, angels! Dost not fear
Fiend! late my foe, fate's future, deadlier pass?

Lucifer.  Have not I triumphed o'er the world that was?

God.  Prince of the powers of air, thy doom is nigh.
The prison and place of spirits shall be for thee
As for all these guilt 'complices thine, thou hast wronged
For a time one proper mansion: they in pain
Emendative: thou, evil!

Lucifer. And what if I
Heart--hardened, still endure? While lasts the world,
Thou mayst restrain, confine; not make to cease.

God.  Him lead ye angels into Hades, there
To await my will while the world's sabbath lasts.
These souls elect, self purified, fore--called
Who die not, nor, who through my favour, lose
Unconscious, by death's intermediate sleep,
Nor expiative amercement, joy in me,
Who, righteous souls of all earth's epochs passed,
All faiths, all grades of mind, here from the tomb
First--born, the truth, in heaven once gospelled, prove;
That faith should conquer misbelief, the good
All ill subject, virtue all sin; and these
Led by one sampling soul, forechosen of love,
First fruits of life celestial which their breast
Fills,--shall the earth, now renovated, indwell.

Angels.  Be it Lord as thou dost will, with us, with all.

God.  Angel of earth, and thou bright Phanuel, sole
In the infinite presence, visible of thyself,
And you, ye astral souls, who, latewhile, here,
Earth's end, as rise, saw, and this unfixed mean
Of seeming chaos; who still animate, guide,
Or train the orblets to your genial care
Consigned, and in your charge as in my love
Happy, know, all, if, sumless times now gone
Earth's mountainous frame to upbuild, from central base,
To airiest battlement once I willed, 'twas not
Necessity clogged my hands, nor forced compute
Of infinite atomies; no, my power as choice
Untrammelled, see, angel of starry earth,
My special promise once in heaven's records
Enrolled, shall be fulfilled. While time beholds
Orbs vaster, scattered into particles, dim
The surface of eternity's flood, conjoin
The casual meteor, or for ages drift
Through space extenuate, to minutest motes
Dissolved, even lucent dust, and radiant mist,
Prime manifest of the invisible essence, thine,
Regathering all its elements shall again
Brighten the vital air, fierily refined.
Lo! earth shall live again and, with her sons,
Have resurrection to a brighter being;
And wakening like a bride, or like a morning,
With a long blush of love, to a new life,
Another race of souls shall rule in her,
Creatures all loving, beautiful and holy;
Such,--see them!--as, evil quelled, and justice wrought,
Have vanquished bound and trampled under foot
Their souls' defect, by self--set tendence towards
The absolute good; whom death holds therefore not
In more than freshening slumber, and who, prime
Resurgents of all life, haste now to live.

Luniel.  Heard'st thou the word?

Angel of Earth.  The word I heard, Earth, be!
And earth meseemed in echoing, learned to live.

Phanuel.  So swift the omnific word, scarce syllabled, lo!
The perfect orb, in shape as erst, but made
Purer, aetherial, instantly restored,
As these glad eyes but now behold, to form,
And purified, by God's sole actful word.

Angel of Earth.  Be glad with me, ye angels! Earth from sleep
Regenerative, awakening, all her powers
Her beauties, spring spontaneous; gum and pine
Entwine their shadows; lily and violet blend
Odours; and myrtle and bay on morning gales
Eve's perfumes, stored with starry jasmin, musk,
And rose in amicable exchange, shall strew.

Guardian Angel.  See paradise her growth of nectarous flowers
Revives, to crown the eternal season's hours!
Away, ill; pain, away! Creation, burst
Into one orderly hymn of joy; all life
Sing, voluntary, his love, who willed to make
From evil all good, as all from nothing, first;
Henceforth with changeless boons and beauties rife
For his own glory, and for his creatures' sake;
Of him so loved, all his with rational hope
Endowed that they might trace in nature's scope
Presage of perfectness all lives should take.
No fire, no sea; all elements to one form
Final, of universal use, and plan,
Reverting; air invulnerable of storm;
Earth, pure, transpicuous, shadowless; and man
Apt for commune with God, as he began.

Angels.  The world begins and ends with paradise,
The garden and the city of the blessed;
Begins with paradise and ends with heaven.

Angel of Earth.  Thee, thank we, Lord! all powers of spiritual light,
Concerned thy counsels to partake, and spread
Wideliest we may allwhere the holy ends
Of thy benevolence. Most, earth's warden, I.

God.  Go, angel! guide her as erewhile through heaven.

Luniel.  Sometime my half--gloomed sphere, again may live.

Angel of Earth.  On! on! my world again!
Again we fly
Through heaven's blue plain,
As thought through the eye;
Ye angels keep your heaven.
I earth. For that with God
I have striven;
And have prevailed,
I come once more;
I come to thee, earth!
Like a ship to shore.



Philip James Bailey


Philip James Bailey's other poems:
  1. Festus - 35
  2. Festus - Proem
  3. Festus - 17
  4. Festus - 24
  5. Festus - 42


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