Festus - 27
Count not the ripples upon life's stream, our days; Nor eddying errors as a change misdeem Of current; mark thou wiselier, the main flow Of ever Godward being. The hand supreme Outreaching all, guides to a term unthought. Contrition makes confession; penitence draws Pardon. So, thoughts once sinfullest abjured, Dawn shows of the true life. The downward node Turned, begins reascent: for God, with whom His holy angel's prayers prevail, ordains The peccant spirit to view and visit hell: That this, of punitive flames, invisible, Assured, but all potential, thence to man Might bring his gladmost tidings back, and prove, How justest judgment trines at once with God's Love, and the soul's amendment. Rocks and Sands by the Sea--shore. Festus and Guardian Angel. Guardian Angel. Here break for good the bonds of silence. Once Again we may as erst sweet commune hold. I have spoken already, and once more by God's will Bid thee despair not, but with penitence hear The counsels of the All--wise, and fate's decree. The anguish of thy heart, thy tears, sighs, groans Have reached God. Wouldst thou aught confess? Festus. O angel! How dared I think to thwart God's thought? or 'scape The law inevitable of destined doom? I hate, I loathe, I curse, condemn myself To righteous penance and heart--scourging fires Of sharp remorse for aye. Guardian Angel. Thy better self So bids, retributively just. Thou knowest Wherein thou hast failed; in this one test, the crown Of good's conflict with evil, thou art proven Losel, and all thy heavenly guidance foiled; Myself aggrieved, dishonoured. Now, as of old, Triumphant towers the tempter. Urge no more Mean exculpations one keen thought, truth--edged, Of conscience scatters. Festus. Be it so, angel. I Have sinned; erred wilfully; wronged right; succumbed To a base temptation fiend--forged in my heart; The inlight quenched, which every soul illumes, God's witness in the spirit, and inmost seal, Blurred o'er with passionate fire. Guardian Angel. Confession clears The conscience; and it is well. Though but in mood What's done thou canst not now undo; for thought Is mind's act, but 'twixt thought and outward deed As 'twixt heaven's polar stars, lies the whole world. Festus. How was't I failed? How came it sin's rank breath The cool calm air of virtue dared defile? Oh I have lost my starry seat in heaven; Lost God's approving smile. Guardian Angel. Nay, God indeed, Hath suffered this, hath led thee to the abyss Of all deceptive nature, thee to show Its ruinous depths, no hand save his alone Can lift from. Thou hast sinned, sinned, open--eyed, But in thought only and passion. Let such strange pass Life carnal from life spiritual demark, This henceforth thine. Festus. It shall be, heavenly one! Let the passed life--state perish. Be it with me, As when some soft and sleepy summer scene Of nature, framed before us, we, with the view Content, like passive, like indifferent, gaze Listless; all secondary shades of things Immingling, show confusedly; hill, vale, plain, The rivulet's gentle curve, the tremulous slope O' the wood, the unlevel outline of far hills, Just dusking air, all blend in light diffuse Indefinite;--suddenly, a masklike cloud, Creeping mid--sky, the sun surprises; straight, As 'twere God's staff, a light--shaft, sharp, severe Strikes earth, and lo! the unmoralled mixture ends; The face of things shows changed; shapes all transformed, Dark things grow darker, brightlier glow things bright; The o'ersmiling world's frail witchery, and her craft Inequitable of tolerance, fails, collate With that just spear--beam; so this knowledge, now Inlanced into my soul by conscience, makes Not only truth more amiable, but shows Of good and ill the eternal severances. Guardian Angel. It is well. Be verified thy resolves! and graved On thy soul's frontlets, that remembering how Of old thou failedst, and yet wast not forsook, Thou mayst be wise; recalling, too, how they Who wisdom willed but for themselves, and mere Preeminence in the world, friend, lover, both Untimely, perished; thou alone, self--trained Sagelier, albeit unwittingly, to ends Happier and nobler, even to serve, preserved. Yet boast not, nor presume. In souls, forgiven Of God, his chosen anointed, he, and they Regenerate, make one being, their spirits which live And thrive are holiest miracles, while here Made pure by conscience, penitence, love of good And hate of ill, restoratives of soul, Shall reap at last divine reception there, Presume not yet, nor boast. Not yet thy lot Exhausted; or for man's sake, or thine own. God's will o'errules his own appointed fates. Festus. Was this my sin foreset? Guardian Angel. Original sin's A figment of man's brain. Pure come we all, Angels and men from God. And though by flesh Soul--soiled, our own and others' faults; life's needs; Its passions, vanities, selfishness; and numbed By ebb of moral energies, the force Essential,--as thy privileged eye hath proved, To itself, among spirit--spheres instructive,--fined By sense of truth, and reasonably convert To God's demand of penitent betterment, Self--sown in the spirit, detersive of all sin, All carnal aims, or more, deterrent, yet Shall win its ultimate heaven, and rest in God, Whose throne is world--wide. God therefore, pray thou Thy forerun thought of evil intent, frustrate By mean so marvellous, be not actual sin Against thy soul adjudged; but, cloudlet--like, That steals through heaven, nor shadow leaves below, The unfixed fault may pass dissoluble, Nor thy closed page, dread angel of the pen! Darken:--and I mine orisons adding, too, Will both present in heaven. Festus. Be thou my soul's Kind keeper. Pray for me. For me remains One only course, the step towards heaven. Guardian Angel. It may Be arduous, but 'tis life. Festus. Oh, yes! 'tis life. All else unsafe, in this to act's to live. As some belated cliff--climber,--his track Homewards, tide--swept, at foot of columned crag Reared with its fellow jambwise, like blind gates Hadeän, to mask earth's inmost,--halted, eyes Shudderingly, all round, the death--expectant sea; The ascent, limb perilling; and, reflective, knows One sole safe path, that, upwards;--to the feat Girds him unanxious, and so climbing climbs Now, by sheer slopes unpunctuate to the edge; Now clinging to grim steeps,--the lichen gray Scarce closelier; steeps that in the paling light Smile treacherous welcome, even as death might smile, Petting the plumes of some surprised soul;--now, Coasting the chasm which laughs the sea--hawk's home, And her brown broodlings, ragg'd with flickering down, From human foot, till he, rock--swarmer, clutch Breathless, the bleak, black top; all daylight spent, Save one poor sack of gold the unthrifty sun, Decamped, hath dropped by the tent--pegs of the sky; And prostrate, wordless, but with welling eyes Thanks heaven; so I, too, haunted by a god, Like one of old, who gives my soul no rest, Bear me, till I in him attain the sum Of peace and safety. Guardian Angel. Mayst thou even attain! Thus heart--wrung, thus soul--humbled, know God wills Thou make of hell foreproof in conscience; view The fate foredoomed for one who wilful sins; And voluntary, visit with him who owns And strives to extend, hell's stern domains. There, reigns Nathless, thou wilt find, eternal equity, And justest law; sin's graduate chastisement, The harmonic bonds 'twixt fault and fine, and there, Man's mind, disrupt from self--deceits shall show Time's wasted faculties still used to ends Emendative of soul. There, all God's ways, To nature's reconciled, prove thou not more just Than amiable; so, gladdening man and earth. Festus. I go. Adieu! Guardian Angel. When out of night leapt light, Not weightier seemed the event than now from this, The good, the glory. One fault 'twas wrought man's fall; This act, the rise of angels; so o'erruled To good, all evil beneath the hand of God. Festus. Be it mine to enjoy or suffer, as decreed.
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