Philip James Bailey Poems >>
Festus - II
From heaven, soul--like, to earth. It is sundown. Mark
The heart's state, empty and collapsed, the world's
Vain pleasures leave us in, dissatisfied,
Distraught, not penitent of them, in ourselves;
Youth's natural fitful unavailing struggle
Note, 'gainst temptation come unlooked for; power,
Love, wisdom; who shall slight the three convened?
To know man's future as a race; the soul's
Passed, individually; to be beloved
By the world's paramount beauty and sit earth's throne?
Know yet, to sin is to curse God in deed;
The soul, long used to truth, keeps fain, somewhile,
Its strength, though plunged on sudden, mid the false,
As hands thrust into the dark, a season retain
Their sun--lent light. So now with this, the scene
Of self--forgetfulness, and of indecision
Breaks off, not ends.
Wood and Water, lawn and flowering thicket bordering a lakelet. Sunset. Festus, alone; afterwards Lucifer.
Festus. This is to be a mortal and immortal!
To live within a death--bound circle, and be
That dark point where the shades of all things round
Meet, mix, and deepen. All things show to me
Their dark sides. Somewhere must be truth--light. Where?
Oh! I feel like to a seed in the cold earth;
Quickening at heart, and pining for the air.
Passion is destiny; the heart is its own fate.
It is well youth's gold so soon rubs off; for soon
The heart gets dizzied with its drunken dance,
And life's voluptuous vanities enchain,
Enchant, and cheat no more. That spirit's on edge
Which nought enjoys sin's honeyed sting not taints;
That soothing fret which makes the young untried
Unwise, unwarned, swift to forestall all dues,
Longing to be beforehand with their nature,
In dreams and loneness cry, they die to live;
That wanton whetting of the soul which, while
It gives a finer, keener edge for pleasure,
Wastes more, and dulls the sooner. Rouse thee, heart.
Bow of my life, thou yet art full of spring;
My quiver still hath many a purpose. Yet,
Of all life's aims what's worth the thought we waste on't?
How mean, how miserable seems every care;
How doubtful, too, the system of the mind;
And then, the ceaseless, changeless, hopeless round
Of weariness, and heartlessness, and woe,
And vice, and vanity! Yet these make life--
The life, at least, I witness, if not feel.
No matter, we are immortal. How I wish
I could love men, for still, 'mid all life's quests,
There seems but worthy one, to do men good.
It matters not how long we live, but how.
For as the parts of one manhood, while here,
We live in every age; we think, and feel,
And feed upon the coming and the gone
As much as on the now time. Man is one,
And he hath one great heart. It is thus we feel,
With a gigantic throb athwart the sea,
Each other's rights and wrongs. Thus are we men.
Let us think less of men--man fills not half
The measure of man's mind--and more of God.
Sometimes the thought comes swiftening over us
Like a stray birdlet winging the still blue air;
Again it rises slow, like a cloud which scales
Breathless the skies; and, just overhead, upon us
Down plunges; we, with excess of witness, stunned.
Sometimes we feel the wish across the mind
Rush, like a rocket tearing up the sky,
That we should join with God, and give the world
The slip; but while we wish, the world turns round,
And peeps us in the face, the wanton world;
We feel it gently pressing down our arm,
The arm we had raised to do for truth such wonders;
We feel it softly bearing on our side;
We feel it touch and thrill us through the body;
And we are fools, and there's an end of us.
'Tis a fine thought that sometime end we must.
There sets the sun of suns; dies in all fire,
Like Asshur's death--great monarch. God of might!
It is power we love, and live on. Spirit's end,
And reason of being, seems somewhat, if 'tis this.
Mind must subdue. To conquer is its life.
Why madest thou not one spirit, like the sun,
To king the world? And oh! might mine have been
That sun--mind, how would I have warmed the world
To love, and worship, and bright life!
suddenly appearing. Not thou!
Hadst thou more power--put case thou hadst thy wish,
'Tis vastly feasible--more wouldst thou misuse.
But other matters first.
Festus. Who art thou, pray?
It seems as thou hadst grown out of the air.
Lucifer. Thou knowest me well. If stranger to thine eye,
I am not to thine heart.
Festus. I know thee not.
Lucifer. Come nearer. Look on me. I am above thee,
Beneath thee, and around thee, and before thee.
Festus. Why, art thou all things, or dost go through all?
A spirit, or an embodied blast of air?
I feel thou art a spirit.
Lucifer. Yea, I am;
The creditable presentment of a man,
I flatter myself I may be, too.
Festus. Thou art spirit.
I knew it. I am glad, yet tremble so.
What hours, what years, say, have I longed for this,
And hoped that thought or prayer of force might win;
How oft besought the stars, with tears, to send
A power to me, and have set the clouds until
I deemed I saw one coming; but ah! too soon
The shadowy giant alway thinned away,
And I was fated unimmortalised;
Unsceptred with the sway I would o'er souls.
What shall I do? Oh! let me kneel to thee.
Lucifer. Nay, rise! and I'll not say, for thine own sake,
That thou dost pray in private to the Devil.
Festus. Father of lies, thou liest.
Lucifer. I am he;
It is enough to make the Devil merry,
To think that men, me deeming dungeoned fast
Ever in hell, call on me momently;
Swearers and swaggerers jeer at my name;
And oft indeed it is a special jest
With witling gallants. Let me once appear!
Woe's me! they faint and shudder; pale and pray;
The burning oath which quivered on the lip,
Starts back, and sears and blisters up the tongue;
Confusion ransacks the abandoned heart;
Quells the bold blood; and o'er the vaulted brow
Slips the white woman--hand. To judgment, ho!
The very pivot of the earth seems snapped;
And down they drop, as when, in days of ire,
Nations, revoltant at rank juggleries,
Their sacred shrines wrack; here, a pillar falls
To its fluted knee; a pediment there, that once
O'erbrowed the state; and there, some delicate arch,
Whose marble arms, as petrified in prayer,
Long drew heaven's pitying glance, now rudest earth's,
Ruinous, dishallowed lies,--so these, so thou,
By anarch fears prostrated--to repent.
Such be the bravery of mighty man!
Festus. I must be mad; or mine eye cheats my brain
And this strange phantom comes from overthought,
Like the white lightning from a day too hot.
It must be so. But I will pass it.
Festus. O save me, God! He is reality!
Lucifer. And now thou kneel'st to heaven. Fye, graceless boy!
Mocking thy Maker with a cast--off prayer;
For had not I the first--fruits of thy faith?
Festus. Tempter, away! From all the crowds of life
Why single me? Why score the young green bole
For fellage? Go! Am I the youngest, worst?
No. Light the fires of hell with other souls;
Mine shall not burn with thee.
Lucifer. Thou judgest harshly.
Can I not touch thee without slaying thee?
Festus. Why art thou here? What wouldst thou have with me?
Lucifer. 'Fore all I would have gentle words and looks.
Festus. I pray thee, go.
Lucifer. I cannot quit thee yet.
But why so sad? Wilt kneel to me again?
This leafy closet is most apt for prayer.
Festus. Yes; I will pray for thee, and for myself.
Lucifer. Waste not thy prayers; I scatter them: they reach
No further than thy breath--a yard or so.
And as for me, I heed them, need them, not.
My nature God knows and hath fixed; and he
Recks little of the manners of the world;
Wicked he holdeth it and unrepentant.
Festus. Therefore the more some ought to pray.
Lucifer. To blow
A kiss, a bubble and a prayer, hath like
Effect and satisfaction.
Festus. Let me hence!
Go tell thy blasphemies and lies elsewhere.
Thou scatter prayer! Make me thy minister
One moment, God! that I may rid the world
For ever of its evil. Oh, thine arm!
Lucifer. Canst rid thyself?
Festus. Alas, no. Get thee gone!
Can naught insult thee nor provoke thy flight?
Lucifer. I laugh alike at ruin and redemption.
I am the one which knows nor hope nor fear;
Which ne'er knew good, nor e'er can know the worst.
What thinkest thou now can anger me, or harm?
Festus. Wherefore didst thou quit hell? to drag me there?
Lucifer. Thou wilt not guess mine errand. Deem'st thou aught
Which God hath made all evil? Me he made.
Oft I do good; and thee to serve I come.
Festus. Did I not hear thee boast with thy last breath,
Not to have known what good was?
Lucifer. From myself
I know it not; yet God's will I must work.
I come, I say, to serve thee.
Festus. Well I would
Thou never hadst; but speak thy purpose straight.
Lucifer. I heard thy prayer at sunset, scarce yet passed,
Where, still, yon dim and filmy cloudlet, drooped
Like to God's eyelid, thinned with unshed tears
Of watching, over a worthless, faithless world,
Screens the orb now vanished. I was there: was here,
I saw thy secret longings, unsaid thoughts,
Which prey on the breast like night--fires on a heath.
I know thy heart by heart. I read the tongue,
When still astutely, as well as when it moves.
And thou didst pray to God. Did he attend?
Or turn his eye from the great glass of things,
Wherein he worshippeth eternally
Himself, to thee one moment? He did not.
I tell thee naught he cares for men. I came;
And come to proffer thee the earth; to set
Thee on a throne--the throne of will unbound--
To crown thy life with liberty and joy;
And make thee free and mighty even as I am.
Festus. I would not be as thou art for hell's throne;
Add earth's--add heaven's.
Lucifer. I knew thy proud high heart.
To test its worth and mark I held it brave,
In shape and being thus myself I came;
Not in disguise of opportunity;
Not as some silly toy, which serves for most;
Not in the mask of lucre, lust, nor power;
Not in a goblin size nor cherub form;
But as the soul of hell and evil came I
With leave to give the kingdom of the world;
The freedom of thyself.
Festus. Good; prove thy powers.
Lucifer. Do I not prove them? Who but I, that have
Immortal might o'er mine own mind, and o'er
All hearts and spirits of the living world,
Would share it with another, or forego,
One hour, the great enjoyment of the whole?
And who but I give men what each loves best?
Festus. Open the heavens, and let me look on God.
Open my heart, and let me see myself.
Then I'll believe thee.
Lucifer. Thou shalt not believe
For that I give thee, but for that I am.
Believe me first; then I will prove myself.
Though sick I know thee of the joys of sense,
Yet those thou lovest most I will make pure,
And render worthy of thy love: unfilm them,
That so thou mayst not dally with the blind.
Thou shalt possess them to their very souls.
Pleasure, and love, and unimagined beauty;
All, all that be delicious, brilliant, great,
Of worldly things are mine, and mine to give.
Festus. What can be counted pleasure after love?
Like the young lion which hath once lapped blood,
The heart can ne'er be coaxed back to aught else.
Lucifer. I will sublime it for thee all to bliss:
As yet it hath but made thee wretched.
It is not bliss I seek: I care not for it.
I am above the low delights of life.
The life I live is in a dark cold cavern,
Where I wander up and down, feeling for something,
Which is to be--and must be--what I know not;
But the incarnation of my destiny
Lucifer. It is thy fate which weighs upon thee.
Necessity, like to the world on Atlas' neck,
Sits on humanity. It is this; nought more;
And the sultry sense of overdrawn life.
The worm of the world hath eaten out my heart.
Lucifer. I will renew it in thee. It shall be
The bosom favourite of every beauty,
Even like a rosebud. Thou shalt render happy,
By naming who may love thee. Come with me.
Festus. Power spiritual forbidden nor lowlier quest
Me suiting, soon, as sweep o'er fertile fields
Sea--bordering, deathful sands, so waste of life
My spirit deformed, until, and I was glad
My heart spake in me suddenly, and said
Come, let us worship beauty! and I bowed;
And went about to find a shrine; but found
None that my soul, when seeing, said enough to.
Many I met with where I put up prayers,
And had them more than answered; some where love
Filled the whole place as 'twere oppressed with heaven.
And I worshipped, partly because others did;
Partly because I could not help myself.
But none of these were for me; and away
I went, champing and choking in proud pain;
In a burning wrath that not a sea could slake.
So I betook me to the sounding sea;
And overheard its slumberous mutterings
Of a revenge on man; whereat almost
I gladdened, for I felt savage as the sea.
I had only one thing to behold--the sea;
I had only one thing to believe--I loved;
Until that lonesome sameness grew sublime
And darkly beautiful as death, when some
Bright soul regains its star--home; or as heaven,
Just when the stars falter forth, one by one,
Like the first words of love from a maiden's lips.
There are points from which we can command our life;
When the soul sweeps the future like a glass;
And coming things, full--freighted with our fate,
Jut out, dark, on the offing of the mind.
Let them come! Many will go down in sight;
In the billow's joyous dash of death go down.
At last came love; not whence I sought nor thought it;
As on a ruined and bewildered wight
Rises the roof he meant to have lost for ever.
On came the living vessel of all love;
Terrible in its beauty as a serpent;
Rode down upon me like a ship full sail,
And, bearing me before it, kept me up,
Spite of the drowning speed at which we drave
On, on! Was this not love?
Lucifer. I know not, I.
Is't likely I can tell? I am not in love;
But I have ofttimes heard mine angels call
Most piteously on their lost loves in heaven;
And, as I suffer, I have seen them come;
Seen starlike faces peep between the clouds,
And hell become a tolerable torment.
Some souls lose all things but the love of beauty;
And by that love they are redeemable;
For in love and beauty they acknowledge good;
And good is God--the great Necessity.
Festus. I loved her for that she was beautiful;
And that to me she seemed to be all nature,
And all varieties of things in one:
Would set at night in clouds of tears, and rise
All light and laughter in the morning: fear
No petty customs nor appearances;
But think what others only dreamed about;
And say what others did but think; and do
What others would but say; and glory in
What others dared but do; so pure withal
In soul: in heart and act such conscious, yet
Such careless innocence, she made round her
A halo of delight; 'twas these which won me;--
And that she never schooled within her breast
One thought or feeling, but gave holiday
To all; and that she made all even mine,
In the communion of love: and we
Grew like each other, for we loved each other;
She, mild and generous as the air in spring;
And I, like earth, all budding out with love.
Lucifer. And then, love's old end, falsehood; nothing worse
Festus. What's worse than falsehood? to deny
The god that is within us, and in all
Is love? Love hath as many vanities
As charms; and this, perchance, the chief of both:
To make our young heart's track upon the first,
And snowlike fall of feeling which overspreads
The bosom of the youthful maiden's mind,
More pure and fair than even its outward type.
If one did thus, was it from vanity?
Or thoughtlessness, or worse? Nay, let it pass,
The beautiful are never desolate;
But some one alway loves them--God or man.
If man abandons, God himself takes them.
I know not why love falters. Sense perchance
Of other's perfectness discourageth us.
However this, there came, between our twin stars,
A cloud, and when it lifted, this had set;
That, mingled with heaven's day. It was even thus.
I said we were to part. She nothing spake.
There was no discord; it was music ceased;
Life's thrilling, bounding, glorying joy, ceased. Sate
Like a house--god, she, her hands fixed on her knee.
Her dark hair loose and long, the wild bright eye
Of desolation flashed through, lay around her.
She spake not, moved not; more than act or speech
Her eye I felt. I came and knelt beside her.
And my heart shook this building of my breast,
Like a live engine booming up and down.
It is the saddest and the sorest sight,
One's own love weeping. But why call on God
This, now, or that decree, crude, as we think,
Or cruel, to recast for us, or reverse,
But that the feeling of the boundless bounds
All feeling as the welkin doth the world?
Then first both wept, then closed and clung together.
Then, like snow--wreath of peerless purity
That upon mountain heights, by daily veer
Of just one light--ray, loosening, line by line,
Its hiddenest heart--hold, slowly absolves itself
From all its haughty coldness, and seeks peace
Even at the cliff's foot; so she, white, by mine;
Weird, much unchanged, as seemed, in outward cheer,
But love's preeminence lost in life, life lost.
Never were beauty, love, and woe so wrought
Together into madness, as that hour.
Then comes the feeling which unmakes, undoes;
Which tears up by the roots the sealike soul,
And lashes it in scorn against the skies.
Twice did I madly swear, hand clenched, to heaven,
That not even he nor death should tear her from me.
Profane defiance 'twas, 'gainst each. Here, last,
Upon this breast, she swooned; here, midst these arms;
Here, cloudlike, poured she forth her love which was
Her life to freshen this parched heart. In vain.
Nor looked I e'er again on her alive.
She wished, she said, to die. She wished; she died.
The lightning loathes its cloud; such souls their clay.
Can I forget that hand I took in mine,
Pale as pale violets? that eye where soul
And sense met, like divine? Ah no, may God
That moment judge me when I do! Oh! fair
Was she, her nature once all brightness, spring.
And ominous beauty, like a maiden sword,
Startlingly beautiful, whose dark flashes hide
Deaths many, more triumphs. I see thee now.
Whate'er thou art, thy spirit is in my mind;
Thy shadow hourly lengthens o'er my brain,
And peoples all its pictures with thyself.
Gone, not forgot, passed, not lost; thou shalt shine
In heaven, as even a bright spot in the sun.
And now I am alone. Say on! What more
Can tempt save union of love with death?
But yester--eve it was she died, and now
Scarce hath the spirit yet aspired to heaven.
I feel it hovering round me. Let mine eyes
But realize their faith, and I am thine.
The soul first, then the body and the grave
Are welcome or indifferent as may be.
Lucifer. With those whom Death hath drawn I meddle not.
My part is with the living solely here.
I have not told thee half I will do for thee.
All secrets thou shalt ken--all mysteries construe;
At nothing marvel. All the veins which stretch,
Unsearchable by human eyes, of lore
Most precious, most profound, to thine shall bare
And vulgar lie like dust. The world within,
The world above thee, and the dark domain,
Mine own thou shalt o'errule; and he alone
Who rightly can esteem such high delights,
He only merits--he alone shall have.
Festus. And if I have, shall I be happier? Say
What's pleasure? What is happiness?
Lucifer. It is that
I vouchsafe to thee.
Festus. Am I tempted thus
Unto my fall?
Lucifer. God wills or lets it be.
How thinkest thou?
Festus. That I will go with thee.
Lucifer. From God I come.
Festus. I do believe thee, spirit.
He will not let thee harm me. Him I love,
And thee I fear not. I obey him.
Both time and case are urgent. Come. But see!
Nay; night hath one more marvel than the moon.
Festus. I glimpse the pale flash of an angel's wing,
But whose I see not, nor, though seer--born, know.
Lucifer. Spells too have I, thou knowest; and my ring,
The round horizon of the visible world,
Will hold a ghost or two. But what is this?
Superfluous were all evocation here.
No interruption, sure; no afterthought?
Guardian Angel. Spirit of Ill, who round the spher
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Based on Keywords: unsearchable, mutterings, blasphemies, pivot, cloudlike, regains, suiting, indecision, loneness, paramount, first-fruits