Philip James Bailey Poems >>
Festus - III

Follows a starry night
Where in the talk of man and spirit we see
Foreproven, the all--grasping mind's inordinate love
For marvels, mysteries, than for goodness more
Nay even for greatness. Miracles we must have.
Whence comes this dream of immortality
And the resurgent essence? Death is change.
But spirit's return, allowed of heaven, is now
To strengthen a fine but fainting faith, and show
Such change for better. Soul reborn, we see,
Stalls not in death; but like the polar sun,
One moment balanced on life's infinite verge,
Rises in roseate splendour to renew
Always a mightier day. The spell, as pledge
Of gifts to come and prouder privilege, works.
Man and his foe shake hands upon their bargain.

Water and Wood. Midnight.
Festus, alone. All things are calm, and fair, and passive. Earth
Looks as if lulled upon an angel's lap,
Into a breathless dewy sleep: so still
That we can only say of things, they be.
The lakelet now, no longer vexed with gusts,
Replaces on her breast the pictured moon,
Pearled round with stars. Sweet imaged scene of time
To come, perchance, when, this vain life o'erspent,
Earth may some purer beings' presence bear;
Mayhap even God may walk among his saints,
In eminence and brightness like yon moon,
Mildly outbeaming all the beads of light
Strung o'er Night's proud dark brow. How strangely fair
Yon round still star, which looks half suffering from,
And half rejoicing in its own strong fire;
Making itself a lonelihood of light,
Like Deity, where'er in heaven it dwells.
How can the beauty of material things
So win the heart and work upon the mind,
Unless like--natured with them? Are great things
And thoughts of the same blood? They have like effect.
Would one were here who could these knots unloose!

Lucifer. Why doubt on mind? What matter how we call
That which all feel to be their noblest part?
Even spirits have a better and a worse:
For every thing created must have form;
Form meaning limitation. God, alone,
Is formless and illimitable mind.
Passions they have, somewhat like thine; but less
Of grossness and that downwardness of soul
Which men have. It is true they have no earth;
For what they live on is above themselves.

Festus. There seems a sameness among things; for mind
And matter speak, in causes, of one God.
The inward and the outward worlds are like;
The pure and gross but differ in degree.
Tears, feeling's bright embodied form, are not
More pure than dewdrops, nature's tears, which she
Sheds in her own breast for the fair which die.
The sun insists on gladness; but at night,
When he is gone, poor nature loves to weep.

Lucifer. There is less real difference among things
Than men imagine. They overlook the mass,
But fasten each on some particular crumb,
Because they feel that they can equal that,
Of doctrine, or belief, or party cause.

Festus. That is the madness of the world--and that
Would I remove.

Lucifer. It is imbecility, Not madness.

Festus. Oh! the brave and good who serve
A worthy cause can only one way fail;
By perishing therein. Is it to fail?
No; every great or good man's death is a step
Firm set towards their end, the end of being;
The good of all, and love of God. The world
Must have great minds, even as great spheres or suns,
To govern lesser restless minds, while they
Stand still and burn with life; to keep in place,
Light, heat them. Life immortal do I seek,
For aught, it were most to learn mind's mystery,
And somewhat more of God. Let others rule
Systems or succour saints, if such things please;
To live like light, or die in light like dew;
Either, I should be blessed.

Lucifer. It may not be.
For as not the sun himself thou viewest, but only
The light about him, like the glory ringed
Round a saint's brow; so, God thou wilt never see,
Darkness of light eradiative. Nor seek.
His naked love were terrible. Saints dread more
To be forgiven than sinners do to die.

Festus. Men have a claim on God; and none who hath
A heart of kindness, reverence, and love,
But dare look God in the face and ask his smile.
He dwells in no fierce light--no cloud of flame;
And if it were, Faith's eye can look through hell,
And through the solid world. We must all think
On God. Yon water must reflect the sky.
Midnight! Day hath too much of light for us,
To see things spiritually. Mind and Night
Will meet, though in silence, like forbidden lovers,
With whom to see each other's sacred form
Must satisfy. The stillness of deep bliss,
Sound as the silence of the high hill--top,
Where thunder finds no echo--like God's voice
Upon the worldling's proud, cold, rocky heart--
Fills full the sky; and the eye shares with heaven
That look, so like to feeling, nature's bright
And glorious things aye wear. There's much to think
And feel of things beyond this earth; which lie,
As we deem, upwards, far from the day's glare
And riot. They are Night's. Oh! could we lift
The future's sable shroud!

Lucifer. Behind a shroud What should'st thou see but death?

Festus. Spirit; the thread
Sightless, whereon are strung life's world--great beads.
It may be here, I shall live again; or there,
In yon strange world whose long nights know no star;
But seven fair maidlike moons attending him
Perfect his sky; perchance in one of those;
But live again I shall, wherever it be.
We long to learn the future; love to guess.

Lucifer. The science of the future were to man
What the wind's shadow might be, sought he screen
From fire or flood. Save in the effect of act,
And the interlink