Philip James Bailey Poems >>
Festus - Proem

This time is equal to all time that's gone
Of like extent, nor heeds to hide its face
Before the future: each is missioned here
To ends like worthy of its sender, God.
Him therefore let us bless too, and take heart;
All ages are his offspring, and all worlds
Form from his breath, like dewdrops out of air;
He life in all infusing. Nor is earth's orb
Outlawed or excommunicate. This our God
Is still as kind, his gifts like wondrous fair,
Unlimited, even as when the wind first blew.
Still shines his sun on the grey rotting rock
Keen, pure, as o'er the primal matter once;
Ere floods, marmoreal now, had smoothed their couch
Of perdurable snow, or granite wrought
Its skyward impulse from earth's hearth of fire
Up to insanest heights; or thunder oped
His cloudy lips, and spake. Immutable he,
All things to himwards, spiritual, natural, show
Unvaryingly of change. God, nature, man,
Life's universal Trinity, man perceives
Aye to each other that they have been; all souls
God makes, we feel, he blesses and inspires
With special gifts, duties and joys, that each
Teaching themselves and others him may learn.
To those come gifts to enjoy the world, to gain,
To cultivate, amuse, adorn; to these,
Who live alone with God and nature; smile
With the sun for mirth, or with the waning moon
Sadden, the elements their kin as men,
Boons, too, unasked, unmeasured as the light,
Which lights at countless points the formless whole.

Such now, heaven's seers, in things eternal taught,
Skilled soulwise to lay bare the heart of the world,
Know that while elemental change, locked round
In self--succedent course, may nature serve
As God, in spirit; progress alone of soul
Is to him dear as its existence; know
The moral realm in us expansible, ever
Greatening with speed accumulative, the rays
Of heaven's authentic sphere pierce more and more
The obstructive dark of ignorance; know, in fine,
This age, ours, happier, amiabler than all
Passed, in that God who witness lacks not ever
His ways to vindicate, now breathes 'mong men
More of his own humanity; and earth
Mellowed by westering suns, her teachers teach
A broader kindlier message; show how need,
Sown in our nature for divine commune,
Trust in a holy future largelier planned
Than doubtful pride deems safe to trust; though all
Schemes fruit of noblest strain, and social life
Made saintly, art supreme fine earth to gas,
Or desiccate the sea to a vapoury film;
A future filled by faith,--supplanter not
Of reason but supplementer, tends to adjust
And perfect Being; and while with simplest fare
Content themselves,--for wisdom's board aye lacks
Mere dainties, nor to any sets she forth
More than her homely bread, sweet olives, wine,
Right hospitable, and sacred salt, a meal
Such, with God's blessing, they their best meed find
To spread her stintless welcome, and invite
All blameless spirits to share the feast of God.

Each race hath had its revelation here
Through saint or bard, or lawgiver moved of God,
And will have better. Man, in spirit one,
Shall in the spirit receive the only true.
Who now the world's wide scripture, God writ, best
Interpret, the interlinear version use
Of spiritual light, given in ourselves, inspired;
Poesie being a thing divine, of God,
Who made his prophets poets; and the more
We feel of poesie, we become like God
In love and power creative; under--makers.
And song being of the supernatural
Natural utterance, solely can the world's
Unbounded beauty speak; immortal soul's
Perfective fall; terrestrial tests; re--rise;
And the premortal concords of pure mind,
Made, and creative, show, at last resumed.

True fiction hath a higher end, and scope
Wider, than fact: it is nature's possible,
Contrasted with life's actual mean, and gives
To the conceptive soul, an inner world,
A loftier, ampler heaven than that wherein
The nations sun themselves. In that bright sphere,
Behold the mental creatures of the men
Whose names are writ highest on the rounded crown
Of fame's triumphal arch; the shining shapes
Which star the skies of that invisible land,
Where earthly immortality dwells, with sage,
Hero and seer, her sceptred lieges, bard,
And all souls vowed to truth. Among such, let ours,
Whom fabulous wars, nor wars too true, nor rise
Of realms, or fall, nor thrones o'erthrown allure,
One spirit, as with the elements of mind's orb,
Stern quatrain of the moral world, good, ill,
Choice and necessity, battling, sing; the field,
And what we are deepliest mixed with, God and man,
Boots most to know,--where God the all good, the world's
Evil, and man, in whom are both,--all said
Of Deity's said in reverence, and in love,--
Deploy their forces. These, thought's ultimate forms,
In mutual bearings traced, all teach us, good
Immortal, as of God; for God to know
In nature, nature know in God, unites
Both reason and faith; teach, evil here active, there
Passive, but test of spirits; and choice and need,
Like light's electric force, twin poled in us
And all life; teach, that we our being have,
We of this mortal mixture, in the same law
As heaven's intelligences, of all ill pure,
And the dread Hadean shades; law given of God
Himself to prove by arbitrary grace
Above necessity in his action; teach,
Virtue, because of origin in him,
Deathless, divine; and while to struggling man,
For voluntary offence punition just
Be due, renewal righteous of pure will,
And self--amendment, his approof secures;
Souls virtuous are the souls elect of God;--
And virtue and reason, attributes divine,
Not finite, but his qualities, though in us
By causal distance dwindled, proof proclaim
Of common Being in all divinity.

Now, that infinite wisdom when he freed
Soul, should soul's choice foresee needs all must judge;
While such preview infallible, act nor thought
Of ours irremediable implies. Who views
Reverently God's nature in itself, will own
He only hath free--will whose will is fate;
Know too that in humanity, Godwards viewed,
Free--will is but necessity in play;
The clattering of the golden reins which guide
The thunder--footed coursers of the sun.
But that soul create, seen self--wise, in all deeds,
In all our words, our wills, through this brief life,
This petty segment of eternity, though
Seized but of limited freedom, yet, in truth,
Even as the ship, with fire informed, that seeks
The sea, obeying but its own iron force,
Reckless of adverse tide, breeze dead, or weak
As infant's parting breath too faint to stir
The feather held to it; and howbeit at last,
Appointed thrall as much of the elements
As the white--bosomed barque which woos the wind
To her welcoming breast, is rightly for its course
Prejudged responsible; course and end alike
Chosen by us, and planned, and well, if laden
Not inconsistently. But who, because
Men know not, nor can see act's end, until
We see with God, shall deem, that man, set he
His heart, contrarious as he may, 'gainst God,
Can aught do but work out his ultimate will,
Though at an infinite angle, he thenceforth
Acting unanswerably,--and thus confounds
The law of being with doing, deepliest errs.
Laws there are twain man serves: the law of law,
Race, custom, creed, time, conscience, circumstance,
Chance; superficial this; who breathe the light
Of spiritual virtue know God's will towards good
The law of laws; all central, vital. These
To imblend by holy art, to cultured man
All excellence, and all blessing means. Who join
With love sincere of truth, good deeds, good will,
Just life and innocent conscience; 'scaping so,
The world's self--sentenced thraldom to desires
Inequitable, and selfish pride to outvie,
And not by bettering, serve, men; reunite,
In free perfection, with divinity here.
Such are heaven's secret heirs, the adopt of God,
Unknown, unnamed, unblazoned. These be they
Whose souls though chastened aye yet chose from first,
Born of the eternal seed of heavenly life,
Light's golden generation, into time
Breathed Godwise, God translates to bliss divine,
The primal, final, total state of heaven,
And normal perfectness in him. But while
God's boundless and predestinating love
Shown in the soul world--chosen, his power displays,
His sovereignty, his freedom, God's great end,
Touching all moral being, its progress just
In virtue and judgment by the pure plain law
Of right and truth, like needful seems to prove
Heaven's equity, and to separate good from ill.

Evil and good are God's right hand and left.
There is but one great right and good; ill, wrong,
Dense, vast, howbeit to finite mind, to him
Omniscient, shadows show, not substances.
Nothing can be antagonist to God.
Let contest be 'twixt equals. He is all.
Not less, to us, of limited potencies
By ministry of evil,--whose reason sole
Of being, is that it prove, conscious or not,
Promoter of God's ends, in testing souls
Finite, but free, for good,--good stands forth clear.
God ever makes for bliss twofold, his own,
And theirs he hath made, all life: no meaner end
Worthy of him can be, or just towards them.
Who read not in the blessed belief that souls
All may be saved, read to no end. We were
Created, to be saved. We are of God.

Swayed by these truths, and compassed, as by stars,
Earth in her course, our story, mingling life,
Not cursorily, with things on high, but scenes
Showing of heaven and earth, as body and soul
In our humanity, mixed, we thankful, learn
How God by ever creating, and his own
One Being diffusing through the sentient whole;
How, too, by ruin of evil, and good's great field
By finite force for God won, for that cause
Tried, tested, and when failing, made in the end
Just, pure; he doth eternize bliss, and make
Good infinite by making all in him.
Our thoughts are bounded but by the infinite.
What comes before and after the great world,
Deep in light's secretest abyss, and life's
Immensity most reserved, is ours to muse,
Not to declare; where finite reason ends
Faith leaps, and finds firm ground in the divine.
God, thus, our Saviour, still with spirit humane
Communes; with some in life--long sacrament,
Faithwise; which, rounding all activities
Of soul, a higher faculty than reason
Shows, though of brightest revelative power,
As the snow--headed mountain riseth o'er
The lightning, and applies itself to heaven;
A faculty which meaning gives to time;
Sanctity to man's kingly blood; and like,
And equal, interest in God's bounteous ends.
Wherefore the world, of mean believings sick
And sophistries, waits, wearying for the truth,
Now, like an angel, on the wing from heaven.
For as when, storms gone, each cloud--ghost, vapoury, vast,
Each shape, sky--menacing, the uneternal brood
Of misconceptive fear, by ministering wind
Routed, and hurled to absolute void;--we, strewn
Luxurious, on the crag's crown, nought thence seen
Save ocean's quivering outline, sharp as death,
Cutting the horizon of the after world,
And all heaven's luminous and exhilarant blue,
Eternity made visible, which o'erhangs
Changeless, this changeful sphere,--complacent, eye
Those unimagined heights, a