Philip James Bailey Poems >>
Festus - VII

A man in love sees wonders naturally.
Ours sole,--abnormal gifts but gradual given,
Can make participable his starry views,
And intuitions spiritual instilled,
May be, by angel kind of other worlds.
An ominous parable told by his love, endured,
Heart--faltering, he his constancy asserts:
Still, who can thought control? Who shun one wish,
That, like a stranger in the street, we meet
But can't aside from, dreamwise, haunts us;--see;
The first leaf falls of heart's bloom. Discontent
With nature, strong desire, implanted how?
Springs up to know all life, the secrets learn
Of science and time's truths arcane; projects
Evil would fulfil, that thus forebusied, soul,
All virtue of self--ascription to its Lord
Might lose. The heart, doubt--torn, disposed to death;
End, if e'er written within Fate's book, erased.

Lawn and Parterre--Bridge; and Village Church in distance. Evening.
Festus and Clara.
Festus. My soul's orb darkens, as a sudden star
Which, heaven and earth of wonder emptied, wanes;
Passes for aye; eclipsed not; self--consumed:
All but a cloudy vapour, dimming there,
The spot in space it once illumed. To myself
Once seemed I as a mount of light; but now
A pit of night. I dare no more of this.
For, like a shipwrecked stranger in a lighthouse,
I have looked down upon the utter side
Of such thoughts, from the leeming room of reason,
And beheld all beyond black roaring madness.
Meanwhile, have done with this or that; between
This angel incomplete, and finished fiend,
Choose I must. Say, I have chosen. What, if still,
As earth through all her polar midnight feels
The o'erbearing strain which warps her sunwards, I
That know I may not rid me of; the sense
Of late success, disastrous, to be gained
At price of present happiness. It is done.
I am due but to mine end. The world itself
Shall reconcile to virtue, ere I part
Unsatiate of the world. Fate! ask not, sole,
One sacrifice, this heart faithful to me,
Nearer which ought to be each hour; but, asked,
The incommunicant future yields no sign,
More than the silvery mirror of the sea
Mist--veiled, all imagery, of hers; nor more,
Though sought with prayers, foretells me heaven through those
Lights and perfections of our nature, God
Hath shrined in us. It is by events we live.
Come nearlier to me, Clara. Where hast been
This long, long hour?

Clara. I have been but here, hard by;
Planting these flowerets by the brook, that they,
Not of felicitous feeling void, their own,
Or other's beauties might, reflective, note
In the swift sparkling wave; and odorous gifts
Uncustomary, exchange.

Festus. Ah happy flowers!
When shall I know such calm? But I have vowed
To be joyous in myself. I will be. See!
Here have I lain all day in this green nook,
Shaded by larch and hornbeam, ash and yew,
A living well and runnel at my feet;
And wild flowers dancing to some delicate air:
An urn--topped column, and its ivy wreath,
Skirting my sight, as thus I lie and look
Upon the blue unchanging sacred skies;
And thou too, gentle Clara by my side,
With lightsome brow and beaming eye, and bright,
Long glorious locks which drop upon thy cheek
Like gold--hued cloudflakes on the rosy morn.
Oh when the heart is full of sweets to o'erflowing,
And ringing to the music of its love,
Who not an angel, nor a hypocrite,
Could speak or think of happier states?

Clara. In truth
I know not; but a sadness that to me
Feels mortally prophetic, charged with threats
Of severance, coldness, fears of possible death,
Change in the faith maybe of one of us,
And suchlike sad contingencies, weighs down
At times, my heart much; sadlier more than all
Life's promises seem to lighten or lift.

Festus. Away
With baleful thoughts; let joyaunce be our life.
Well art thou Clara hight, for soul more bright,
More lovely, lives not out of Paradise.

Clara. I have another name whose element
Is tears, they tell me. In the coming time,
Who knows? it may become me more than this.

Festus. 'Gainst that sad augury set thou my resolve;
And be it fordone for ever.

Clara. Fate will prove.
But oh! I dread estrangement, dread to dream;
Lest even dreams should wrong thee, and thou act
As in time's great betrothals, legends tell,
Man brake his vows, and nature's holy heart.
For I have heard how once in the head of days
Man lived with nature as his sacred bride,
In union pure and perfect. All her wealth,
Which God had dowered her with, from the rich gems
Which starred her sandals, and so lit her path,
To the predominant virtues of the spheres,
And latent life of elements, she to him,
For that her lord was poor though potent, gave.
He too with ampler thought and vital truths,
Strewn in divine disorder like the stars
Which to the ignorant mean nought, but to the eye
Instructed, oft configure boundless good;
With deep conceit of mysteries, than all rocks
Fire--grained, sea--couched, elder, and stories fraught
With wisdom, in eternal fable penned;
Aught worthy knowing was right early known;
So sanctified her spirit, that she became
Like a created goddess. Her he taught
The life in life of faith, and what on earth
Was powerfullest of things, the bended knee,
Which can prevail o'er God; and how, all years,
For one clear hour, earth hath the option now
To rest and ruin all things, but renew
Her maiden splendour and primaeval bliss;
Or, bearing fate, like chance of equal meed
Secure the starry skies. These mark her thread,
Amid the hush of heaven, their thronging spheres,
And her light footsteps lauding, breathless wait
Her choice in charm