Philip James Bailey Poems >>
Festus - XIV

Even while a star
Might twinkle twice, or calm, retiring sea,
Irresolute yet to leave, his moonlit kiss
Shimmering repeat upon the impassive shore,
The arch--fiend and youth, bound skyward, soaring hold
Darkly, commune, like twilight and midnight,
Of being and things to be, 'mid interspace
Of worlds. The angelic fall is touched on. Souls--
Imperfect, mixed, not seeing how deity could,
Pure spirit, by act of will aught earthy, gross
Frame; nor ill's source, end, understand; mistaught
By adulterate truth which poisons more than pure
Falsehood, hears how, of angels made, not God
Who would not with the earthy soil his hand, our orb
Had all its parts constituent cast by palms
Depute, tale told to mislead perchance. Yet who
Heaven granting place and means of penitence,
Irrestorable shall name the angelic race?
Who fiction blame, mother of fairest hope?

The Interstellar Space.
Festus and Lucifer.
Festus. Where, where am I?

Lucifer. We are in space and time, just as we were
Some half a second since; where wouldst thou be?

Festus. I would be in eternity and heaven;
The spirit, and the spirit made blessed, of all
Existence.

Lucifer. And thou shalt be, and shalt pass
All secondary nature; all the rules
And the results of time. Upon thy spirit
These things shall act no more; their hand shall be
Withered upon thee; in thee they shall cease,
Like lightnings in the deadening sea. Not now.
We have worlds to go through first. But see, just turn
Thy face, see earth.

Festus. How beauteous, brighter thrice
Than e'er our lamp to man; just mean 'twixt sun
And moon, its mighty members, sea and land,
Shining, in revelry of light.

Lucifer. Cleared now,
All atmosphere terrene, and meteor zones,
Into this darkening azure, deeper aye
At every breath, where reigns eternal night,
Haste we; thy longings shall be satiate soon.

Festus. Ah! many have been my longings, many and deep,
To learn the mysteries of creation; things
Not published on earth's surface.

Lucifer. Such as,--say!

Festus. As thou didst promise me to unfold--and now
Our time, and this vast progress, seeming smooth,
Continuous, e'er unsummed, converse invites.

Lucifer. Speak confidently.

Festus. Before man's fall I'd know
How was't the angels fell?

Lucifer. Nor all by one
Revolt, nor one decline.

Festus. Say how.

Lucifer. Time was,
When God, one, sole, in ancientry eterne,
In essence, inconceivable, all extent
A luminous fulness filling, willed to make;
Withdrew a portion of his essence; breathed
The angels into being; and in that space,
Girt by the infinite, the world became;
Near to him, spirit, life; matter, last of all,
And farthest from him; willed, still. With this rose
The evil of life create, all possible sin.
The happy angels, to enlarge God's reign
Thinking, besought his leave to make a world,
From matter's vast residuous mass;--time was,
Earth beamed heaven's youngest orb--which granted, they,
Armed with imputed deity, began
Instant the work orbific; fire and all
The elements freed, the land from sea demarked,
Rock igneous from aquatic, clay from ooze;
The continents made, the isles, the mountains, streams,
Lakes, fountains, plains, tree, herb and flower, all life
Vegetive, in fine, and brutish; all that wings
Air, or swims sea, or treads, four--footed, earth;
Or creeps, or glides. These giants made, these elves,
Apes, pygmies, such, the tall indignant cranes,
Angered by broken treaties, drave and drowned
In sea--pools, first of victories hight marine.
Those, Omim and Zamzummim of old writ;
And those Hrymthursar called, who norwards held
Frore Jotunheim, fleering oft at gods and men;
Vain rivals of one heaven--planned shape, of man
By God in just majestic medium made.
And this, accepted, they with all gifts decked.
God taking thought, himself, of sun and star,--
With whom to think indeed is to create,--
He, to the formative angels gave the world
They had thus wrought out of chaos, and adorned
With every living miracle, and man
As head and end of all its dignities,
In delegate royalty to rule. Thus earth,
Thine earth, embraced of heaven, and core of space,
Was plenished, furnished, finished. The angels now
Longing to instruct man's mind, a chosen band,
Out of their fair fraternity, depute
Who straight ascending, quit for heaven. So all,
Bright and more bright, while starward they progressed,
And touched the invisible threshold of the skies,
These angels grew; till as they neared the seat
Where, close below the throne, bright Nature sits,
Perpetual maid, perpetual mother--bride;
Sits, gladdening in her splendid offspring, spread
Through space, star--spirits of seed divine, blessed heirs
Of deity; sits, serene;--they, pondering, paused,
Who seemed a constellation, all of suns,
Tempting the zenith. Here, their quest resigned
To God's sole will, 'twas here, accordant Fate
The predetermined boon they asked, conveyed,
Due powers of God to perfect, that they loved;
And more, he, hearkening to such fervent prayer,
Grants; but ere yet dismissed, to them, to all
In heaven assembled, speaks thus: `Spirits divine,
Immortals, hear; go rule each one his lot,
Self--sought, of grace appointed. To all tribes
Of men shall prophets speak, and holiest souls
Heaven--seeking; heed they be of you truth taught.
So teach them, that however with faith and truth
Inspired, they serve God only; reverence due
Pay you, pay all; but adoration sole
To him who all things made and sole, can save.'
Angels and spirit--hosts of prehuman strain,
Levies of light divine innumerous, rapt
All, sate in still assent, until one soul,
Interpretant of heaven, and mind create,
Tuneful and luminous as a singing star,
Stepped into light, and in the immarbled ear
Of the convergent infinite, sang to God
Larklike, his lone lay, gratulant, worshipful
Of him All--Wise. A cherub--choir the same
In stateliest revolution, traced, truth--taught,
Of power project through all effluxive spheres,
Returning fined, exalted, perfected,
In a perduring emblem all the heavens
Still study, and with their centre--searching eyes.
These things, though wholly comprehending not,
Things passed, things coming, God the angels showed;
Whereat they trembled, and were troubled. Some,
In place of proffering lowliest praise to God,
And holiest thanks for leave to do his will,
In those harmonious lauds the hosts had sung,
Pleased with their works, cried, These created we.
Sudden, the stars stood silent. Every sphere
Ceased its divine accord. The sun paled. All,
That proud presumptuous vaunt, shuddered to hear.
Divisions reigned. There were, who Godwards kept
Due loyalty; and these withdrew to heaven,
The Angel of Salvation, Phanuel pure;
Sun--ruling Ouriel, Luniel, and the rest,
Peers of the fallen, once, and holy seven,
Supplanted, round the throne, their brethren. These,
For some were more sin--tainted, others less;
Earthwards rewinging, in prospective pride
Enriched it thousand--fold with all delights.
For men they sowed herb, spice, grain; planted flower;
Fruits luscious graffed on trees; silver and gold
Dight earth with, ore, and marble, and every gem;
Gems larger lovelier these, than all now known;
And that smaragdine mirror, their chief toy,
Which all the angels wrought, each gifting it
With some unique perfection, after owned
By Israel's wisest, who the tongues of bird,
Brute, angel, men, all, knew; and who therein
Looking, the wished--for passed, of any age,
Beheld apparent, as in the instant fact;--
And when, solicitous of the future, he
Had breathed thereon, with the evanishing reek
From its talismanic disk, limned clear, he saw,
And all the coming, conned. For men they chose
The sites of cities, after, seats of power,
Wealth, law, religion, learning, freedom; one,
The city of the dead, men for themselves
Founded in ominous haste, and fast bestrewed
With skeleton foliage of the tree of life.
God made man free. He fell. His freedom seen,
The angels asked allegiance of man's race.
And while some mixed with carnal follies drift
Hellwards, on storms of passionate covetise;
By rank and vile inventions, to man's ill,
Earn othersome God's wrath; no few through pride
In their first formative privileges; in thought
Reigning triumphant, independent gods,
O'er men, shared sept and tribe among them; each,
Launched on his own wild will; and thus they ceased,
Those once most virtuous angels, that pure choice,
And grateful excellence they first had, to own;
Seeking at first their names, each to his clan
To magnify, and so become, by aid
Of mean, or monstrous, miracle, their gods;
In lieu of teaching men, the One Supreme
To worship, God. Fell many an angel thus.
The fall is universal in all spheres.
For finite spirit, wherever tasked to keep
The counsels of divine perfection fails.
The starry story of one primal pair,
Twin pillars to the portals of life's fane,
Or free--born deities, free as stars are fixed,
And the celestial serpent, sun--conceived,
Invader of heaven's annual paradise,
Wants not, where'er is life; but graved in rocks,
Rude missals of millennial patriarchs,
Incised in arrowy Zend, on tabled clay--
On palm foil penned, or purple pulp of flowers
Illumed with every literal grace, or writ
On virgin vellum rose--gilded and perfumed,
Shrined in the bosom of some cloistered saint,
The same sad tale perpetually commands
The astral annals of the universe.
A separate interest 'twixt themselves and God
Insinuate once, like conflicts 'mong themselves,
And schemes of empire basely politic, sprang.
One name of God each took, or masculine
Or feminine, deity having justly both
Who Father is, and bringer--forth of all;
Some title of divinity, none save God
Could equitably assume, that so they, vain,
Might, as lords substitute, the rights receive
Due to the alone Eternal, and his name
Blot from the hearts and memories of mankind.
Such were Baal Semim, Lord of heaven, whom old
Phoenicia worshipped; such too, league--invoked
In Syria as the lord of waters, he
Whose covenant witness was the e'erlasting well;
He, such, by Nile, Hephaistos, father of fire;
Aurmazd or Ilus, such; who when he had bade
The Persian bow before his so--called throne,
The sun, and claimed, phantastic, to have made
Espendermad, earth's fair tutelar, bright Khourdad,
And all the seven great angels, lit the stars,
Father himself of light; his strength reserved,
So feigned he to his prophet, for that strife
Final and all composing, 'gainst his power
I name not, lord of evil, but in Yezd
Prudentially still worshipped, from the world
Routed, to be, with three--fold thunder fires,
As chiselled glorious on the Assyrian slab;
Vain boasters all these mock divinities; such
Whom Asian tribes hailed, dove--born, mother of heaven,
And 'mong their mingled gods the Nasair