Philip James Bailey Poems >>
Festus - XLII

The soul--state, intermediate 'twixt earth's life
And the world future, unconceived till seen,
We search with curious awe; mark dormant death;
Nor, joyless, evil accost, by heaven restrained;
From bonds aeonian loosened, ere the end:
View, visionary, the circle of false gods,
Refractions of the sole and infinite One,
Conceptions imperfect of deity, held
Of old, by ignorant and idolatrous man,
Yet honest, who his best faculties adored
Unwittingly, his mere passions:--ruined, chained,
Worshipless, all bear witness to one true,
All--free, all--necessary, all holy God.
Error's unreal immortality, see
Extinguished by God's verity: hear the word
Divine, by all obeyed.

Archangel, Festus, Death, Lucifer.
Festus. Almighty God! sustain me. This is death:--
And this--I knew not, angel, he was here--
Is Lucifer, the fallen; and like a bolt
Of thunder forged in intramundane air,
Self--buried within the centre. Not in hell;
Where every spirit's work, by fire is tried;
For there is fierce exaction of just dues,
Stern course of forfaults compurgate; remorse,
Flame--toothed, with bite unflickering, find I him;
But here, God--bounden in rest.

Archangel. O Lucifer!
Wake from thy sea--like sleep, time's calm so long,
Long and unfathomable hath ceased. Arise
In peace or wrath, rouse from thine age--long trance,
And see; earth's representative, and heaven's,
Stand by thee. Closed, death's intermediate state,
Heaven's breath blows freely round us as the air
Vital of all futurity.

Lucifer. Heaven's just doom
Respect thou, angel; nor thou, mortal, erst
Vassal, last victor, vaunt thou this, nor blame
Fate's word, for that, forespoken.

Festus. I blame no more
The part thou took'st once in my mortal life;
It is gone; nor spurn thee for delusions dead.
The blood man's strife once spilled is sunk in earth,
Run into rivers, seas; dried up in air;
Air, water, earth themselves, all elements, gone,
With the sin itself; even sin being expiate now
By sufferance of just doom; good done to soul
Wronged; and first innocence rightly sought of God.
As therefore came by freedom sin, by sin
Knowledge, and last by knowledge wished return
Godwards, what good hath come of all I bear
Alone at heart; and if we have both, time passed,
Offended God, let me, though in nature not
To forget--forgive what each man once hath felt,
The devil's all--burning grip upon his heart.
Thee view I with compassion; half with hope.

Lucifer. Mortal! I bow to thee, and would to the least
And lowest of all the spirits that God hath made;
Being in ill his worser, but that the curse
I am accursed with of impenitency,
Outlasts the elements--outlives all time.

Festus. All curses cease with time; all ill, all woe.
Blessings star forth for ever; but a curse
Is like a cloud--it passeth.

Lucifer. It is a cloud
Enshrouds creation. Good and ill perchance
Have one end.

Archangel. Mark the uncertain wit he words.
Twice--shot contrariwise his thought--woof seems
Itself to thwart reversive; not of truth
Takes he yet hand--fast; nought of right conceives
Indeviable; and yet, once more, 'tis writ,
With miscreant strife, even faithless in himself,
His final fate he tempts, well--earned, so far
As finite spirit can deem; nathless, strange change
In him once wrought, like strange to come may augur.

Lucifer. Angel and mortal, hear! who else save God
Can fathom nature? who unveil, he sole,
Except, who clothed? Me needs not here defend,
Mine office preappointed; nor yet tell
What thoughts if vacillant, still perchance not vain
Wholly, have filled my soul since thus. Dread thou
The executant of God's vengeance, for by him
Yon angel, only not almighty, there!
As with a chain of mountains, I was bound,
And hurled into this unformed nebulous life;
Stripped of all might when mightiest, struck down
While triumphing the loftiest,--enslaved,
When most a monarch o'er both earth and hell,
And made a shadow among shadows here.
It recks not. Let the impenetrable soul
Be ground as through a mill; know only I
In action or inaction equal woe;
Suffering, doing, being, one extreme.
Pass on! we meet again.

Festus. And when we do,
May God forgive, as I!

Archangel. Mayhap thou wilt yet
Know me as minister of his mercy.

Lucifer. I!
I look for mercy? never! Least, when now
Plotting the sum of evil.

Archangel. Behold there Death!
Throned on his tomb--entomb