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Festus - Xxxi - Poem by Philip James Bailey

Earth regained,
And lone sea--shore where the great waves come in
Frothed like a horse put to his heart--burst speed,
Sobbing up--hill, note we, his ends frustrate,
How evil, who liar, accuser, tempter, known
Deceiver proven, his title of murderer to earn
Man's hater, God's most, works his victim's death,
Reckless of promised boons; ingrate! Fell deed;
By guardian powers of good to good o'erruled.
Struck thrice by loved one's death, give sorrow way,
What fleshly gods, or perishable, can yield
The heart consolement? Fly to solitude.
Only the desert can drink up love's tears.

Garden and Bower by the Sea. Evening.
Elissa, Lucifer; afterwards Festus.
Elissa. God, by whose elements holy and undefiled
I, too, clear--lifed as they, now stand, nor shrink
These primal powers to face unveiled, and mix
Aweless, with nature's grand integrities,
Of no sin conscious; how else dare I breathe
This air aetherial, vivid, which thy throne
Circling, to us from far descends, peace--winged;--
How tread this earth thy cloudy feet o'erpace,
Unwearyable;--this tameless, termless sea,
Heaven imaging,--like the eternal mind which made,
Embosoming in reflection all its works--
How, confident, bear to embrace,--I, hopeful e'er
'Neath thy strong guard to abide, could I not now
In vital contact with the infinite mind,
Through innocence, thee, pure Lord, seek? Hear!--and grant
That while with these and thee at one, the soul,--
Accepted, suffering with yon sun, baptized
To daily death, which yet from burying bath
Rises regenerate, and to awakening worlds
Shows as the light immortal,--may, itself
A morning ray shot forth, at eve, resumed
By the world--quickening spirit whose beams are life,
Eye, undisturbed, its end, and so with dread
No more than scathe, the mortal change endure
Which trains us towards perfection; and, in turn
Our atomie to the life celestial adds;
Our instant to the eternal. I, by dreams
Divining, and night's palpable visions, know
Joy unexpected and reunion blessed,
With strange premonishment of death, confuse
My soul as though were sought a sacrifice
Of one assured best of the offerer's love,
And dearest the demanding deity. Strange,
This struggle of free emotion and fixed faith.
Come, Festus, let me think, my love, on thee!
Why art thou thus away from me so long?
I have whispered it unto the southern wind,
And charged it with my love: why should it not
Carry that love to thee as air bears light?
And thou hast said I was all light to thee.
The stars grow brighter together, and for aye,
Loverlike, watch each other; and though apart,
Like us, they fill each other's eyes with love
And beauty: but mine only fill with tears.
Oh! life were nothing without love; and love
What without love's embrace? Haste, haste thee, love.

One taste of thy dewy lips, my love,
Would far more gladden me
Than a draught of the waters, in heaven above,
Of immortality.
Then oh come hither to me, my love!
Back to this bosom, dear;
It is burning for thee, though thy love be dead,
Widow--like on her lord's death--bier.

One touch of thy gentle hand, sweet feere!
One glance of thy glowing eye,
One pitying word, oh, one pardoning tear,
And I've nothing to do but to die;
But to die in the bliss of thy breast, my love,
Like a flower to the gods which is given;
That was happy in life, and is holy in death,
For it dies on an altar of heaven.

And be it that I should die, and whensoe'er,
My life, love, I bequeath to thee, that thine
Redoubling, I may alway live with thee.
Nay, but I feel I am dying; and dreams too true.
This sense of life--loss! From out the firmament
Of visible things, my life fast faints away
Into dim nothingness; nature's self my fate
Prefiguring in the mid--day moon I marked,
This noontide, stealing nightwards. And, as ghost
Caught tampering with the truth, and straight dismissed
By some austere exorcist, shuddering, turns
Its shadowy face to Hades, never more
With man to mix, nor earth's familiar scenes
Haunt, once so cherished; but bidden prepare for pains
Soul--bracing, while they rack, and richening fines,
Would yet life lavish in one exhaustive gaze
On things too dear; so I, forewarned this world
To quit, quit still reluctant; while as yet,
Like a morn--loitering masquer tracked and mocked
By the tell--tale light, who hopes, yet dreads his home,
I, all--while conscious of divine love lost
For human, blame my heart. Heart! thou that makest me
Live, 'tis thou killest. Let me but, ere I die
See him I love. He must know how I love him.
Festus! come to me. I do think I am dying:
I see him,--in brain--sight, him coming to me now;
Now he is thinking of me, loving me;
He sees me--flies to me half out of breath;
His hand is on my arm--he looks on me;
And puts my long locks backwards--God! thy ban
Lies upon waking dreams. To weep and sleep:
Dream--wake, and find one's only one hope false,
Is what we can brook, for we do endure it,
And bear with heaven still. Nigh one year ago,
I watched that large bright star, much where 'tis now:
Time hath not touched its everlasting lightning,
Nor dimmed the glorious glances of its eye;
Nor passion clouded it, nor any star
Eclipsed; it is the leader still of heaven.
And I who loved it then can love it now;
But am not what I was, in one degree.
Calm star! who was it named thee Lucifer,
From him who drew the third of heaven down with him?
Oh! it was but the tradition of thy beauty!
For if the sun hath one part, and the moon one,
Thou hast the third part of the host of heaven--
Which is its power--which power is but its beauty!

Lucifer. It was no tradition, lady, but of truth!

Elissa. I thought we parted last to meet no more.

Lucifer. It was so, lady; but it is not so.

Elissa. Am I to leave, or thou, then?

Lucifer. Neither, yet.

Elissa. And who art thou that I should fear and serve?

Lucifer. I am the morning and the evening star,
The star thou lovedst; thy lover too; as once
I told thee incredulous; star and spirit I am;
A power, an ill which doth outbalance being.
Behold life's tyrant evil, peer of good;
The great infortune of the universe.
Am I not more than mortal in my form?
Millions of years have circled round my brow,
Like worlds upon their centres;--still I live;
And age but presses with a halo's weight.
This single arm hath dashed the light of heaven;
This one hand dragged the angels from their thrones:--
Am I not worthy to have loved thee, lady?
Thou mortal model of all heavenliness!
Yet all these spoils have I abandoned, cowered
My powers, my course becalmed, and stooped from the high
Destruction of the skies for thee, and him
Who loving thee is with thee lost, both lost.
Thou hast but served the purpose of the fiend;
Art but the gilded vessel of selfish sin
Whose poison hath drunken made a soul to death:
Thou, useless now. I come to bid thee die.

Elissa. Wicked, impure, tormentor of the world,
I knew thee not. Yet doubt not thou it was
Who darkenedst for a moment with base aim
God to evade, and shun in this world, man,
Love's heart; with selfish end alone redeeming
Me from the evil, the death--fright. Take, nathless,
One human soul's forgiveness, such the sum
Of thanks I feel for heaven's great grace that thou
From the overflowings of love's cup mayst quench
Thy breast's broad burning desert, and fertilize
Aught may be in it, that boasts one root of good.

Lucifer. It is doubtless sad to feel one day our last.

Elissa. I knew, forewarned, I was dying. God is good.
The heavens grow darker as they purer grow,
And both, as we approach them; so near death,
The soul grows darker and diviner hourly.
Could I love less, I should be happier now.
But always 'tis to that mad extreme, death
Alone appears the fitting end to bliss
Like that my spirit presseth for.

Lucifer. Thy death
Gentle shall be as e'er hath been thy life.
I'll hurt thee not, for once upon this breast,
Fell, like a snowflake on a fevered lip,
Thy love. Thy soul shall, dreamlike, pass from thee.
One instant, and thou wakest in heaven for aye.

Elissa. Lost, sayst thou in one breath, and saved in heaven.

Lucifer. Whatever my words, God's are true. With him
Good heavenly, heavenly bliss, eternal are
While all created things, if to these false,
Perish; perdition even perisheth.

Elissa. Thee one good deed I owe for.

Lucifer. With thy life
I now myself repay.

Elissa. But that still leaves
Me debtor.

Lucifer. No; to thee the deed was due.
Time's orbit turns recurvant. It may be,
A consciousness of restorative power
Ingrains and gladdens all life. Not aught is lost
For ever. All nature knows its end, not less
Than source divine; and I, by truth in me
Dimly refract, what may be from what must
Arguing, feel thou it is hast given me hopes
Of ultimate possibilities, scarce I dare
Breathe to myself in darkness.

Elissa. Hast thou hopes?

Lucifer. Like the first shower which cooled the burning plain,
Where Jove o'erthrew the giants, and high God,
Giving o'er dumb--struck volcans, leave to earth
To outspread her mantle green, the moss to nurse,
And dandle lichen, where he had e'er, till then,
Hailed rocks; thy words once wrought a blessing here;
And caused the indelible germ of good, howe'er
Minute, which cored in all create abides,
Spring forth to lightwards. Fruited it not in time?

Elissa. Truly. Be all forgiven; as now to thee
I pardon grant for this ill boon of death;
If inescapeless.

Lucifer. Fate hath nought more sure.

Elissa. The world is heaving with the earthquake throes
Of some portentous birth, some form of power,
Whose orb├Ęd head is to o'ertop all thrones.
Am I not bound to live till that I see
I have wrought for, longed for, prayed for?

Lucifer. No! thou art bound
To die. I, too, see darkness, only at times,
As sacred night begins all things and ends.
But here, thine end's too clear, clear as the lines
Of fate, to palmist's eye, which cross the hand.

Elissa. I ever thought thee to be more than mortal.
And since thus mighty, grant me, and thou mayst
This one, this only boon, as friend to friend;
Bring him I love, one moment ere I die;
Life, love, all his.

Lucifer. And is't to him thou vowest
Thy nature's sweets? Nay, then, this queenly life
With love perfected, as yon gold gemmed vase,
By lustrous flowers encrowned, all fragrance, makes
An offering fit for shrines, a gift for gods,
'Tis time were sent for sanctuary, on high.
Thou judgest well. All but almighty I am,
And have strained my strength to its verge to satisfy
His heart who loved thee; gave I not up to him thee?
Reigns he not even at this sad moment there,
Or possibly may, and if he please, not else--
King of the sun, and monarch of the seven
Orbs that surround him, leaving earth alone,
For the present; earth is in good keeping yet?
I know he is hasting hither now; he comes;
But may not see thee living.

Elissa. It is not thou
Who takest life; it is God's, whose I shall be;
And his, with God, whom here my heart deifies.
I glory in his power. He'll save me.

Lucifer. Cease!
As a wind--flaw, darting from some rifted cloud,
Seizes upon a water--patch mid main,
And into white wrath worries it, so my mind
This petty controversy distracts. He comes,
I say, but never shalt thou view him, living.

Elissa. But I will, will see him, and while I am alive.
hear him. He is come.

Lucifer. The ends of things
Are urgent. Still, to this mortuary deed
Reluctant, fix I death's black seal. He's here!

Elissa. I hear him; he is come; it is he; it is he!

Lucifer. Die graciously, as ever thou hast lived;
Die, thou shalt never, look upon him again.

Elissa. My love! haste, Festus! I am dying.

Lucifer. Dead!
As ocean racing fast and fierce to reach
Some headland, ere the moon with maddening ray
Forestal him, and rebellious tides excite
To vain strife, nor of the innocent skiff that thwarts
His path, aught heeds, but with dispiteous foam
Wrecks deathful; I, made hasty by time's end
Impending, thus fill up fate's tragic form.
A word could kill her. See, she hath gone to heaven.

Festus. Fiend! what is this? Elissa! She is not dead.

Lucifer. She is. I bade her die, as I had reason.

Festus. Now o'er the bosom of this death, I swear,
God's will and mine one moment harmonized,
I hate thee, I abhor thee, I abjure
Thee and thy works.

Lucifer. Who seeks thee other, first?
I can't afford to quarrel; but for the nonce
I am gone.

Festus. Away, fiend! Leave me. Mine Elissa!

Lucifer. Meet me in city or in solitude,
By sea, or desert where pale marble shafts
Stud the hot sands, or, fallen, earth's generous springs
Imposthumously, forewaste,--enough! we meet.

Festus. Thy bolts fall heavily on me, Lord! and fast.

Guardian Angel. O steeds of passion, whirl not reason's car
From life's precipitous marge into the void
Of madness.

Festus. Sole in life!--save as to one
I may not think of. Let me 'scape the world.
O weary, weary world, hide thou in heaven;
Search out some nebulous depth where thou mayst leave
Thy holy ashes; I some shore or isle
In ocean's spatial distance, seek, where plunged
In penitence, this my burning heart, like steel
In the wave retempered, may, by solitude
Concentrate, purified, thenceforth the new life
Of heaven inaugurate, hallow, and all fates
Again face, grace directing, to their end.

Guardian Angel. By judgments such as these God calls to himself
The soul he loves. Do thou thy spirit serene,
Meanwhile, by holiest place and saintliest shrine,
Wherein and midst the memories to them due
Thy spirit may raise itself to thoughts divine,

Festus. Such comfort much I need,
Good angel! such restoratives. Bear with me.

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