Philip James Bailey
Festus - Xvi - Poem by Philip James Bailey
Charged by the spirit e'er upwards ripening, man
And evil, his mightier minister, invade
Peaceful, that sacred sphere, the queen of heaven,
Whose passive utterances of light reveal
The birth of things, their subjectness to soul,
Spiritual and human; sin's source, and the means
Whereby perfection reattained, and men
And angels joined in bliss with God, all good
Shall be at full; and Time, his crown resigned
After his day's reign, to Eternity,--
Mother of him, and of ages all, cease. Here,
Inspired by love of soul--life progressive,
Though for a season thwarted the daring spirit
Promise exacts unforfeitable, from one
Who can fulfil vow made to test the skies
Perfective, elevative of life.
Festus, Lucifer, and Luniel.
Festus. Thus far along these silent wastes of light
Have we, unseeing and unseen, held on.
Time's sands seem turned to seed--pearl as they glide,
In luminous slumber, through his shadowy glass,
To glorified repose; while snowy Peace
Hushes the infant soul, here born again,
To wonder and delight. And yet these rocks,
Whose flames once flourished in the face of heaven,
Like burning banners o'er a fiend host, there
Arrested in ignition, fire made stone,
Speak out of other state than quiet once.
Not Chaos when in travail of the earth,
And groaning with the birth--pang, nor the sun's
Deserts of fire, sea--deep with drifting flame;
Nor all contortions of the solemn clouds,
Can match the immarbled madness of this orb:
As though some vast wild passionate soul, ablaze
Through all its nature with volcanic sin,
By God's one word translated into light,
And the pure beauty of celestial peace,
With adamantine silence seized, had 'come
That instant changeless, deathless and divine.
Still meet we not what in this sphere we seek.
Methinks my mission here may fail, and might,
Were not my soul by force of faith in her
Assured, who urged our hither steps, mine most
Investigative, as like to light on truth
Here hidden; and though long baffled, as to me
Seems, who from sea--bed dry to hill--top have sought
Vainly, the angel virtue of this orb,
Still trust I to behold her, not as yet
Rightly, perhaps, invoked. Or shall I call
Her aid, who willed us here?
Lucifer. And if I knew not
To an ace our whereabouts, though groping, now
And then, through manifold darkness, as we have done;
And of our failures, quite enough! I, too,
Might deem this changeful spherelet just the spot,--
It is bounded, west by light, and east by night,
And north and south by nothing and the wind,
For all poetic possibles, and believe
Truth captured, might romance to us all the night,
Two se'nnights long, in allegories. At last!
Festus. Lo now the angel, as foretold. She makes
Hither. O beauty, holy and divine,
Life--eyed, soul--crowned, illuminated with truth.
Mark how unearthly fair and pure; her air
Of sad felicity, and her mingled mien
Of innocent life and knowledge absolute.
Lucifer. Ere Time had whet his infant scythe, or left
His cradling clouds, or yon pale watery star,
Heaven's giant tear, first cast its shade o'er space,
That angel knew I well; but now, no more.
Nor wished I here to meet, nor thou with her.
Festus. Mind's silent invocacy hath oft such end.
Luniel. Earth--child, behold the angel of this orb.
Long have I marked thy wonder at these scenes,
Thy search for me; this ceased, that satiate now.
Much of the passed thou 'mindst me, and the race
These hills and plains, once populous, teemed with, thee
Not wholly like; of purer strain than thine,
Aërial more, meseems; for virtue, hence,
Translate, entire to heaven. I, thus, charge--freed,
Rejoice to bid thee welcome, from what orb
Ever thou hailest, the sun, which, day by day,
All forces of the world converts to light,
Exhaustless, and the hoards he spends, renews;
Or further star; thrice welcome; whencesoe'er,
Welcome! What tidings bringst thou? say, art thou
The earnest of the line to come, foretold
By skiey spirits and friendliest, as once more
Soul--wise, to people these silvery solitudes
Of light, whose advent I these ages wait?
Festus. O holy and divine one. I am man,
And not the hero of the destined race
Thou hopest; not here inducted; just allowed
Latewhile, by leave divine, I, touching thus
At yon bright wanderer of the solar realm
Hesperian, like thyself of crescent brow,
Nigher the sun one grade than we, where now
Aspirant of heaven, a spirit blessed of God,
A sweet and sacred sister of my soul,
Sojourns; and, tending thence, towards earth mine own,
Am by her hither bidden, that I might learn
From thee, lone watcher of the skies, and sole
Mediatress 'tween the sun and earth, the fates
Spiritual to be fulfilled of those we love,
And mighty--minded man. And such we hold
Thy sanctity of nature, thine unweighed
Largesse of light intelligible, and calm
Control of ill, thou wilt for me unseal
The fountain of the future, and charm forth
Wave after wave of wonder.
Luniel. Thou, too, who?
Lucifer. Master and servant am I here of him;
Thine equal, more and less. But come not I
Inquiring or desiring aught of thee.
The future is to me mere nothingness;
The passed but as a dream; the present is
My portion; therein only do I live.
Among these soulless solitudes, in sooth,
Seems little call for me. But here I am.
Luniel. Oh well, I ween, do we each other know;
For all things, soul or spirit, here show clear.
Within the radiant region of this orb,
Diaphanous as light, nor mist nor cloud
The unconditioned vision dims; and thou,
Tempter of life, to me art throughly known.
I know thee as the evil spirit of time.
But mystery is there in thine origin,
Thy ministry, thy fall, which, none create,
Not even thou thyself canst fathom. God
Only can read what he hath written there
In hieroglyphic darkness, and he will;
That his great works may know themselves and him,
Ere all the ages end. From God I own
Power to foretell what only he foreknows;
And ye are both predestined beings. Such
His pleasurable will, that they who serve
Rule with him--who obey not, serve him still.
Lucifer. It is even so; thou sayest truth.
Festus. Thy words,
More precious to mine ear than seaborn pearls,
Pierce me with light. Speak on, pray.
Luniel. Mortal, know
Our spirits are the keys to all we see;
And whoso, first permitted and inspired
Of heaven, but pondereth well the page of life
Before him, shall unlock at last the store
Hid in it and all others. To predict
The coming it is needfullest to con
The passed and present. As to things of time,
Time is divisional; eternity
All unitive. Perfection is to come.
I thus the mutual destinies have learned
Of thine orb and mine own.
Festus. Inform me, then,
O holy and divine one! who now tread,
On this sole purpose bent, these shores of light,
Silently shining, by thy spirit graced,
The god--state of the future.
Luniel. Be it so.
Attend ye; for ye witnesses are both
To wisdom, of her world--comprising plan.
One is the end and origin of all.
God, from the first, was solely in himself;
Nor aught was in existence, God except:
Nor time, nor world, life, flesh, sense, soul, nor sin
Nay, there was no negation; God sole all.
But willing to create, his hand he spread
From east to west, and constituted space;
From north to south he planned the boundless map,
And consecrated it. The universe
Is but a state of being, and a life
And time condition of the will divine;
A veil whose web is light embossed with stars;
Through which the eternal essence kindly deigns
To manifest itself; and all he makes,
As buds and tender branches bourgeoning,
From Being's sacred stem, making to bless.
Deep in the universal centre of things,
Infixed the Infinite, for gods God made,
Therefore, the heavens; and dark aethereal space,
For the immortal angels, love sustained,
Which occupy with him eternity,
And sin not, err not, doubt not. Next he made,
By might omnific and deific love,
Matter, for beings of a nature mixed,
Whose forms should be material, blessed with life,
Vegetive, fleshly; these instinctive, those
Unconscious; and for these and him to come,
With starry globes innumerable, suns,
Planets, and moons, and meteors, circumvolved
Each round the other, round their central sun,
In countless clouds and firmamental wholes,
Whose orbits scarce demean infinitude,
Did he the void impeople; he the suns
Of self--genetic, space--creating light,
As types and tokens of his heavenly love
And beatific power, with spirits vast
And world ordained intelligences, fined
From all creation, through its thousand grades.
For man, the mighty earth, and all the orbs
Revolving round the middle thrones of fire,
Compacted of the elements, wherein
Dwell separately all less perfect souls;
For him the moon, reflective, ministrant.
Of all he chose one system as a law,
The great ensample of his starry scheme,
One sun, one earth, one moon, one race, one tribe
He rules by choice the universal whole.
All that are angels, therefore, held, or gods,
And worshipped by the ignorant soul, are man;
Man, self--inclusive of all lower forms,
All higher natures less than the Most High.
For man is of two kinds, the spiritual
And fleshly; yet we both have but one name;
Since angelhood is manhood glorified;
Raised up distinctly to divinity;
And homed and heavened within the embrace of God.
The final sum that science crowns her with,
This; between God and nature, man alone;
However various his conditions be,
Through space's universal round, and all
The countless orbs of viewless skies, exists;
Nature's essential summit he and God's
Deific incarnation: this weigh well;
For spirit is refracted in the flesh,
And shows as crooked what is straightness' self.
Call all not God nor nature, man; nor fiend
Nor angel but his kin; God, thus, the world,
And man, are all: man midst, the third great form,
Wherein unite the two divine extremes,
In vital essence. Partly viewed, to each
His double nature is allied; conjoined
They embrace themselves in him, compact effect
Of God and the lone universe; he the mean
Immortal, vital, of all things, brute life,
And heaven's divine eternity. In man
Do God and nature reconcile themselves;
God's image he, and the world's. In mental kind,
In moral and spiritual his sire's; in frame,
This elemental and transitional shape,
His mighty mother Nature's favourite son.
Soul, quintessential element, unto her
Heaven's love--gift he alone heirs of her fruit;
She perfected in him most; of her line,
Head--glory. As man the quality of all life
Thus shares above, below, and matter inert,
So, in his nature sanctified, all things back
To their final origin return, in round
Totality of life. For our dear sakes,
Life mortal is exalt to life eterne,
And God with justest love still saves from death,
To heaven's divinest destinies, the son
Of his eternal bridals.
Festus. Whence are we?
Luniel. Child of the royal blood of man redeemed,
The starry strain of spirit elect, create
Before all worlds, all ages, thence we are.
This, therefore, be thy future and thy fate.
As water putrefied and purified,
Seven times by turns, will never more corrupt;
So thou and thine whole race, all change endured,
Through doubt, sin, knowledge, faith, love, power, and bliss,
Shall practise every note of Being's scale,
Till the whole orb coharmonize with heaven,
And pure imperial peace rule all below;--
Till, star by star, these bright and sacred seats,
Whose ancestry of sempiternal suns
Comes of the vast and universal void,
And in whose lineage of light yon earth
Seems but a new possession, scarcely worth
Accepting or rejecting, shall at last
Into primordial nothingness relapse;
And man, the universal son of God,
Who occupied in time those starry spheres,
Regenerate and redeemed shall live for aye,
Made one with deity; all evil gone,
Dispersed as by a thunderclap of light.
Lucifer. Spirit serene! Hath evil no effect?
Luniel. Timeous it hath, being the shadow of good.
With man all good hath evil, but with God
Evil itself is good.
Festus. And sin and hell?
Luniel. Evil and sin are twin with time and man.
Sin from a selfish, sensual, source sprung, seeks
An individual end; whereby we stand
Opposing deity, and the great commonwealth
Of worldly life; sin voluntary evil;
Ill nature's sin involuntary 'gainst God;
But good, wherein with God we concentrate,
Though bound on Being's very utmost verge,
Unites us with the infinite, and rules
Right through us, as a radius of the law
Eternal of intelligence which bounds,
Quickens, upholds, and rectifies all things.
Sin is the birth of evil; hell, of sin;
Destruction of corruption forms the end.
Heat is not in the sun, nor wrath in God,
Who, though our faith may waver, still is love.
'Tis the eye twinkles, not the star. When him
We spurn we suffer: suffer and inflict,
On him our suffering, gracious he, all time.
Revenge, wrath, judgment, all are names of love;
The crowned effect of being, and therein
Result. Such retribution is our God's:
Such glorious retribution as the sun
Inflicts on fogs and shadows. Hell is part
Of nature. Human retribution stands
Divine in ordination; but divine
Judgment on human souls by torturing fires,
In everlasting blast, a blind reproach
To the pure God, who blesseth all he makes.
Lucifer. Destruction I believe in. Mercy may
What it once made, unmake; scarce re--create
Into its opposite. Between man and man
Justice is sacred, and 'tween man and God,
Whose equity all embraces, mercy is sure.
But between God and fiend no middle power
Exists, save man, and no creator he.
Luniel. Thee God! all creatural nature more or less
Denies; but thou, above all contraries,
All lovest, all affirmest, as of thee.
Festus. As when two clouds, such differences delight,
By controvertive currents blown of air,
Each other's path cross, vast in seeming grace,
As knowing heaven both ample and apt enough
Even opposites to tolerate; each to me
Truth's footsteps seems to track. From both I learn,
Scanning the depths of Deity, what fate
Inexplicable judgment first pronounced,
By arbitrary rule, in reason's light
Shows righteous, shows humane, shows worthy God.
Yea even here as everywhere, let man
Worship his Recreator, and the world's,
Made perfect blissward, by preparative fire.
O thou, who holdst the universe in thyself,
Not only as we may mentally, but in act;
Cause uncontaminate by effect, all else
Effect with cause creatively connexed;
Who in Being's inaccessible depths dost dwell
Central, thence self--diffused through all; whose course
Through space uncomprehended, we but track
By the evanishing star--dust of thy feet
Left on heaven's roads; from world nathless to world,
From firmament to firmament can we trace
Each soul his individual link with thee;
The pure invisible touch which makes us thine;
The something more substantial than the sun,
More general than the void, yet nested here;
As through the aëry silence of the soul,
Swifter than eagle rushing upon the wind,
Thou sweepst into possession, when thou wilt.
So many are thy mercies, what is left
Save this, to ask? continue to us that
Thou givest. To cease pertaineth not to thee.
The elements may all confusedly fail;
Systems, now burning, stiffen corselike; or slide
Into their graves of darkness and decay;
The sun at length exhausted in the strife
For fiery aliment from the self--thinned air,
With his aethereal victor, sleep, and die;
And firmaments conglobe them, till at last
The universe in one orb concentrate, fit,
Then, for thy footstool only. Change like this
Ten thousand times may happen, until it fall
To the observant spirits at thy right hand
Noteless, by reoccurrence; man, the while,
Restored to the essential whence he came
Consorting but with the infinite, nor knowing
To utter what is not divine and true,
Shall ripen in thy bosom, till he grow
Through endless heavens, triumphant and serene,
Into the thronèd God thou badst him be.
Luniel. Depart. Thou knowest all things, knowing this.
The world is God's broad word, whose sense is heaven,
To those who wisely read; time's trilogy,
The mighty drama of the Lord; the rest
Man, angels, act and hymn. To him devote
Be all the paradisal world to come;
Each hill an altar named to God, where man
Saintly, may pray and praise; a covenant heap
Of witnessed commune 'tween them; oh, may earth
Sea--like, but render back the heaven she nears;
Be every flower a censer of delight
Spiritual; each wing an augury of the skies.
Festus. A future this, to live for.
Lucifer. I abhor
The self--delusions men affect. With them
The future is a god--king, born in heaven,
Rich with hereditary royalties,
And entail of interminable times.
Morn's roseate breath, fresh blown o'er night's bright dew,
Is foul before this urchin's as a sough;
His hand is like the lily's fragrant snow;
And he is robed in weeds of whitest sheen;
Pet godling of the world! The present, what?
A ragged, beggared dotard, sick to death
Of the grey years, and round returning skies.
But what's the truth? Nor passed, nor future, is;
The present only is all time.
Festus. Too much
Thou hast taught me, spirit, of the passed, to shun
The surety 'tis in me, for good or ill;
And thou, too much, sweet angel, not to feel
The hopes first planted in my mind by her
Who bade me here, of commune blessed to come,
Make henceforth life's best part, that I the more
Concede me to the future.
Luniel. Know then, friend
Of her I love with thee, that limited though
In sphere, each spirit celestial, yet the extent
To all seems well nigh vergeless; and if thou,
Prepared, wouldst ken what more of human fates,
Even of the individual spirits that star
Earth's passed, renowned; and how the eternal years
Find them and leave; or lapped in thought, as these,
Or fired to act, as those, perpetual, say!
Festus. Dear angel! If through all these radiant spheres,
Thou show'st, so stimulant to the inquisitive mind,
Of dreams of miracles wrought, mayhap, by son,
Prophet, or saint of the Supreme; not masked
In mean or stable state, but as a god,
Carrying his kingdom with him, and his court,
His converts, and his heaven; that so, though plunged
In death's abyss, death passed, it is in his train's
Triumph, and the effluence of his conquering light,
They enter deity; if, nay, trust me, e'er
Mine it might be, more proofs of God's just love
Than ever earth shows, to learn, such would I rather
In thy care tutelar, than 'neath other wing
Angelic, these mine eyes have yet beheld.
Luniel. God's are the ultimate ends of life; but these,
Sun, planet, satellite, heaven's all--typèd spheres,
Of evervariant being, it is mine to search,
Sojourn in, pass through; if abide in not.
Mean mundane these, and just remedial spheres
Meedful, preliminary, where meet, death passed,
Men's spirits; for whose can His pure eyelids, heaven's
Passive rebuke, sustain? Such hovering search
Our possible privilege, leave being had, to enrich
The spirit with royal liberties but fulfilled
In thy kind, deathwise; and thus the freed soul fit
For truth, orbed perfectly in heaven alone:
High thought and pure, it is mine to hallow aye,
And guide through heaven the meditative soul,
Slightful of luxuries. Let not world--life warp
Thy heart from its strain upwards. Shun, severe,
Seclusive, youth's frivolities and deceits.
Lucifer. Oh yes, I'll help in all austerities.
There's nothing like extremes. The mean's too good.
Festus. Earth was my future once, but now 'tis heaven.
Luniel. Earth is the emerald tablet, by God's throne,
He writes his laws upon, and his open fates;
That all the heavens his starry rede may learn,
Even to the end. Thither ye therefore hie.
Earth's angel waits thee next, estranged by woe
From all her kindred world--wardens, she weeps
The impending end of things, nor ceases haunt
Heaven with thrice deprecated prayer. Farewell.
Lucifer. Come then, since earth and heaven have willed it thus,
Let us fare forth; our mutual destinies
Coeval, and concurrent with the world.
This life thou findst not, say, a thought too grave?
Who seeks creation's mysteries;--well, a change,
Now and again, seems reasonable, I own.
Festus. How can the aspiring spirit, whose faith is sure,
Whose aims, experiences like these, converse
With pure intelligence, and advance in paths,
Heavenward, divine, prove reach their mark e'er change
Its end, and change for meaner?
Lucifer. Pleasure, love,
And mirth, ye graces three, make up for this,
Right soon, or something will go wrong. We want
Some merry chirupping friends, that's clear. But wait.
A sunny pool 'mid life's brief stream, I seem
To see, where glides, scarce sensible of the flow,
Youth's gilded shallop calmed 'mong lilies; seem
To catch a song; quaff wine.
Festus. What sayst?
Lucifer. I say,
Me unconditioned being charms not; nor things
Certain; contingencies are enough for me;
And serve me passing well.
Festus. Farewell, sweet orb.
Earth draws us like a lodestone. See, we are coming.
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