Festus - Xxvii Poem by Philip James Bailey

Festus - Xxvii



Count not the ripples upon life's stream, our days;
Nor eddying errors as a change misdeem
Of current; mark thou wiselier, the main flow
Of ever Godward being. The hand supreme
Outreaching all, guides to a term unthought.
Contrition makes confession; penitence draws
Pardon. So, thoughts once sinfullest abjured,
Dawn shows of the true life. The downward node
Turned, begins reascent: for God, with whom
His holy angel's prayers prevail, ordains
The peccant spirit to view and visit hell:
That this, of punitive flames, invisible,
Assured, but all potential, thence to man
Might bring his gladmost tidings back, and prove,
How justest judgment trines at once with God's
Love, and the soul's amendment.

Rocks and Sands by the Sea--shore.
Festus and Guardian Angel.
Guardian Angel. Here break for good the bonds of silence. Once
Again we may as erst sweet commune hold.
I have spoken already, and once more by God's will
Bid thee despair not, but with penitence hear
The counsels of the All--wise, and fate's decree.
The anguish of thy heart, thy tears, sighs, groans
Have reached God. Wouldst thou aught confess?

Festus. O angel!
How dared I think to thwart God's thought? or 'scape
The law inevitable of destined doom?
I hate, I loathe, I curse, condemn myself
To righteous penance and heart--scourging fires
Of sharp remorse for aye.

Guardian Angel. Thy better self
So bids, retributively just. Thou knowest
Wherein thou hast failed; in this one test, the crown
Of good's conflict with evil, thou art proven
Losel, and all thy heavenly guidance foiled;
Myself aggrieved, dishonoured. Now, as of old,
Triumphant towers the tempter. Urge no more
Mean exculpations one keen thought, truth--edged,
Of conscience scatters.

Festus. Be it so, angel. I
Have sinned; erred wilfully; wronged right; succumbed
To a base temptation fiend--forged in my heart;
The inlight quenched, which every soul illumes,
God's witness in the spirit, and inmost seal,
Blurred o'er with passionate fire.

Guardian Angel. Confession clears
The conscience; and it is well. Though but in mood
What's done thou canst not now undo; for thought
Is mind's act, but 'twixt thought and outward deed
As 'twixt heaven's polar stars, lies the whole world.

Festus. How was't I failed? How came it sin's rank breath
The cool calm air of virtue dared defile?
Oh I have lost my starry seat in heaven;
Lost God's approving smile.

Guardian Angel. Nay, God indeed,
Hath suffered this, hath led thee to the abyss
Of all deceptive nature, thee to show
Its ruinous depths, no hand save his alone
Can lift from. Thou hast sinned, sinned, open--eyed,
But in thought only and passion. Let such strange pass
Life carnal from life spiritual demark,
This henceforth thine.

Festus. It shall be, heavenly one!
Let the passed life--state perish. Be it with me,
As when some soft and sleepy summer scene
Of nature, framed before us, we, with the view
Content, like passive, like indifferent, gaze
Listless; all secondary shades of things
Immingling, show confusedly; hill, vale, plain,
The rivulet's gentle curve, the tremulous slope
O' the wood, the unlevel outline of far hills,
Just dusking air, all blend in light diffuse
Indefinite;--suddenly, a masklike cloud,
Creeping mid--sky, the sun surprises; straight,
As 'twere God's staff, a light--shaft, sharp, severe
Strikes earth, and lo! the unmoralled mixture ends;
The face of things shows changed; shapes all transformed,
Dark things grow darker, brightlier glow things bright;
The o'ersmiling world's frail witchery, and her craft
Inequitable of tolerance, fails, collate
With that just spear--beam; so this knowledge, now
Inlanced into my soul by conscience, makes
Not only truth more amiable, but shows
Of good and ill the eternal severances.

Guardian Angel. It is well. Be verified thy resolves! and graved
On thy soul's frontlets, that remembering how
Of old thou failedst, and yet wast not forsook,
Thou mayst be wise; recalling, too, how they
Who wisdom willed but for themselves, and mere
Preeminence in the world, friend, lover, both
Untimely, perished; thou alone, self--trained
Sagelier, albeit unwittingly, to ends
Happier and nobler, even to serve, preserved.
Yet boast not, nor presume. In souls, forgiven
Of God, his chosen anointed, he, and they
Regenerate, make one being, their spirits which live
And thrive are holiest miracles, while here
Made pure by conscience, penitence, love of good
And hate of ill, restoratives of soul,
Shall reap at last divine reception there,
Presume not yet, nor boast. Not yet thy lot
Exhausted; or for man's sake, or thine own.
God's will o'errules his own appointed fates.

Festus. Was this my sin foreset?

Guardian Angel. Original sin's
A figment of man's brain. Pure come we all,
Angels and men from God. And though by flesh
Soul--soiled, our own and others' faults; life's needs;
Its passions, vanities, selfishness; and numbed
By ebb of moral energies, the force
Essential,--as thy privileged eye hath proved,
To itself, among spirit--spheres instructive,--fined
By sense of truth, and reasonably convert
To God's demand of penitent betterment,
Self--sown in the spirit, detersive of all sin,
All carnal aims, or more, deterrent, yet
Shall win its ultimate heaven, and rest in God,
Whose throne is world--wide. God therefore, pray thou
Thy forerun thought of evil intent, frustrate
By mean so marvellous, be not actual sin
Against thy soul adjudged; but, cloudlet--like,
That steals through heaven, nor shadow leaves below,
The unfixed fault may pass dissoluble,
Nor thy closed page, dread angel of the pen!
Darken:--and I mine orisons adding, too,
Will both present in heaven.

Festus. Be thou my soul's
Kind keeper. Pray for me. For me remains
One only course, the step towards heaven.

Guardian Angel. It may
Be arduous, but 'tis life.

Festus. Oh, yes! 'tis life.
All else unsafe, in this to act's to live.
As some belated cliff--climber,--his track
Homewards, tide--swept, at foot of columned crag
Reared with its fellow jambwise, like blind gates
Hadeän, to mask earth's inmost,--halted, eyes
Shudderingly, all round, the death--expectant sea;
The ascent, limb perilling; and, reflective, knows
One sole safe path, that, upwards;--to the feat
Girds him unanxious, and so climbing climbs
Now, by sheer slopes unpunctuate to the edge;
Now clinging to grim steeps,--the lichen gray
Scarce closelier; steeps that in the paling light
Smile treacherous welcome, even as death might smile,
Petting the plumes of some surprised soul;--now,
Coasting the chasm which laughs the sea--hawk's home,
And her brown broodlings, ragg'd with flickering down,
From human foot, till he, rock--swarmer, clutch
Breathless, the bleak, black top; all daylight spent,
Save one poor sack of gold the unthrifty sun,
Decamped, hath dropped by the tent--pegs of the sky;
And prostrate, wordless, but with welling eyes
Thanks heaven; so I, too, haunted by a god,
Like one of old, who gives my soul no rest,
Bear me, till I in him attain the sum
Of peace and safety.

Guardian Angel. Mayst thou even attain!
Thus heart--wrung, thus soul--humbled, know God wills
Thou make of hell foreproof in conscience; view
The fate foredoomed for one who wilful sins;
And voluntary, visit with him who owns
And strives to extend, hell's stern domains. There, reigns
Nathless, thou wilt find, eternal equity,
And justest law; sin's graduate chastisement,
The harmonic bonds 'twixt fault and fine, and there,
Man's mind, disrupt from self--deceits shall show
Time's wasted faculties still used to ends
Emendative of soul. There, all God's ways,
To nature's reconciled, prove thou not more just
Than amiable; so, gladdening man and earth.

Festus. I go. Adieu!

Guardian Angel. When out of night leapt light,
Not weightier seemed the event than now from this,
The good, the glory. One fault 'twas wrought man's fall;
This act, the rise of angels; so o'erruled
To good, all evil beneath the hand of God.

Festus. Be it mine to enjoy or suffer, as decreed.

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