Life Poems - Poems For Life
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Festus - Xxiii - Poem by Philip James Bailey
Life's gaudier vanities shunned, or banned, the world
Escaped from; passion dignified; some talk
Of fable and of cabala, mystic lore;
War, actual earth regarded, heaven's reproach
Unanswerable, 'gainst man; the fruitful claims
Of friendship in abeyance long, restored;
Pauses, reposeful, for a time the strain.
In memory we, passed life, passed feat of bard,
Bards best interpreters of life's sad dream,
Review; and plans for peaceful progress aid.
Note, nathless, change impending, schemes conceived
By help of evil, that in dismay will end
Undreamed of, but all innocently ensured
By beauty and hero and friend; marking, who knows?
Heart, soul, and intellect, homed in tranquil ease.
Who mind's interior realm, life's outer treat;
Things passed, to come;--secret in secret cased,
Like balls of ivory carven, enclosing, each,
One than itself less, than itself one more;
And, like life's double enigma, so involved,
The sole solution makes the mystery.
Home; an interior. Festus, Helen at her piano.--Afterwards, the Student. Evening.
Helen. I cannot live away from thee. How can
A floweret live without its root? Attend!
I am to say and do just as I please.
That's my great charter, is't not? Thou art king;
I am to command thee? May I? That I will.
Festus. I love to be enslaved. Oh! I would rather
Obey thee, beauty, than rule men by millions.
Helen. Near, as afar, I will have love the same.
With a bright sameness like this diamond,
Which, wheresoe'er the light, 'like brilliant shines.
And thou shalt say all manner of pretty things
To me; mind, to me only; write love--songs
About me; and I will sing them to myself;
Perhaps to thee, sometimes, as it were now;
If I should happen to feel very kind.
Festus. Sing now.
Festus. Tyrant, I will banish thee.
Knowst thou what comes of tyrants, in the main?
Helen. Oh! though an absolutist, I'm bound by laws
Of my own making.
Festus. Laws that can be sung?
Helen. Nay, if to sing and play please, I would die
To music. Wrong 'twas to deny thee aught.
But be not anger'd with me, for though heaven
Forgave, I'd ne'er forgive myself if I
Brought sorrow on thee.
Festus. Thou wouldst not, I believe.
Helen. Nought fear I but an unkind word from thee.
Dark death may frighten children, hell, the wretch
Who feels that he deserves it, but for me,
I do, nor say, aught worthy the pure pain
Thy frown can give, or a cold careless look.
If I do wrong, forgive me, or I die,
And thou wilt then than I be wretcheder;
The unforgiving, than the unforgiven.
Festus. I do absolve thee beauty of all faults
Passed, present, and to come.
Helen. Well, that will do.
What was I saying? I love this instrument;
It speaks; it thinks! nay, I could kiss it. Look!
Jealous? three things love I, half killingly:
Thee lastly; and this, next; and myself first.
Festus. Thou art a teazeful, tiresome thing; and yet
Do I weary of thee? Never; but could gaze,
Faint from delight, upon thy countenance,
In the serious joy with which we eye and eye
Space boundless, visible attribute of God,
Who all things making in himself, makes thus
And there, the heaven we hope for; and can find
No point wherefrom to take its altitude;
For the infinite is upwards, and above
Aught highest create, conceivable; so I,
Musing upon thy face, expression like
Heavenly, and heightening e'er the more I muse,
Helen. I am happy now with thee.
Festus. And I.
Steeped in the still sweet dew of thy soft beauty,
Like earth at day--dawn lifting up her head
Out of her sleep, star--watched, to face the sun;
So I to front the world on leaving thee.
Oh, there is inspiration in thy look,
Poesie, prophecy. Come thou hither, love.
This evening air, how sweet.
Helen. It breathes on us,
Fresher and clearer through these dewy vine--leaves,
Fit for the forehead of the young wine--god.
Festus. A large red egg of light the moon lies like,
On the dark moor--hill; and now, rising slow,
Beams on the clear flood, smilingly intent,
Like a fair face which loves to look on itself,
Saying, `There is no wonder that men love me,
For I am beautiful.'
Helen. Well, I don't mind.
Others first told me.
Festus. Now were soon enough.
Helen. Nay, nothing comes to us too soon but sorrow.
Festus. For all were happiness, if all might live
Long, or die soon enough; for even us.
Virtue they tell us lives in self--denial;
My virtue is indulgence. I was born
To gratify myself unboundedly,
So that I wronged none else. These arms were given me
To clasp the beautiful, cleave the wave, or, branched
In tenfold perfectness, prove how supreme
O'er nature, man: to wander where I will,
These limbs; these ears to list my loved one's voice;
These eyes to view all earth claims as fair or grand;
These lips to be divinized by her kiss;
And every sense, pulse, passion, power, to be
Ripened into perfect life.
Helen. True virtue is one
With nature, or 'tis nothing. It is love.
Remember'st not when, the other eve, thy friend,
The Student called, a tale was on thy tongue,
Out of the poets, about love, and sorrow,
And happiness and such things,--he interrupted?
Festus. But I forget such tales when thou art by.
Besides I asked him here again to--night,
Here, at this hour, and he is punctual.
Helen. In truth then I despair of hearing it.
He keeps his word relentlessly; with not
More pride an Indian shows his foeman's scalp,
Than he his watch for punctuality.
Festus. But tales of love are far more readily made,
Than made, remebered.
Helen. Tell--tale, make one then.
Festus. Well then my story says there was a pair
Of lovers, once--
Helen. Once! nay, how singular!
Festus. But where they lived, indeed, I quite forget:
Say, anywhere; say here: their names were,--I
Forget those too. Say, anyone's; say ours.
Helen. So far 'tis not improbable; pertinent too.
No wild vagaries; quite in bounds. I hear.
Festus. The lady was, of course, most beautiful,
And made her lover do just as she pleased;
He therefore doing unwisely, doing wrong;
Neglecting all in heaven and earth, but her.
They met, sang, walked, talked folly, just as all
Such couples do; adored each other; thought,
Spoke, wrote, dreamed of and for, nought else in life
Than their sweet selves. And so on.
Helen. Pray proceed.
Festus. That's all.
Helen. Oh no!
Festus. Well, thus the tale ends, stay!
No, I cannot remember, nor invent.
Helen. Do think.
Festus. I can't,
Helen. Oh, then I don't like that.
It is not in earnest.
Festus. Well, in earnest then.
She did but look upon him, and his blood
Pulsed stronglier from his heart her gaze to meet;
For at each glance of those sweet eyes, a soul
Looked forth as from the azure gates of heaven;
She laid her finger on him, and he felt,
As might a formless mass of marble feel,
While feature after feature of a god
Were being wrought from out of it. She spake;
And his love--wildered and idolatrous soul
Clung to the aëry music of her words,
Like a bird on a bough, high swaying in the wind.
Even as a storm charged cloud that in the night,
Will have wept itself away, unseen, nor made
Earth thankless 'ware of its self sacrifice,
That it might richen one pasture; so, too, he,
To endow with all his love, her heart he loved,
Would the whole firmament of his life exhaust
In happying her, unnoisefully:--and she,
Soft as a feather--footed cloud in heaven,
While her sad face grew bright like night with stars,
Would turn her brow to his, and both be happy;
Numbered among the constellations they.
Helen. As some ambitious wave, far out at sea,
That whitens the wide horizon with just one flash,
And dies for ever, is, I foresee, my life.
Festus. Helen, my love. Art there? Oh! it has been
Such a day, so bright, as that thou knowest when first
I said I loved thee, that long sunny day
We passed upon the waters, heeding nought,
Nought seeing, save each other.
Helen. I remember,
The one thing wise, good, I have ever done,
Was to love thee. Would none else were as I,
Wise. Didst not say that student would be here?
Festus. I think I hear him every minute come.
Helen. I deemed him in our revellous days gone by,
Festus. Not wholly, sure.
Helen. Once when thou wert afar, he came, and then,
Right sadly entertained me, the whole while,
Themes so recondite, studies so abstruse
Perpending, that he left me much perplexed.
Much he explained to me of cabala;
And correspondences, and symbol types;
Angelic tongues and astral alphabets;
All which, quoth he, learned aptly, make for us
An upward reaching lesson to the skies.
And as all souls are but the breath divine,
Dewlike, conglobed into separate entities,
By inimical matter, limited here
Of pure necessity, and by distance cooled,
From heaven's life--giving centre, so, he affirmed
That manhood is but angelhood disguised
In some frustrate condition, earthwards urged;
And angelhood but reascendant--
Helen. Nay, truly I forget me. In his scheme,
But one thing was, and that was infinite;
But whether man or deity, not now
Can I recall; indifferent which it seemed.
Constrained, in fine, to check him, I averred
Such converse to be awful. Truly it is:
And all commune, he added, when, to its depths,
The soul itself unbosoms, and high thought
Calls to truth's far profound, as to the sea,
The clouds storm--fraught, that groan with thunder--fire,
And passionate flashings blent with blinding rain.
Festus. He ceased then?
Festus. And this was what he taught?
Helen. Nay, this was what I learned. Teach could he not;
For he lacks faith, nor can indoctrinate.
All things he seems to know, and nought believes;
Save as a possibility. To me,
His mind shows inconclusive, as an arch
Without its facial keystone.
Festus. Sad! yet I
Feel my heart ripen towards him as a friend,
More than to other unit of my kind.
All minds must thread the burning shares of doubt;
Who wholly scathless 'scape are blessed; are few.
Thine be it, him to imbue with faith like thine;
And so remunerate with commutual debt.
He for the future will be one of us.
Helen. It is not kind. We should be more alone.
But let it pass. I am at peace with thee;
And pardon thee, and give thee leave to live.
Helen. When earth, and heaven, and all
Things seem so bright and lovely for our sakes,
It were a sin not to be happy. See,
The moon is up, it is the dawn of night.
Stands by her side one bold, bright, steady star--
Star of her heart, and heir to all her light;
Whereon she looks, so proudly mild and calm,
As she were mother of that star, and him
Knew, in his sphere a sovran sun; but there
By her dear side, in the great strife of lights
To shine to God, he, filially, had failed,
And hid his arrows and his bow of beams.
Mother of stars! the heavens look up to thee.
They shine the brighter but to hide thy waning;
They wait and wane for thee to enlarge thy beauty;
They give thee all their glory night by night;
Their number makes not less thy loneliness
Festus. Heaven's beauty grows on us;
And when the elder worlds have ta'en their seats,
Come the divine ones, gathering one by one,
And family by family, with still
And holy air, into the house of God,
The house of light he hath builded for himself;
And worship him in silence and in sadness,
Immortal and immovable. And there,
Night after night, they meet to worship God.
For us this witness of the worlds is given,
That we may add ourselves to their great glory,
And worship with them. They are there for lights,
To light us on our way through heaven to God.
And we, too, have the power of light in us.
Ye stars, how bright ye shine to--night; mayhap
Ye are the resurrection of the worlds,--
Glorified globes of light! Shall ours be like ye?
Nay, but it is! this wild, dark earth of ours,
Whose face shows furrowed like a losing gamester's,
Is shining round, and bright, and smooth in air,
Millions of miles off. Not a single path
Of thought I tread, but leads to God. And when
Her time is out, and earth shall have travailed again
With the divine dust of man, her sons, reborn
Immortal, shall to her due reverence make;
While she, their mother, purified by fire,
Shall sit her down in heaven, a bride of God,
And handmaid of the everbeing One.
Our earth is learning all accomplishments
To fit her for her bridehood.
Helen. He is here.
Student. I thought the night was beautiful,
But find the in--door scene still lovelier.
Helen. Ah! all is beautiful where beauty is.
Student. Night hath made many bards; she is so lovely.
For it is beauty maketh poesie,
As from the dancing eye come tears of light.
Night hath made many bards; she is so lovely.
And they have praised her to her starry face,
So long, that she hath blushed and left them, often.
When first and last we met, we talked on studies;
Mingling with men, as even by thee advised,
Abandoning abstruse studies, as of stars,
In their antique relations, thought, with earth
Seed--gold, or medicinal all--heal; now
As profitless, unless to raise the mind
To ends more high and pure; ends better gained
By severe knowledge of time's actual truths,
Than meditation on mere possibles;
All other intellectual aims resigned,
As recreative, apart from duty's aims,
Save metaphysic lore which fines the mind,
And teaches Being's vast necessities,
Poetry only I confess is mine;
The only thing I think of now, or read;
Feeding my soul upon the soft, and sweet,
And delicate imaginings of song;
For as nightingales do upon glowworms feed,
So poets live upon the living light
Of nature and of beauty; they love light.
Festus. But poetry is not confined to books,
For the creative spirit thou seekest, is in thee,
About thee, and all others; yea, it hath
Student. Truly. It was for this
I sought to know thy thoughts, and hear the course
Thou wouldst lay out for one who longs to win
A name among the nations.
Festus. First of all,
Care not about the name, but bind thyself,
Body and soul, to nature hiddenly.
Lo, the great march of stars from earth to earth,
Through heaven how silent! Earth speaks inly alone.
Let no man know thy business, save some friend;
For it is with all men and all living things.
Experience and imagination, sire
And mother are of song, the harp and hand.
The poet, in his lay reflects his soul,
As some lone nymph beside a woodland well,
Whose clear white limbs, like animated light,
Make glad our heart and our sight sanctify,
The soft and shadowy miracle of her form.
Take care that such be perfect; that thou feel
Full sympathy with all life; a sense that e'en
In nature's wildest, massiest, may be felt
His rock--sustaining presence. God they serve
Best, who adorn humanity most, and help,
By holiest usurpation of his gifts,
Happy to make all fellow life around.
The bard must have a kind, courageous heart,
And natural chivalry to aid the weak.
He must believe the best of every thing;
Love all below, and worship all above.
All animals are living hieroglyphs.
The dashing dog, and stealthy--stepping cat,
Hawk, bull, and all that breathe, mean something more
To the true eye than their shapes show; for all
Were made in love, and made to be beloved.
Thus must he think as to earth's lower life,
Who seeks to win the world to thought and love,
As doth the bard, whose habit is all kindness
To every thing.
Helen. I love to hear of such.
Could we but think with the intensity
We love with, one might do great things, I think.
Festus. Kindness is wisdom.
Helen. Touching, love, these tribes
Creatural, thou speakst so meetly of, were none
Like them, in lovelier worlds, or what in fine,
Hast thou of other marvels?
Festus. What is earth,
But one majestic miracle, wrought of God?
Helen. But didst thou never meet, mid far off orbs
None of those strange commingled shapes which here
Romance and fiction boast of, and bards sing?
Methinks in worlds half finished, one might see,
As earth once saw in the solemn days of old,
Mysterious sphinx, or dragon flamy breathed,
And centaur, lord of all four--footed life,
Who with man's heart and head, and a steed's hoofs
Scoured earth impetuous, windlike: Minotaur
For whose just death in labyrinthine lair,
Bright Ariadne won her star--pearled crown;
Man--bull, or lion winged, cherubic shaped,
Or solar, proud Assyria erst adored;
Simorgh, and rokh, and phoenix cometlike,
Which nested in the sun; and in the deep
Sea--horse fish--tailed; and not unknown, even now,
Or here, to nature, where, by Jura's isle,
Fond mermaid, hybrid of the earth and sea,
Than fair haired Yseult vainer of her locks,
Erect amid the waves, on caudal curve
Poises her form, weed--girdled; in her hand
Her shadow glassed; she, rivals knowing none,
Beckons the youth belated in his skiff,
Far out of hail of land: seductive, lauds
The charm immortal of the foamy sea;
The quiet cave, surpassing in sweet gloom,
Earth's superficial glare; her bridal home;
Her dower of pearl and amber; wide domain,
And every joy; oft, over shoulders white
Showering the shining tresses, which, as oft
The lapping waves displace; but he, with fear
Half dead, though scarce incurious of the deeps,
Nor to adventure mostly disinclined,
Rows faster, lest the moon set, till he hears
His heart's betrothed, him wailing on the beach,
Some simple cottage maid?
Festus. Far happier he.
Helen. I grant ye. But hadst thou no strange--world toy;
No faithful fire--drake, dogging every step;
No spotted wyvern, giant pet, bat--winged;
Lithe libbard, purring panther, cat of God,
Nor shoulder perching harpy? Didst not find
One salamander fire--conceived, oft seen
Luxurious, nestling in the seven yeared flame;
Emblem of him who mid the children three,
Thrown in the furnace, trode the coals serene;
Nor milk white unicorn, not so rare, bestride,
Through greenwood ambled once by faerie power,
Predictive of the damsel of the sea?
Festus. I can't remember these things, if I saw.
Helen. There may be savagery in other worlds,
If less than man's exterminative. For see,
How cruel, men; not to themselves--wards less
Than lives below them; lives God hath not thought
Unworthy him to make, we ought not deem
Unworthy of our care; but though create
To serve or suffer, treat, as made by him
With high humanity. Yet in their death
Look how men wanton! till the heart it grieves
Scarcely, when these, in blind revenge of blood
Causelessly shed, retaliate death for death;
As when in icy seas the barb--gored whale
Drags his tormentors deathwards; and though these
For life kill, others slay for play, as still
In Zetland, where betimes some ruthless wight,
Scaling the scaur, in sport the nests despoils
Of auk or gull; they, crowding clamorous round,
Intruded on, insulted, injured, sore
His ears besiege, until with querulous wing,
One stern and ancient fowl assails his eyne;
His hold gives way; he topples headlong down,
From crag to crag rebounding, till the sea,
For many a ghastly loan responsible,
Seals up the expiring secret; and, avenged,
God's feathered kind scream triumph. Him, at home,
Or dame, or mother, by her drowsy wheel,
Expects; and through the ominous night, her ears
Sharpens to catch his customary step,
Whose ghost now flaunts the breakers; or, far off,
Lamps the lone wold. I cannot brook to see
This needless, useless, senseless, slaughter strewn
Round earth as though death--torments were a boon
We owed it to our kinghood to impart,
Impartially, to all created life.
But how all minor cruelties of man
Are summed in war, conclusive of all crimes;
When not defensive, indefensible!
Festus. Light of my heart! thou say'st the veriest truth.
How is it Christian nations boast of war,
Practised to steep the earth in brother blood,
Deeper than heathen? Shows not current time
Man's deadliest wit at work how most to slay?
Scan earth, and mark the myriads massed in arms,
Scowling defiant hate; burning to reave
Each other of domain, state, power; or prove
Predominance of race! What hosts arrayed
In battailous pomp meet, east and west, the eye!
Not those so vast, to immemorial age
Sacred, of Scythic birth, which, floodlike, surged
Far round the mount Armenian; nor so wide,
Those once the crutchèd hermit's eyes beheld,
Uprist in bodily answer to his prayers,
By Danube's bank; whence hardy knighthood's shield;
Nor host immixed that, by Propontic wave,
Its ranks deployed by nations to salute
The golden--footed dame, who sheathed in steel
Her lilied breast, and couched her lance for love
Of Christ; and with the hope of wresting back
From infidels his hallowed tomb, led on,
With jewelled rein, and morion snowy plumed,
Her maiden chivalry, and glittering queans,
Luckless; for ah! their virgin valour quailed,
Ere yet upon the spoil, the manlier might
Bounded of stern Islam; nor, till unhorsed,
Unhelmed, knew these the delicate foe they had thrown,
Flower--breathed, as in the moon of blossoms earth.
Student. Nor that by sunny Tours, where fell the force
Moorish, beneath the Frankland monarch's mace,
Which Europe saved from turban and Koraun;
Nor those above whose heads the flaming sword,
Two--handled, and two--edged with pest and fire,
Of militant angel, pierced the clouds, and slew,
At one stroke, squadrons.
Festus. Still, from age to age,
Prevails the universal lust of death
And vulgar slaughter; war of all bad things
Worst, and man's crowning crime, save when for faith
Or freedom waged; but when for greed of ground,
Or mere dominion, cursed of man and God.
As when the clans Mogul--which late had left
Their maze of mountains the high plains that bound--
Whence Buzanghir and all his valorous brood,
Heads of the golden horde, and sons of light,
Whom Alancova to her sun--spouse bare
At treble birth; the lords of throne and crown,
Khaliph's, or king's, or Tzar's, which Zinghis gained,
Or filial Kublai, with all--suasive sword,
Bright ravisher of souls, into one realm
Rounded and died; strict theists they who held
In God and their own swords, a brief, brave creed,--
O'er Europe's quaking heart careered, and like
Sunblast on greensward, graved their fiery name
In blazing towns and harvests blackening; woke,
With tramp terrific of their horses' hoofs,
The slumbering nations; to its stony foot
Burned Breslaw, and at Wollstadt won a field
Red with the gore of Christian chivalry,
But fled from their own conquest; fled aghast;
And perished in the wilds where they were born;
And when in later times and distant lands,
By countless wrongs indignant made, distraught,
The Azteks for their lord, and woe--crowned head,
Stern Moctezuma, archer of the heavens,--
Beset by bigots, falsely named white gods,
Their deeds of black fiends rather savouring,
But, steel--clad cowards, strong in fulminant arms,
Instalment thought of thunder at command,
By the plume--mailed barbarians, gold who held
The sun's bright tearlets--sought in vain to buy
Humanity of Christians, infidel these
To earth's best faith, nor capable to preach,
By bloodshed, creed pacific; or southward, where
His quadripartite world the Ynga ruled;
Earth's universal passion wasting not
On king--faced coin, but hallowing every mote
To beauty, or to deity, till came,
Crowding, the guests profane, with priest and cross,
Who slaughtering thousands of his flock, and him
Incarcerating, bade pile his prison walls
With the soul--soiling dross they hungered for,
Ere he should know release, his sole release
Death;--how humiliated must all men feel,
Dumb with unmeasurable guilt, to know
That for these vicious ends the self--deemed good,
Have all good illed; and, in faith's peace--pledged name,
Blasphemous, vaunted of the invader's crimes,
And gloried in the havoc of his hand.
Helen. Yea, even Christians sometimes may do well;
As when by gay Chalons the Paynim Hun,
His hosts arrayed, contemptuous of the faith
Which nerved their arms who conquered, wrongly he
Deeming in godless numbers victory lay;
Just cause had they to thank God, and to wave
The sword of sacred triumph in his cause,
One with the cause of freedom, faith, and life.
Student. But now with that thou spakest of, before
This privileged interceptress of all speech
Deflect as from a gem's face, thought's bright rays;
Go on, I pray. I came to be informed.
Thou knowest my ambition, and I joy
To feel thou feedest it with purest food.
Festus. Tell all I feel I cannot; save myself,
Seeming to know but little; yet am not shamed
To have studied mine own life, and know it like
Tear--blistered letter, fruit and proof which holds
Of feeling deeper than poor pen can score,
Or the eye discover; and that, oft, my heart's thoughts
Will rise and shake my breast, as madmen shake
The stanchions of their dungeons, and howl out.
Helen. But thou wast telling us of poesie,
And the kind nature--hearted bards.
Festus. I was.
I knew one well, a friend of mine: his mind,
Taste, temper, habits, temperament and life;
Yet with heart kind as beats, he was, earthlike,
No sooner made than marred, for ever. Young,
He wrote amid the ruins of his heart;
They were his throne and theme--like some lone king,
Who tells the story of the land he lost,
And how he lost it.
Student. Tell us more of him.
Helen. Nay, but it saddens thee.
Festus. 'Tis like enough.
We slip away like shadows into shade;
We end, and make no mark we had begun;
We come to nothing, like a pure intent.
When we have hoped, sought, striven, and lost our aim,
Then the truth fronts us, beaming out of darkness,
Like a white brow, through its overshadowing hair.
Student. Unkindly truth; nay, be not so severe.
One of us dies; so end our claims, our plans.
We choose our side, we take our ground, high strung,
Or meek; most, hopeful; deem life's game our own,
To the third figure; lo! our bails drop down
Plump, or clack skywards; and it is we who have scored
Nothing:--not even a bye. Truly, too true.
Festus. But I was speaking of my friend. He, quick,
Generous, and simple, obstinate in end,
High--hearted, was from his youth; his spirit rose
In many a glittering fold and gleamy crest,
Hydra--like to its hindrance; mastering all,
Save one thing--love, and that out--hearted him.
Nor did he think enough, till it was over,
How bright a thing he was breaking, or he would
Surely have shunned it, nor have let his life
Be pulled to pieces, like a rose by a child.
But passions cause remorse that make the heart,
Musing the passed, writhe 'neath its ivory vault,
And thin the blood by weeping at a night.
If madness wrought the sin, the sin wrought madness,
And made a round of ruin. It is sad
To see the light of beauty wane away;
Know eyes are dimming, bosom shrivelling, feet
Losing their spring, and limbs their lily roundness;
But it is worse to feel our heart--spring gone,
To lose hope, care not for the coming thing,
And feel all things go to decay with us,
As 'twere our life's eleventh month: and yet
All this he went through, young.
Helen. Poor soul! I should
Have loved him for his sorrows.
Festus. It is not love
Brings sorrow, but love's objects.
Student. Then he loved.
Festus. I said so. I have seen him, when he hath had
A letter from his lady dear, he blessed
The paper that her hand had travelled over,
And her eye looked on; and would think he saw
Gleams of that light she lavished from her eyes,
Wandering amid the words of love there traced,
Like glowworms among beds of flowers. He seemed
To bear with being but because she loved him.
She was the sheath wherein his soul had rest,
As hath a sword from war: and he at night,
Would solemnly and singularly curse
Each minute he had not thought of her.
Helen. Now that
Was truly like a lover! and she loved
Him, and him only.
Festus. Well, perhaps it was so.
But he could not restrain his heart, but loved
In that voluptuous purity of taste
Which dwells on beauty coldly, and yet kindly,
As night--dew, whensoe'er he met with beauty.
Helen. It was a pity, that inconstancy--
If she he loved were but as good and fair
As he was worthy of.
Festus. Dark and bright there is,
To everything but beauty such as thine,
And that's all bright. If fault in him, 'twas one,
Which made him do sweet wrongs. It mattered little.
Or right or wrong, he were alike unhappy.
Ah me! ah me! that there should be so much
To call up love, so little to delight!
The best enjoyment is half disappointment
To that we mean or would have in this world. Oft
There are strange and sudden lights which startle youth,
Prowing adventurously, life's seas, and seem
To beacon it towards them; they are wreckers' lights;
But he shunned these; and gathering, when she rose,
Moon of his years, his true if perilous course,
Though a sea of sorrow struck him, he yet held
On; dashed all grief--ful from him as a bark
Spray from her bow bounding: he lifted up
His head, and the deep ate his shadow merely.
Helen. A poet not in love, is out at sea,
Indeed; he must have a lay--figure, too.
Festus. I mean but to describe this friend of mine.
Helen. Describe the lady, too; she was, say, at once,
Above all praise and all comparison.
Festus. Why, true. Her heart was all humanity,
Her soul all God's; in spirit and in form,
Like fair. Her cheek had the pale pearly pink
Of sea--shells, the world's loveliest tint, as though
She lived, one half might deem, on roses sopped
In silver dew; she spake as with the voice
Of spheral harmony, which greets the soul,
When at the hour of death, the saved one knows
His sister angels near; her eloquent eye
Deposed, to him who loved, so sweet its hue,
All other lights as grades of gloom; her dark,
Long rolling locks were like a stream the slave
Might search for gold, and searching, find. Her frown--
Helen. Nay, could she frown?
Festus. Ay, but a radiant frown,
In common with the stars.
Student. Stars, fending now
Business, now pleasure or alliance, men
Malignant call, but so malign. Our stars,
Permissive, or averse, are always kind.
Helen. Enough. I have her picture perfect. Cease.
Student. What were his griefs?
Festus. Who hath most of heart, knows most
Of sorrow; folly and sin and memory make
A curse the future fires vie with in vain.
The sorrows of the soul are graver still.
Student. Where and when did he study? Mixed he much
With the world, or was he, in his choice, recluse?
Festus. He had no times of study, and no place;
All places and all times to him were one.
His soul was like the wind--harp, which he loved,
And sounded only when the spirit blew.
Sometimes in feasts and follies, for he went,
Life--like through all things; and his thoughts then rose,
Like sparkles in the bright wine, brighter still.
Sometimes in dreams; and then the shining words
Would wake him in the dark before his face.
All things talked thoughts to him. The sea went mad,
And the wind whined as 'twere in pain, to show
Each one his meaning; and the awful sun
Thundered his thoughts into him; and at night,
The stars would whisper theirs, the moon sigh hers.
The spirit speaks all tongues and understands;
Both God's and angel's, man's and all dumb things,
Down to an insect's inarticulate hum,
And an inaudible organ. And speak it did
The spirit, to him, of everything create;
And with the moony eyes like those we see,
Thousands on thousands, crowding air in dreams,
Looked into him its mighty meanings, till
He felt the power fulfil him, as a cloud
In every filament feels the forming wind.
He spake the world's one tongue; in earth and heaven
There is but one, it is the word of truth.
To him the eye let out its hidden meaning;
And young and old made their hearts over to him;
And thoughts were told to him, as unto none
Save one who heareth said and unsaid, all.
And his heart held these as a grate its gleeds,
Where others warm them.
Student. I would I had known him.
Festus. All things to him were inspiration: wood,
Wold, hill and field, sea, city, and solitude;
Crowds, streets, and man where'er he was; and God's
Blue eye, which is above us. Soundless sands,
Stern cliff with sea--weed sandalled; patient beach,
Storm deprecating; and still, deep, stately stream
Travelling, instinctive, mainwards; mead and plain;
Summer's warm soil and winter's cruel sky,
As a sea eaglet's eye clear, icy blue,
All things to him bare thoughts of minstrelsy.
He drew his light from that he was midst, as a lamp
Matter of fire, from air, though it show not. His
Was but the power to light what might be lit.
A muse he met in every lovely maid;
And learned a song from every lip he loved.
But his heart ripened most 'neath southern eyes,
Which sunned their sweets into him all day long:
For fortune called him southwards, towards the sun.
Helen. Did he love music?
Festus. The only music he
Or learned or listened to, was from the lips
Of her he loved; and then he learned by heart
Her words, delicious as the candied dew,
And durable, which gems the rose, on shores
Pacific, where the westering sun hath sown
The soil conceptive with the seed of gold;
Albeit she would try to teach him tunes,
And put his fingers on the keys; but he
Could only see her eyes, and hear her voice,
And feel her touch.
Helen. Why he was much like thee.
Festus. We had some points in common. When we love,
All air breathes music, as though insucked through lips
Of lyre Æolian; nature's every life
To ours responsive, like the branchy bower,
By Indian bards feigned, which, with ceaseless song,
Answers the sun's bright raylets; nor till eve,
Folds her melodious leaves, and all night rests;
Drinking deep draughts of silence.
Student. Was he proud?
Festus. Lowliness is the base of every virtue:
Who goes the lowest builds, doubt not, the safest.
My God keeps all his pity for the proud.
Student. Was he world--wise?
Festus. The only wonder is
He knew so much, leading the life he did.
Student. Yet it may seem less strange when we think back,
How we, in the obscure chamber of the heart,
Sitting alone, see the world tabled to us;
And the world wonders how recluses know
So much, and most of all how we know them.
It is they who paint themselves upon our hearts,
In their own lights and darknesses, not we;
One stream of light is to us from above,
And that is that we see by, light of God.
Festus. We do not make our thoughts; they grow in us
Like grain in wood: the growth is of the skies,
The skies, of nature; nature of God. The world
Is full of glorious likenesses; and these
'Tis the bard's task, beside his general scope
Of story, fancy framed, to assort, and make
From the common chords man's heart is strung withal,
Music; from dumb earth, heavenly harmony;
And for souls parched mid the world's wilds, to draw,
As from his altar's sacred hollows drew
Druid, his dews celestial, holy draught
Of life--thought clear, sweet, nutrient, as spring water,
Welling its way through flowers. As nature teems
With outward symbols fair or saintly, all,
Of our best thoughts,--though not till night we see
Heaven moveth, and a darkness thick with suns,
So faith with clearest proof the thoughts we think,
The eternal truths of science, and divine
Virtue subsist in God, as stars in heaven;
And as these specks of light great worlds will prove,
When we approach them sometime free from flesh,
So too our thoughts will become magnified
To mindlike things immortal. And as space
Seems but a property of God, wherein
All matter abides, so, other attributes
The infinite homes may be of mind and soul.
Rise from our souls thoughts, even as from the sea
The clouds sublimed in heaven. The cloud is cold,
Although ablaze with lightning--though it shine
At all points like a constellation; so
We live not to ourselves, our work is life;
In bright and ceaseless labour, as a star
To all worlds save itself, shines.
Helen. And thy friend,
And she he loved, happy were they together?
Festus. True love is ever tragic, grievous, grave.
Bards and their beauties are like double stars,
One in their bright effect.
Helen. Whose light is love.
Student. Or is it poesie thou meanest?
For love is poesie--it doth create;
From fading features, dim soul, doubtful heart,
And this world's wretched happiness, a life
Which is as near to heaven as are the stars.
Helen. Love's heart turns sometimes faint, like a sick pearl.
He needs such delicate diet as the bird
Gold--breasted, which on cloudlets only morn
Hath ambered fed, ere rose--breath'd summer end
Dies, nor can brook the shadow of a decline.
Festus. They parted; and she named heaven's judgment seat,
As their next place of meeting; and it was kept
By her, at least, so far that nowhere else
Could it be made until the day of doom.
Helen. So soon men's passion passes! yea it sinks
Like foam into the troubled wave which bore it.
Merciful God! let me entreat thy mercy!
I have seen all the woes of men--pain, death,
Remorse, and worldly ruin; they are little,
Weighed with the woe of woman when forsaken
By him she loved and trusted. Hear, too, thou!
Lady of heaven, maid--mother, thou in whom,
Betaking him into mortality,
As in thy son he took it into him,--
God from the temporal and eternal made
One soul--world same and ever, oh! for the sake
Of thine own womanhood, with divinity crowned,
Pray away aught of evil from her soul;
And take her out of anguish unto thee,
Always, as thou didst this one!
Festus. Who doth not
Believe that that he loveth cannot die?
There is no mote of death in thine eye's beams
To hint of dust, or darkness, or decay;
Eclipse upon eclipse, and death on death;
No! immortality sits mirrored there,
Like a fair face long looking on itself;
Yet shalt thou lie in death's angelic garb,
As in a dream of dress, my beautiful:
The worm shall trail across thine unsunned sweets,
And feast him on the heart men pined to death for;
Yea, have a happier knowledge of thy beauties
Than best--loved lover's dream e'er duped him with.
Helen. It is unkind to think of me in this wise;
Beside that I may die by sea, or fire,
Or gulped down quick by earthquakes, who can tell?
Surely the stars must feel that they are bright,
In beauty, number, nature, infinite;
And the strong sense we have of God in us,
Makes me believe my soul can never cease.
The temples perish, but the God still lives.
Festus. It is therefore that I love thee; for that when
The fiery perfection of the world,
The sun, shall be a shadow, and burnt out,
There is an impulse to eternity
Raised by this moment's love.
Helen. I pray it may!
Time is the crescent shape to bounded eye
Of what is ever perfect unto God.
The bosom heaves to heaven, and to the stars;
Our very hearts throb upwards, our eyes look;
Our aspirations always are divine.
Festus. Yet is it in distress of soul we see
Most of the God about us, as at night
Of nature's limitless vast; for then the soul,
Seeking the infinite purity, most in prayer,
By the holy Spirit o'ershadowed, doth conceive
And in creative darkness, unsuspect
Of the wise world, ignorant of this, perfects
Its restitutive salvation; with its source
Reconciliate and end; its humanized
Divinity, say, of life. Think God, then, shows
His face no less toward us in spiritual gloom,
Helen. But not all gloom felicity brings;
And hers, I fear, brought somewhat less than bliss.
There is a love which acts to death, and through death,
And may come white, and bright, and clear like paper
From refuse, or from purest things at first:
It is beyond life's accidents. For things
We make no compt of, have in them the seeds
Of life, use, beauty, like the cores of fruit
We fling away.
Student. But of thy friend; say more.
Perhaps much happiness in friendship made
Amends for his love's sorrows?
Festus. Ask me not.
Helen. But loved he never after? Came there none
To roll the stone from his sepulchral heart,
And sit in it, an angel?
Festus. Ah, my life!
My more than life, mine immortality!
Both man and womankind belie their nature
When they are not kind; and thy words are kind,
Loving, and beautiful like thyself; thine eye
And thy tongue's tone, and all that speak thy soul
Are like it. There's a something in the shape
Of harps, as though they had primarily been made
By music, self--inamorated, that sought
Some form of utterance adequate to exhaust
Her passionate sense of perfectness; so seems
Thine absolute beauty but the effect of soul,
Sublimed and sweetened by the virtuous love
Of others' excellencies; thou, indeed, to me
Reminder of her loving'st sympathies.
And he of whom thou askest loved again.
Couldst thou have loved one unlike men, whose heart
Was wrinkled long before his brow? who would
Have cursed himself if he had dared tempt God
To ratify his curse, in fire; and yet
With whom to look on beauty was a need,
A thirst was, yea, a passion?
Helen. Yes, I think
I could have loved him; but no, not unless
He were like thee; unless he had been, been thee.
Tell me, what was it rendered him so wretched,
Festus. I may not tell thee.
Student. But tell me,
How, and on what he wrote, this friend of thine?
Festus. Love, mirth, woe, pleasure, was in turn his theme;
And the great good which beauty does the soul;
And the God--made necessity of things.
And like that noble knight in olden tale,
Who changed his armour's hue at each fresh charge,
By virtue of his lady--love's strange ring;
So that none knew him save his private page,
And she who cried, God save him, every time
He brake spears with the brave till he quelled all--
So he applied him to all themes that came;
Loving the most to breast the rapid deeps
Where others had been drowned; and heeding nought
Where danger might not fill the place of fame.
And 'mid the magic circle of those sounds,
His lyre rayed out, spell--bound himself he stood,
Like a stilled storm. It is no task for suns
To shine. He knew himself a bard ordained,
More than inspired, of God, inspirited:
Making himself like an electric rod
A lure for lightning feelings; and his words
Like things that fall in thunder, things the mind,
In a dark, hot, cloudful state, makes meteor ball--like,
To spirits then spoken with spirit tongue, prevailed;
Compelled by wizard word of truth, they came,
And rayed them round him from the ends of heaven.
For as be all bards, he was born of beauty,
And with a natural fitness to draw down
All tones and shades of beauty to his soul;
Even as the rainbow--tinted shell, which lies
Miles deep at bottom of the sea, hath all
Colours of skies, and flowers, and gems, and plumes;
And all by nature, which doth reproduce
Like loveliness in seeming opposites.
And nature loved him, for he was to her
Faithful and loyal, tending well the weal
Of every life, or blood, or sap, was hers.
To her grand soul, death needless, needless pain,
Is deadly sin. Him, therefore, in august
Silence she edified in deeper things
Than the world's babble robs of; speaking him
In that instinctive paradisal tongue,
Known now to nature, poet--priests, and God,
Who out of clouds, flowers, fountains, dreams, and stars,
Weave a commutual language; and conveyed
Clear to his eyes her veilèd blaze of light,
And led him by the hand, and made him trace,
'Neath time's disguising dust, the broad--based truth,
And iron impress, ineffaceable,
Of the eternal die. Divinerlike,
He ate the hearts of things ere yet he could
Prophesy of them; or predict of worlds
By augury of angels; or foresee
Life's round career accomplished in the skies.
As though his ear had been by serpents lipped,
He wist the world of life. Of every tribe
Of living things the key--spell he could speak,
And entered in its presence with the sign
Of perfect acceptation. He of all
Was free; a branch from off the tree of light,
Heaven--planted midst the wood we all indwell.
There was a light in death itself to him,
And the to--come had a clear presence. Thus
Ofttimes, at eve, together, eyeing heaven,
Creating stars, we sat, and stretching forth
The eagle--headed sceptre of the soul,
Ruled them at ease enthroned; with gifts of power
Widening the empyrean world on world.
And dropping down the fathom--line of thought
Into the future years, conceive what 'twere
To quit this world's necessitated deeps,
These strange librating bonds of birth and death;
And sweep into the still, free, sphere on high,
On faith and truth, our undeveloped wings,
Like to a vital wind, invisible,
Yet firmed and bounded in a beauteous form;
To give up life for being, and be gods:--
Such were the heights we aimed at, such the deeps
He reached and yet alive; for, sooth to say,
His soul was twin--lifed with a certain star;
When he died, the star also died.
Helen. Note that.
Student. Now, I beseech thee, be not as a stream
Which publisheth its shallows, but keeps all
Its deep things to itself. What mean'st thou, say?
That all things have a soul, an inner life,
I much believe, such things as trees and flowers,
Life not as ours like positive, less defined,
Still conscious, rivers, may be, mountains. stars:
That substance implies essence, essence life;
That what to us mere matter shows, may show
As mentally to others; and that men
Are shadows inwardly invert of gods;
So, at the fiery martyrdom of earth
When all heaven's starry sisterhood shall sigh
The blazing pyre to see, our souls will rise
With its spheral spirit, and there in it for ever,
Abide, all life's forms blessed and beautified.
Helen. What if it were that life, commencing first
In kind atomic, step by step, through all
The countless grades vegetative, animal,
Of nature, should progress at last to man,
Possessed with all the intermediate powers
Of all the schooling spheres he had passed through, till
This mere noviciate of humanity,
Encumbered with the veil of flesh, expired;
The spirit shall take the plenar vows of truth,
And enter upon the sanctity of heaven?
Festus. Our life is like the wizard's charmed ring;
Death's heads, and loathsome things fill up the ground,
But spirits wing about, and wait on us,
While yet the hour of enchantment is.
And while we keep within, we are safe, and can
Force them to do our bidding.
Student. It is very true.
Helen. Oh that mine eyes had virtues, such as those
Native to fairy fount in Sarnia's isle,
Rock--pinnacled by the foamy braid of the sea,
Of reach how perilous; whereby, oft, of yore,
'Neath summer moons, danced elf--dom, and its wave
Fresh, sweet, so gifted, that man's eye inlaved
Thereafter knew sense spiritual, and view
Of bodiless things; gift with the fairies now
Gone, possibly; but if not, how little it were
To risk all, this once gained!
Student. Risk nothing, beauty;
But know that always properly prepared
By holy meditation and divine lore,
Souls, self--adapted knowledge to receive
Are, by the truth desired illumined; made
Fit to convene, converse with purer powers
Which do unseen surround us e'er, and gladden
In human good and exaltation; oft,
The face of heaven is not more clear to one,
Than to another, outwardly; but this,
By strong intention of his soul perceives,
Attracts, unites himself to essences,
And elemental spirits, of wider range,
And more beneficent nature; by whose aid,
Occasion, circumstance, futurity,
Impress on him their image, and impart
Their secrets to his soul; thus chance and lot
Are sacred things; thus dreams are verities.
The soul too, which, like mountain lakelet lifts
Its gaze to heaven alone, will, doubt not, learn
Glassed in its visionary profound, to read
Ere long, futurity's cloudy forms; or mark
Clear through time's crystalline egg, the chanceful play
Of spirits, and strange forecomingness of things.
Saidst not this friend of thine was even a bard
And wrote prophetic of time's afterworld?
Festus. Ay, and time's present.
Student. What of that he wrote?
Festus. Some said, and lied, that he blasphemed, because
God's name he used, as spirits use it, barely;
Yet surely more sublime in nakedness
Statuelike, than in a whole tongue of dress.
Thou knowest, God! that to the full of worship
All things are worshipful; and thy great name,
In all its awful brevity, hath nought
Unholy breeding in it, but doth bless
Rather the tongue that utters it; for me,
I ask no higher office than to fling
My spirit at thy feet, and cry thy name,
God! through eternity. Who irreverence sees
In that name hath been wont to take it in vain.
Call all things by their names; hell call thou hell;
Archangel call archangel; and God, God.
Not less, for those who wilfully mislead,
Or err, the word is, lied; though it were writ
In honied dew, upon a lily leaf,
With quill of nightingale, like love--letters
From Oberon sent to the bright Titania,
Fairest of all the fays.
Helen. Not such were all?
Festus. No. Unlike those false brethren who of old
Sold their enlightener, and into duresse cast
The unfolder of high secrets, far and near,
All generous souls rejoiced in his, as one
Which holding in itself the sacred power
Thought to eternize, things divine achieves
With infinite ease; an earnest thus to all
Of gifts to come; as when young Jove, who now
Had but dethroned his sire, nor lots yet cast
With his titanic kin for the world's sway;
In earth's first blaze of conquest Maia met,
From out whose hallowed bosom lacteal life
He erst had drawn; she, bending close to his,
Her sad, but luminous brow, with thought oppressed
Of favour and dominion, him besought
What sometime he would grant her for long love,
And bounteousness of both her mothering breasts;
He, poor in all but in immortality;
Earth was not his as yet, but only heaven;
Touched her with hand deific, and her form,
Flashing with light, flew upwards as a star,
Insphered in air for ever. There she shines;
Not envious of the power, her earthly veins
Which filled with astral life; but laudful, blessed.
So too the high and bright souled sons of men
Loved him and praised. Yet praise nor fame he loved.
Men's praise an awe of one's own self so breeds
In us, we fear lest the heart, magician--like,
Show more than we can bear. The clouds which hide
The mental mountains rising nighest heaven,
Are full of finest lightning, and a breath
Can give those gathered shadows fearful life,
And launch their light in thunder o'er the world.
Yet was not all perfection, even finite;
But that at first defective most, he wholed,
By tyrant will, and toilful skill, use--born;
As the young merlin, when he first takes flight,
The uncredited wing whirrs aimless; this side, now,
Stoops dubiously, now that; his ways, his bourne,
Wists not, nor potencies; till, timely taught
By faulteous circlet and shrewd fall, just scope,
Firm trust in the unvacuous air, life's field
Henceforth to be, full--yeared, his total skies
Measuring in glance immense, with sternest plume
Strained steadily through one pauseless, pulseless flight,
He rounds; or, augur--like, from end to end,
Pages the parted firmament. So with him
Contemplative of work at last matured,
His eye's dark ball grew greater with delight,
And darker, as he viewed the things he had made;
Not planless, aimless not; deep based, high reared;
Not men nor monsters only outside the fane
Grinning and howling; but a holy group
Shown shrined within, before seraphic forms,
Embodied thoughts of worship, wisdom, love,
Joining their fire--tipped wings across the shrine
Where his heart's relics lay, and where were wrought
Upon men's minds immortal miracles.
Student. Poems outline religions, nay than some
Better they are, and lovelier far than most.
The poet's pen, the true divining rod
Trembling towards feeling's inner founts, brings forth
To light, to use, the sources many and sweet
We have, of beauty and good in our own deep bosoms.
But what if it be true that all is God;
Worship, the passive sympathy of parts
Atomic with the mightier, active mass,
As might a foam drop worship the great sea
All deities mere abstractions of man's mind,
And ultimate moral laws impersonate?
I hold my revelation in myself,
Of the God within me, sacred and supreme.
And for the law moral, humane, believe
He truest is of men whose thoughts are highest,
Whose wishes noblest, purest, charitablest;
Whose acts embody most both wish and thought.
Ill deeds who doth, in such incarnates hell,
By his own will. In our own brain or heart,
The magic circle lies wherein we raise
Sprites, good or bad. With our own blood, it is,
We pour libation to forbidden powers;
Or satisfy with expurgative fires,
Fed from the fuel of unbounded grief,
The offended God within us. Life's great laws,
The world is based upon, inviolable,
By us, and to us holy, he who makes
Breaks never. This my creed, I hold he most
Believes, who only God believes; all else
Festus. More than this is true,
And more is needed. Freedom not alone
Is worthy of worship; souls most one with heaven
Less, maybe, glory in liberties than laws.
Student. Man's mind is like the moon, whose crescent orb
Tops yonder hill; the vastier volume dark;
But 'tis not that which grows; the virginal light
At first but just enough to affirm its life,
With total and resistless ray, at last
Subdues the obscure sphere; so reason wins
From faith her shadowy world; and knowledge hoards
What ignorant belief hath lost for aye.
Relate his purpose summarily.
Festus. Why thus.
Helen. I have been quite waiting for an eloquent pause
In my instructors' speeches; gained at last.
So now then, I shall ask myself to sing,
And granting I agree to my request,
I think you ought to thank me.
Student. But not now!
Helen. Oh, yes, this instant.
Festus. Aught thou lik'st of love.
Student. Something about love; and it can't be wrong;
For love the sunny world supplies
With laughing lips and happy eyes.
Festus. And 'twill be sooner over.
Student. And so better.
Like an island in a river,
Art thou my love to me;
And I journey by thee ever,
With a gentle ecstasie.
I arise to fall before thee;
I come to kiss thy feet;
To adorn thee and adore thee,
Mine only one, my sweet!
And thy love hath power upon me,
Like a dream upon a brain;
For the loveliness which won me,
With the love, too, doth remain:
And my life it beautifieth,
Though love be but a shade,
Known of only, ere it dieth,
By the darkness it hath made.
A most lugubrious end; I hope that song,
Tis thine, was not addressed to me.
The king who ruled the demons, ruled the powers
Of air, ruled angels, was by woman ruled.
Festus. All great lays, equals to the minds of men,
With the divine deal; have for end some good
Commensurate of the soul, some scheme of being
To illustrate; this, God's great world--drame to sum,
Prophetically. Mind, this world's, and soul, God's
The wise man here joins, orderly, all he can.
Mid lesser lays stand, as among village cots
Churches, these works high, holy, whose sanctity
Crowns them as gold cross minster dome, and shows,
As with that instonement of divinity,
The whole belongs to God. Joy 'tis to know
However state, or soul, in creed might err,
Mind's greatest works done e'er to God, as hand's;
So, hallowed shown, to him, man's loftiest thought,
And might's sublime humility. One bard
Shows God as he deals with kings and states, war--ruled;
One as inaugurating an empire's sway;
As with the first man this; this, as with heaven,
Earth, hell, and fires remedial; ours, one soul
Forechosen, man's ultimate, with whom all time,
Earth's universal race and life sphere end;
One soul, one statued mind, one naked heart,
Emblemed; creative and created mind
Shown allwhere interactive; this though yielding
In mediate trials, triumphing o'er the last
Temptation, testful; being, at one with God.
All points are central to the infinite.
Therefore it is that deity, which fills
The spheres unnumbered save by him who made
The space existent whole, one human heart,
With equal power and specialty inspires.
His aim being spiritual most, the bard would tell
How the soul stands with God, and the unseen
Realities round us all; our angel kin,
And spheres of heavenly life; the mind--made world,
Without, within; part, earthly: other bards
Man dressed in manners, customs, forms, and laws,
Time, place, appearance, countless accidents
Of peace or polity draw; to him these are not;
'Twas his to show, whate'er his doubts, sins, trials,
However earth--born pleasures soil man's soul;
What power soe'er he gain of evil, still,
That not alone till death time is, but heaven
Stands open day and night to spirit and man,
Ever; for all are of God's race, and have
In themselves good. The life--writ of a heart,
Whose firmest prop and highest intent, the hope
Proffered of serving God as poet--priest;
And the belief that he would not put back
Love--offerings, though brought to him by hands
Unclean and earthy even as fallen man's
Must be; and most the thankful manifest
Of his high power and goodness, in redeeming
And blessing souls that love him, spite of sin,
And their old worldly strain, these are the aims,
The doctrines, truths, and staple of the story.
What theme sublimer than all soul being saved?
Though it is not moral standards most, the bard
Is called to inculcate, such designs pertain
To other ministries, the law of life
His all--comprising province, yet he errs,
Who, faithful maybe to his higher end,
Unites not both in one symmetric plan,
Lofty and plain and pure as are the skies;
All forms resolving to one element.
Our world--man's life,--the model of all men, he
All in his fate involving, friends, loves, foes,
As draws the sun his children, circling round
Heaven's infinite, to his own eternal end,--
Being moralled wholewise, thus, and even in parts,
Which, though to careless eyes, like the winged stones,
Air--travelled, now on Saronian downs, convolved,
And in primaeval mystery, still to eye
Trained worshipfully reveal a holy use,
And meaning of a temple reared to God;
While in all life's scenes and sections that is found
Which aiding thought of him, him whom the more
We obey and love, the nigher to are we drawn,
As by attraction spiritual, and growth
Of divine gravity, whereby the soul,
Though on things' outmost verge, elects to seek
Its central reason of being, all--where diffused,
Shows all that's good is deathless, as of God.
For the world tells us manifestly of him,
As of my soul, flesh; so our imperfectness
Proves his perfection; our atomic life,
His orbed totality of being. This told
For man's behoof in these and ultimate times,
The bard with eye foreviewing gifted, shows
Instructive, how God reconciles to himself
Student. By purifying from ill all worlds?
I would not ask thy meaning, but that I know
Thy even lighter words have in them couched
Not rarely a double value; and much convince
Of secret sanctity, like a golden toy
Mid beauty's orbèd bosom; speak thy thought.
Festus. Too oft have holiest bards defiant Ill
Successful shown 'gainst God. Ours, truelier taught
Holds not the Omnipotent self--doomed to succumb
'Neath evil and imperfection, sin, woe; serfs
By him so made for ends sealed in their birth.
But, as when artist, skilled in feats of fire,
The mother--city of an empire shows
How, though heart--sick for slaughtered sons, she still,
May gladden her in the peace their swords have wrought:--
The mimic comet at his signal soars
To invade the upper sphere; and streams of fire
Blood--dyed, shot east and west, speak war, until
Tumultuous founts of flame, erewhile immasked,
Flare triumph to the stars; then, with weird art,
He bids the skies shed showers of golden rain,
Of wealth pacific proof, or sheaves of light
Drop their bright grain; token that while the rich
Reap, e'en the poor may glean life's goods; or, roots,
Instant in air, a palm whose glittering cones
Seem culled by hand celestial, fruits of peace,
As peace of victory; street, spire and dome,
With fire--jets gleam, in lines of lengthening light,
Vibrant, by playful gusts chased; soothed in soul,
The night--thronged nations thunder their applause.
So he, heaven's war divine 'gainst falsest hell;
God's conquest o'er Ill's ravenous hosts; and grace,
And peace triumphant celebrates for man,
Now deathless, qualified for heaven by good.
Student. And all begins and ends, thou sayest in heaven?
Helen. So gracious the bard's plan.
Festus. Yes, even as one
Who sacring first his touch with waters blessed,
Some stateliest minster entered, breast and brow
Glistening with holy dew, from aisle to aisle,
Here, overshot with raftered sunbeams, there
With gorgeous lights begloomed, strays reverent; all
Its spatial vastness, all its wonders notes;
Arches of aspiration and command;
Columns and carvèd curves which end, but seem
While ending blending with infinitude;
Shrines and miraculous treasures, relics heired
From tutelar saints, ascended now; views wrought
Immarmorate on the wall the angelic poise
Of souls, earth's last assize; or, floorwise traced,
Boundless, indevious as a law of God,
Her long degree of light, her beam in heaven,
Mid sistering spheres itinerant; knees the slab
Luminous with gold aërial and all dyes
Oriel or rose transfuse in jewelled squares,
And gems gigantic as of paradise,
Imaginary, immortal; nether crypt
Spectral, shrinks not to unnight; nor risen, abhors
On prayerful knee, to scale sin--loosening stair
Thrice sacred; or with penitent foot o'erpace,
Bequest of sterner faith, its mystic maze,
A knotted league in length; but, led, at last,
By many a winding step to the roof high spired,
Glimpses with thanks, the skies, and air unwalled,
Unincensed air, breathes gladliest; so, man's soul
Time--travelled, all its hallowed wanderings o'er,
In the infinite presence ends of deity,--
The bard shows.
Student. Heaven's the birth of spirit; the world
Passing, preparative only in its kind.
We are but here the multiples of men,
Like seeds of thought and transient words of chance
Which, buried in the mind for days and nights,
Live to revive, and fructify in dreams
Of infinite power and import, the round world
We act in, shall itself but barely seem
To the soul a faltering reminiscence; seem
Like a base thought across a cloudless prayer,
Which ruffles it, not annuls; and lo! the great
Artist, whose pictures live, expunges earth,
And on his easel there dawns another heaven.
Helen. These things to think of, life nobilitates.
Festus. The sun, we may affirm, is dead and gone
For ever, and may swear he will rise no more;
The skies may put on mourning for their god,
And earth heap ashes on her head; but who
Shall keep the sun back, when he thinks to rise?
Where is the chain shall bind him, where the cell
Shall hold him? Hell he would burn down to embers;
And would lift up the world with a lever of light,
Out of his way; yet know ye 'twere thrice less
To do thrice this, than keep the soul from God.
O'er earth and cloud and sky and star and heaven,
With God it 'bides, uprisen as is a prayer.
O'erwearied with life's feints, and vain pursuits,
As some dim starlet, lost in maze of strange
Systems, retreats to heaven's securer depths,
Where luminary create hath never beamed,
So, indigent only of pure rest, the soul
Seals and secretes itself in deity.
Now lest we talk of nothing else all night,
I'll to my music. Sweet one, yes, I come.
Art thou not glad to see me? What a time
Since I have touched thine eloquent fingers, white
As eminent ripples upon an elfin sea
Of sound. Hast thou forgot me? mind! know'st not
My greeting? Ah! I love thee. Talk, you two,
Never heed me. I shall not you.
Helen. By the sweet muse of music, I could swear
I do believe it smiles upon me. See it,
Full of unuttered melodies, like a bird,
Articulative of sweetest notes that seem
From each other separated as drops of dew
Concentual; beating time with artless wing
Strained heavenward, now,--now, slowly, groundwards sloped:
Rich in invisible treasures, like a bud
Of unborn sweets, and thick about the heart
With ripe and rosy beauty, full to trembling.
I love it like a sister. Hark! its tones;
They melt the soul within one, like a sword
Albeit sheathed, by lightning. Talk to me,
Lovely one; answer me thou beauty.
Student. Hear her!
Helen. What said ye, sing again? Your kindness well
Merits the raptures you are doomed to enjoy.
The rose is weeping for her love,
And he is flying fast above,
To her he will not fail.
Already golden eve appears;
He wings his way along;
Ah! look, he comes to kiss her tears,
And soothe her with his song.
The moon in pearly light may steep
The still blue air;
The rose hath ceased to droop and weep,
For lo! her love is there.
He sings to her, and o'er the trees
She hears his sweet notes swim;
The world may weary; she but sees
Her love, and hears but him.
Festus. So to the flower of perfect life the world,
Sings the eternal spirit; drinks its divine
Perfume, and comforts it with fluttering wings.
Student. That roses weep is a botanic fact;
A zoologic truth that birds woo flowers.
Helen. 'Tween truth and fact, a world--wide difference lies;
Earth is a fact, but heaven, oh heaven, is truth:
That word reminds me I have news for thee,
Sir Student. Thou art invited to partake
With us truth's mysteries.
Festus. The friend thou knowest,
Whom thou hast met with me aforetime, now,
Knowing thine ardent longing for the light
Of wisdom, and my sovereign beauty's, here
Hath tendered to procure us without pain
Probational, for proofs are only due
From spirits less far advanced, the privilege
Of ancient mysteries, practised heretofore,
Which likely linked together divers faiths.
Helen. Wilt share with us this glory?
Student. Gladly, I.
The more so as concerned with rites, thou knowst,
Less diverse in their origin, than the end
We have laboured to extend 'mong men, and mean
By earth enlightening inwardly to achieve.
Art thou initiate?
Helen. Art thou perfect?
An answer, that, fair lady of the light.
Festus. Nay, then. To one wise, chosen, say, soul restored,
What rite, or rule, prerequisite can be?
Soul that hath once received, as some receive,
With fatal knowledge of futurity,
Faith full assured, that from time's crowned womb
Whatever comes is kingly, feels henceforth
All secondary knowledge pall. To me
Rule, rite sign, symbol, all have ceased to fruit.
Who knows the eternal secrets of the stars
Hath touched the quick of all faiths; knoweth all
Worth knowing; though true faith all known transcends.
And whoso lives not as the Master lived,
The great initiate here of life divine,
In the dry wilderness of self--denial
Beset, it may be, by wild passions, sins
Brute--like; by demons in the form of fame,
Power, beauty tempted, worship, wealth; in sooth
By aught that might the truth--fraught soul deflect,
In its serene procession towards God's throne,
To aims base, selfish; and who, trampling these,
Feels not God's sanction, nor the conscious worth
Of one long ministered to by angel hopes,
Winged with the spirit of comfort from high heaven,
Filling the craving mind with food celestial;
Greater or less than saint and spirit elect,
Hath most or nought of perfect manhood, tried
In God's all--cleansing fires. If nought, and he
Fails, falls he into fatal dark, the pit
Lit only by the light of serpents' eyes;
There, wandering desolately and self--condemned,
Till renovative times bid hope return.
But who so satisfied conquereth self, how blessed!
All that he once subdued who now enjoys.
Proud of his aid, but humble in himself,
Lion of God, he all attacks o'ercomes
Of fascinative fraud, or fiercest force;
A proffered throne to steal aside his soul
Into by paths of treachery, and bewray
The secret truth, supremely sweet, he spurns,
Whose crown is God, the perfector of soul.
All souls are born of God and of the faith--
Their mother faith wherein they are bred and nursed.
The king hath many a hundred handmaidens,
All sharers in his worship, of his love.
Others may thirst to know more. I all know
I wish to know. Who, pray, can teach me truths
More sure, choice, comforting than those are mine
Of graduated divinity; being's grand
Development upwards; and the world's humane
And everlasting judgment of itself,
As worthier God than nought; though earth--fouled, man,
Like some degraded god, debarred the mount
For a time by oath of Stygian waters, oath
Void since by wave and god both gone, he, sole
Survivor, exile of eternity, met
With heaven's all--pardoning welcome, met, at last.
Helen. Chill not our souls with negatives.
Student. Say, I come.
'Tis to be hoped, like man--gods, we'll survive.
Festus. The spirit speaks of God in heaven's own tongue,
No mystery to those who love, but learned,
As is our mother--tongue from him, the parent,
By whom first fashioned, flesh and spirit, all forms
Of truth, and feelings of all kinds of beauty,--
Moral and natural, in our heart--clay stamped,
Burn with celestial pattern. It is in love,--
Earth midway sphered 'tween love and war, war's part
In poesie played, our bard hath most his work
Love's heart--book made, and made well nigh all grief;
For the heart its truest likeness leaves in love's
O'erwhelming sorrow, which burns up and buries,
Like to the eloquent impress left, nor lost,
In ashes, of Pompeian maiden's bosom:
With love divine such blent. Though thin, though fleet
Our thoughts of God as ghosts, our thoughts of men
As men, bold, yet the ideals personate,
The shadowy creatures youth dreams live in the world
Embodied, but invisible, save in mind's,
The mightier, lack not; names believed, beloved,
Of beauteous souls all saved, which stand, perchance,
Who knows? for the heart's desires made pure in heaven.
Student. How is't the world so falls below our hopes?
Helen. The world! 'tis a forged thing, and hath not got
God's die upon it; 'twill not pass in heaven.
Student. I might believe thee and remain still proof
Against all soothsayers.
Festus. Pray now, cease. Ye twain
Jar ever; even, as with two bickering swords,
Concurrence makes not harmony.
Student. Nay, I yield.
Helen. Oh I could stand and rend myself with rage
To think I am so weak, that all are so.
Mere minims in the music made from us,
While I would be a hand, to sweep from end
To end, from infinite even to infinite,
The world's great chord. The beautiful of old
Had but to show some god had been with them,
And their worst fault to their best deed was hallowed.
That was to live. Could we uproot the passed,
Which grows and throws o'er us its chilling shade,
Lengthening each hour, and darkening; or could we
Plant where we would the future, and make flourish,
'Twere to live, too. Enough, it seems, the present,
All weighed, to endure. The city of the passed
Is in ruins laid; its echo echoing walls
At a whisper, fall: the coming's not yet built,
Nor laid even its foundations; rather seems it,
Like the air--city, goodly and well--watered,
The dry wind dreams of on the sand, and dies
Wandering round it, and maundering; we, our homes
Imaginary, cool courted, with alcoves
And fountains dropping in the noonlight, there
Waiting us, madly eye, and rave, and perish;
Not seeing the desert present is our end.
Festus. End darkest have the brightest natures oft.
Student. Let us not speak so ominously; but while
We live, work out our natures. We can do
No wrong in them; they are divine, eterne.
I follow mine attraction, and obey
Nature as earth does, circling round her source
Of life and light, and keeping true in heaven
Her path, if perfect not in round. What is?
Festus. True; no prognostics, or we close our night
Too sadly, and go sleep, and dream of deaths.
Student. Dreams are mind--clouds, thought--forms, unshapen and high,
Or but God--shaped, like mountains, which contain
Much and rich matter, ofttimes not for us
But others' conscience, dreams being rudiments
Of the great state to come.
Helen. But what's a dream
Of death? Is that all? Well, I too have had,
What all methinks have once at least, in life--
A vision of the region of the dead;
It was the land of shadows: yea, the land
Itself was but a shadow; and the race
Which seemed therein were voices, thoughts of forms,
And echoes of themselves. And there was nought
Of substance seemed, save one thing in the midst,
A great red sepulchre--a granite grave;
And at the bottom lay a skeleton,
From whose decaying jaws the shades were born;
Making its only sign of life, its dying
Continually. Some were bright, some dark.
Those that were bright went upwards, heavenly.
They which were dark grew darker, and remained.
A land of change, yet did the half things nothing
That I could see; but passèd stilly on,
Taking no note of other, mate or child;
For all had lost their love when they put off
The beauty of the body. And as I
Looked, I began to dream it was a dream;
The grave before me presently backed away,
And I rushed after it: when the earth quaked twice;
Opened and shut, like the eye of one, convulsed,
Then shut to with a shout. The grave was gone.
And in the stead there stood a gleed--like throne,
The ghostlings shook to see, and swooned; for there,
Strange shapes were standing, loaded with long chains,
The links whereof were fire, waiting the word
To bind and cast the shadows into hell;
For Death the second sat upon that throne,
Which set on fire the air not to be breathed.
And as he lifted up his arm to speak,
Fear preyed upon all souls, like fire on paper;
And mine among the rest, and I awoke.
Student. By Hades 'twas most awful. But I too
Have dreamed strange things beyond the mind's clear grasp,
Beyond life's limits and the term of time,
And star--lamped palace of eternal night.
I dreamed time's system ended, like a day
Of celebrant victory rounded with a roar
Of jubilant thunder, which subsides at last
Into emphatic silence; and the soul
Which had outlived the great creative week,--
Those seven fair days the Pleiades of time,
Whereof if one be lost, 'tis lost in heaven,--
Was rising from the ashes of the sun,
Assured of its divineness, to enjoy
Birth upon birth of glory and delight;
When lo!--a skiff upon a sea of fire,
Wearily ploughing, crossed my vision's disk;
And straight it changed for ever and was nought.
And as I gazed upon the lucid void,
All things reframed themselves before mine eyes;
And looking up aloft I heard in heaven
Young fluent Time discoursing of the worlds,
With starry diagrams on night's black board,
Most learnedly to many a lovely Hour,
Who fain would have delayed to hear him out;
While wise Eternity sat by and smiled,
Waving them all away.
Festus. And Time though now
Old, withered, bald, still prates of them as I
Have heard him, his young Hours, his lilied loves;
And still his mighty mother, in serene
Maturity of beauty, sits and smiles;
The infant dotard's inexperienced age
Sublimely pitying; for well she knows,
Though time and life are both of dual kind,
And men and things now sacred and profane,
Yet in the coming all shall holy be;
And the calm world reflect the One divine.
Peace is the end of all things, tearless Peace;
Who by the immoveable basis of God's throne,
Takes her perpetual stand; and, of herself
Prophetic, lengthens age by age her sceptre.
The world, like a lion disembruted, rid
With rose--wreathed reins, by a childling in some isle
Enchanted, shall be subject yet to love,
Earth's lord transforming all, he, unsuspect.
Student. I shall be swift to read.
Festus. Yes read and learn
A hearty thanksgiving for blessings here;
The proud prediction proved of life, to come;
Love, holiness, future bliss unlimited; learn
To view in nature deity all diffused.
Her study; and with earth's purest elements
Mingle thy being; sworn suitor for the smile
She pays all love with; nor, until thine eye,
Hallowed by sympathy with her in all shapes
Fleeting or fixed, and every changeful mood,
Conceive her spiritually, believe thou aught
Knowest, or canst; this conscious of, with heart
Loyal and reverent to the inmost soul,
And onemost cause of things, live blessed. For this,
The world hath said its say, for and against;
And after praise and blame cometh the truth.
Student. And of all truth, the most we prize we learn
From poesie, faculty inborn, except
From God derived not.
Festus. This condition add:
That as lauds attract the largesses of heaven,
As gifts God's bounties, purity his saints;
So genius inspiration; who most fame
To toil owes, his twin--brother. Even as when
In planning some steel--rutted road, long years
Dreamed of,--where now the fire--horse ramps, steam--breath'd,
Sweating red coal--drops on his panting path,--
The deep--eyed engineer his level lays
Inscrutable, and anon, the hills with men,
Brood of his brain swarm; black, unbottomed moss,
And willowy dale with mattock gleam and axe;
Or rock--hills, cleft as with a giant's club,
Groan loud; but stealthily, and reach on reach,
The mighty work, elongating itself,
Glides dragon--like, nor,--save in litheliest curves,
Flexed, gracile, as the lines meridian heaven
Hath clustered polewards,--swerves; till o'er the sea,
Victor by hill and chasm, broad stream and plain,
Cloud--plumed its iron--brow towers high, at last
With head works of all nations ranked; so here,
His primal plan for others' weal, our bard,
Made wise by grief's infallible instinct, knew
Must grow in gradual grandeur, till by toil
Inevitable of art complete, man's calm
Approof it conquer; and by conquering serve.
'Tis the soul's love--service manwards, and toward God,
Which hath alone his inbreath, and is rendered
To him from those he worthy makes to worship;
Who kneel at once to him, and at no shrine,
Save in the world's wide ear, do they confess them
Of faults all truths, through which, as the world follows,
He heareth and absolveth; for the bard
Speaks but what all feel variously within
The heart's heart; and the sin confessed, absolved,
Is done with, and for ever. Bards, to God,
The almighty poet of the world, confess;
And they to whom it is given with holy things
To deal thus and such privilege high partake,
Life individual with life's lord enjoy,
Uplifted o'er the vast and markless mass;
Yet not into a sphere of selfish thought,
But of innate and infinite commune
With all creation; for, as distance rules,
Behold the stars are suns, the sun a star;
So they who near God, boundless hold his love;
Who far off lie, misdoubt it almost nought.
And I who hold the clear and flawless faith,
Ancient and universal in the spheres,
Know earth was ta'en out of heaven's starry side,
And both blessed. Therefore am I joyful, here,
In the far to be our heirdom glitters.
Thy friend, was he much seen of the world?
Festus. No, truly.
Too oft men look on all who live askance.
Were he a cold grey ghost, he might have honour.
Nor thought he of himself save as a ghost,
Who sees in night his day. For the true bard,
And genius those most haunts who loneliest are,
In life and in desire, crowds never; knows,
Nay, makes himself inevitably, ghostlike;
He lives from men apart; he wakes and walks
By nights, he puts himself into the world
Above him; and he is what but few see.
No peace, choice, chance is his of happier being,
Till his secret told, the occult hoard he show.
Yet seeks he none, save of his own dear blood;
Lets generations pass, till his like turns up;
Nor him, unless with reverence brave bespoke,
Thinks fit to infeoff, his heir: for knows he not
He only, to that old hid treasure, truth?
And the world wonders shortly how some one
Hath come so rich in soul. It little dreams
Of the poor ghost that made him. Each this spirit
Receives, transmits. But while inventive soul
The bearings and the workings of all things
Around, knows more than other; knows all ends
Of nature meet and fit; wit, wisdom, worth,
Goodness and greatness; to sublimity
Beauty approachful; and his purpose seems
But hesitantly to reach, he to himself
Lives in thought, secularly; as a planet world
Labouring slowly seemingly up the void,
But with infinite pace to immortal eyes, and knowing
Who means the bard's great functions, must not sole
Be as nature perfect, but in art perfect;
And himself measuring 'gainst pure mind, and high
Extolled above himself, will seek some theme
Where spiritual element most majestic shows,
All covering, not all constituting; thought
Enkindling, as in some conflagrant wood,
By lightning fired, or swept by hurricane's feet,
With whirlwinds winged, bough chafe bough, till all burn,
Like heaven's star--written prophesies: thus, conceive;--
Time, shattered shadow of eternity, cast
On the troubled world as the sun shows brokenly
Upon wavelets, time, but a second to the dead,
Had seen elapse unconscious many an age;
And the reek o' the world's great burning, o'er the skies
Trailed, was fast wearing into air away;
When a saint stood before the throne, and cried,
Blessèd be thou, Lord God of worlds that are,
Have been, and are to be! for infinite like
With thy creation, their destruction, wise,
Just, thou, in both,--Give me a world. God gives;
And the world was. How this new orb was made,
Show: where it shone; who ruled, abode therein,
Worshipped, and loved; their natures, duties, hopes;
Let it be pure, wise, holy, beautiful.
If elsewise not, so made by stress of heaven,
Kindly forced good; we have had enough of sin
And folly here to embrace even change of chains.
Show God as fatherlike, going thither mildly;
All blessing, cursing none; no need for those,
That he shall come in glory new to himself,
With light whereto the lightning's shall be shadow,
And the sun's, sadness; borne on a car self--teamed,
High wheeled, of burning worlds, within whose rims
Whole hells glow; and beneath whose course dry up
Like drops of dew, the starlets faint, of space.
Student. It is a theme I want. What theme remains?
Festus. One that shall start and struggle within thy breast
Like to a spirit, in its tomb at rising,
Rending the stones, and crying `Resurrection!'
What theme remains! Thyself, thy race, thy love,
All sanctified, the faithless, and the full
Of faith in God; thy race's destiny. Know
Every believer is God's miracle.
Blend all in one great holy work, which first,
A handful of eternal truth, shall men
A heartful, after, make; bid bury with them:
Fair hands shall turn, idolatrous, and bright eyes
Sprinkle their sparkles o'er it with their tears.
The young, gay, brave shall seek't with joy; the old
Still hearty in decline, whose happy life
Hath blossomed downwards like the purple bell--flower,
Closing the book shall utter lowly; death,
How little! 'tis life in God that's infinite.
Believe thou art inspired, and thou art.
Behold the bard. He is wont to make, unite,
Believe; the world to doubt and part and narrow.
That he believes he utters. What the world
Utters, it trusts not. Pray we, time may come,
When all who would raise men's minds may be God inspired
To utter truth, and feel like love for men.
Student. One thing I'd know, thy friend's faith.
Festus. Ah! I see.
Though cognizant of his temper, culture, taste,
We know not what a man is, till we know
What he believes; that known, all's well--nigh known.
Well, this is what his faith was, faith in God.
It was right enough to ask. Thou art as one
Who roaming haply lands remote, arrived
At some strange gated city, whose domes and spires
While yet far off have piqued his spirit to learn
Its fabulous passed, its legendary renown,
Its present life, its people's exploits, tasks, toils.
Their haunts of pleasure, halls of science, art,
By pencil fine or chisel glorified,
The abodes of learning, catacombs of wit
And seminaries of thought he paces; scans
Their courts of sacred justice; tribune, throne,
Senate; treads, pleased, the proud embattled keep
Of princely governance; and yet longs,--all these
Seen, seen!--to view God's children at their best;
And mark how high their flood of thought devout
Hath borne them up in their chief shrine of old,
By them prededicate to Divinity; mind
Made holy, needs, seeks deity most; so there,
Ingliding stilly, with the vespering sun,
Through curtained porch, the sanctuary within,
Welcomed by looks none but devout or kind,
He kneels; thanks heaven for hourly mercies; pleads
For a blessing upon those he loves, afar
Or near; and thus with brethren worshipping
One Father, feels, whate'er their social claims
Art--wise, or civil, on man's just sympathies
Fraternal, spiritual, men each other know
Through fellowship best in God. But what his creed
I scarce dare say, so simple and brief it seemed;
But as heaven high, as earth broad, it embraced
All souls of men.
Student. Poets, I think, henceforth
Are the world's best teachers; mountainous minds, their heads
Are sunned, long ere the rest of earth. I would
Be one such.
Festus. It is well. Burn to be great.
Each mountain stands inspired as touching heaven.
But pay not praise to loftiest things alone.
The plains are everlasting as the hills.
Revere God's order everywhere. And now,
Thou hast heard thus much from one not wont to give
Nor seek advice, remember whatsoe'er
Thou art as man, suffer the world; 'twas thus
God made; entreat it kindly, and forgive.
They who forgive most shall be most forgiven.
Dear Helen, I will tell thee what I love
Next to thee;--poesie.
Helen. What! can there be
Aught even second to me in thy love?
Doth it not distance all things?
Festus. Sooth to say,
I once loved many things; ere I met with thee,
My one blue break of beauty in the clouds,
Bending thyself to me as heaven to earth.
Even now 'tis variable, this love. To--night,
It is, as thou seest: to--morrow--
Festus. Oh, nothing.
Helen. Mine, too, moonlike may seem to lessen or grow,
Because not visible all at once. But felt
Trulier by me in inmost consciousness,
It knows no night, nor morrow, like the sun.
Unchangeable even as space, it still shall be
When yon bright suns, in time's great hour--glass, what
But sands? are run out.
Festus. Without woman, man's
But half man; and as idolators their gods
Heavenless, we deify first what we adore.
Student. It is not idolatry life looks most for now.
There's work at hand, which, not achieved, I'd look
Simply on life as keeping me from God,
Stars, heaven, and angels' bosoms. I lay ill:
And the dark hot blood pulsed, plunging through and through me.
They bled me and I swooned; and as I seemed
To die, a soft sweet sadness seized my soul,
That made me feel all happy. But my heart
Would live, and rose and wrestled with the soul,
Twining around it as a snake an eagle,
Which stretched its wings and strained its strength in vain.
Mine eyes unclosed anon, and I looked up,
And saw the sweet blue twilight and one star,
One only star in heaven, I felt I had been
Quite near to, hoveringly; and then I wished
I had died and kept to it; but, my pulse revived,
Was glad I lived to love life once again.
And so our souls turn round upon themselves
Like orbs upon their axles; what was night
Is day; what day, night; God will guide us on;
Body and soul, through life and death.
Helen. Our life
Is comely as a whole; nay, something more;
Like rich brown ringlets, with odd hairs all gold.
We women, have four seasons, like the year.
Our spring is in our lightsome girlish days,
When the heart within us laughs for simplest joy;
Ere yet we know what love is, or the ill
To be loved by those we love not. Summer is,
When loving and beloved, we double our life,
And seems short; from its very splendour seems
To pass the quickliest; crowned with flowers it flies.
Autumn, when some young thing with tiny hands,
Cheeks rosy and bright, and flossy tendrilled locks,
Is wantoning about us day and night.
And winter is, when these so loved, have perished,
If we ourselves depart not ere that time,
For the heart ices then. And the next spring
Is in another world, if such world be.
Some miss one season, some another. This
Shall have them early, and that late; and yet
The year wear round with all as best it may.
There is no rule for it; but in the main
It is as I have said.
Festus. My life with thee
Is like a song; and the sweet music thou
Which doth accompany it.
Student. Tell me, did thy friend
Write aught beside the work thou tellest of?
Thereafter, like the burning peak he fell
Into himself, and was missing evermore.
Student. If not a secret, pray, who was he?
I say not, I.
Student. Nay, it is passed all guess.
Comments about Festus - Xxiii by Philip James Bailey
Poems About Life
- 451. Festus - Xxiii , Philip James Bailey
- 452.  Death And Life , Mahendra Bhatnagar
- 453. Having Alittle Fun In Life Is Like Going.. , romeo vestweber
- 454. The Chagra's Slow Whistle , Terry Dawson
- 455. The Sad Ballad Of Mopane Jack , Terry Dawson
- 456. Youth Who First Must Fight , Terry Dawson
- 457. Great Horned Cattle Of Africa , Terry Dawson
- 458. A Prayer At Dawn , Terry Dawson
- 459. Baboons , Terry Dawson
- 460. When The Black Dog Comes Stalking , Terry Dawson
- 461. We Gardians , Terry Dawson
- 462. Wild Rememberings , Terry Dawson
- 463. Zimbabwe 2016 , Terry Dawson
New Life Poems
- Natures Bounty, Terry Dawson
- Zimbabwe 2016, Terry Dawson
- Life Is As Omnipotent As God, Nikhil Parekh
- A Proposal, Terry Dawson
- Wild Rememberings, Terry Dawson
- We Gardians, Terry Dawson
- Heed You This!, Terry Dawson
- Youth Who First Must Fight, Terry Dawson
- When The Black Dog Comes Stalking, Terry Dawson
- Baboons, Terry Dawson
- carpe diem