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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
From ‘Festus’
By Philip James Bailey (1816–1902)
 
LIFE

FESTUS—                    Men’s callings all
Are mean and vain; their wishes more so: oft
The man is bettered by his part or place.
How slight a chance may raise or sink a soul!
  Lucifer—What men call accident is God’s own part.        5
He lets ye work your will—it is his own:
But that ye mean not, know not, do not, he doth.
  Festus—What is life worth without a heart to feel
The great and lovely harmonies which time
And nature change responsive, all writ out        10
By preconcertive hand which swells the strain
To divine fulness; feel the poetry,
The soothing rhythm of life’s fore-ordered lay;
The sacredness of things?—for all things are
Sacred so far,—the worst of them, as seen        15
By the eye of God, they in the aspect bide
Of holiness: nor shall outlaw sin be slain,
Though rebel banned, within the sceptre’s length;
But privileged even for service. Oh! to stand
Soul-raptured, on some lofty mountain-thought,        20
And feel the spirit expand into a view
Millennial, life-exalting, of a day
When earth shall have all leisure for high ends
Of social culture; ends a liberal law
And common peace of nations, blent with charge        25
Divine, shall win for man, were joy indeed:
Nor greatly less, to know what might be now,
Worked will for good with power, for one brief hour.
But look at these, these individual souls:
How sadly men show out of joint with man!        30
There are millions never think a noble thought;
But with brute hate of brightness bay a mind
Which drives the darkness out of them, like hounds.
Throw but a false glare round them, and in shoals
They rush upon perdition: that’s the race.        35
What charm is in this world-scene to such minds?
Blinded by dust? What can they do in heaven,
A state of spiritual means and ends?
Thus must I doubt—perpetually doubt.
  Lucifer—Who never doubted never half believed.        40
Where doubt, there truth is—’tis her shadow. I
Declare unto thee that the past is not.
I have looked over all life, yet never seen
The age that had been. Why then fear or dream
About the future? Nothing but what is, is;        45
Else God were not the Maker that he seems,
As constant in creating as in being.
Embrace the present. Let the future pass.
Plague not thyself about a future. That
Only which comes direct from God, his spirit,        50
Is deathless. Nature gravitates without
Effort; and so all mortal natures fall
Deathwards. All aspiration is a toil;
But inspiration cometh from above,
And is no labor. The earth’s inborn strength        55
Could never lift her up to yon stars, whence
She fell; nor human soul, by native worth,
Claim heaven as birthright, more than man may call
Cloudland his home. The soul’s inheritance,
Its birth-place, and its death-place, is of earth;        60
Until God maketh earth and soul anew;
The one like heaven, the other like himself.
So shall the new creation come at once;
Sin, the dead branch upon the tree of life
Shall be cut off forever; and all souls        65
Concluded in God’s boundless amnesty.
  Festus—Thou windest and unwindest faith at will.
What am I to believe?
  Lucifer—            Thou mayest believe
But that thou art forced to.
  Festus—                Then I feel, perforce,
That instinct of immortal life in me,        70
Which prompts me to provide for it.
  Lucifer—                    Perhaps.
  Festus—Man hath a knowledge of a time to come—
His most important knowledge: the weight lies
Nearest the short end; and the world depends
Upon what is to be. I would deny        75
The present, if the future. Oh! there is
A life to come, or all’s a dream.
  Lucifer—                    And all
May be a dream. Thou seest in thine, men, deeds,
Clear, moving, full of speech and order; then
Why may not all this world be but a dream        80
Of God’s? Fear not! Some morning God may waken.
  Festus—I would it were. This life’s a mystery.
The value of a thought cannot be told;
But it is clearly worth a thousand lives
Like many men’s. And yet men love to live        85
As if mere life were worth their living for.
What but perdition will it be to most?
Life’s more than breath and the quick round of blood;
It is a great spirit and a busy heart.
The coward and the small in soul scarce do live.        90
One generous feeling—one great thought—one deed
Of good, ere night, would make life longer seem
Than if each year might number a thousand days,
Spent as is this by nations of mankind.
We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths;        95
In feelings, not in figures on a dial.
We should count time by heart-throbs. He most lives
Who thinks most—feels the noblest—acts the best.
Life’s but a means unto an end—that end
Beginning, mean, and end to all things—God.        100
The dead have all the glory of the world.
Why will we live and not be glorious?
We never can be deathless till we die.
It is the dead win battles. And the breath
Of those who through the world drive like a wedge,        105
Tearing earth’s empires up, nears Death so close
It dims his well-worn scythe. But no! the brave
Die never. Being deathless, they but change
Their country’s arms for more—their country’s heart.
Give then the dead their due: it is they who saved us.        110
The rapid and the deep—the fall, the gulph,
Have likenesses in feeling and in life.
And life, so varied, hath more loveliness
In one day than a creeping century
Of sameness. But youth loves and lives on change,        115
Till the soul sighs for sameness; which at last
Becomes variety, and takes its place.
Yet some will last to die out, thought by thought,
And power by power, and limb of mind by limb,
Like lamps upon a gay device of glass,        120
Till all of soul that’s left be dry and dark;
Till even the burden of some ninety years
Hath crashed into them like a rock; shattered
Their system as if ninety suns had rushed
To ruin earth—or heaven had rained its stars;        125
Till they become like scrolls, unreadable,
Through dust and mold. Can they be cleaned and read?
Do human spirits wax and wane like moons?
  Lucifer—The eye dims, and the heart gets old and slow;
The lithe limbs stiffen, and the sun-hued locks        130
Thin themselves off, or whitely wither; still,
Ages not spirit, even in one point,
Immeasurably small; from orb to orb,
Rising in radiance ever like the sun
Shining upon the thousand lands of earth.        135
 
THE PASSING-BELL

CLARA—True prophet mayst thou be. But list: that sound
The passing-bell the spirit should solemnize;
For, while on its emancipate path, the soul
Still waves its upward wings, and we still hear
The warning sound, it is known, we well may pray.        140
  Festus—But pray for whom?
        Clara—            It means not. Pray for all.
                Pray for the good man’s soul:
                    He is leaving earth for heaven,
            And it soothes us to feel that the best
                      May be forgiven.        145
 
        Festus—Pray for the sinful soul:
                  It fleëth, we know not where;
            But wherever it be let us hope;
                      For God is there.
 
        Clara—Pray for the rich man’s soul:        150
                  Not all be unjust, nor vain;
            The wise he consoled; and he saved
                      The poor from pain.
 
        Festus—Pray for the poor man’s soul:
                  The death of this life of ours        155
            He hath shook from his feet; he is one
                      Of the heavenly powers.
 
              Pray for the old man’s soul:
                  He hath labored long; through life
            It was battle or march. He hath ceased,        160
                      Serene, from strife.
 
        Clara—Pray for the infant’s soul:
                  With its spirit crown unsoiled,
            He hath won, without war, a realm;
                      Gained all, nor toiled.        165
 
        Festus—Pray for the struggling soul:
                  The mists of the straits of death
            Clear off; in some bright star-isle
                      It anchoreth.
 
          Pray for the soul assured:        170
                  Though it wrought in a gloomy mine,
            Yet the gems it earned were its own,
                      That soul’s divine.
 
        Clara—Pray for the simple soul:
                  For it loved, and therein was wise;        175
            Though itself knew not, but with heaven
                      Confused the skies.
 
        Festus—Pray for the sage’s soul:
                  ’Neath his welkin wide of mind
            Lay the central thought of God,        180
                      Thought undefined.
 
          Pray for the souls of all
                  To our God, that all may be
            With forgiveness crowned, and joy
                      Eternally.        185
 
        Clara—Hush! for the bell hath ceased;
                  And the spirit’s fate is sealed;
            To the angels known; to man
                      Best unrevealed.
 
THOUGHTS

  FESTUS—Well, farewell, Mr. Student. May you never
        190
Regret those hours which make the mind, if they
Unmake the body; for the sooner we
Are fit to be all mind, the better. Blessed
Is he whose heart is the home of the great dead,
And their great thoughts. Who can mistake great thoughts?        195
They seize upon the mind; arrest and search,
And shake it; bow the tall soul as by wind;
Rush over it like a river over reeds,
Which quaver in the current; turn us cold,
And pale, and voiceless; leaving in the brain        200
A rocking and a ringing; glorious,
But momentary, madness might it last,
And close the soul with heaven as with a seal!
In lieu of all these things whose loss thou mournest,
If earnestly or not I know not, use        205
The great and good and true which ever live;
And are all common to pure eyes and true.
Upon the summit of each mountain-thought
Worship thou God, with heaven-uplifted head
And arms horizon-stretched; for deity is seen        210
From every elevation of the soul.
Study the light; attempt the high; seek out
The soul’s bright path; and since the soul is fire,
Of heat intelligential, turn it aye
To the all-Fatherly source of light and life;        215
Piety purifies the soul to see
Visions, perpetually, of grace and power,
Which, to their sight who in ignorant sin abide,
Are now as e’er incognizable. Obey
Thy genius, for a minister it is        220
Unto the throne of Fate. Draw towards thy soul,
And centralize, the rays which are around
Of the divinity. Keep thy spirit pure
From worldly taint, by the repellent strength
Of virtue. Think on noble thoughts and deeds,        225
Ever. Count o’er the rosary of truth;
And practice precepts which are proven wise,
It matters not then what thou fearest. Walk
Boldly and wisely in that light thou hast;—
There is a hand above will help thee on.        230
I am an omnist, and believe in all
Religions; fragments of one golden world
To be relit yet, and take its place in heaven,
Where is the whole, sole truth, in deity.
Meanwhile, his word, his law, writ soulwise here,        235
Study; its truths love; practice its behests—
They will be with thee when all else have gone.
Mind, body, passion all wear out; not faith
Nor truth. Keep thy heart cool, or rule its heat
To fixed ends; waste it not upon itself.        240
Not all the agony maybe of the damned
Fused in one pang, vies with that earthquake throb
Which wakens soul from life-waste, to let see
The world rolled by for aye, and we must wait
For our next chance the nigh eternity;        245
Whether it be in heaven, or elsewhere.
 
DREAMS

FESTUS—The dead of night: earth seems but seeming;
        The soul seems but a something dreaming.
          The bird is dreaming in its nest,
        Of song, and sky, and loved one’s breast;        250
        The lap-dog dreams, as round he lies,
        In moonshine, of his mistress’s eyes;
        The steed is dreaming, in his stall,
        Of one long breathless leap and fall;
        The hawk hath dreamed him thrice of wings        255
          Wide as the skies he may not cleave;
        But waking, feels them clipped, and clings
          Mad to the perch ’twere mad to leave:
        The child is dreaming of its toys;
        The murderer, of calm home joys;        260
        The weak are dreaming endless fears;
        The proud of how their pride appears;
        The poor enthusiast who dies,
        Of his life-dreams the sacrifice,
        Sees, as enthusiast only can,        265
        The truth that made him more than man;
        And hears once more, in visioned trance,
        That voice commanding to advance,
        Where wealth is gained—love, wisdom won,
        Or deeds of danger dared and done.        270
        The mother dreameth of her child;
        The maid of him who hath beguiled;
        The youth of her he loves too well;
        The good of God; the ill of hell;
        Who live of death; of life who die;        275
        The dead of immortality.
        The earth is dreaming back her youth;
        Hell never dreams, for woe is truth;
        And heaven is dreaming o’er her prime,
        Long ere the morning stars of time;        280
        And dream of heaven alone can I,
        My lovely one, when thou art nigh.
 
CHORUS OF THE SAVED
From the Conclusion

            FATHER of goodness,
            Son of love,
            Spirit of comfort,        285
                  Be with us!
            God who hast made us,
            God who hast saved,
            God who hast judged us,
                  Thee we praise.        290
            Heaven our spirits,
            Hallow our hearts;
            Let us have God-light
                  Endlessly.
            Ours is the wide world,        295
            Heaven on heaven;
            What have we done, Lord,
                  Worthy this?
            Oh! we have loved thee;
                  That alone        300
            Maketh our glory,
                  Duty, meed.
            Oh! we have loved thee!
                  Love we will
                  Ever, and every        305
                  Soul of us.
            God of the saved,
            God of the tried,
            God of the lost ones,
                  Be with all!        310
            Let us be near thee
                  Ever and aye;
            Oh! let us love thee
                  Infinite!
 
 
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