Philip James Bailey

22 April 1816 - 6 September 1902 / England

Festus - Viii

Comes on a quarrel stormy and stern, if brief,
'Tween the two foe friends, this demanding what
Cannot be;--who immunity shall secure
'Gainst self--sought evil?--that, safe grants withholding,
And easily made: their taunts recriminative
Resultless; even as when some summer eve,
Two emulous youths, from dull scholastic toil
Set free by holy night, looser of bonds,
Rush, bounding, to the main, slumbering hard by,
With latent light inly aflame; and quick
Implunged, rise gameful, glittering like star--gods;
Lean, arrogant, on the lightning wave; launch, each
'Gainst other, liquid meteors, thunderless;
The foam, handsmote, in showerlets, arch--wise, falls,
Flashing about them;--neither gains. So part
Our disputants, these in earnest: the attack
To come resolved on secretly, by one,
Through sadd'st inconstancy.

A wide open Heath, by the Sea. Evening.
Festus and Lucifer meeting.
Festus. God hath refused me: wilt thou do it for me?
Or shall I end with both; remake myself?

Lucifer. Now that is the one thing which I cannot do.
Am I not open with thee? Why choose that?

Festus. Because I will it. Thou art bound to obey.

Lucifer. The world bears marks of mine obedience.
Well, 'tis a judgment doubtless. Heaven is just;
And justly asking faith of all that all,
Ill even, served ultimately his own wise ends,
He all disposing, I rebel; and now,
In my turn, asking nothing but belief
Unfaltering in oneself, say,--I foresee
Thou wilt bring to an end the whole, ere well begun.

Festus. My heart, like an insurgent king, no more
Brooks the accustomed tribute.

Lucifer. Well; I waive it.

Festus. Off! I am torn to pieces. Let me try,
And gather up myself into a man,
As once I was. I cannot live, and live
In endless doubt. The day hath lost its charm,
The night its holy beauty, when from heart,
Even if not whole with God, faith fled, hope fails
Of better things.

Lucifer. Oh, an' thou lovest a creed,
Be pessimist; nihilist, if thou wilt. There are
Who deify the devil in their own hearts,
In dreams of everlasting nothingness.

Festus. Be what I may, I have done with thee. Dost hear?

Lucifer. Thou canst not mean this?

Festus. Once for all, I do.

Lucifer. It is men who are deceivers, not the devil.
The first and worst of all frauds is to cheat
Oneself. All sin is easy after that.

Festus. I feel that we must part; part, now or never:
And I had rather, of the two, 'twere now.

Lucifer. This is my last walk through my favourite world;
And I had hoped to have enjoyed it with thee.
For thee I quitted hell; for thee my soul
Shrivelled and warped into a man; for thee
Shed I my shining wings; for thee, this mask
Of flesh put on, and seeming shape like thine;
This moveless mockery of mere motion brooked;
And now by my woe I swear that were I once
For thy false heart to give my spirit spring,
I would scatter soul and body both to hell;
And let one burn the other.

Festus. If thou darest
Lift but the finger of a thought of ill
Against me, and--thou durst not, mark, we part.

Lucifer. Well; as thou wilt. Remember soon thy heart
Will shed its pleasures as thine eye its tears,
And both leave loathsome furrows.

Festus. Thinkest thou
I will have no pleasures without thee, vain friend,
Who marrest all thou mak'st, and even more?

Lucifer. Thou canst not; save indeed some poor trite thing,
Called moderation, everyone can have.
And modesty, heaven knows, is suffering.

Festus. Now will I prove thee liar, for that word:
And that the very vastest out of hell.
With perfect condemnation I abjure
My soul; my nature doth abhor itself,
For giving thee one moment's right to touch me.
Hence! let me pass. I have a soul to spare.

Lucifer. A hundred, I. He is gone; though but for a time.
He braves me, he! even as on cave--rent coast,
Hard driven by hurricane blast, the mounting tide
Like a white wild beast, chased, flashes into its den;
The assault turns; heads the attack; the slackening flood
O'ertakes, and raging, quells for a moment;--soon
The sea, inveterate victor, smoothens all;
Torrent, cave, crag, who knows strife was? Meanwhile,
I have him yet; for he is mine to tempt.
Beside the greed of power and rage to know
All knowable, there's much magic in life's waste
On abstruse studies that can benefit none;
Ignoring wilfully, so, men's proper end
Of mutual good. Of such I know, and may,
Him stimulating with somewhat of all lures,
Perchance, in time, take due avail. It may be,
Gold hath the hue of hell flames; but for him
I will lay some brilliant and delicious lure,
Shall be worth perdition to a seraph. Only
Consider beauty's argument, how it tells;
Her eye's close reasoning smile; delicious proof,
Her fingers' clasp; her lips' soft summing up;
The delicate peroration of her sigh;
Scarce audible; visible rather, oh! I know.
And if he love not now, while woman is
All bosom to the young, when shall he love?
Who ever paused on passion's fiery wheel?
Who by the side of her he loved, whose touch,
Lightest, brings rapture, trembling, e'er stopped short
His eloquent speech, coldly to count his pulse?
The car comes, and they lie, and let it come,
Triumphant. See it crushes, kills, what then?
It holds their god, their idol, so, they die,
Doubtless, of joy. And he! he looks not one
Enough shall fool: but sick of skill in foils
He flings away, risks never less than life.
Nay, let him look, methinks, on aught which casts
The shadow of even a royal joy, he'd dare
Embrace a bride of fire. Such love is. Arms!
To arms, so, beauty, they be thine. For love,
Like nature, is war; sweet, sensible war. And now
Pleasure, shall any part thee from my use?
Let wring God's lightnings from the grasp of God.
But who his tactics blabs? Or I an end
More summary might forefix. One beauty may
Be played against other; and faith, once uncaged,
Whistles with oh! such sweetness, from the bough.
Most men glide quietly and deeply down.
Some, hell's abysses seek, like cataracts;
And passion it is which plunges fierceliest men
Into mine arms, as find they will, who will.
But it matters not; hell burns before them all.
It is by hell--light, which through their life's thick fog
Glares red and round; which gone, would leave to grope
In utter dark, these heirs of heaven, they shine
To each other; and their chiefest deeds achieve.
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