All man's acts,
Serious or trivial, all man's thoughts perchance
Pass not unmarked of angel eye, or God's.
We know in daytime there are stars about us,
Just as at night, and name them what and where,
By sight of science; so by faith we know,
Though till our night we see them not, that spirits
Are round us, and believe heaven may be full
Of angels, as of star--motes night's white zone.
A brief but solemn parley o'er a grave,
Earth's hollow threshold of futurity,
Observed by spirit invisible, aptly heads
Holiest resolves; and, be they kept, enough
To assure the heart of peace. Each soul must tread
His doubt--press solitarily. Time soon fulfilled,
Leads to a promised proof of progress gained
By spirit on high, late loved, enlightening thus,
Premonstrative, our end.
Festus and Lucifer beside a Tomb.
Festus. It is not God we doubt of: it is one's self.
How can the separate soul, and most, if pure,
Exist distinct from God; if perfect not,--
As who shall vaunt, even hers? how re--unite?
Is he the perfect, the defectible, too?
Here, everywhere, the spirit one holy word,
Preacheth, in multitudinous tongues; in birth,
Growth, blossom, fruit, collapse of life, and rise
Regenerative of being; the saving truth,
Congruous with man's first faith, world--wide, in God
And in the soul--adjusting future, shown
Resurgent by these grave--sprung flowers. For grant
We die, nor nature cherish more man's frame,
Than her dead leaflets, still to have lived conform
With reason's law, and virtue's fine delights;
To have kept intact the spirit's purity;
To have revered, believed in others; hoped
And suffered for, in pains we would not lack;
The soul's inborn religion, dear to God,
And those who nature love; while but to have dreamed
Of one great Being, the absolute good; who joys,
And waits, to impart to spirit, duly affined,
Reunion with himself, true bliss; the just;
The supreme virtue; whose immense repose,
Actful, not idle, while to him vast scope
Leaving administrative, to us reserves
Deliberate choice; our fleeting, cloudlike lives,
Of his persistent firmamental soul,
Contrast and like; seems in itself to assure
Our being of permanency; and well nigh proves
Not immortality only, but cognate
Divinity, that such vast and godlike dreams
Man's brain could sanely guest.
Lucifer. How sanely, friend?
Festus. Oh yes, this sense of the infinite, born in man,
Cultured or wild, of one sole essence, God,
The governing conscience of all spirit, the same,
Continuous, his and ours; salvation seems;
A rock aethereal, this, sky--based, which shows
Us, like originate with the eterne of heaven.
For, as who the leaflets of the aye--moving plant,
Though of proportions delicatest, first eyes,
Instinct with circular freedom, even of spheres
Suggestive, ultimately, and heaven; and, awed,
Marks, as in preference moved, this frond or that,
By some sufficing motive, if to us,
Occult; so shapes mysteriously, through ghost
Or natural spirit of earth and air, man's mind
As out of self--necessity, to pursue
This grandest and most perfect mould of thought,
The thought of deity; man's best good, of all
Rich, poor, participable.
Lucifer. Good; let the world
Work out its mingled fates, closed thus, or thus.
'Twere well, not grow too heavenly, all at once.
Festus. When life is most about one, power and proof
Of human foresight; some new conquest won
By science from the vast unknown; some gift
Of art, which shall outworth a nation's debt,
Heirloom of ages, sealed to earth for good;
And through all lands, one smile man's general face
Lights up, self--glorifying; oft, then, I feel
Sunkenest in soul, most faltering in the sense
Of spiritual reality: and, in turn
'Midst base corruption's trophies mazed, as here,
And stony tablets dropped from Death's grim tome,
Most hopeful, most assured of being.
Lucifer. To see
Nature's sad wreck, on this, life's undercoast,
Cast, and to deem still, something, somewhere, 'scapes
By salvage, speaks strong faith.
Festus. How is't I love
The spirit of this fair creature, earthening here,
If not in nature?
Lucifer. May it not be, thou lov'st
Her memory, less herself?
Festus. Nay, hear, sweet spirit!
Let years crowd in, and age bow down
My bosom to the earth, which gave;
As yon grey, worn out, crumbling stone
Dips o'er the grave;
Though passion me no more should thrill,
Nor pleasure please, nor beauty move;
Though the heart stiffen, and waxed still,
No more make love;
Still, in my breast, like river gold,
Imbedded bright, thy love shall lie;
Sun--grains, that with the sands are rolled
Still, let me hold what bliss the spirit enjoys
Is that thou hopedst here, couldst ne'er forget.
Lucifer. It may be that death's dewy slumber cloys
The soul, as yet.
Festus. Surely, that soul hath burst the tomb,
Long while, enrobed in living light;
Not being accursed, wormlike, to eat the gloom
And dust of night.
Lucifer. Oh surely life, in sporting on earth, lies
Till death share up the rich green sod;
But soul! if there it lives, or here it dies,
Why try ye God?
What should it never smile nor sigh
From cheeks or lips but those beneath?
Outweighs not love the world's vast lie,
Bests life not death?
Festus. I ask why man should suffer death?
Lucifer. Answer, what right to life hath he?
God gives, and takes away, your breath.
What more have ye?
Breath is your life, and life your soul;
Ye have it warm from his kind hands;
Then yield it back to the great Whole,
When he demands.
Why, deathling, wilt thou long for heaven?
Why seek a bright, but blinding way?
Go, thank thy God that he hath given
Night upon day.
Festus. It may be but illusion, then, the all
Of marvels thou hast shown?
It may be that the wreath--tricked, trailing pall
Closes all known?
Lucifer. Go, thank thy God, that thou hast lived;
And ask no more. 'Tis all he gave;
'Tis all he wills, to be believed;
God and the grave.
Festus. For thee, God, will I save my heart
For thee my nature's honour keep;
Then, soul and body, all or part,
Rest, wake, or sleep.
Yet, might it be, a strange desire my breast
Hath seized, I know not how; it is as though
A meteor of the night had there sought rest,
And burns within me, her to view once more
Whose form here lies.
Lucifer. In sooth, I saw a light
But now, to thee, it may be, invisible,
Which showed me here her spirit, close urging on
Its moonbeamed path, some sister soul to impress
With the arms of fortitude, or widowed heart
Perchance, with patience' humbler crest. Perchance,
We are like to have enough of that.
Festus. There are,
Who her help merit and need; and doubtless have,
Should others justly lack.
Lucifer. If, once for all
To gorge thy passion for the unknown, I show
Herself to thee, with clear sight in her own,
Blessed home, thou wilt aid me first to other ends
More pressantly required.
Festus. More than to view
Lucifer. Yea, even power assured.
Festus. Command. Thou art ambitious for me.
The inevitable sequences of things
Like an art--ordered torrent, made to amuse,
Run themselves dry.
Festus. Heaven speed the time with me.
The sun of life shall mount the skies no more,
It is one eternal setting. My burden is
Henceforth, the spirit.
Lucifer. Nay, divers quests be ours;
And at the occurrent season each shall claim
Of us, due recognition.
Festus. Be it. Away!