Context: Festus is a dialogue between Lucifer and Festus, a character who evidently derives from Christopher Marlowe's Faustus, in that he has a craving to find answers to all the philosophical questions that have vexed the mind of man from the beginning of time. In Scene VIII Lucifer provides two horses, Ruin and Darkness, upon which the pair of speakers ride over the world to perceive the characters of the various lands that they pass. In rapid succession they view France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Russia, Hindustan, and Egypt. They then plunge into the depths of the sea to make their way to America, which is characterized as a compound of something good and something evil found in all of the countries on earth; this compounding of qualities makes America the half-brother of the world. Festus is much concerned that America is a slave-holding country; he prophesies that eventually the slaves will be freed, and then there will be no blot upon the stars of the flag of the country that is dedicated to freedom. In the quotation below the two travelers have just emerged on their horses from the depths of the sea:
LUCIFERThere! now we standOn the world's-end-land!Over the hillsAway we go!Through fire, and snow.And rivers, wheretoAll others are rills.FESTUSThrough the lands of silver,The lands of gold;Through lands untrodden,And lands untold.. . .LUCIFERBy strait and bayWe must away;Through swamp, and plain,And hurricane;FESTUSAnd that dark cloud of slavesWhich yet may rise;–Though nought shall blot the bannered starsFrom Freedom's skies.America! thou half-brother of the world!With something good and bad of every land;Greater than thee have lost their seat–Greater scarce none can stand.Thy flag now flouts the skies,The highest under Heaven. . . .