Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IV. The Higher Life
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IV. The Higher Life.  1904.
 
III. Faith: Hope: Love: Service
The Two Angels
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)
 
GOD called the nearest angels who dwell with Him above:
The tenderest one was Pity, the dearest one was Love.
 
“Arise,” He said, “my angels! a wail of woe and sin
Steals through the gates of heaven, and saddens all within.
 
“My harps take up the mournful strain that from a lost world swells,        5
The smoke of torment clouds the light and blights the asphodels.
 
“Fly downward to that under world, and on its souls of pain,
Let Love drop smiles like sunshine, and Pity tears like rain!”
 
Two faces bowed before the Throne, veiled in their golden hair;
Four white wings lessened swiftly down the dark abyss of air.        10
 
The way was strange, the flight was long; at last the angels came
Where swung the lost and nether world, red-wrapped in rayless flame.
 
There Pity, shuddering, wept; but Love, with faith too strong for fear,
Took heart from God’s almightiness and smiled a smile of cheer.
 
And lo! that tear of Pity quenched the flame whereon it fell,        15
And, with the sunshine of that smile, hope entered into hell!
 
Two unveiled faces full of joy looked upward to the Throne,
Four white wings folded at the feet of Him who sat thereon!
 
And deeper than the sound of seas, more soft than falling flake,
Amidst the hush of wing and song the Voice Eternal spake:        20
 
“Welcome, my angels! ye have brought a holier joy to heaven;
Henceforth its sweetest song shall be the song of sin forgiven!”
 
 
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