Verse > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow > Complete Poetical Works
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882).  Complete Poetical Works.  1893.
Christus: A Mystery
Part II. The Golden Legend.
The Two Recording Angels Ascending
THE ANGEL OF GOOD DEEDS, with closed book.
GOD sent his messenger the rain,
And said unto the mountain brook,
“Rise up, and from thy caverns look
And leap, with naked, snow-white feet,
From the cool hills into the heat        5
Of the broad, arid plain.”
God sent his messenger of faith,
And whispered in the maiden’s heart,
“Rise up, and look from where thou art,
And scatter with unselfish hands        10
Thy freshness on the barren sands
And solitudes of Death.”
O beauty of holiness,
Of self-forgetfulness, of lowliness!
O power of meekness,        15
Whose very gentleness and weakness
Are like the yielding, but irresistible air!
Upon the pages
Of the sealed volume that I bear,
The deed divine        20
Is written in characters of gold,
That never shall grow old,
But through all ages
Burn and shine,
With soft effulgence!        25
O God! it is thy indulgence
That fills the world with the bliss
Of a good deed like this!
THE ANGEL OF EVIL DEEDS, with open book.
Not yet, not yet
Is the red sun wholly set,        30
But evermore recedes,
While open still I bear
The Book of Evil Deeds,
To let the breathings of the upper air
Visit its pages and erase        35
The records from its face!
Fainter and fainter as I gaze
In the broad blaze
The glimmering landscape shines,
And below me the black river        40
Is hidden by wreaths of vapor!
Fainter and fainter the black lines
Begin to quiver
Along the whitening surface of the paper;
Shade after shade        45
The terrible words grow faint and fade,
And in their place
Runs a white space!
Down goes the sun!
But the soul of one,        50
Who by repentance
Hath escaped the dreadful sentence,
Shines bright below me as I look.
It is the end!
With closèd Book        55
To God do I ascend.
Lo! over the mountain steeps
A dark, gigantic shadow sweeps
Beneath my feet;
A blackness inwardly brightening        60
With sullen heat,
As a storm-cloud lurid with lightning.
And a cry of lamentation,
Repeated and again repeated,
Deep and loud        65
As the reverberation
Of cloud answering unto cloud,
Swells and rolls away in the distance,
As if the sheeted
Lightning retreated,        70
Baffled and thwarted by the wind’s resistance.
It is Lucifer,
The son of mystery;
And since God suffers him to be,
He, too, is God’s minister,        75
And labors for some good
By us not understood!

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