Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.

Christus: A Mystery


The ANGEL bearing the PROPHET HABAKKUK through the air.

WHY dost thou bear me aloft,

O Angel of God, on thy pinions

O’er realms and dominions?

Softly I float as a cloud

In air, for thy right hand upholds me,

Thy garment enfolds me!

Lo! as I passed on my way

In the harvest-field I beheld thee,

When no man compelled thee,

Bearing with thine own hands

This food to the famishing reapers,

A flock without keepers!

The fragrant sheaves of the wheat

Made the air above them sweet;

Sweeter and more divine

Was the scent of the scattered grain,

That the reaper’s hand let fall

To be gathered again

By the hand of the gleaner!

Sweetest, divinest of all,

Was the humble deed of thine,

And the meekness of thy demeanor!

Angel of Light,

I cannot gainsay thee,

I can but obey thee!

Beautiful was it in the Lord’s sight,

To behold his Prophet

Feeding those that toil,

The tillers of the soil.

But why should the reapers eat of it

And not the Prophet of Zion

In the den of the lion?

The Prophet should feed the Prophet!

Therefore I thee have uplifted,

And bear thee aloft by the hair

Of thy head, like a cloud that is drifted

Through the vast unknown of the air!

Five days hath the Prophet been lying

In Babylon, in the den

Of the lions, death-defying,

Defying hunger and thirst;

But the worst

Is the mockery of men!

Alas! how full of fear

Is the fate of Prophet and Seer!

Forevermore, forevermore,

It shall be as it hath been heretofore;

The age in which they live

Will not forgive

The splendor of the everlasting light,

That makes their foreheads bright,

Nor the sublime

Fore-running of their time!

Oh tell me, for thou knowest,

Wherefore and by what grace,

Have I, who am least and lowest,

Been chosen to this place,

To this exalted part?

Because thou art

The Struggler; and from thy youth

Thy humble and patient life

Hath been a strife

And battle for the Truth;

Nor hast thou paused nor halted,

Nor ever in thy pride

Turned from the poor aside,

But with deed and word and pen

Hast served thy fellow-men;

Therefore art thou exalted!

By thine arrow’s light

Thou goest onward through the night,

And by the clear

Sheen of thy glittering spear!

When will our journey end?

Lo, it is ended!

Yon silver gleam

Is the Euphrates’ stream.

Let us descend

Into the city splendid,

Into the City of Gold!


As if the stars had fallen from their places

Into the firmament below,

The streets, the gardens, and the vacant spaces

With light are all aglow;

And hark!

As we draw near,

What sound is it I hear

Ascending through the dark?

The tumultuous noise of the nations,

Their rejoicings and lamentations,

The pleadings of their prayer,

The groans of their despair,

The cry of their imprecations.

Their wrath, their love, their hate!

Surely the world doth wait

The coming of its Redeemer!

Awake from thy sleep, O dreamer!

The hour is near, though late;

Awake! write the vision sublime,

The vision, that is for a time,

Though it tarry, wait; it is nigh;

In the end it will speak and not lie.