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

Christus: A Mystery

Part II. The Golden Legend. Epilogue: 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

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

Thy freshness on the barren sands

And solitudes of Death.”

O beauty of holiness,

Of self-forgetfulness, of lowliness!

O power of meekness,

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

Is written in characters of gold,

That never shall grow old,

But through all ages

Burn and shine,

With soft effulgence!

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,

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

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

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

The terrible words grow faint and fade,

And in their place

Runs a white space!

Down goes the sun!

But the soul of one,

Who by repentance

Hath escaped the dreadful sentence,

Shines bright below me as I look.

It is the end!

With closèd Book

To God do I ascend.

Lo! over the mountain steeps

A dark, gigantic shadow sweeps

Beneath my feet;

A blackness inwardly brightening

With sullen heat,

As a storm-cloud lurid with lightning.

And a cry of lamentation,

Repeated and again repeated,

Deep and loud

As the reverberation

Of cloud answering unto cloud,

Swells and rolls away in the distance,

As if the sheeted

Lightning retreated,

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,

And labors for some good

By us not understood!