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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Africa: Vol. XXIV. 1876–79.

Introductory to Egypt, Nubia, and Abyssinia

The Destroying Angel

By Abraham Cowley (1618–1667)

(From The Plagues of Egypt)

IT was the time when the still moon

Was mounted softly to her noon,

And dewy sleep, which from night’s secret springs arose,

Gently as Nile the land o’erflows;

When, lo, from the high countries of refinéd day,

The golden heaven without allay,—

Whose dross in the creation purged away,

Made up the sun’s adulterate ray,—

Michael, the warlike prince, does downward fly,

Swift as the journeys of the sight,

Swift as the race of light,

And with his wingéd will cuts through the yielding sky.

He passed through many a star, and, as he passed,

Shone (like a star in them) more brightly there

Than they did in their sphere.

On a tall pyramid’s pointed head he stopped at last,

And a mild look of sacred pity cast

Down on the sinful land where he was sent

To inflict the tardy punishment.

“Ah, yet,” said he, “yet, stubborn king, repent,

While thus unarmed I stand,

Ere the keen sword of God fill my commanded hand.

Suffer but yet thyself and thine to live;

Who would, alas, believe,

That it for man,” said he,

“So hard to be forgiven should be,

And yet for God so easy to forgive.”