St. Michael The Weigher

A poem by James Russell Lowell

Stood the tall Archangel weighing
All man's dreaming, doing, saying,
All the failure and the pain,
All the triumph and the gain,
In the unimagined years,
Full of hopes, more full of tears,
Since old Adam's hopeless eyes
Backward searched for Paradise,
And, instead, the flame-blade saw
Of inexorable Law.

Waking, I beheld him there,
With his fire-gold, flickering hair,
In his blinding armor stand,
And the scales were in his hand:
Mighty were they, and full well
They could poise both heaven and hell.
'Angel,' asked I humbly then,
'Weighest thou the souls of men?
That thine office is, I know.'
'Nay,' he answered me, 'not so;
But I weigh the hope of Man
Since the power of choice began,
In the world, of good or ill.'
Then I waited and was still.

In one scale I saw him place
All the glories of our race,
Cups that lit Belsbazzar's feast,
Gems, the lightning of the East,
Kublai's sceptre, C├Žsar's sword,
Many a poet's golden word,
Many a skill of science, vain
To make men as gods again.

In the other scale he threw
Things regardless, outcast, few,
Martyr-ash, arena sand,
Of St Francis' cord a strand,
Beechen cups of men whose need
Fasted that the poor might feed,
Disillusions and despairs
Of young saints with, grief-grayed hairs,
Broken hearts that brake for Man.

Marvel through my pulses ran
Seeing then the beam divine
Swiftly on this hand decline,
While Earth's splendor and renown
Mounted light as thistle-down.

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