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The gates swung back on golden hinges turned
Their pearl-hewn massive panels noiselessly,
And o'er their jeweled portals swiftly sped
An angel on a mission sent.
One blast of music followed in her train,
A fragment from the grand eternal swell of Heavenly harmony that rolled within;
The gates had closed, the gateway beautiful
Shone purer than the stars that hung beneath,
And still the sweet notes, that like singing birds, had winged their flight
Into the ether space, flew back in echoes from the farthest star.
The angel paused a moment ere she took
Her journey through the cloudy realms of air;
Her eye was fixed upon a distant speck, dim and uncertain in the moving shapes that circled through the glittering universe;
Her brow was draped in waves of shining hair, her clear eyes pierced the cloudy fields below the solid planets in their rhythmic round,
And gazed undazzled through the glare of suns,
And then with one swift flight her form was lost amid the whirl of worlds.
The last bright flames of sunset had expired,
The ashen twilight, that had veiled the hills
Shining deep blue against the amber sky, had vanished and the dark o'ershadowing night spread like a spangled curtain over all,
Spangled with twinkling, gleeful, loving, stars;
And far beneath them a great city slept.
A city with its pomp and poverty,
A city where the guilty and the good
Met face to face amid the multitude,
And meeting, passed, and passing, met no more;
Prisons loomed up like giant spectres there, and dens of Vice glared out with bloodshot eyes and gave forth sounds of mockery within;
And up toward the pure, unfading stars, the church-spire pointed with unchanging faith,
And from their holy altars incense rose of prayer and song and hallowed all around,
A city with its virtue and its vice.
Through the dim lighted or the darkened streets, unheard, unseen, amid the jostling crowds, sped with white wings the Heavenly messenger;
She passed the entrances of lighted halls, whence flowed soft tones of music, and the sound of circling dances and the laugh and jest,
Winged with the fragrance of ten thousand flowers;
She passed the jaws of dens where
Riots ruled and Crime unloosed made horrible the night with gory victims and unearthly groans, and Vice triumphant gloated o'er her spoils;
She passed the prisons where in lonely cells crouched hopeless wretches in their vague despair;
She passed the churches with their lofty spires pointing toward the gateway beautiful;
And stayed not 'till within a little room whose one small window looked serenely down upon a busy, hurrying street below, she paused, at last her destination reached.
Upon a table burned a lamp and near, lost in the volume that he held,
A youth sat with a thoughtful, earnest brow,
A moment by his side the angel stood, and then he raised his head and laying down the little volume on the table near, rose (seeing not the Heavenly messenger) and passing to the window stood and gazed long on the busy, hurrying scene below,
His face was sorely troubled and perplexed,
The shadow of a great impending harm seemed to his sight to hang
With fiery brands above the land, and the people that he loved.
The ardor and the strength of youth were his, but the wild, reckless avenues of youth lured not his steps,
He stood alone, apart, and saw afar the sure destructions lowering overhead,
Saw the cursed country where a wrong prevails and right must perish with no hand to save,
And standing thus, perplexed and horrified, the angel came and stood beside him there.
Her presence seemed to chase the clouds away--a moment and he stood again alone,
But not as then in deep dejection plunged;
His face though earnest still was peaceful now,
The sunrise of a noble purpose shone above the mountain-tops that seemed so high;
For when the angel messenger was gone, her message lived engraven on his heart,
He heard no step, no voice, no seraph saw,
But when her hallowed presence passed without
He raised his eyes toward the stars above
And whispered to his calm, exultant heart:
"Surely an angel was sent down from Heaven!"