Long, long ago, ere yet our race began,
When earth was empty, waiting still for man,
Before the breath of life to him was given
The angels fell into a strife in heaven.
At length one furious demon grasped the sun
And sped away as fast as he could run,
And with a ringing laugh of fiendish mirth,
He leaped the battlements and fell to earth.
Dark was it then in heaven, but light below;
For there the demon wandered to and fro,
Tilting aloft upon a slender pole
The orb of day–the pilfering old soul.
The angels wept and wailed; but through the dark
The Great Creator’s voice cried sternly: “Hark!
Who will restore to me the orb of Light,
Him will I honour in all heaven’s sight.”
Then over the battlements there dropped another.
(A shrewder angel well there could not be.)
Quoth he: “Behold my love for thee, my brother,
For I have left all heaven to stay with thee.
“Thy loneliness and wanderings I will share,
Thy heavy burden I will help thee bear.”
“Well said,” the demon answered, “and well done,
But I’ll not tax you with this heavy sun.
“Your company will cheer me, it is true,
And I could never think of burdening you.”
Idly they wandered onward, side by side,
Till, by and by, they neared a silvery tide.
“Let’s bathe,” the angel suddenly suggested.
“Agreed,” the demon answered. “I’ll go last,
Because I needs must leave quite unmolested
This tiresome sun, which I will now make fast.
He set the pole well in the sandy turf,
And called a jackdaw near to watch the place.
Meanwhile the angel paddled in the surf,
And playfully dared his brother to a race.
They swam around together for a while,
The demon always keeping near his prize,
Till presently the angel, with a smile,
Proposed a healthful diving exercise.
The demon hesitated. “But,” thought he,
“The jackdaw will inform me with a cry
If this good brother tries deceiving me;
I will not be outdone by him–not I!”
Down, down they went. The angel in a trice
Rose up again, and swift to shore he sped.
The jackdaw shrieked, but lo! a mile of ice
The demon found had frozen o’er his head.
He swore an oath, and gathered all his force,
And broke the ice, to see the sun, of course,
Held firmly in the radiant angel’s hand,
Who sailed away toward the heavenly land.
He gave pursuit. Wrath lent speed to his chase;
All heaven leaned down to watch the exciting race.
On, on they came, and still the Evil One
Gained on the angel burdened with the sun.
With bated breath and faces white as ghosts,
Over the walls leaned heaven’s affrighted hosts.
Up, up, still up, the angel almost spent,
Threw one foot forward o’er the battlement.
The demon seized the other with a shout;
So fierce his clutch he pulled the bottom out,
As the good angel, fainting, laid the sun
Down by the throne of God, who cried: “Well done!
Thy great misfortune shall be made divine:
Man will I create with a foot like thine!”