The old man had his box and wheel For grinding knives and shears. No doubt his bell in village streets Was joy to children's ears. And I bethought me of my youth When such men came around, And times I asked them in, quite sure The scissors should be ground. The old man turned and spoke to me, His face at last in view. And then I thought those curious eyes Were eyes that once I knew.
"The moon is but an emery-wheel To whet the sword of God," He said. "And here beside my fire I stretch upon the sod. Each night, and dream, and watch the stars And watch the ghost-clouds go. And see that sword of God in Heaven A-waving to and fro.
I see that sword each century, friend. It means the world-war comes With all its bloody, wicked chiefs And hate-inflaming drums. Men talk of peace, but I have seen That emery-wheel turn round. The voice of Abel cries again To God from out the ground. The ditches must flow red, the plague Go stark and screaming by Each time that sword of God takes edge Within the midnight sky. And those that scorned their brothers here And sowed a wind of shame Will reap the whirlwind as of old And face relentless flame."
And thus the scissors-grinder spoke, His face at last in view. And there beside the railroad bridge I saw the wandering Jew.