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.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Vachel Lindsay's poem The Scissors-Grinder

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