The Carver’s Lesson.

Trust me, no mere skill of subtle tracery,1
No mere practice of a dexterous hand,2
Will suffice, without a hidden spirit,3
That we may, or may not, understand.4
And those quaint old fragments that are left us5
Have their power in this,—the Carver brought6
Earnest care, and reverent patience, only7
Worthily to clothe some noble thought.8
Shut, then, in the petals of the flowers,9
Round the stems of all the lilies twine,10
Hide beneath each bird’s or angel’s pinion,11
Some wise meaning or some thought divine.12
Place in stony hands that pray for ever13
Tender words of peace, and strive to wind14
Round the leafy scrolls and fretted niches15
Some true, loving message to your kind.16
Some will praise, some blame, and, soon forgetting,17
Come and go, nor even pause to gaze ;18
Only now and then a passing stranger19
Just may loiter with a word of praise.20
But, I think, when years have floated onward,21
And the stone is gray, and dim, and old,22
And the hand forgotten that has carved it,23
And the heart that dreamt it still and cold :24
There may come some weary soul, o’erladen25
With perplexed struggle in his brain,26
Or, it may be, fretted with life’s turmoil,27
Or made sore with some perpetual pain.28
Then, I think, those stony hands will open,29
And the gentle lilies overflow,30
With the blessing and the loving token31
That you hid there many years ago.32
And the tendrils will unroll, and teach him33
How to solve the problem of his pain ;34
And the birds’ and angels’ wings shake downward35
On his heart a sweet and tender rain.36
While he marvels at his fancy, reading37
Meaning in that quaint and ancient scroll,38
Little guessing that the loving Carver39
Left a message for his weary soul.40