The Carver and the Caliph.

(We lay our story in the East.1
Because ’tis Eastern? Not the least.2
We place it there because we fear3
To bring its parable too near,4
And touch with an unguarded hand5
Our dear, confiding native land.)6
A certain Caliph, in the days7
The race affected vagrant ways,8
And prowled at eve for good or bad9
In lanes and alleys of Bagdad,10
Once found, at edge of the bazaar,11
E’en where the poorest workers are,12
A Carver.
Fair his work and fine13
With mysteries of inlaced design,14
And shapes of shut significance15
To aught but an anointed glance,—16
The dreams and visions that grow plain17
In darkened chambers of the brain.18
But all day busily he wrought19
From dawn to eve, and no one bought ;—20
Save when some Jew with look askant,21
Or keen-eyed Greek from the Levant,22
Would pause awhile,—depreciate,—23
Then buy a month’s work by the weight,24
Bearing it swiftly over seas25
To garnish rich men’s treasuries.26
And now for long none bought at all,27
So lay he sullen in his stall.28
Him thus withdrawn the Caliph found,29
And smote his staff upon the ground30
“Ho, there, within! Hast wares to sell ?31
Or slumber’st, having dined too well ? ”32
Dined,’” quoth the man, with angry eyes,33
How should I dine when no one buys ? ”34
Nay,” said the other, answering low,—35
Nay, I but jested. Is it so ?36
Take then this coin, but take beside37
A counsel, friend, thou hast not tried.38
This craft of thine, the mart to suit,39
Is too refined,—remote,—minute ;40
These small conceptions can but fail ;41
’Twere best to work on larger scale,42
And rather choose such themes as wear43
More of the earth and less of air.44
The fisherman that hauls his net,—45
The merchants in the market set,—46
The couriers posting in the street,—47
The gossips as they pass and greet,—48
These things are plain to all men’s eyes,49
Therefore with these they sympathise.50
Further (neglect not this advice !)51
Be sure to ask three times the price.”52
The Carver sadly shook his head ;53
He knew ’twas truth the Caliph said.54
From that day forth his work was planned55
So that the world might understand.56
He carved it deeper, and more plain ;57
He carved it thrice as large again ;58
He sold it, too, for thrice the cost ;59
—Ah, but the Artist that was lost !60