By his evening fire the artist Pondered o'er his secret shame; Baffled, weary, and disheartened, Still he mused, and dreamed of fame. 'T was an image of the Virgin That had tasked his utmost skill; But, alas! his fair ideal Vanished and escaped him still. From a distant Eastern island Had the precious wood been brought Day and night the anxious master At his toil untiring wrought; Till, discouraged and desponding, Sat he now in shadows deep, And the day's humiliation Found oblivion in sleep. Then a voice cried, "Rise, O master! From the burning brand of oak Shape the thought that stirs within thee!" And the startled artist woke,-- Woke, and from the smoking embers Seized and quenched the glowing wood; And therefrom he carved an image, And he saw that it was good. O thou sculptor, painter, poet! Take this lesson to thy heart: That is best which lieth nearest; Shape from that thy work of art.