Gaspar Becerra


    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.


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