written by John Masefield
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THE blacksmith in his sparky forge
Beat on the white-hot softness there;
Ever as he beat he sang an air
To keep the sparks out of his gorge.
So many shoes the blacksmith beat,
So many shares and links for traces,
So many builders' struts and braces,
Such tackling for the chain-fore-sheet,
That, in his pride, big words he spake:
"I am the master of my trade;
What iron is good for I have made,
I make what is in iron to make."
Daily he sang thus by his fire,
Till one day, as he poised his stroke
Above his bar, the iron spoke;
"You boaster, drop your hammer, liar!"
The hammer dropped out of his hand,
The iron rose, it gathered shape,
It took the blacksmith by the nape,
It pressed him to the furnace, and
Heaped fire upon him till his form
Was molten, flinging sparks aloft,
Until his bones were melted soft,
His hairs crisped in a fiery storm.
The iron drew him from the blaze
To place him on the anvil; then
It beat him from the shape of men,
Like drugs the apothecary brays;
Beat him to ploughing coulters, beat
Body and blood to links of chain,
With endless hammerings of pain
Unending torment of white heat;
And did not stop the work, but still
Beat on him while the furnace roared.
The blacksmith suffered and implored,
With iron bonds upon his will.
And, though he could not die nor shrink,
He felt his being beat by force
To horseshoes stamped on by the horse,
And into troughs whence cattle drink.
He felt his blood, his dear delight,
Beat into shares, he felt it rive
The green earth red; he was alive,
Dragged through the earth by horses' might.
He felt his brain, that once had planned
His daily life, changed to a chain
Which curbed a sail or dragged a wain,
Or hoisted shiploads to the land.
He felt his heart, that once had thrilled
With love of wife and little ones,
Cut out and mingled with his bones
To pin the bricks where men rebuild.
He felt his very self impelled
To common uses, till he cried:
"There's more within me than is tried,
More than you ever think to weld.
"For all my pain I am only used
To make the props for daily labour;
I burn, I am beaten like a tabour
To make men tools: I am abused.
"Deep in the white heat where I gasp
I see the unmastered finer powers,
Iron by cunning wrought to flowers,
File-worked, not tortured by the rasp.
"Deep in this fire-tortured mind
Thought bends the bar in subtler ways;
It glows into the mass, its rays
Purge, till the iron is refined.
"Then, as the full moon draws the tide
Out of the vague uncaptained sea,
Some moony-power there ought to be
To work on ore; it should be tried.
"By this fierce fire in which I ache
I see new fires not yet begun,
A blacksmith smithying with the sun,
At unmade things man ought to make.
"Life is not fire and blows, but thought,
Attention kindling into joy;
Those who make nothing new destroy:
O me, what evil I have wrought!
"O me!" and as he moaned he saw
His iron master shake; he felt
No blow, nor did the fire melt
His flesh, he was released from law.
He sat upon the anvil top
Dazed, as the iron was dazed; he took
Strength, seeing that the iron shook;
He said: "This cruel time must stop."
He seized the iron and held him fast
With pincers, in the midmost blaze;
A million sparks went million ways,
The cowhorn handle plied the blast.
"Burn, then," he cried; the fire was white,
The iron was whiter than the fire.
The fireblast made the embers twire;
The blacksmith's arm began to smite.
First vengeance for old pain, and then
Beginning hope of better things;
Then swordblades for the sides of Kings
And corselets for the breasts of men;
And crowns and such-like joys and gems,
And stars of honour for the pure,
Jewels of honour to endure,
Beautiful women's diadems;
And coulters, sevenfold-twinned, to rend,
And girders to uphold the tower,
Harness for unimagined power,
New ships to make the billows bend;
And stores of fire-compelling things
By which men dominate and pierce
The iron-imprisoned universe,
Where angels lie with banded wings.
|Works by this author are in the public domain in countries where the copyright term is the author's life plus 51 years or less.|