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Gaspar Becerra

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1850

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.

Published in The Seaside and the Fireside

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