The Carver And The Caliph.

A poem by Henry Austin Dobson

(We lay our story in the East.
Because 'tis Eastern? Not the least.
We place it there because we fear
To bring its parable too near,
And seem to touch with impious hand
Our dear, confiding native land.)


HAROUN ALRASCHID, in the days
He went about his vagrant ways,
And prowled at eve for good or bad
In lanes and alleys of BAGDAD,
Once found, at edge of the bazaar,
E'en where the poorest workers are,
A Carver.

Fair his work and fine
With mysteries of inlaced design,
And shapes of shut significance
To aught but an anointed glance,--
The dreams and visions that grow plain
In darkened chambers of the brain.

And all day busily he wrought
From dawn to eve, but no one bought;--
Save when some Jew with look askant,
Or keen-eyed Greek from the Levant,
Would pause awhile,--depreciate,--
Then buy a month's work by the weight,
Bearing it swiftly over seas
To garnish rich men's treasuries.

And now for long none bought at all,
So lay he sullen in his stall.
Him thus withdrawn the Caliph found,
And smote his staff upon the ground--
"Ho, there, within! Hast wares to sell?
Or slumber'st, having dined too well?"
"'Dined,'" quoth the man, with angry eyes,
"How should I dine when no one buys?"
"Nay," said the other, answering low,--
"Nay, I but jested. Is it so?
Take then this coin, ... but take beside
A counsel, friend, thou hast not tried.
This craft of thine, the mart to suit,
Is too refined,--remote,--minute;
These small conceptions can but fail;
'Twere best to work on larger scale,
And rather choose such themes as wear
More of the earth and less of air,
The fisherman that hauls his net,--
The merchants in the market set,--
The couriers posting in the street,--
The gossips as they pass and greet,--
These--these are clear to all men's eye
Therefore with these they sympathize.
Further (neglect not this advice!)
Be sure to ask three times the price."

The Carver sadly shook his head;
He knew 'twas truth the Caliph said.
From that day forth his work was planned
So that the world might understand.
He carved it deeper, and more plain;
He carved it thrice as large again;
He sold it, too, for thrice the cost;
--Ah, but the Artist that was lost!

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