Go, gather the sand at the ebb of the sea,
And the ashes that fall from the charr'd forest-tree;
Can ashes and sand, vile and dark to the view,
Gain the clearness of light, and the softness of dew?
Go, kindle the furnace! The vents must be tight,
And the blast must be fierce, and the heat must be white:
Through the heat and the blast must the crucible pass
From the coarseness of sand to the beauty of glass.
The time may be long, and the heat may be sore,
But kindle the furnace one seventimes more;
The glow must be seen, and the heat must be felt,
Or how can the dross change its nature and melt?
From the face, as it rises, we skim off the gall,
And the bubbles must burst, and the sandiver fall;
When the dross and the scum shall leave beauty and strength,
The work of the furnace is perfect at length.
And then we may lengthen or shorten or twist,
And then we may form it and mould as we list:
Only touch it with caution, and handle with skill,
And the shapeless paraison is shaped to your will.
But brightness and clearness will never suffice
To give to our vessels their beauty and price:
Quick hearts should be gentle,--join firmness with zeal;--
All lost is our labour, except we anneal.
And shall we not learn from the works of our hand,
That the furnace is trial, and we are the sand;
As useless and earthly, as worthless and light,
As easy to scatter, as hard to unite?
That we cannot be fit for the change we must pass,
Till the ashes of penitence mix with the mass;
That the fire of affliction must freely be pass'd,
If we hope to be moulded aright at the last?