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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Carver by Conrad Aiken

See, as the carver carves a rose, 
A wing, a toad, a serpent's eye, 
In cruel granite, to disclose 
The soft things that in hardness lie, 
So this one, taking up his heart, 
Which time and change had made a stone, 
Carved out of it with dolorous art, 
Laboring yearlong and alone, 
The thing there hidden—rose, toad, wing? 
A frog's hand on a lily pad? 
Bees in a cobweb?—no such thing! 
A girl's head was the thing he had, 
Small, shapely, richly crowned with hair, 
Drowsy, with eyes half closed, as they 
Looked through you and beyond you, clear 
To something farther than Cathay: 
Saw you, yet counted you not worth 
The seeing, thinking all the while 
How, flower-like, beauty comes to birth; 
And thinking this, began to smile. 
Medusa! For she could not see 
The world she turned to stone and ash. 
Only herself she saw, a tree 
That flowered beneath a lightning-flash. 
Thus dreamed her face—a lovely thing 
To worship, weep for, or to break . . . 
Better to carve a claw, a wing, 
Or, if the heart provide, a snake.

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