Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE ANVIL OF SOULS, by WILLIAM ROSE BENET



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THE ANVIL OF SOULS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: High o'er the frowning forest, from the red door of the smithy
Last Line: "and, hissing from its bath of stars, the soul steeled true!"
Subject(s): Soul


High o'er the frowning forest, from the red door of the smithy
Loomed forth the stern artificer of all the years to be.
"Now on the steeps of vision, what wanderer thou, I prithee?"
"I climb from Man to find the plan!" "Then learn of me!"

His sledge is oak and mountain-crag. Its weight is thunder.
The souls are on his anvil laid as sword-blades bright.
His sledge's swing is lightning and cataclysmic wonder,
Its impact on the leaping soul both Morn and Night!

And this is the song that he hath for mighty singing,
"The blade that writhes beneath the sledge, white-hot -- cold-blue!
The anvil -- the anvil -- the anvil's giant ringing;
And, hissing from its bath of stars, the soul steeled true!"

The smithy's walls are lightened as by a forest fire,
And first the smith was imaged wrath, and then vast peace!
His lineaments are joy and peace. His thews can never tire.
The starry bath beside his hand is called Release.

The souls are hot with flashing sparks. The souls have voices;
But drowned in the reverberance of that huge din.
And in his strength the smith is glad, and in his calm rejoices,
And flings the trued steel to Release, to hiss therein.

His face glows joy. His face is ever lightened
Not cruelly, but radiant with the justice of his trade;
For lo, the dullest metal to beauty brightened,
The bent and dinted, flawed and scarred, like blue steel made!

"For Man I toil -- for men have no regretting.
So toil I, joying to be just to each for all.
As due them all, I true them all, no flaw forgetting;
And in a like perfection they hang upon my wall.

"For Man is mine, but men are not my doing.
So some shall writhe through furnaced pain to dazzle whole.
Not smith of dispensation I, but smith of trueing.
Hark! From the well-brink of Release chants soul on soul!"

"And what is called your anvil? You name names madly!"
"The state men flee and cling and flee -- and would retest!
For all the glory of mine anvil, Heaven sings sadly.
The soul of all perfection knows mine anvil best!"

I keep within my heart this song of his for singing:
"The steel that writhes beneath the sledge, white-hot -- cold-blue!
The anvil -- the anvil -- the anvil's mighty ringing --
And, hissing from its bath of stars, the soul steeled true!"





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