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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.

The Seaside and the Fireside

By the Fireside. Gaspar Becerra

  • This poem appears to have been suggested by a passage in Sterling’s Spanish Painters, which Mr. Longfellow was reading at the time with great pleasure. He had some thought of writing a drama based on Sterling’s account of Murillo’s life in Seville.

  • 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.