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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.


By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)

FROM the barred visor of Antiquity

Reflected shines the eternal light of Truth,

As from a mirror! All the means of action—

The shapeless masses, the materials—

Lie everywhere about us. What we need

Is the celestial fire to change the flint

Into transparent crystal, bright and clear.

That fire is genius! The rude peasant sits

At evening in his smoky cot, and draws

With charcoal uncouth figures on the wall.

The son of genius comes, footsore with travel,

And begs a shelter from the inclement night.

He takes the charcoal from the peasant’s hand,

And by the magic of his touch at once

Transfigured, all its hidden virtues shine,

And in the eyes of the astonished clown

It gleams a diamond! Even thus transformed,

Rude popular traditions and old tales

Shine as immortal poems at the touch

Of some poor houseless, homeless, wandering bard,

Who had but a night’s lodging for his pains.