From Ailenroc’s Book, by Cornelia Alexander
A poor stonecutter, at his work one day,
Was grieved to see a rich man pass that way—
A rich man, in his costly garments dressed,
His proud heart beating ‘neath a silken vest.
“O, would that I were rich!” the poor man said,
“That I might take my ease on silken bed,
Or walk abroad in garments soft and fine,
And menial labor nevermore be mine.”
An angel heard him, and, in pity true,
Said: “Thus it shall be granted unto you.”
Joy thrilled his heart. A rich man now was he;
His gloating eyes his grand possessions see.
In ‘broidered, silken robes his limbs he dressed;
On soft and perfumed couch he took his rest;
But—lo!—on looking forth one balmy day,
He saw the mighty emperor pass that way,
The haughty ruler of a goodly land,
Whose word was law, whose nod a high command;
Slaves ran to wait on him at beck and call,
And held aloft the golden parasol.
“Ah!” said the man, and spurned his silken bed,
“I would that I were emperor, that o’er my head
That great and golden parasol be spread.”
While yet he breathed his bold, aspiring prayer,
“Thy wish is granted,” echoed in the air.
He was the emperor; and, looking round,
He saw his subjects bowing to the ground.
His august will no living man defied,
And servants followed him when in his pride
He sallied forth, and high above his head
The royal, golden parasol was spread;
But—lo!—the sun sent down a burning ray,
And blistering heat beset the royal way.
The mighty monarch gave a fretful cry:
“I would I were that blazing orb on high!”
And—lo!—ere yet his boastful wish was done,
He felt his being change—he was the sun.
Full of his power and heat, he shot his beams
To north and south, to east and west his gleams,
And cried, exalting in his strength and height:
“Where is the thing that can withstand my might?”
When—lo!—just shaping in the hazy blue
He saw a cloud, and sought to pierce it through;
But vain the effort. As the cloudlet passed,
Dark shadows on the earth beneath were cast;
Hot grew the sun in anger. In dismay said he:
“Can watery masses interfere with me?
If so, kind angel [then he called aloud],
Grand my petition; let me be a cloud.”
The indulgent angel hearkened to his prayer;
He was the vaporous mass floating in the air.
Above the earth he rolled his course along,
And saw the workmen, heard their merry song,
Saw them look up to scan the darkening sky,
And shook with laughter as he watched them fly,
Saw frightened herds forsake the grassy plain,
And children scamper from the coming rain.
“Now here is strength,” he cried. The torrents poured,
The lightening flashed, and swollen waters roared;
The earth seemed reeling ‘neath the mighty shock;
But—lo!—there barred the way a massive rock.
Silent and grim, unmoved by storm, it stood,
While round it seethed the roaring, boiling flood.
Enraged that anything his power should mock,
He cried: “I would I were this solid rock!”
Harder he grew, hard as the granite stone,
And on the plain lay silent and alone.
He was the rock. Green mosses on it grew,
And scarlet berries peeped the green vine through.
Unmoved by storm, unwarmed by sunny ray,
Silent and still the ages through it lay.
But—lo!—a workman at the stony foot,
Where grasses grow and clinging vines take root;
And as his chisel sharp the workman plies,
The stony substance all about him flies.
The rock was smitten with a swift alarm.
Viewing the strength of that uplifted arm,
Hearing the ring of metal at his side,
Feeling the fissures made both deep and wide,
“I’m powerless,” he cried. “My strength is gone,
My day is past, and I am all undone.”
Again his wishes to the stronger ran:
“I’d be contented if I were a man.”
And—lo!—he was as he had been before:
A simple workman, ignorant and poor,
But one excelling in his freedom now,
And in the stamp of manhood on his brow.
In humble, grateful prayer his knee he bent,
Crying: “Whate’er my fate, I am content,
Dissatisfied no more with my hard lot,
Though mine the meager fare, the humble cot,
Since I am part of His almighty plan,
The noblest work of God—a man—
Watched by that sleepless, tearless eye,
And given a spirit that can never die.”