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The Marble Waiteth
by [?]


The marble waits, immaculate and rude;
Beside it stands the sculptor, lost in dreams.
With vague, chaotic forms his vision teems.
Fair shapes pursue him, only to elude
And mock his eager fancy. Lines of grace
And heavenly beauty vanish, and, behold!
Out through the Parian luster, pure and cold,
Glares the wild horror of a devil’s face.

The clay is ready for the modeling.
The marble waits: how beautiful, how pure,
That gleaming substance, and it shall endure,
When dynasty and empire, throne and king
Have crumbled back to dust. Well may you pause,
Oh, sculptor-artist! and, before that mute,
Unshapen surface, stand irresolute!
Awful, indeed, are art’s unchanging laws.

The thing you fashion out of senseless clay,
Transformed to marble, shall outlive your fame;
And, when no more is known your race, or name,
Men shall be moved by what you mold to-day.
We all are sculptors. By each act and thought,
We form the model. Time, the artisan,
Stands, with his chisel, fashioning the Man,
And stroke by stroke the masterpiece is wrought.

Angel or demon? Choose, and do not err!
For time but follows as you shape the mold,
And finishes in marble, stern and cold,
That statue of the soul, the character.
By wordless blessing, or by silent curse,
By act and motive,–so do you define
The image which time copies, line by line,
For the great gallery of the Universe.


At the gateway of a new year, emerging from the gay carelessness of childhood, stand troops of buoyant, eager-eyed youths and maidens, gazing down the vista of the future with glad expectancy.

Fancy spreads upon her canvas radiant pictures of the joys and triumphs which await them in the unborn years. In their unclouded springtime there is no place for the specters of doubt and fear which too often overshadow the autumn of life.

In this formative period, the soul is unsoiled by warfare with the world. It lies, like a block of pure, uncut Parian marble, ready to be fashioned into–what?

Its possibilities are limitless. You are the sculptor. An unseen hand places in yours the mallet and the chisel, and a voice whispers: “The marble waiteth. What will you do with it?”

In this same block the angel and the demon lie sleeping. Which will you call into life? Blows of some sort you must strike. The marble cannot be left uncut. From its crudity some shape must be evolved. Shall it be one of beauty, or of deformity; an angel, or a devil? Will you shape it into a statue of beauty which will enchant the world, or will you call out a hideous image which will demoralize every beholder?

What are your ideals, as you stand facing the dawn of this new year with the promise and responsibility of the new life on which you have entered, awaiting you? Upon them depends the form which the rough block shall take. Every stroke of the chisel is guided by the ideal behind the blow.

Look at this easy-going, pleasure-loving youth who takes up the mallet and smites the chisel with careless, thoughtless blows. His mind is filled with images of low, sensual pleasures; the passing enjoyment of the hour is everything to him; his work, the future, nothing. He carries in his heart, perhaps, the bestial motto of the glutton, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for to-morrow we die;” or the flippant maxim of the gay worldling, “A short life and a merry one; the foam of the chalice for me;” forgetting that beneath the foam are the bitter dregs, which, be he ever so unwilling, he must swallow, not to-day, nor yet to-morrow,–perhaps not this year nor next; but sometime, as surely as the reaping follows the sowing, will the bitter draught follow the foaming glass of unlawful pleasure.

As the years go by, and youth merges into manhood, the sculptor’s hand becomes more unsteady. One false blow follows another in rapid succession. The formless marble takes on distorted outlines. Its whiteness has long since become spotted. The sculptor, with blurred vision and shattered nerves, still strikes with aimless hand, carving deep gashes, adding a crooked line here, another there, soiling and marring until no trace of the virgin purity of the block of marble which was given him remains. It has become so grimy, so demoniacally fantastic in its outlines, that the beholder turns from it with a shudder.

Not far off we see another youth at work on a block of marble, similar in every detail to the first. The tools with which he plies his labor differ in no wise from those of the worker we have been following.

The glory of the morning shines upon the marble. Glowing with enthusiasm, the light of a high purpose illuminating his face, the sculptor, with steady hand and eye, begins to work out his ideal. The vision that flits before him is so beautiful that he almost fears the cunning of his hand will be unequal to fashioning it from the rigid mass before him. Patiently he measures each blow of the mallet. With infinite care he chisels each line and curve. Every stroke is true.

Months stretch into years, and still we find the sculptor at work. Time has given greater precision to his touch, and the skill of the youth, strengthened by noble aspirations and right effort, has become positive genius in the man. If he has not attained the ideal that haunted him, he has created a form so beautiful in its clear-cut outlines, so imposing in the majesty of its purity and strength, that the beholder involuntarily bows before it.