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The Pen And Inkstand
by [?]

In the room of a poet, where his inkstand stood upon the table, it was said, “It is wonderful what can come out of an inkstand. What will the next thing be? It is wonderful!”

“Yes, certainly,” said the Inkstand. “It’s extraordinary–that’s what I always say,” he exclaimed to the pen and to the other articles on the table that were near enough to hear. “It is wonderful what a number of things can come out of me. It’s quite incredible. And I really don’t myself know what will be the next thing, when that man begins to dip into me. One drop out of me is enough for half a page of paper; and what cannot be contained in half a page? From me all the works of the poet go forth–all these living men, whom people can imagine they have met–all the deep feeling, the humour, the vivid pictures of nature. I myself don’t understand how it is, for I am not acquainted with nature, but it certainly is in me. From me all these things have gone forth, and from me proceed the troops of charming maidens, and of brave knights on prancing steeds, and all the lame and the blind, and I don’t know what more–I assure you I don’t think of anything.”

“There you are right,” said the Pen; “you don’t think at all; for if you did, you would comprehend that you only furnish the fluid. You give the fluid, that I may exhibit upon the paper what dwells in me, and what I would bring to the day. It is the pen that writes. No man doubts that; and, indeed, most people have about as much insight into poetry as an old inkstand.”

“You have but little experience,” replied the Inkstand. “You’ve hardly been in service a week, and are already half worn out. Do you fancy you are the poet? You are only a servant; and before you came I had many of your sort, some of the goose family, and others of English manufacture. I know the quill as well as the steel pen. Many have been in my service, and I shall have many more when he comes–the man who goes through the motions for me, and writes down what he derives from me. I should like to know what will be the next thing he’ll take out of me.”

“Inkpot!” exclaimed the Pen.

Late in the evening the poet came home. He had been to a concert, where he had heard a famous violinist, with whose admirable performances he was quite enchanted. The player had drawn a wonderful wealth of tone from the instrument: sometimes it had sounded like tinkling water-drops, like rolling pearls, sometimes like birds twittering in chorus, and then again it went swelling on like the wind through the fir trees. The poet thought he heard his own heart weeping, but weeping melodiously, like the sound of woman’s voice. It seemed as though not only the strings sounded, but every part of the instrument. It was a wonderful performance; and difficult as the piece was, the bow seemed to glide easily to and fro over the strings, and it looked as though every one might do it. The violin seemed to sound of itself, and the bow to move of itself–those two appeared to do everything; and the audience forgot the master who guided them and breathed soul and spirit into them. The master was forgotten; but the poet remembered him, and named him, and wrote down his thoughts concerning the subject:

“How foolish it would be of the violin and the bow to boast of their achievements. And yet we men often commit this folly–the poet, the artist, the labourer in the domain of science, the general–we all do it. We are only the instruments which the Almighty uses: to Him alone be the honour! We have nothing of which we should be proud.”

Yes, that is what the poet wrote down. He wrote it in the form of a parable, which he called “The Master and the Instruments.”

“That is what you get, madam,” said the Pen to the Inkstand, when the two were alone again. “Did you not hear him read aloud what I have written down?”

“Yes, what I gave you to write,” retorted the Inkstand. “That was a cut at you, because of your conceit. That you should not even have understood that you were being quizzed! I gave you a cut from within me–surely I must know my own satire!”

“Ink-pipkin!” cried the Pen.

“Writing-stick!” cried the Inkstand.

And each of them felt a conviction that he had answered well; and it is a pleasing conviction to feel that one has given a good answer–a conviction on which one can sleep; and accordingly they slept upon it. But the poet did not sleep. Thoughts welled up from within him, like the tones from the violin, falling like pearls, rushing like the storm-wind through the forests. He understood his own heart in these thoughts, and caught a ray from the Eternal Master.

To Him be all the honour!