Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Touch of the Master’s Hand

'Twas battered and scarred,
      and the auctioneer
Thought it scarcely
      worth his while
To waste much time
      on the old violin,
But held it up with a smile.

"What am I bidden,
      good folks," he cried.
"Who'll start the bidding for me?
A dollar, a dollar; then two! Only two?
Two dollars, and who'll make it three?"

"Three dollars, once; three dollars twice;
Going for three"... But no,
From the room far back, a gray-haired man
Came forward and picked up the bow.

Then, wiping the dust from the old violin,
And tightening the loose strings,
He played a melody pure and sweet
As a caroling angel sings.

The music ceased, and the auctioneer,
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said; "What am I bid for the old violin?"
And he held it up with its bow.

"A thousand dollars, and who'll make it two?
Two thousand! And who'll make it three?
Three thousand, once, three thousand twice,
and going and gone," said he.

The people cheered, but some of them cried,
"We do not quite understand
What changed its worth." Swift came the reply:
"The touch of a master's hand."

And many a man with life out of tune,
And battered and scarred with sin,
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd,
Much like the old violin.

A "mess of pottage", a glass of wine;
A game and he travels on.
He is "going" once, he is "going" twice,
He is "going" and almost "gone."

But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd
Never can quite understand
The worth of a soul and the change that's wrought
By the touch of the Master's hand.

+ + +

Myra Brooks Welch was a resident of La Verne, California. Known as "the poet with the singing soul," she was born in 1877, into a very musical family. As a young woman, she loved to play the organ.

In 1921, inspired by a lecture given to students, she "became filled with light," and wrote the above poem in a mere thirty minutes. Considering it to be a gift of God, she had it published anonymously in her church bulletin. The news of this magical poem spread far and wide. Some years later, upon hearing it read at an international church convention, and hearing it attributed to "author unknown," a young man stood up, and told the crowd: "I know the author, and it's time the world did too. It was written by my mother, Myra Welch."

She suffered severe arthritis in her later years before dying in 1959. Her ability to play music was long gone, but she found her muse through her poetry.

A song of the same name, based upon the original Welch poem, was written and recorded by John Daniel Sumner (1924-1998), an American southern gospel singer/songwriter, who at one point led a band that toured with Elvis Presley in the early 1970s. A video clip of that song appears above with this poem.

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