Monday, 9 September 2013

Poetry Week 2013 - The Touch of the Master's Hand

The poem and message below come from Margaret Lenan-Ellis who is Public Relations Officer of the Ballarat Interfaith Network.

Hi Everyone- many people will probably be familiar with this poem, but I find it moving:

The Touch of the Master's Hand

click on the link to hear the poem 

picture from here

'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 the 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, and "going" twice,
He's "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

Myra Brooks Welch was a resident of La Verne, California. As a youngster her special joy was playing the organ but this was denied her in later life as she suffered badly from arthritis and spent much of her time in a wheelchair. She wrote with an inverted pencil in each of her gnarled hands and would pick out the words on a type writer. She said that the joy of her writing outweighed the pain of her efforts. She was known as “The poet with the singing soul”.


In 1921, she heard a speaker address a group of students. She said she became filled with light, and "Touch of the Master's Hand wrote itself in 30 minutes!" She sent it anonymously to her church news bulletin. She felt it was a gift from God, and didn't need her name on it. Its popularity spread like magic. Finally, several years later, the poem was read at a religious international convention - "author unknown." A young man stood up and said, "I know the author, and it's time the world did too. It was written by my mother, Myra Welch." Then her name, as well her other beautiful works of poetry became known worldwide.

All of her poetry told of the rejoicing she had in God's love. What the world did not see, was the woman who created these masterpieces: Myra in her wheelchair, battered and scarred from severe arthritis, which had taken away her ability to make music. Instead, her musical soul spoke through her poetry. Her words, a joyous expression of the wonders of life, as seen by a singing soul that was touched by the Master's Hand. As a friend turned to leave her home, Myra patted the arm of her wheelchair and said, "And I thank God for this!" Imagine being grateful for a wheelchair! But her talent lay undiscovered prior to her wheelchair days. Rather than becoming bitter, she chose to let her handicap make her better, and a wonderful new door opened for her.

Myra Brooks Welch was a prolific poet who had three volumes of her poetry published by the Brethren Publishing House. Her faith and courageous optimism, as reflected in her poetry, are not shallow and untested phases of a life outlook. She achieved them despite - perhaps in part because of - circumstances that confined her to a wheel chair for twenty years. Writing out of what she knows as well as what she feels, she brought inspiration and courage to thousands. ** All writers of verse aspire to create at least one song that will wing its way down through the years. A few succeed in so doing; a larger number must be content with lesser achievements. For Myra Brooks Welch that long-lasting poem was written in 1921 and published in the Gospel Messenger on February 26, 1921. It was accorded immediate popularity and quoted and widely reprinted, often as an anonymous production. "The Touch Of The Master's Hand".


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