John Masefield, Poems (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1945): 417-421.
1The blacksmith in his sparky forge,
2Beat on the white-hot softness there;
3Even as he beat he sang an air
4To keep the sparks out of his gorge.
5So many shoes the blacksmith beat,
6So many shares and links for traces,
7So many builders' struts and braces,
8Such tackling for the chain-fore-sheet,
9That, in his pride, big words he spake;
10"I am the master of my trade,
11What iron is good for I have made,
12I make what is in iron to make."
13Daily he sang thus by his fire,
14Till one day, as he poised his stroke
15Above his bar, the iron spoke,
16"You boaster, drop your hammer, liar."
17The hammer dropped out of his hand,
18The iron rose, it gathered shape,
19It took the blacksmith by the nape,
20It pressed him to the furnace, and
21Heaped fire upon him till his form
22Was molten, flinging sparks aloft,
23Until his bones were melted soft,
24His hairs crisped in a fiery storm.
25The iron drew him from the blaze
26To place him on the anvil, then
27It beat him from the shape of men,
28Like drugs the apothecary brays;
29Beat him to ploughing-coulters, beat
30Body and blood to links of chain,
31With endless hammerings of pain,
32Unending torment of white heat;
33And did not stop the work, but still
34Beat on him while the furnace roared;
35The blacksmith suffered and implored,
36With iron bonds upon his will.
37And, though he could not die nor shrink,
38He felt his being beat by force
39To horse shoes stamped on by the horse,
40And into troughs whence cattle drink.
41He felt his blood, his dear delight,
42Beat into shares, he felt it rive
43The green earth red; he was alive,
44Dragged through the earth by horses' might.
45He felt his brain, that once had planned
46His daily life, changed to a chain
47Which curbed a sail or dragged a wain,
48Or hoisted ship-loads to the land.
49He felt his heart, that once had thrilled
50With love of wife and little ones,
51Cut out and mingled with his bones
52To pin the bricks where men rebuilt.
53He felt his very self impelled
54To common uses, till he cried,
55"There's more within me than is tried,
56More than you ever think to weld.
57"For all my pain I am only used
58To make the props for daily labour;
59I burn, I am beaten like a tabor
60To make men tools; I am abused.
61"Deep in the white heat where I gasp
62I see the unmastered finer powers,
63Iron by cunning wrought to flowers,
64File-worked, not tortured by the rasp.
65"Deep in this fire-tortured mind
66Thought bends the bar in subtler ways,
67It glows into the mass, its rays
68Purge, till the iron is refined.
69"Then, as the full moon draws the tide
70Out of the vague uncaptained sea,
71Some moon power there ought to be
72To work on ore; it should be tried.
73"By this fierce fire in which I ache
74I see new fires not yet begun,
75A blacksmith smithying with the sun,
76At unmade things man ought to make.
77"Life is not fire and blows, but thought,
78Attention kindling into joy,
79Those who make nothing new destroy,
80O me, what evil I have wrought.
81"O me," and as he moaned he saw
82His iron master shake, he felt
83No blow, nor did the fire melt
84His flesh, he was released from law.
85He sat upon the anvil top
86Dazed, as the iron was dazed, he took
87Strength, seeing that the iron shook,
88He said, "This cruel time must stop."
89He seized the iron and held him fast
90With pincers, in the midmost blaze,
91A million sparks went million ways,
92The cowhorn handle plied the blast.
93"Burn, then," he cried; the fire was white,
94The iron was whiter than the fire.
95The fireblast made the embers twire,
96The blacksmith's arm began to smite.
97First vengeance for old pain, and then
98Beginning hope of better things,
99Then swordblades for the sides of Kings
100And corselets for the breasts of men.
101And crowns and such like joys and gems.
102And stars of honour for the pure,
103Jewels of honour to endure,
104Beautiful women's diadems.
105And coulters, sevenfold-twinned, to rend,
106And girders to uphold the tower,
107Harness for unimagined power,
108New ships to make the billows bend,
109And stores of fire-compelling things
110By which men dominate and pierce
111The iron-imprisoned universe
112Where angels lie with banded wings.
Publication Start Year
Lollingdon Downs, and Other Poems (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1917).
RPO poem Editors
Ian Lancashire, assisted by Ana Berdinskikh