Conrad Potter Aiken

(5 August 1889 – 17 August 1973 / Savannah, Georgia)

The Carver


See, as the carver carves a rose,
A wing, a toad, a serpent's eye,
In cruel granite, to disclose
The soft things that in hardness lie,
So this one, taking up his heart,
Which time and change had made a stone,
Carved out of it with dolorous art,
Laboring yearlong and alone,
The thing there hidden—rose, toad, wing?
A frog's hand on a lily pad?
Bees in a cobweb?—no such thing!
A girl's head was the thing he had,
Small, shapely, richly crowned with hair,
Drowsy, with eyes half closed, as they
Looked through you and beyond you, clear
To something farther than Cathay:
Saw you, yet counted you not worth
The seeing, thinking all the while
How, flower-like, beauty comes to birth;
And thinking this, began to smile.
Medusa! For she could not see
The world she turned to stone and ash.
Only herself she saw, a tree
That flowered beneath a lightning-flash.
Thus dreamed her face—a lovely thing
To worship, weep for, or to break . . .
Better to carve a claw, a wing,
Or, if the heart provide, a snake.

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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