Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
The Touchstone
By William Allingham (1824–1889)
A MAN there came, whence none could tell,
Bearing a Touchstone in his hand,
And tested all things in the land
By its unerring spell.
A thousand transformations rose        5
From fair to foul, from foul to fair:
The golden crown he did not spare,
Nor scorn the beggar’s clothes.
Of heirloom jewels, prized so much,
Were many changed to chips and clods;        10
And even statues of the Gods
Crumbled beneath its touch.
Then angrily the people cried,
“The loss outweighs the profit far;
Our goods suffice us as they are:        15
We will not have them tried.”
And, since they could not so avail
To check his unrelenting quest,
They seized him, saying, “Let him test
How real is our jail!”        20
But though they slew him with the sword,
And in a fire his Touchstone burned,
Its doings could not be o’erturned,
Its undoings restored.
And when, to stop all future harm,        25
They strewed its ashes on the breeze,
They little guessed each grain of these
Conveyed the perfect charm.

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