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The Touch Of The Master's Hand -- Myra Brooks Welch

Guest poem sent in by Frank O'Shea
(Poem #1199) 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 grey-haired man
      Came forward and picked up the bow;
Then wiping the dust from the old violin,
      And tightening the loosened 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 the 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 is wrought
     By the touch of the Master's hand.
-- Myra Brooks Welch
Note: "mess of pottage" is a Biblical reference - see
  http://www.m-w.com/wftw/02apr/041702.htm for example.

Now that you are running some "spiritual" poems, here is an old favourite. I
don't know if you could get away with this kind of poem
any more these days, but come on, admit it, it does bring a little
lump to the throat. I wonder if I should be ashamed to admit that I
like it.

I have no idea who the author is, though I presume she is American.

Frank O'Shea

[Martin adds]

What I find sad is not just that this sort of poetry is falling out
of vogue, but that people really *are*, as Frank half-jokingly
suggests, ashamed to admit that they like it. Somehow, 'taste' and
'sophistication' seem to have become equated with a kind of sneering
cynicism whose popularity, I think, is attributable to the fact that
it is far easier to *assume* than true taste is. Personally, I
enjoyed today's poem (and similar ones like Adelaide Proctor's "The
Lost Chord" [Poem #520], but with the definite consciousness that
this was, somehow, a less-than-respectable opinion.

Links:

  Couldn't find out much about Welch besides the poem, but here's a
  brief biographical note:
    http://www.teacher.com/lilly2.htm

37 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Rod Graham said...

Dear Martin and Frank -- I too really enjoyed "The Touch Of The Master's
Hand," and at the same time was conscious of how "dated" it was -- but I
say, "Phooey!" to any who are so hardened/cynical they can't be moved by
something fine like this. Rod

Kathi Ingleby said...

I was thrilled to once again find the words to this poem. I have remembered most of it since I was a teenager, but knew parts were missing. It is truly a favorite.
Thank you very much!

Rev. Basil A. Foley Sr said...

Thank you for saving me literally hours of searching through old sermons to find "The Touch of the Master's Hand." I, too, say "phooey" to those sticks-in-the-mud who can't appreciate good literature that makes sense.

Pastor Foley

SWinham06 said...

The poem is beautiful. It is captured in song by Christian Artist, Wayne
Watson.

Cheryl A. Cameron said...

This is my favorite poem and always has been. I was tickled to find it online. Thanks for sharing it! Cheryl

DMcCart said...

Singer/songwriter/fiddler Laurie Lewis set this to music in a recording on CD

Together with Kathy Kallick (1995)
Rounder 0318
(orig: Kaleidoscope Records 1991)

https://www.laurielewis.com/discography/
https://www.laurielewis.com/

Nightowl1278 said...

I was a small child when I first read this poem. My mother had it in her
Bible and when she died in June, 1988, I took it, placed it in a picture frame and
it now hangs on the wall in my kitchen. Whenever I feel that others don't
appreciate either myself or my efforts, I read this poem and realize that the
only one whose opinion should matter is He who is Master of my soul.

D.S.Cheese
St. Catharines Ontarioi CANADA

Nightowl1278 said...

Do you have any idea as to where I can get a copy of this poem put to music
on CD. If anyone does, please e-mail me. I live in Ontario, CANADA. Many thanks
to all who have had their lives profoundly affected by this one " outdated "
poem.

Barbara Bateman said...

A speech therapist came in to see my 90 year old father-in-law after he
had a stroke. He recited this poem, with tears in his eyes. The
therapist said. "You don't need my help." She said to his wife, "He's a
brilliant man". Some things you never forget.

Prudence Lay said...

Thank you so much for posting the words to this beloved poem. My Mom had it
framed and hanging on the wall as I was growing up. The words of this poem
truly affected who I became and what I believe. My Mom died last month and
I was unable to find the the framed poem. Thank you again for an answer to
prayer. The message in this poem is timeless.

Prudence Lay

KookyGranmaw said...

My dad was a lay minister when I was a little girl. Oftentimes, he would
comment that he was going to speak on Sunday. "Girls, what do you think I should
preach about?" he would ask my sister and me. My standard response was,
"Daddy, I don't know, but please end with 'The Touch of the Master's Hand.'" It
was such a blessing to me then and has been through the years. Even though
he's gone to be with the Lord, I can still visualize him as he'd stand before a
group, cock his head to one side and, in his rich voice, quote "'Twas battered
and scarred...." Thank you for allowing me to share this fond memory.
JBarker

Wil Penny said...

I was so pleased to find this poem on your web site, because I have lost the printed page containing it.

I am now nearing 90 years of age. I first encountered this poem sometime about 1932 to 1935, and often found it useful and meaningful at the close of remarks in a worship setting.

Thank you so much.

Wil Penny

Dolores Palmquist said...

Hello: I was glad to find the words again to a poem I haven't seen for years. I was born in October 1929 so you see I am now 75. When I was in high school, I chose "The Touch of the Masters Hand" for a speech class assignment of memorizing and giving the recitation to the class. In my heart, I relate the Master to our Lord Jesus Christ! So I recited it with all the sincerity and drama a shy young girl could Later, when we had a Christian radio station, we played Wayne Watson's version of this song on occasion.
Dolores Palmquist, Nipomo, CA

scott sables said...

And Now ,27 years later, I'm raising a very special child with Downs Syndrom- The poem "Touch..." tucked deep in my heart has became a downright beautiful godsend.

scott sables said...

And- Yes I'm also raising a child with Downs

scott sables said...

I'm a white male age 40 -When I was 13 we were bussed to a school in a predominately black area of town. This was a culture shock,but I was social and quick to make friends. My English Lit teacher, a black lady, was cool with a religious influence that carried over into her teachings. She had us memorize poems. One of which was "The Touch......Masters Hand" and also "If". Yes I had to endure racial comments from adults around me, but what these poems gave me was an openness to see people for face value. That made all the difference. I coach and work with kids of all race and color and my children have friends of all different backgrounds- Poetry-- is the gift that keeps on giving.

Mmpopplewell said...

My husband needs this poem in Spanish. Can you tell me where it can be found.
Thank you very much.

Rudy Bourgeois said...

I am not sure about a CD version but there is a beautiful video , story version on a video tape called, "Family Home Evening Video Supplement #2" produced by the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (The Touch of the Master's Hand)

I htink if you go to LDS.org and then go to Distribution you will probably find it listed. If you cannot find it send me a note and I will track it down. It is beautifully done.

MB

Buffiegal said...

I live in Kansas City. I would like to get the music to this piece. The
background music and music w/ words. Can you help? do you know of a place
that may sell this?
Thank You.

Jan

Jeannie Tobitt said...

I memorized this poem back in 1965, 66 or 67, not sure exactly, however,
this poem has been in my head since then...

I was telling a story to my daughter (she's 19 years old) that when I was
young, (I attended Catholic School) somewhere between 4th & 6th grade, we
were to study and memorize "The Touch of the Masters Hand" for a visit from
Mother Superior, I studied very hard and knew the poem, the only problem
was, I was too shy to raise my hand to say that I knew it, and that I wanted
to recite it to our visitor. The girl that was chosen to recite the poem
did not know it...I sat there, so very mad at myself, for not having the
courage to raise my hand, however, this poem has been with me ever since...I
did not remember the entire poem, so my daughter's boyfriend, went to the
internet, found the poem and printed it for me...I was elated...so now, this
poem, will be hanging in my bedroom, for me to see it every day...

Hughston said...

I have brothers who lost their way for the first part of their lives and now
they have found God and changed their ways. I will recite this poem at their
funeral I've decided. It might remind people that God never gives up on us.
I love this poem. Debra Hughston

JARTThomas said...

My grandmother, Myra Brooks Welch, wrote that poem before I was born. I, of
course, have heard it all my life and many times as part of a speech or
sermon. I have some of Grandma's books and the earliest that Touch Of The Masters
Hand appears (in my library) is a 1929 edition of The Years Between.

CLoghry1938 said...

I have no Idea how old this Poem is,but I first heard it as a child in the
1940s and have loved it ever since.
Charles Loghry

JANET PEREZ said...

The poem is one of the most excellent I've ever read. I however need it in spanish. Is that possible?

Elderbates said...

Thank you for such a quick response. It is to be used to illustrate a very
important part of a sermon I am working on.

Russell

vmeis said...

I greatly enjoyed this poem which I encountered in a book
of apologetics called "What Say You?"
In 1955. I was in seventh grade and I have often thought on it.
I thought of it especially in connection with the sacrament of
Penance or reconciliation.

vmeis

Brad & Amy said...

Hi! I'm looking for sheet music to "The Touch of the Master's Hand" to use for special music. If you still have it, would you mind faxing me a copy @? I'd greatly appreciate it! Amy

Josephine Templeton said...

It is one of the most beautiful poems I have ever read. I once saw it
put to music and it made me cry. Thank you for writing it I t must
have been the Master who inspired you.
Pina

Syl said...

Can someone tell me how you found the author's name? I've tried to find out who wrote it for decades! The only book I ever saw it printed in listed the author as annonomous.

Ray Dowse said...

"'Twas battered and scarred and the......."
I can clearly remember reciting this poem in our English village Chapel in the early 960's. It is a timeless piece of poetry. Until I found your website, I could still remember more than 90%. Thankyou, now I can refresh my memory, in case another Pastor calls on me again.

BlessingsmusiK said...

My Aunt Nellie recited this poem, many times.. away back.. about 65 years
ago... in Airdrie Scotland.
Great to see it on the Internet
Bill...... Oshawa- Canada

Terry said...

CAN YOU TELL ME IF YOU EVER FOUND OUT WHAT IS THE NAME OF THE CD AND WHO SINGS tOUCH OF THE MASTERS HAND ? mY SISTER WOULD LOVE TO GET A COPY OF THIS. THANK-YOU IN ADVANCE TERRY

emmettlbrown said...

I memorized this poem when I was a Junior in
High School and won the poetry contest. It came
from a book but the author was unknown. This
was in 1953

Emmett Brown
Rayville, La.

Anonymous said...

I am 66 years old and all my life my aunt told me she wrote that pome Touch of the masters hand. I have some old manuscrips about sometime between 1935 and 1945, she said she could not get the last of the pome and got frustrated and gave it to some one else to finish (the last stansa). I never knew if it was true or just something you tell to kids. but it is special to me because she liked, and claimed it for her own. Mary ......

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