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.
Quick birth of transmutation smote
The fair to foul, the foul to fair;
Purple nor ermine did he spare,
Nor scorn the dusty coat.
Of heirloom jewels, prized so much,
Were many changed to chips and clods,
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
We will not have then tried.”
And since they could not so prevail
To check this unrelenting guest,
They seized him, saying – “Let him test
How real it is, our jail!”
But, though they slew him with the sword,
And in a fire his Touchstone burn’d,
Its doings could not be o’erturned,
Its undoings restored.
And when to stop all future harm,
They strew’d its ashes on the breeze;
They little guess’d each grain of these
Convey’d the perfect charm.
North, south, in rings and amulets,
Throughout the crowded world ’tis borne;
Which, as a fashion long outworn,
In ancient mind forgets.