The Old Stone Quarry

By Ellen P. Allerton

Grown with grass and with tangled weeds,
Where the blind mole hides and the rabbit feeds,
And, unmolested, the serpent breeds.
Edged with underwood, newly grown,
Draped with the cloak that the years have thrown
Round the broken gaps in the jagged stone.
It was opened—I know not how long ago—
Opened, and left half-worked, and so
In this ragged hollow the rank weeds grow.
Why lies it idle, this beautiful stone?
Ho, for the pickaxe! One by one
Hew out these blocks—here is work undone.
There are possible towers in this serpent’s den—
Possible homes for homeless men.
Who shall build them? and where? and when?
Must they lie here still, unmarked, unsought—
Turrets and temples, uncarved, unwrought,
Till the end of time? ‘Tis a sorrowful thought!
All through the heats of the summer hours,
The wild bee hums in the unplucked flowers
That creep and bloom over unbuilt towers.
As I sit here, perched on the grass-grown wall,
Down to the hollow the brown leaves fall,
Little by little covering all.
So month after month, and year after year,
The rank weeds creep and the leaves turn sere.
And a thicker mantle is weaving here.
And a day may come when the passer-by,
Threading the underwood, then grown high,
Shall see but a hollow, where dead leaves lie.
There are human souls that seem to me
Like this unwrought stone—for all you see—
Is a shapeless quarry of what might be,
Lying idle, and overgrown
With tangled weeds, like this beautiful stone—
Possible work left undone,
Possible victories left unwon.
And that is a waste that is worse than this;
Sharper the edge of the hidden abyss,
Deadlier serpents crawl and hiss.
And a day shall come when the desolate scene,
Though scanned by eyes that are close and keen,
Shall show no trace of its “might have been.”

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