The strings of my heart were strung by Pleasure,
    And I laughed, when the music fell on my ear,
For he and Mirth played a joyful measure,
    And they played so loud that I could not hear
The wailing and moaning of souls a-weary--
    The strains of sorrow that floated around,
For my heart's notes rang out loud and cheery,
    And I heard no other sound.

Mirth and Pleasure, the music brothers,
    Played louder and louder in joyful glee;
But sometimes a discord was heard by others--
    Though only the rythm was heard by me.
Louder and louder, and faster and faster
    The hands of the brothers played strain on strain,
When all of a sudden a Mighty Master
    Swept them aside; and Pain,

Pain, the musician, the soul-refiner,
    Restrung the strings of my quivering heart,
And the air that he played was a plaintive minor,
    So sad that the tear-drops were forced to start;
Each note was an echo of awful anguish,
    As shrill as solemn, as sharp as slow,
And my soul for a season seemed to languish
    And faint with its weight of woe.

With skilful hands that were never weary,
    This Master of Music played strain on strain,
And between the bars of the miserere,
    He drew up the strings of my heart again:
And I was filled with a vague, strange wonder,
    To see that they did not snap in two.
"They are drawn so tight they will break asunder,"
    I thought, but instead, they grew,

In the hands of the Master, firmer and stronger;
    And I could hear on the stilly air--
Now my ears were deafened by Mirth no longer--
    The sounds of sorrow, and grief, and despair,
And my soul grew tender and kind to others;
    My nature grew sweeter, my mind grew broad;
And I held all men to be my brothers,
    Linked by the chastening rod.

My soul was lifted to God and heaven,
    And when on my heart-strings fell again
The hands of Mirth and Pleasure, even,
    There was never a discord to mar the strain.
For Pain, the musician, and soul-refiner,
    Attuned the strings with a Master hand,
And whether the music be major or minor,
    It is always sweet and grand.


Shells by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Milwaukee: Hauser & Storey, 1873.

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