IN a poet's room, where his inkstand stood on the table,
the remark was once made, 'It is wonderful what can be brought
out of an inkstand. What will come next? It is indeed
'Yes, certainly,' said the inkstand to the pen, and to the
other articles that stood on the table; 'that's what I always
say. It is wonderful and extraordinary what a number of things
come out of me. It's quite incredible, and I really don't know
what is coming next when that man dips his pen into me. One
drop out of me is enough for half a page of paper, and what
cannot half a page contain? From me, all the works of a poet
are produced; all those imaginary characters whom people fancy
they have known or met. All the deep feeling, the humor, and
the vivid pictures of nature. I myself don't understand how it
is, for I am not acquainted with nature, but it is certainly
in me. From me have gone forth to the world those wonderful
descriptions of troops of charming maidens, and of brave
knights on prancing steeds; of the halt and the blind, and I
know not what more, for I assure you I never think of these
'There you are right,' said the pen, 'for you don't think
at all; if you did, you would see that you can only provide
the means. You give the fluid that I may place upon the paper
what dwells in me, and what I wish to bring to light. It is
the pen that writes: no man doubts that; and, indeed, most
people understand as much about poetry as an old inkstand.'
'You have had very little experience,' replied the
inkstand. 'You have hardly been in service a week, and are
already half worn out. Do you imagine you are a poet? You are
only a servant, and before you came I had many like you, some
of the goose family, and others of English manufacture. I know
a quill pen as well as I know a steel one. I have had both
sorts in my service, and I shall have many more when he comes-
the man who performs the mechanical part- and writes down what
he obtains from me. I should like to know what will be the
next thing he gets out of me.'
'Inkpot!' exclaimed the pen contemptuously.
Late in the evening the poet came home. He had been to a
concert, and had been quite enchanted with the admirable
performance of a famous violin player whom he had heard there.
The performer had produced from his instrument a richness of
tone that sometimes sounded like tinkling waterdrops or
rolling pearls; sometimes like the birds twittering in chorus,
and then rising and swelling in sound like the wind through
the fir-trees. The poet felt as if his own heart were weeping,
but in tones of melody like the sound of a woman's voice. It
seemed not only the strings, but every part of the instrument
from which these sounds were produced. It was a wonderful
performance and a difficult piece, and yet the bow seemed to
glide across the strings so easily that it was as if any one
could do it who tried. Even the violin and the bow appeared to
perform independently of their master who guided them; it was
as if soul and spirit had been breathed into the instrument,
so the audience forgot the performer in the beautiful sounds
he produced. Not so the poet; he remembered him, and named
him, and wrote down his thoughts on the subject. 'How foolish
it would be for the violin and the bow to boast of their
performance, and yet we men often commit that folly. The poet,
the artist, the man of science in his laboratory, the
general,- we all do it; and yet we are only the instruments
which the Almighty uses; to Him alone the honor is due. We
have nothing of ourselves of which we should be proud.' Yes,
this is what the poet wrote down. He wrote it in the form of a
parable, and called it 'The Master and the Instruments.'
'That is what you have got, madam,' said the pen to the
inkstand, when the two were alone again. 'Did you hear him
read aloud what I had written down?'
'Yes, what I gave you to write,' retorted the inkstand.
'That was a cut at you because of your conceit. To think that
you could not understand that you were being quizzed. I gave
you a cut from within me. Surely I must know my own satire.'
'Ink-pitcher!' cried the pen.
'Writing-stick!' retorted the inkstand. And each of them
felt satisfied that he had given a good answer. It is pleasing
to be convinced that you have settled a matter by your reply;
it is something to make you sleep well, and they both slept
well upon it. But the poet did not sleep. Thoughts rose up
within him like the tones of the violin, falling like pearls,
or rushing like the strong wind through the forest. He
understood his own heart in these thoughts; they were as a ray
from the mind of the Great Master of all minds.
'To Him be all the honor.'