The Stonecutter

The Stonecutter

Once upon a time there lived a stonecutter who went
each day to a whopping rock protruding from a mountain, sent
his hammer and his chisel to it, making slabs and blocks
for tombs and houses, understood the property of rocks,
was such a careful craftsman that he never lacked employment,
and for a time was quite content; the work gave him enjoyment.

Now, in the mountain dwelt a spirit. Sometimes it appeared
and aided men in growing rich and prosperous. Too weird
a notion for the workman, who had never seen this spirit.
A day was coming, though, when he would actually revere it.

One day he took a gravestone to the house of a wealthy fellow
and saw things never dreamed of. Then as if a dulcet cello
breathed music in his ears, he thought, “If only I were rich;
sleep in a silken-curtained bed. Hard work is such a bitch!

“Your wish is heard; you shall be rich,” the mountain spirit spoke.
The stonecutter looked round. He thought it must have been a joke
his mind had played. He saw no one around. So then he strode
toward home with all his tools. But when he reached his small abode,
in place of his old wooden hut, there stood a palace, grand
as anything a man had ever seen in all the land.  
Such splendid fittings, but the finest thing of all? The bed—
just like the one he’d envied! Now a new life lay ahead.

One dog-day morn the sun blazed so intensely, the stonecutter
stopped working. He could hardly breathe! All he could do was mutter
about how hot it was and went back home. That very night,
he peeped out through his blinds and saw a truly noble sight:
A little carriage drawn by servants dressed in silver and blue
passed by his house. A prince sat in the carriage. And the view
of a gold umbrella in his hand was just beyond belief!
Although the sight of all this lavishness was rather brief,
the fact the prince was shielded from the violent solar blaze
produced a yearning in the man as burning as those rays:

“If I only were a prince.” And then he was. His wide umbrella
was wonderful. But he was an eccentric sort of fella.
He looked around for something else to wish for. All his yard,
for all he watered it, was scorching. Not a thing could guard
his skin from burning. Even his umbrella couldn’t do it.
The sun was hotter than a stove. How could the man subdue it?
The sun is mightier than his shade. “I wish I was the sun!”
The mountain spirit spoke: “Your wish is heard.” And it was done.

He was the sun, and shot his beams and burnt the grass and fields,
and scorched the cheeks of princes, plus the penniless. The wheels
of might, however, started slowing in his heart and mind,
for there seemed nothing left to do to nature or mankind.
Dissatisfaction filled him. Then a cloud concealed his face.
Although he looked with fiery eyes at Earth, there was no trace
of it. He cried in anger, “Does a cloud confine my beams?
A cumulus is mightier than I? That’s how seems.

If I only were a cloud!” And then he was. He lay between
the sun and Earth, which started growing riotous and green.
But then he started pouring rain, and rivers breached their bounds
and rice crops stood in water, and the villages and towns
were wrecked. Only the rock beside the mountain stood aloof.
The rock, immune to rain was, to the cloud, sufficient proof
that it was mightier than he. “If I only were the rock!”
And, once again, he caught the kindly mountain spirit’s talk:

“Your wish is heard.” The rock he was. Not rain nor heat could play
havoc with him now. “This is the best!” But then one day
he heard a puzzling noise around his feet, looked down, and spied
a big stonecutter driving chipping tools into his hide.
He shuddered from the shock. It split his ears. And then a great
and hefty block broke off and made the ground reverberate.
He cried, “Is a mere child of Earth mightier than a stone?
If I only were a man!” And then he was. Though every bone
and muscle in his body ached from labor and from toil
cutting stones again, he now was free from all turmoil.
He didn’t want to be some other person or some thing.
His bed was hard, his food was scant yet, like a bird in spring,
he was content, and never asked for extra things again,
and didn’t wish to be more powerful than other men.
At last he was a happy man, and never more would hear
the voice of the great mountain spirit rumbling in his ear.