CHARLOTTE, December 23, 2013 – Years ago the CBS Television Network had a popular weekly variety show called The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Like many satirical programs, the show soon became shrouded in controversy and eventually went off the air.
During one particular episode an unknown actor walked onto the stage dressed entirely in black and recited a simple poem which to this day carries the message of Christmas no matter what time of year.
Though it was the first and last time I ever heard the poem read aloud, I looked it up and discovered a wonderful story behind its few magical words.
The Touch of the Master’s Hand was written in 1921 by Myra Brooks Welch who lived inLa Verne, California. Her family had always been filled with a love of music, which, as a young woman, instilled in Myra a passion for playing the organ.
Myra also loved poetry. So much so that her friends called her “The poet with the singing soul.”
One evening while attending a lecture to a group of students, Myra became captivated by the speaker’s message and, as she put it, “became filled with light.” The words were so powerful that she wrote a poem that took just 30 minutes to compose.
Believing it was a gift from God, Myra anonymously sent the poem to her church hoping it would be printed in the bulletin the following Sunday. Not only was Myra’s poetry printed, as if by magic during a day when social media and the internet did not exits, its popularity spread throughout the country.
Years later, when the poem had been forgotten, it was read at international religious convention followed by the words, “author unknown.”
Suddenly from the audience a young man rose to his feet and shouted, “I know the author, and it’s time the world did too. It was written by my mother, Myra Welch.”
From that moment on, Myra’s poems became known throughout the world as a celebration of God’s love.
Following is the poem that spoke to so many people with the true spirit of Christmas.
The Touch of the Master’s Hand
‘Twas battered and scarred,
And the auctioneer thought it hardly worth his while
To waste his time on the old violin,
but he held it up with a smile.
“What am I bid, good people”, he cried,
“Who starts the bidding for me?”
“One dollar, one dollar, Do I hear two?”
“Two dollars, who makes it three?”
“Three dollars once, three dollars twice, going for three,”
From the room far back a gray bearded man
Came forward and picked up the bow,
Then wiping the dust from the old violin
And tightening up the strings,
He played a melody, pure and sweet
As sweet as the angel sings.
The music ceased and the auctioneer
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said “What now am I bid for this old violin?”
As he held it aloft with its’ bow.
“One thousand, one thousand, Do I hear two?”
“Two thousand, Who makes it three?”
“Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
Going and gone”, said he.
The audience cheered,
But some of them cried,
“We just don’t understand.”
“What changed its’ worth?”
Swift came the reply.
“The Touch of the Masters Hand.”
And many a man with life out of tune
All battered with bourbon and gin
Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd
Much like that old violin
A mess of pottage, a glass of wine,
A game and he travels on.
He is going once, he is going twice,
He is going and almost gone.
But the Master comes,
And the foolish crowd never can quite understand,
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
By the Touch of the Masters’ Hand.
As the noted commentator Paul Harvey used to say, “No here is the rest of the story.”
Myra Brooks Welch, who created this poem and other simple lyrical masterpieces, was confined to a wheelchair, disabled from debilitating arthritis which had long ago stolen her ability to play the organ and make music.
Using two pencils, one in each of her crippled hands, Myra began to speak through poetry rather than music. Methodically using the eraser tip of one pencil she would type her words of joy. Words that managed to overcome the excruciating pain in her fingers. Words that would fill her heart with “light” and captivate the souls of others.
Words that became the gift of “The Touch of the Master’s Hand.”
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club(www.MagellanTravelClub.com).
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