A Handful of Clay

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A HANDFUL OF CLAY
By Henry van Dyke
Went into Anglisc by Cascadia

 

Þere was a handful of clay in þe bank of an ea. It was only clay, ruff and heafy; but it had hihe þouhts of its own worþ, and wunderful swefens of þe great stead hwic it was to fill in þe world hwen þe time came for its custs to be fund.

Oferhead, in þe spring sunscine, þe trees hwispered togeþer of þe wolder hwic alihted on hem hwen þe nesc blossoms and leafes began to swell, and þe wold glew wiþ fair, hoder hews, as if þe dust of þusands of yims were hanging, in soft cludes, abuf þe earþ.

Þe blossoms, ofercum wiþ þe win of lite, bent hir heads to eac oþer, as þe wind stroked hem, and said: “Susters, hu lufly ye haf becum. Ye make þe day briht.”

Þe ea, glad of new strengþ and feeing in þe oning of all its waters, hwoastered to þe scores in glee, telling of its hafting from isy fetters, its swift fliht from þe snowclad barrows, and þe mihty work to hwic it was hurrying—þe hweels of many mills to be hwarfed, and great scips to be floated to þe sea.

Biding blindly in its bed, þe clay cweemed itself wiþ hihe hopes. “My time will cum,” it said. “Ic was not made to be hidden forefer. Wolder and lite and ore are cumming to me in time.”

One day þe clay felt itself nimmen from þe stead hwere it had bidden so long. A streiht blade of iron went beneaþ it, and lifted it, and þrew it into a crat wiþ oþer clods of clay, and it was born far away, as it felt, ofer a ruff and stony road. But it was not frihtened, nor unheartened, for it said to itself: “Þiss is needful. Þe paþ to wolder is always ruff. Nu ic am on my way to haf a great lot in þe world.”

But þe hard fare was noþing likened wiþ þe swenc and woe þat came after it. Þe clay was put into a troff and monged and beaten and stirred and stamped. It felt almost unbearenly. But þere was liss in þe þouht þat sumþing mihty good and aþel was wisly cumming ute of all þiss trey. Þe clay felt wiss þat, if it cud only bide long enuff, a wunderful meed was ahead of it.

Þen it was put on a swiftly hwarfing hweel, and spun abute hent it felt as if it must fly into a þusand bits. A ferly miht þrucced it and scaped it, as it hwarfed, and þruhe all þe disiness and trey it felt þat it was becumming a new scape.

Þen an unknown hand put it into an ofen, and fires were tended abute it—reeþ and boring—hotter þan all þe heats of summer þat had efer brooded on þe bank of þe ea. But þruhe all, þe clay held itself togeþer and þoled its swences, In þe wissness of greatness to cum. “Wisly,” it þouht, “ic am meant for sumþing mihty wunderful, siþ suc work is done to me. Maybe ic am made for þe agraiþing of an allow, or a worþful pot for þe beed of a king.” At last þe baking was done. Þe clay was nimmen from þe ofen and set dune on a board, in þe cool lift, under þe hewn heafen. Þe swenc had gone by. Þe meed was at hand.

Nihe beside þe board þere was a pool of water, not all þat deep, nor hoder, but still enuff to glass, wiþ stark trewþ, efery siht þat fell on it. Þere, for þe first time, as it was lifted from þe board, þe clay saw its new scape, þe meed of all its þild and trey, þe hihþ of its hopes—an eferyday wortpot, streiht and stiff, red and unsihtly. And þen it felt þat it was not made for a kings huse, nor for a huse of crafts, for þat it was made wiþute wolder or lite or ore; and it hwoastered ayens þe unknown maker, saying, “Hwy hast þu made me þuss?”

Many days it spent in glum wanhope. Þen it was filled wiþ earþ, and sumþing—it knew not hwat—but sumþing ruff and brune and deadlooking, was scufed into þe earþs middel and þacced ofer. Þe clay nettelled at þiss new scand. “Þiss is þe wirst of all þat has befallen me, to be filled wiþ hore and ceaff. Wisly ic am wrecced.”

But nu it was set in a greenhuse, hwere þe sunliht fell warm on it, and water was springed ofer it, and day by day as it bode, a wend began to cum ofer it. Sumþing was stirring wiþin it—a new hope. Still it was nitten, and knew not hwat þe new hope meant.

One day þe clay was lifted ayen from its stead, and born into a great circ. Its swefen was cumming trew after all. It had a good standing in þe world. Þromfast soon flowed ofer it. It was beclipt wiþ blossoms. Still it cud not understand. So it hwispered to anoþer clay pot, like itself, nihe beside it, “Hwy haf hy set me here? Hwy look all þe folk toward us?” And þe oþer pot answered, “Knowest þu not? Þu bist bearing a kinyard of lillies. Hir leafes are hwite as snow, and hir hearts sind as lutter gold. Þe folk look þiss way for þat þe blossom is þe most wunderful in þe world. And þe more of it is in þy heart.”

Þen þe clay was cweem, and þanked its maker, for þat, þauh an earþen pot, it held suc great sink.