Spotlight Saturday: Wilfrid Wilson Gibson


In my sophomore English class I was instructed to read this poem with a partner (who I couldn't stand and who couldn't stand me) and tell the entire class what it was about.  I remember skimming over the text and picking out a few key words on which I would base my speech.  When it came time for she and I to give our opinion I was mortified when the teacher literally sighed and shook her head.  We had missed the entire point and failed the assignment.  Because of that I went back that night with my book and really read the poem.  I felt ashamed that I had almost missed reading this touching verse because I was distracted by someone who I didn't get along with.

The Stone
Wilfrid Wilson Gibson

“And will you cut a stone for him,
To set above his head?
And will you cut a stone for him-
A stone for him?” she said.

Three days before a splintered rock
Had struck her lover dead-
Where, careless of the warning call,
He loitered, while the shot was fired-
A lively stripling, brave and tall,
And sure of all his hear desired…
A flash, a shock,
A rumbling fall…
And, broken ‘neath the broken rock
A lifeless heap, with face of clay,
And still as any stone he lay,
With eyes that saw the end of all

I went to break the news to her.
And I could hear my own heart beat
With fear of what my kips might say;
But some poor fool had sped before;
And, flinging wide her father’s door,
Had blurted out the news to her,
Had struck her lover dead for her,
And struck the girl’s heart dead in her,
Had struck life, lifeless, at a word
And dropped it at her feet:
Then hurried on his wistless way,
Scare knowing she had heard
And when I came, she stood alone-
A woman, turned to stone:
And, though no word at all, she said,
I knew that all was known.

Because her heart was dead,
She did not sigh nor moan.
His mother wept:
She could not weep
Her lover slept:
She could not sleep.
Three days, three nights,
She did not stir:
Three days, three nights,
Were one to her
Who never closed her eyes,
From sunset to sunrise,
From dawn to evenfall,
Her tearless, staring eyes,
That, seeing naught, saw all.

The fourth night when I came from work,
I found her at my door.
“And will you cut a stone for him?”
She said: And spoke no more:
But followed me as I went in,
And sank upon a chair;
And fixed her grey eyes on my face,
With still, unseeing stare.

And, as she waited patiently,
I could not bear to feel
Those still, grey eyes that followed me,
Those eyes the plucked the heart from me,
Those eyes that sucked the breath from me,
And curdled the warm blood in me,
Those eyes that cut me to the bone,
And pierced my marrow like cold steel.

And so I rose, and sought a stone;
And cut it, smooth and square;
And, as I worked, she sat and watched,
Beside me, in her chair.
Night after night, so still and white,
And like a ghost she came,
And sat beside me, in her chair,
And watched with eyes aflame.
She eyes each stroke,
And hardly stirred:
She never spoke
A single word:
And not a sound or murmur broke
The silence, save the mallet stroke.

With still eyes ever on my hands,
With eyes that seemed to burn my hands,
My wincing, overwearied hands,
She watched, with bloodless lips apart,
And silent, indrawn breath:
And every stroke my chisel cut,
Death cut still deeper in her heart:
The two of us were chiseling,
Together, I and Death.

And when at length, the job was done,
And I had laid the mallet by,
As if, at last, her peace were won,
She breathed his name; and, with a sigh,
Passed slowly through the open door;
And never crossed my threshold more.

Next night I labored late, alone,
To cut her name upon the stone.

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