Sunday, 20 October 2013

"What Now Am I Bid For This Old Violin?"


So finally, Wallace Hartley’s violin has been sold. The one he played as the Titanic sank – a gift from his fiancée Maria. Not a particularly valuable violin in terms of its original cost – but auctioned for the amazing sum of £900,000 because of its history.

titanic sinks

Regular readers will know I am fascinated by the Titanic – grandad’s cousin was a survivor. But as I listened to the BBC news yesterday afternoon, I was reminded of an old poem about the auction of a violin. It was written in 1921, and sounds rather quaint and old-fashioned to our modern ears. But my Dad knew this piece by heart and even now I can hear him saying it.

'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,"

But, No,
From the room far back a grey 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 Master’s Hand."

And many a man with life out of tune
All battered and scarred with sin
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 Master’s Hand.

Myra Brooks Welch


  1. oh, thank you! It's such a long time since i heard or read that poem! Great literature it isn't, but a great truth nonetheless.

  2. That poem always brings a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat.

    It's very touching to think of that violin being played as the great ship sank, and the hearts of all around must have been filled with fear.

  3. Jo told us this week that his violin teacher played one of the musicians in the De Caprio Titanic movie. Not sure which one...

  4. Aw, I love that! I am also fascinated by the Titanic.

  5. Now I understand your comment on my Facebook!!

  6. I love that poem. Oh it's so true and so poignant!


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