The touch of the Master’s hand

G. Sam Piatt

After an absence of many years, I took a trip down into some Bath County farm country where we used to hunt cottontails, just for nostalgia’s sake if nothing else. At one farm we used to hunt, one where the farmer had taken great pride in keeping the place neat and functional, I found the house empty, the roof sagging, and weeds growing up through broken window panes. A tractor and a hay baler sat rusting by a dilapidated barn. The tin roof had been rolled back by wind, boards were missing from its sides, and the whole structure seemed to lean a bit to the right.

The older generation had moved to Heaven; the younger generation to town.

As I stood and looked one last time at that forlorn farmhouse, I thought of a poem I had been reading as I sat at the hearth of my own home. “A House with Nobody in It” was written by Joyce Kilmer about a house he passed on a road through the countryside. Part of it reads:

“Whenever I walk to Suffern along the Erie track

I go by a poor old farmhouse with its shingles broken and black.

I suppose I’ve passed it a hundred times, but I always stop for a minute

And look at the house, the tragic house, the house with nobody in it.

“…a house that has done what a house should do, a house that has sheltered life,

That has put its loving wooden arms around a man and his wife,

A house that has echoed a baby’s laugh and held up his stumbling feet,

Is the saddest sight, when it’s left alone, that ever your eyes could meet.

“So whenever I go to Suffern along the Erie track

I never go by the empty house without stopping and looking back.

Yet it hurts me to look at the crumbling roof and the shutters fallen apart,

For I can’t help thinking the poor old house is a house with a broken heart.”


I was looking for a piece of information around my work station at home when a poem jumped out of a desk drawer as if begging to be published.


I know you’ll recall having heard this one before. It’s titled “A Touch of the Master’s Hand”:

It was battered and scarred and the auctioneer

Thought it scarcely worth the while,

To waste much time on the old violin

But he held it up with a smile.

What am I bid for this old violin?

Who will start the bidding for me?

A dollar, a dollar, who’ll make it two;

Two dollars and who’ll make it three?

Three dollars once, three dollars twice;

Going for three, but no;

From the back of the room a gray-haired man

Came forward and took up the bow.

Then wiping the dust from the old violin

And tightening up all the strings

He played a melody pure and sweet

As sweet as the angels sing.

The music closed and the auctioneer

With a voice that was sweet and low

Said, “What am I bid for this old violin?”

And he held it up with the bow.

“A thousand dollars and who’ll make it two?

Two thousand and who’ll make it three?

Three thousand once, three thousand twice,

Going and gone,” said he.

The people cheered but some of them said

We do not quite understand.

What changed it’s worth – came the reply:

“Twas the touch of the Master’s hand.”

And many a man with his life out of tune

And battered and scarred with sin

Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd

Much like the old violin.

A mess of pottage, a glass of wine

A game and he shuffles along,

He’s going once, he’s going twice,

He’s going and almost gone.

But the Master comes and the thoughtless crowd

Never can quite understand

The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought

By the touch of the Master’s hand.

G. Sam Piatt

Reach G. Sam Piatt at [email protected] or 606-932-3619.

Reach G. Sam Piatt at [email protected] or 606-932-3619.