William Cowper

26 November 1731 – 25 April 1800 / Hertfordshire

An Enigma

A needle, small as small can be,
In bulk and use surpasses me,
Nor is my purchase dear;
For little, and almost for nought
As many of my kind are bought
As days are in the year.

Yet though but little use we boast,
And are procured at little cost,
The labour is not light;
Nor few artificers it asks,
All skilful in their several tasks,
To fashion us aright,

One fuses metal o’er the fire,
A second draws it into wire,
The shears another plies;
Who clips in length the brazen thread
From him who, chafing every shred,
Gives all an equal size.

A fifth prepares, exact and round,
The knob with which it must be crown’d;
His follower makes it fast;
And with his mallet and his file
To shape the point, employs awhile
The seventh and the last.

Now, therefore, Œdipus! declare
What creature, wonderful, and rare,
A process that obtains
Its purpose with so much ado
At last produces!—tell me true,
And take me for your pains!
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