William Cowper

26 November 1731 – 25 April 1800 / Hertfordshire

Verses Written At Bath, On Finding The Heel Of A Shoe

Fortune! I thank thee: gentle goddess! thanks!
Not that my muse, though bashful, shall deny
She would have thank’d thee rather hadst thou cast
A treasure in her way; for neither meed
Of early breakfast, to dispel the fumes,
And bowel-racking pains of emptiness,
Nor noontide feast, nor evening’s cool repast,
Hopes she from this—presumptuous, though, perhaps,
The cobbler, leather-carving artist! might.
Nathless she thanks thee and accepts thy boon,
Whatever; not as erst the fabled cock,
Vain-glorious fool! unknowing what he found,
Spurn’d the rich gem thou gavest him. Wherefore, ah!
Why not on me that favour (worthier sure!)
Conferr’dst thou, goddess! Thou art blind thou say’st:
Enough!—thy blindness shall excuse the deed.
Nor does my muse no benefit exhale
From this thy scant indulgence!—even here
Hints worthy sage philosophy are found;
Illustrious hints, to moralize my song!
This ponderous heel of perforated hide
Compact, with pegs indented, many a row,
Haply (for such its massy form bespeaks)
The weighty tread of some rude peasant clown
Upbore: on this, supported oft, he stretch’d,
With uncouth strides, along the furrow’d glebe,
Flattening the stubborn clod, till cruel time
(What will not cruel time?) on a wry step
Sever’d the strict cohesion; when, alas!
He, who could erst, with even, equal pace,
Pursue his destined way with symmetry,
And some proportion form’d, now on one side
Curtail’d and maim’d, the sport of vagrant boys,
Cursing his frail supporter, treacherous prop!
With toilsome steps, and difficult, moves on.
Thus fares it oft with other than the feet
Of humble villager—the statesman thus,
Up the steep road where proud ambition leads,
Aspiring, first uninterrupted winds
His prosperous way; nor fears miscarriage foul,
While policy prevails, and friends prove true;
But, that support soon failing, by him left
On whom he most depended, basely left,
Betray’d, deserted; from his airy height
Headlong he falls; and through the rest of life
Drags the dull load of disappointment on.
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