The Flatting Mill.

A poem by William Cowper

An Illustration.


When a bar of pure silver or ingot of gold
Is sent to be flatted or wrought into length,
It is pass’d between cylinders often, and roll’d
In an engine of utmost mechanical strength.


Thus tortured and squeezed, at last it appears
Like a loose heap of ribbon, a glittering show,
Like music it tinkles and rings in your ears,
And, warm’d by the pressure, is all in a glow.


This process achieved, it is doom’d to sustain
The thump after thump of a gold-beater’s mallet,
And at last is of service in sickness or pain
To cover a pill for a delicate palate.


Alas for the poet! who dares undertake
To urge reformation of national ill—
His head and his heart are both likely to ache
With the double employment of mallet and mill.


If he wish to instruct, he must learn to delight,
Smooth, ductile, and even his fancy must flow,
Must tinkle and glitter, like gold to the sight,
And catch in its progress a sensible glow.


After all he must beat it as thin and as fine
As the leaf that enfolds what an invalid swallows;
For truth is unwelcome, however divine,
And unless you adorn it, a nausea follows.

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