The Distressed Travellers; Or, Labour In Vain.

A poem by William Cowper

A New Song, to a Tune never sung before.

I sing of a journey to Clifton,[1]
We would have performed, if we could;
Without cart or barrow, to lift on
Poor Mary[2] and me through the mud.
Slee, sla, slud,
Stuck in the mud;
Oh it is pretty to wade through a flood!

So away we went, slipping and sliding;
Hop, hop, à la mode de deux frogs;
‘Tis near as good walking as riding,
When ladies are dressed in their clogs.
Wheels, no doubt,
Go briskly about,
But they clatter and rattle, and make such a rout.
“Well! now, I protest it is charming;
How finely the weather improves!
That cloud, though ‘tis rather alarming,
How slowly and stately it moves.”
“Pshaw! never mind,
‘Tis not in the wind,
We are travelling south, and shall leave it behind.”
“I am glad we are come for an airing,
For folks may be pounded, and penn’d,
Until they grow rusty, not caring
To stir half a mile to an end.”
“The longer we stay,
The longer we may;
It’s a folly to think about weather or way.”
“But now I begin to be frighted,
If I fall, what a way I should roll!
I am glad that the bridge was indicted,
Stay! stop! I am sunk in a hole!”
“Nay never care,
‘Tis a common affair;
You’ll not be the last that will set a foot there.”
“Let me breathe now a little, and ponder
On what it were better to do;
That terrible lane I see yonder,
I think we shall never get through.”
“So think I:—
But, by the bye,
We never shall know, if we never should try.”
“But should we get there, how shall we get home
What a terrible deal of bad road we have past!
Slipping, and sliding, and if we should come
To a difficult stile, I am ruin’d at last!
Oh this lane!
Now it is plain
That struggling and striving is labour in vain.”
“Stick fast there while I go and look;”
“Don’t go away, for fear I should fall:”
“I have examined it, every nook,
And what you see here is a sample of all.
Come, wheel round,
The dirt we have found
Would be an estate, at a farthing a pound.”

Now, sister Anne,[3] the guitar you must take,
Set it, and sing it, and make it a song:
I have varied the verse, for variety’s sake,
And cut it off short—because it was long.
‘Tis hobbling and lame,
Which critics won’t blame,
For the sense and the sound, they say, should be the same.

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