The Deacon’s Masterpiece
Have you heard of the wonderful one-hoss shay,That was built in such a logical wayIt ran a hundred years to a day,And then, of a sudden, it—ah, but stay,I’ll tell you what happened without delay,Scaring the parson into fits,Frightening people out of their wits,—Have you ever heard of that, I say?
Seventeen hundred and fifty-five,Georgius Secundus was then alive,—Snuffy old drone from the German hive;That was the year when Lisbon-townSaw the earth open and gulp her down,And Braddock’s army was done so brown,Left without a scalp to its crown.It was on the terrible earthquake-dayThat the Deacon finished the one-hoss-shay.
Now in building of chaises, I tell you what,There is always somewhere a weakest spot,—In hub, tire, felloe, in spring or thill,In panel, or crossbar, or floor, or sill,
In screw, bolt, thoroughbrace,—lurking still,Find it somewhere you must and will,—Above or below, or within or without,—And that’s the reason, beyond a doubt,A chaise breaks down, but doesn’t wear out.
But the Deacon swore (as Deacons do,With an “I dew vum,” or an “I tell yeou,”)He would build one shay to beat the taown’n’ the keounty ’n’ all the kentry raoun’;It should be so built that it couldn’ break daown!—“Fur,” said the Deacon, “’t’s mighty plainThut the weakes’ place mus’ stan’ the strain;’n’ the way t’ fix it, uz I maintain,Is only jestT’ make that place uz strong uz the rest.”
So the Deacon inquired of the village folkWhere he could find the strongest oak,That couldn’t be split nor bent nor broke,—
That was for spokes and floor and sills;He sent for lancewood to make the thills;The crossbars were ash, from the straightest trees,The panels of whitewood, that cuts like cheese,But lasts like iron for things like these;The hubs of logs from the “Settler’s ellum,”—Last of its timber,—they couldn’t sell ’em,Never an axe had seen their chips,And the wedges flew from between their lipTheir blunt ends frizzled like celery-tips;Step and prop-iron, bolt and screw,Spring, tire, axle, and linchpin too,Steel of the finest, bright and blue;Thoroughbrace bison-skin, thick and wide;Boot, top, dasher, from tough old hideFound in the pit when the tanner died.That was the way he “put her through.”“There!” said the Deacon, “naow she’ll dew.”
Do! I tell you, I rather guessShe was a wonder, and nothing less!
Colts grew horses, beards turned gray,Deacon and deaconess dropped away,Children and grandchildren—where were they?But there stood the stout old one-hoss-shayAs fresh as on Lisbon-earthquake-day!
Eighteen Hundred;—it came and foundThe Deacon’s Masterpiece strong and sound.Eighteen hundred increased by ten;—“Hahnsum kerridge” they called it then.Eighteen hundred and twenty came;—Running as usual; much the same.Thirty and forty at last arrive,And then come fifty, and FIFTY-FIVE....