The Man Upright
I once spent an evening in a village Where the people are all taken up with tillage, Or do some business in a small way Among themselves, and all the day Go crooked, doubled to half their size, Both working and loafing, with their eyes Stuck in the ground or in a board,-- For some of them tailor, and some of them hoard Pence in a till in their little shops, And some of them shoe-soles -- they get the tops Ready-made from England, and they die cobblers-- All bent up double, a village of hobblers And slouchers and squatters, whether they straggle Up and down, or bend to haggle Over a counter, or bend at a plough, Or to dig with a spade, or to milk a cow, Or to shove the goose-iron stiffly along The stuff on the sleeve-board, or lace the fong In the boot on the last, or to draw the wax-end Tight cross-ways -- and so to make or to mend What will soon be worn out by the crooked people. The only thing straight in the place was the steeple, I thought at first. I was wrong in that; For there past the window at which I sat Watching the crooked little men Go slouching, and with the gait of a hen An odd little woman go pattering past, And the cobbler crouching over his last In the window opposite, and next door The tailor squatting inside on the floor-- While I watched them, as I have said before, And thought that only the steeple was straight, There came a man of a different gait-- A man who neither slouched nor pattered, But planted his steps as if each step mattered; Yet walked down the middle of the street Nor like a policeman on his beat, But like a man with nothing to do Except walk straight upright like me and you.
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