The Distressed Traveller

Communicated by Miss F. Richardson

The Distressed Traveller, or Labour in Vain
Written by Cowper — not published

I sing of a journey to Clifton
We would have perform’d if we could,
Without cart or barrow to lift on
Poor Mary1 and me through the mud.
 Slee slee slud
 Stuck in the mud.
Oh! it is pretty to wade this 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.


She: “Well now I protest it is charming,
  How finely the weather improves,
  That cloud tho’, looks rather alarming,
  How slowly and stately it moves.”

He: “Pshaw, never mind, ’tis not in the wind,
  We are travelling south, and shall leave it behind.”

She: “I’m glad we’re come out for an airing
  For folks may be pounded and pen’d,
  Until they grow musty, not caring,
  To stir half a mile to an end.”

He: “The longer we stay, the longer we may,
  ’Tis a folly to think about weather or day.”

She: “But now I begin to be frighted,
  If I fall, what a way I shall roll!
  I’m glad that the Bridge is indicted,
  Stay, stop, I am stuck in a hole!”

He: “Nay, never care, ’tis a common affair,
  You’ll not be the last that will set a foot there.”

She: “Let me breathe now and ponder,
  On what it were better to do,
  That terrible lane I see yonder
  I think I shall never get thro’”

He: “So think I, but by the bye,
  We never shall know, if we never do try.”

She: “But should we get there, how shall we get home
  What a terrible deal of bad road we have pass’d,
  Slipping and sliding, and if we should come,
  To a difficult stile, I’m mir’d at last.
  Oh! this lane, now it is plain,
  That slipping and sliding is labour in vain.”

He: “Stick fast there, while I go and look.”

She: “Don’t go away for fear I should fall.”

He: “I’ve examin’d it every nook,
  And what we have 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 Anne2 the guitar you must take,
Sit it and sing it and make it a song:
I’ve varied the verse for vanity’s sake,
And cut it off short, that it might not be long,
’Tis hobbling and lame, which critics won’t blame,
As the sense and the sound, they say, should be the same.

  1. Mrs Unwin 

  2. Lady Austin.