The Cockle Shell and the Sea
The Gentleman's Magazine, XXXIII (July, 1813), p. 63
A Cockle Shell, whose slender cup
Had by a wave been lifted up,
And gently lodg'd, secure and sound,
A little way upon the ground,
Yet not so far, but ev'ry day,
She drank the falling of the spray,
Grew vain at length to think that she
Contained a portion of the sea.
"And why not more? (at length she cried)
And why not waves, and why not tide?
Perhaps, though men account me small,
I might on proof contain it all;
'Tis worth the trial; how should I
Be sure I can't, unless I try?"
Fir'd by the grandeur of the thought,
To quit her safe retreat she sought;
And, victim of her idiot pride,
Plung'd downward in the swelling tide:
But now no fav'ring wave was there;
Ambition fled, arose Despair;
When a rude billow, that receiv'd
The wanton fool, now undeceiv'd,
Recoiling, for a moment bore
The buoyant trifle from the shore,
And murmur'd: "Idiot! learn too late
The misery of presumptuous fate.
Of holding seas no longer think:
The waste spray thou no more shall drink.
Know, vain pretender, to thy cost,
Thy small capacity is lost."
Then, flowing with impetuous shock
Against the angle of a rock
The Shell, at one tremendous stroke,
Into an hundred atoms broke.