The Boot.

From the Italian of Giuseppe Giusti.

I am not made of ordinary stuff,1
Nor am I such a boot as rustics wear ;2
And if my shape seem hewn out in the rough,3
No bungler’s stamp of workmanship I bear :4
With double soles, and action firm and free,5
I’m formed for any work by land or sea.6
Up to mid-thigh I stand, nor ever stir,7
Deep in the water, yet am just as sound ;8
I’m good for sporting, good to wear the spur,9
As many asses to their cost have found :10
All stitched compact and firm by vigorous needle,11
With hem at top, and seam straight down the middle.12
But then, I’m not drawn on with so much ease,13
Nor am I fit for any trifler’s use ;14
A slender foot I should but lame or tease,15
To suit the vulgar leg I should not choose :16
There’s no one yet has kept me on throughout ;17
They’ve worn me just a little, turn about.18
I won’t inflict on you the category19
Of all who’ve tried to get me for their own,20
But only here and there, to fit my story,21
Note such and such, most worthy to be known :22
Relating how my ruin first was planned, :23
And thieves have passed me down from hand to hand.24
You’ll think it past belief, but once I started25
Off at full gallop of my own accord,26
And right across the whole known world I darted,27
Till overhaste betrayed me,—I was floored :28
My equilibrium lost, I lay extended29
This way and that, and so the matter ended.30
A grand confusion followed : o’er me surged31
A flood of every race and savage fashion,32
Tumbling from all outlandish quarters, urged33
By a priest’s counsel, or a demon’s passion34
One seized me by the instep, one the calf,35
And jeering cried, “ Who’ll get the bigger half ?”36
The priest, despite his-cloth, to try the boot37
Upon his own account showed some desire,38
But, finding that I did not suit his foot,39
Hither and thither let me out on hire :40
Now to the earliest bidder in the mart41
He yields me, acting but the boot-jack’s part.42
To wrestle with the priest, and plant his heel43
Firm in me, came a German full of bluster ;44
But oft to bear him home, as turned the wheel,45
Those heels were forced their utmost speed to muster ;46
He tried and tried enough to gall his foot,47
But never yet could pull on all the boot.48
Left for a century upon the shelf,49
A simple trader next I’ll name who wore me,50
Gave me a blacking, made me stir myself,51
And o’er the sea to Eastern climates bore me,52
In rough condition, but a perfect whole,53
And set with good hob-nails about the sole.54
My merchant friend, grown rich, a fitting act55
Deemed it to deck me out with greater cost ;56
Tassels and golden spurs were on me tacked,57
But something of solidity was lost58
And in the long run, finding out the difference,59
For those good primitive nails I own a preference.60
You could not find in me a crack or wrinkle61
When I one day a Western rascal saw62
Leap from his galley plump upon my ankle,63
And try to clutch it with his little claw ;64
But fair and softly—two could play that game ;65
One vesper at Palermo, he went lame.66
Among the other foreign dilettanti,67
A certain King of Spades with all his might68
Would pull me on—but while he toiled and panted69
Found himself planté là in sorry plight ;70
A capon, jealous of the hen-roost, crowed71
And threatened to alarm the neighbourhood.72
In those same times, my fortune’s underminer,73
Cunningly bent its ruin to complete,74
Sprang from his shop a certain Mediciner,75
Who next, to make me easy to his feet,76
And profitable wearing, spun a thread77
Of plots and frauds that o’er three centuries spread.78
He smoothed me, decked me out with tinsel, rubbed79
Unguents and humbugs in at such a rate,80
My very leather into holes was scrubbed,81
And all who since have meddled with my fate82
Set about tinkering me by the receipt83
Of that same school of black and vile deceit.84
Thus harassed, tossed about from hand to hand,85
The aim and object of a harpy-swarm,86
I felt a Frank and Spaniard take their stand,87
Contending which could prove the stronger arm ;88
At length Don Quixote bore me off, but found me89
Crushed out of shape with all the blows around me.90
Those who beheld me on his foot have told me91
This Spaniard wore me in most evil style ;92
He smeared me o’er with paint and varnish, called me93
Most noble, most illustrious ; but the file94
He worked by stealth, and only left me more95
Ragged and tattered than I was before.96
Still half-way down me grew, in vermeil coloured,97
One lily, token of departed splendour ; 98
But this a shameless Pope, of birth dishonoured :99
(To whom all glory may the Devil render),100
Gave the barbarians, making compact base101
To crown a scion of his guilty race.102
Well, from that moment each one at his will103
With awl and shears in cobbler-craft might dabble104
And so from frying-pan to fire I fell ;105
Viceroys, police, and all that sort of tabble,106
To grind me down struck out a new idea,107
Et diviserunt vestimenta mea.108
Thus clutched alternately by paw of famished109
Or vicious beast in rude and clumsy revel,110
That old impression by degrees had vanished111
Of well-cut feet, firm planted on the level,112
Such as without a single step perverse113
Had borne me safely round the universe.114
Ah me ! poor boot, I have been led astray,115
I own it now, by this most foolish notion,116
While yet to walk or run I had free play,117
By stranger legs I would be put in motion,118
Nor from my mind the dangerous dream could pluck,119
That change of limb would bring me change of luck.120
I feel—I own it—but withal I now121
Find myself in so damaged a condition,122
The very ground seems to give way below123
If I attempt one step on self-volition ;124
Long subject td false guides, both great and small,125
I’ve lost the faculty to move at all.126
My greatest grievance, though, to priests is owing127
A sect malignant, void of all discretion :128
And certain poets, race degenerate, growing129
Mere hypocrites, who flatter by profession.130
Say what you please, the Canon-laws prohibit131
That priests in mundane boots their legs exhibit.132
And here I am, meanwhile, threadbare, despised,133
Tattered on every side, all mud and mire ;134
Still for some kind limb’s advent, well advised135
To shake me out and smooth me, I aspire :136
No French or German leg, you understand ;137
I want one grown upon my native land.138
A certain worthy’s once I took on trial ;139
Alas ! my hero would a-wandering go,140
Or might have boasted his, without denial,141
The stoutest boot in the whole world’s dépôt ;142
Ah ! crooked courses ! down the snowdrift came,143
Freezing his limbs, ere half played out the game,144
Patched up again after the ancient style,145
And once more carried to the skinning place,146
I, of prodigious worth and weight erewhile,147
Scarce my original leather now can trace :148
Look you, to piece these various holes of mine149
There’s something wanting more than tacks and twine.150
Both toil and cost it needs, nor too much haste ;151
Each separate shred must be resewn together ;152
The mud cleaned off, the stout old nails replaced,153
Smoothed into shape both calf and upper leather :154
Let this be done, I’ll thank you from my heart ;155
But, oh ! take care who plays the workman’s part !156
Look at me, also, on this side I’m blue,157
There red and white, and up here black and yellow ;—158
A very harlequin of chequered hue ;159
To make my tone harmonious and mellow,160
Remodel me discreetly (may I hint ?)161
All in one piece, and one prevailing tint.162
Search diligently if the world supplies163
A man,—I care not what, so not a coward164
And, when in me his foot securely lies,165
If any prig peer in with schemes untoward166
Of practising once more the usual quacking,167
We’ll pay him off with kicks, and send him packing.168