To gratify stern ambition’s whims,
What hundreds and thousands of precious limbs
On a field of battle we scatter!
Sever’d by sword, or bullet, or saw,
Off they go, all bleeding and raw,—
But the public seems to get the lock-jaw,
So little is said on the matter!
Legs, the tightest that ever were seen,
The tightest, the lightest, that danced on the green,
Cutting capers to sweet Kitty Clover;
Shatter’d, scatter’d, cut, and bowl’d down,
Off they go, worse off for renown,
A line in the Times, or a talk about town,
Than the leg that a fly runs over!
But the Precious Leg of Miss Kilmansegg,
That gowden, goolden, golden leg,
Was the theme of all conversation!
Had it been a Pillar of Church and State,
Or a prop to support the whole Dead Weight,
It could not have furnished more debate
To the heads and tails of the nation!
East and west, and north and south,
Though useless for either hunger or drouth,—
The Leg was in everybody’s mouth,
To use a poetical figure,
Rumor, in taking her ravenous swim,
Saw, and seized on the tempting limb,
Like a shark on the leg of a nigger.
Wilful murder fell very dead;
Debates in the House were hardly read;
In vain the Police Reports were fed
With Irish riots and rumpuses—
The Leg! the Leg! was the great event,
Through every circle in life it went,
Like the leg of a pair of compasses.
The last new Novel seem’d tame and flat,
The Leg, a novelty newer than that,
Had tripp’d up the heels of Fiction!
It Burked the very essays of Burke,
And, alas! how Wealth over Wit plays the Turk!
As a regular piece of goldsmith’s work,
Got the better of Goldsmith’s diction.
“A leg of gold! what, of solid gold?”
Cried rich and poor, and young and old,—
And Master and Miss and Madam—
’Twas the talk of ’Change—the Alley—the Bank—
And with men of scientific rank,
It made as much stir as the fossil shank
Of a Lizard coeval with Adam!
Of course with Greenwich and Chelsea elves,
Men who had lost a limb themselves,
Its interest did not dwindle—
But Bill, and Ben, and Jack, and Tom
Could hardly have spun more yarns therefrom,
If the leg had been a spindle.
Meanwhile the story went to and fro,
Till, gathering like the ball of snow,
By the time it got to Stratford-le-Bow,
Through Exaggeration’s touches,
The Heiress and hope of the Kilmanseggs
Was propp’d on two fine Golden Legs,
And a pair of Golden Crutches!
Never had Leg so great a run!
’Twas the “go” and the “Kick” thrown into one!
The mode—the new thing under the sun,
The rage—the fancy—the passion!
Bonnets were named, and hats were worn,
A la Golden Leg instead of Leghorn,
And stockings and shoes,
Of golden hues,
Took the lead in the walks of fashion!
The Golden Leg had a vast career,
It was sung and danced—and to show how near
Low Folly to lofty approaches,
Down to society’s very dregs,
The Belles of Wapping wore “Kilmanseggs,”
And St. Gile’s Beaux sported Golden Legs
In their pinchbeck pins and brooches!