A chip, in floating down a stream,
Indulged a gratifying dream:
“All things on earth but only I
Are bound by stern necessity —
“Are moved this way or that, their course
Determined by some outer force.
“The helpless boughs upon the trees
Confess the suasion of the breeze.
“The stone where it was placed remains
Till loosened by the frost or rains.
“The animals go here and there,
As circumstances may declare.
“The influence they cannot see
Is clearly visible to me.
“Yet all believe they’re governed still
By nothing but their sovereign will.
“Deluded fools! I — I alone
Obey no forces but my own.
“Without or sail or oar, I glide
At pleasure to the ocean’s tide.
“No pow’r shall stay me till I lave
My body in the salt sea wave.”
Just then an eddy’s gentle strength,
By hardly half a finger’s length,
His chipship drew aside. Said he:
“‘Tis far indeed to reach the sea.”
Now more and more, behold him swerve
Along the eddy’s outer curve.
He says: “My joy in swimming’s o’er:
I’m half inclined to go ashore.”
As still he sweeps along his arc,
He adds: “The day is growing dark,
“But still there’s time to reach, no doubt,
The point from which I first set out.”
The circle was completed quite.
“Right here,” he said. “I’ll pass the night.”
Nor ever once that chip suspected
That aught but he his course deflected.
Free-will, O mortals, is a dream:
Ye all are chips upon a stream.