109At half past nine by the meet'n-house clock, --
110Just the hour of the Earthquake shock!
111What do you think the parson found,
112When he got up and stared around?
113The poor old chaise in a heap or mound,
114As if it had been to the mill and ground!
115You see, of course, if you're not a dunce,
116How it went to pieces all at once, --
117All at once, and nothing first, --
118Just as bubbles do when they burst.
119End of the wonderful one-hoss shay.
120Logic is logic. That's all I say.
1] "`The Wonderful One-Hoss Shay' is a perfectly intelligible conception, whatever material difficulties it presents. It is conceivable that a being of an order superior to humanity should so understand the conditions of matter that he could construct a machine which should go to pieces, if not into its constituent atoms, at a given moment of the future. The mindmay take a certain pleasure in this picture of the impossible. The event follows as a logical consequence of the presupposed condition of things.
There is a practical lesson to be got out of the story. Observation shows us in what point any particular mechanism is most likely to give way. In a wagon, for instance, the weak point is where the axle enters the hub or nave. When the wagon breaks down, three times out of four, I think, it is at this point that the accident occurs. The workman should see to it that this part should never give way; then find the next vulnerable place, and so on, until he arrives logically at the perfect result attained by the deacon." [Holmes' comment, prefacing "an illustrated edition."]
one-hoss shay: one-horse-drawn chaise or carriage. Back to Line
10] Georgius Secundus: George II, king of England (1683-1760). Back to Line
12] Lisbon-town: the Lisbon earthquake took place November 1, 1755, and took as many as 60,000 lives. Back to Line
14] Braddock: Edward Braddock (1695-1755), British general killed by a French and Indian army near Fort Duquesne, Pennsylvania. Back to Line