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The Poets and the Horse Collar

A Horse Collar

A Horse Collar

Cottle, in his life of Coleridge, relates the following amusing incident:–’I led my horse to the stable, where a sad perplexity arose. I removed the harness without difficulty; but, after many strenuous attempts, I could not remove the collar. In despair, I called for assistance, when Mr. Wordsworth brought his ingenuity into exercise; but, after several unsuccessful efforts, he relinquished the achievement as a thing altogether impracticable. Mr. Coleridge now tried his hand, but showed no more skill than his predecessor; for, after twisting the poor horse’s neck almost to strangulation, and the great danger of his eyes, he gave up the useless task, pronouncing that the horse’s head must have grown since the collar was put on; for he said,“it was a downright impossibility for such a huge os frontis to pass through so narrow an aperture.” Just at this instant, a servant-girl came near, and understanding the cause of our consternation, “Ha! master,” said she, “you don’t go about the work in the right way: you should do like this,” when, turning the collar upside down, she slipped it off in a moment, to our great humiliation and wonderment, each satisfied afresh that there were heights of knowledge in the world to which we had not yet attained.—William Evans Burton, The Cyclopædia of Wit and Humor, 1898