Feet of Clay: a poem

Feet of Clay

Oh, great works of suffering men. 
When will you learn? When, when, when? 
Grand statues built with pride 
for common man to bow down
Thou men of power, 
Thy gods of gold 
above all
The high and mighty
in marble cold.
Until that is,
they fall. 
Then you shall see	
as clear as day
that all 
they have is
feet of clay. 

At whose feet, 
carved in stone, 
Dead soldiers lie 

Lesley Scoble   January 2023

A little bit about the origin of ‘feet of clay

My poem Feet of Clay relates back to a story from biblical times. The tale is told in the Book of Daniel, written circa 165 BC.

Daniel was an advisor to a despotic tyrant Nebuchadnezzar (I’ll call him Neb for short). Neb had a dream. He dreamt about a small rock smashing up an impressive statue and wanted to know what it meant.

Under threat of death, Daniel interpreted Neb’s dream to the tyrant’s satisfaction. Who, as a reward, promoted Daniel to chief advisor (I understand other advisors who didn’t tell Neb what his dream meant suffered being put to death).

In those days, they constructed particular features of a sculpture in different metals—depending on importance. For instance, they sculpted the head in gold while they cast other parts in lesser materials. Bronze and terracotta, for example. Feet were at the bottom of the value hierarchy. They were formed using the cheaper alloy iron and clay. Therefore, if you were to bash the feet of a sculpture with a small rock, it attacks the weak spot (the Achilles heel, so to speak) and will bring the symbol of power tumbling down. 

Daniel interpreted Neb’s dream in such a way that his wise analogy is still in our psyche today as a wisdom quote (and title to my poem).
btw In due course, the small rock became an enormous mountain. 

Daniel’s story shows how easily our idols can fall. 

Need a small rock, anyone?


It might interest you to know that the legendary group ABBA quote feet of clay in their famous song, HAPPY NEW YEAR.

How the brave new world arrives
And I see how it thrives
In the ashes of our lives
Oh yes, man is a fool
And he thinks he’ll be okay
Dragging on, feet of clay
Never knowing he’s astray
Keeps on going anyway

Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson 
Thank you Sadje for hosting What do you see challenge #168 . The above picture is the prompt inspiration to write a poem. I wrote my poem Feet of Clay in response to this challenge. 
Image credit: Cottonbro studio @ Pexels
ABBA Lyrics: Björn Ulvvaeus and Benny Andersson.

post script

Go check out some great poets writing about the same prompt photo. You can access them here.

4 responses to “Feet of Clay: a poem”

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