No force however great
can stretch a cord however fine
into an horizontal line
which is accurately straight.
Apparently he quoted it when giving a speech at a dinner. I don't know what Whewell's immediate reaction was. The sentence doesn't appear in later editions, but he reworked the whole chapter in which it was found, so that perhaps had nothing to do with the sentence itself. However, if Whewell was embarrassed by it, it was too late. John Radford Young's The Elements of Mechanics (1834) quotes it in a similar discussion; it was given out to the public in magazines like Notes and Queries and Van Nostrand's Eclectic Engineering Magazine; everyone talking about involuntary versification from then on out has used it as an example; and, to take the cake, the Church of Christ, Scientist will be reading it for all time, because Mary Baker Eddy quotes it in Science and Health (attributing it to a "humorous poet" and using it as a metaphor for the relation between matter and spirit).