The speaker’s friend gives him a gift of soft homemade socks. He tries them on and finds them very beautiful. The poem personifies his new socks alternately as fish, sharks, blackbirds, and cannons. The speaker feels that his feet are honored by wearing these heavenly socks. Then, he comes to see his feet as unacceptable in comparison to the socks, and unworthy of wearing them. He imagines saving the socks, and in a series of metaphors examines this impulse. But he resists and, with remorse, puts them on, along with his shoes. He offers a tongue-in-cheek moral to his story: goodness and beauty are doubly so when we’re talking about socks, because they come in pairs. The serious point behind the joke is that ordinary objects are wonderful because of, not in spite of, their utility.