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James Kenneth Stephen (1859-1892)

England and America


1. ON A RHINE STEAMER
              1Republic of the West,
              2  Enlightened, free, sublime,
              3Unquestionably best
              4  Production of our time.

              5The telephone is thine,
              6  And thine the Pullman Car,
              7The caucus, the divine
              8  Intense electric star.

              9To thee we likewise owe
            10  The venerable names
            11Of Edgar Allan Poe,
            12  And Mr. Henry James.

            13In short it's due to thee,
            14  Thou kind of Western star,
            15That we have come to be
            16  Precisely what we are.

            17But every now and then,
            18  It cannot be denied,
            19You breed a kind of men
            20  Who are not dignified,

            21Or courteous or refined,
            22  Benevolent or wise,
            23Or gifted with a mind
            24  Beyond the common size,

            25Or notable for tact,
            26  Agreeable to me,
            27Or anything, in fact,
            28  That people ought to be.

2. ON A PARISIAN BOULEVARD
              1Britannia rules the waves,
              2  As I have heard her say;
              3She frees whatever slaves
              4  She meets upon her way.

              5A teeming mother she
              6  Of Parliaments and Laws;
              7Majestic, mighty, free:
              8  Devoid of common flaws.

              9For here did Shakspere write
            10  His admirable plays:
            11For her did Nelson fight
            12  And Wolseley win his bays.

            13Her sturdy common sense
            14  Is based on solid grounds:
            15By saving numerous pence
            16  She spends effective pounds.

            17The Saxon and the Celt
            18  She equitably rules;
            19Her iron rod is felt
            20  By countless knaves and fools.

            21In fact, mankind at large,
            22  Black, yellow, white and red,
            23Is given to her in charge,
            24  And owns her as a head.

            25But every here and there--
            26  Deny it if you can--
            27She breeds a vacant stare
            28  Unworthy of a man:

            29A look of dull surprise;
            30  A nerveless idle hand:
            31An eye which never tries
            32  To threaten or command:

            33In short, a kind of man,
            34  If man indeed he be,
            35As worthy of our ban
            36  As any that we see:

            37Unspeakably obtuse,
            38  Abominably vain,
            39Of very little use,
            40  And execrably plain.

Notes

1.6] Pullman car: a luxurious passenger railway car, named after the American George Pullman.

1.7] caucus: a closed meeting of (elected) members of a political party.

1.11] Edgar Allan Poe: US poet and story writer (1809-49).

1.12] Mr. Henry James: US fiction writer, best known later for works such as The Wings of the Dove (1902) and The Ambassadors (1903).

2.9] William Shakespeare (1564-1616).

2.11] Horatio Nelson (1758-1805), admiral and victor over Napoleon.

2.12] Wolseley: Garnet Joseph Wolseley (1833-193), British field marshall.

2.35] ban: censure.


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: J. K. Stephen, Lapsus Calami, new edn. (Cambridge: Macmillan and Bowes, 1891), pp. 59-62. PR 5473 S4L3 1891 Robarts Library.
First publication date: 1891
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1997.
Recent editing: 2:2002/2/6

Rhyme: abab


Other poems by James Kenneth Stephen