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Short poem

James Kenneth Stephen (1859-1892)

Steam-launches on the Thames

               Henley, June 7, 1891.

              1Shall we, to whom the stream by right belongs,
              2Who travel silent, save, perchance, for songs;
              3Whose track's a ripple,--leaves the Thames a lake,
              4Nor frights the swan--scarce makes the rushes shake;
              5Who harmonize, exemplify, complete
              6And vivify a scene already sweet:
              7Who travel careless on, from lock to lock,
              8Oblivious that the world contains a clock,
              9With pace commensurate to our desires,
            10Propelled by other force than Stygian fire's;
            11Shall we be driven hence to leave a place
            12For these, who bring upon our stream disgrace:
            13The rush, the roar, the stench, the smoke, the steam,
            14The nightmare striking through our heavenly dream;
            15The scream as shrill and hateful to the ear
            16As when a peacock vents his rage and fear;
            17Which churn to fury all a glassy reach,
            18And heave rude breakers on a pebbly beach:
            19Which half o'erwhelm with waves our frailer craft,
            20While graceless shop-boys chuckle fore and aft:
            21Foul water-toadstools, noisome filth-stained shapes,
            22Fit only to be manned by dogs and apes:
            23Blots upon nature: scars that mar her smile:
            24Obscene, obtrusive, execrable, vile?


1] The Thames flows from the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire eastwards through London into the North Sea.

10] Stygian: hellish, of the river Styx.

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: James Kenneth Stephen, Lapsus Calami, new edn. (Cambridge: Macmillan and Bowes, 1891), p. 77. PR 5473 S4L3 1891 cop. 2 Robarts Library.
First publication date: June 1891
Publication date note: Pall Mall Gazette June 1891
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1998.
Recent editing: 2:2002/2/14

Form: couplets

Other poems by James Kenneth Stephen