Tuesday 5 January 2016

The Semantics of Line Drawings VIII, "The Two Giants of the Time"

[ The Semantics of Line Drawings VII, Why Study Morphisms? | The Semantics of Line Drawings IX, Prosopification ]

Here's a poem from Punch Volume XXXIII, 1857. I'm going to use it as an example of something, but I found it striking and definitely worth a blog entry of its own. It's on the left of page 132, which I've shown below in its entirety, followed by a bigger copy of the picture at the top of the poem and the transcribed text. I bought the Punch in an Oxford market: checking online, I see that the Internet Archive has a copy.



“WHAT can we two great Forces do?”
Said Steam to Electricity,
“To better the case of the human race,
And promote mankind’s felicity?”

Electricity said, “From far lands sped,
Through a wire, with a thought’s velocity,
What tidings I bear! — of deeds that were
ever passed yet for atrocity.”

“Both land and sea,” said Steam, “by me,
At the rate of a bird men fly over;
But the quicker they speed to kill and bleed,
A thought to lament and sigh over.”

“The world, you see.” Electricity
Remarked, “thus far is our debtor,
That it faster goes; but, goodness knows,
It doesn’t get on much better.”

“Well, well,” said Steam, with whistle and scream,
“Herein we help morality;
That means we make to overtake
Rebellion and rascality.”

“Sure enough, that’s true, and so we do,”
Electricity responded.
“Through us have been caught, and to justice brought,
Many scoundrels who had absconded.”

Said Steam, “I hope we shall get the rope
round the necks of the Sepoy savages,
In double quick time, to avenge their crime,
And arrest their murders and ravages.”

“We’ve been overpraised,” said both; “we raised
Too sanguine expectations:
But with all our might, we haven’t yet quite
Regenerated the nations.

“We’re afraid we shan't — we suspect we can’t
Cause people to change their courses;
Locomotive powers alone are ours:
But the world wants motive forces.”

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