Guest poem sent in by Tamsin Bacchus Today's poem [Dobson's "On The Hurry Of This Time"] made me think of this by Kipling:
(Poem #1902) The King
"Farewell, Romance!" the Cave-men said; "With bone well carved He went away, Flint arms the ignoble arrowhead, And jasper tips the spear to-day. Changed are the Gods of Hunt and Dance, And He with these. Farewell, Romance!" "Farewell, Romance!" the Lake-folk sighed; "We lift the weight of flatling years; The caverns of the mountain-side Hold him who scorns our hutted piers. Lost hills whereby we dare not dwell, Guard ye His rest. Romance, farewell!" "Farewell, Romance!" the Soldier spoke; "By sleight of sword we may not win, But scuffle 'mid uncleanly smoke Of arquebus and culverin. Honour is lost, and none may tell Who paid good blows. Romance, farewell!" "Farewell, Romance!" the Traders cried; "Our keels have lain with every sea; The dull-returning wind and tide Heave up the wharf where we would be; The known and noted breezes swell Our trudging sails. Romance, farewell!" "Good-bye, Romance!" the Skipper said; "He vanished with the coal we burn. Our dial marks full-steam ahead, Our speed is timed to half a turn. Sure as the ferried barge we ply 'Twixt port and port. Romance, good-bye!" "Romance!" the season-tickets mourn, "He never ran to catch His train, But passed with coach and guard and horn -- And left the local -- late again!" Confound Romance!"... And all unseen Romance brought up the nine-fifteen. His hand was on the lever laid, His oil-can soothed the worrying cranks, His whistle waked the snowbound grade, His fog-horn cut the reeking Banks; By dock and deep and mine and mill The Boy-god reckless laboured still! Robed, crowned and throned, He wove His spell, Where heart-blood beat or hearth-smoke curled, With unconsidered miracle, Hedged in a backward-gazing world: Then taught His chosen bard to say: "Our King was with us -- yesterday!"
Written in 1894 this is so perceptive - the "olden days" were always better and now indeed we regard steam trains as romantic. All over Great Britain there are preserved lines that spend the summer running steam specials for visitors and day trippers who come out just for that whiff of coal dust and romance. (Alas fewer and fewer steam specials on the main lines, health and safety regulations and the generation of engine drivers who qualified to drive steam engines on the public network by the 1960s and so hold the relevant certificates are dying out.) Interesting in this poem is the use of "season ticket" as a term for someone regularly travelling to work by train - there's a specific word for this figure of speech which I've forgotten for the moment. ["metonymy" - ed.] This one did not last, though, and was overtaken by "commuter". (Similarly, in Kipling's novel "The Light that Failed" I came across the use of "to Kodak" as a verb meaning to photograph - another English usage that had a very brief life.) Tamsin Bacchus