FROM THE ‘KEEPSAKE’
THE ‘DAILY NEWS’
I.—THE BRITISH LION
VERSES FROM THE ‘DAILY NEWS,’ 1846
The Daily News, it will be remembered, was founded in January 1846 by Charles Dickens, who officiated as its first editor. He soon sickened of the mechanical drudgery appertaining to the position, and resigned his editorial functions the following month. From January 21st to March 2nd he contributed to its columns a series of ‘Travelling Sketches,’ afterwards reprinted in volume form as Pictures from Italy. He also availed himself of the opportunity afforded him, by his association with that newspaper, of once more taking up the cudgels against the Tories, and, as in the case of the Examiner, his attack was conveyed through the medium of some doggerel verses. These were entitled ‘The British Lion—A New Song, but an Old Story,’ to be sung to the tune of ‘The Great Sea-Snake.’ They bore the signature of ‘Catnach,’ the famous ballad-singer, and were printed in the Daily News of January 24, 1846.
Three weeks later some verses of a totally different character appeared in the columns of the Daily News, signed in full ‘Charles Dickens.’ One Lucy Simpkins, of Bremhill (or Bremble), a parish in Wiltshire, had just previously addressed a night meeting of the wives of agricultural labourers in that county, in support of a petition for Free Trade, and her vigorous speech on that occasion inspired Dickens to write ‘The Hymn of the Wiltshire Labourers,’ thus offering an earnest protest against oppression. Concerning the ‘Hymn,’ a writer in a recent issue of Christmas Bells observes: ‘It breathes in every line the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount, the love of the All-Father, the Redemption by His Son, and that love to God and man on which hang all the law and the prophets.’
THE BRITISH LION
A NEW SONG, BUT AN OLD STORY
Tune—‘The Great Sea-Snake’
Oh, p’r’aps you may have heard, and if not, I’ll sing Of the British Lion free, That was constantly a-going for to make a spring Upon his en-e-me; But who, being rather groggy at the knees, Broke down, always, before; And generally gave a feeble wheeze Instead of a loud roar. Right toor rol, loor rol, fee faw fum, The British Lion bold! That was always a-going for to do great things, And was always being ‘sold!’ He was carried about, in a carawan, And was show’d in country parts, And they said, ‘Walk up! Be in time! He can Eat Corn-Law Leagues like tarts!’ And his showmen, shouting there and then, To puff him didn’t fail, And they said, as they peep’d into his den, ‘Oh, don’t he wag his tail!’ Now, the principal keeper of this poor old beast, Wan Humbug was his name, Would once ev’ry day stir him up—at least— And wasn’t that a Game! For he hadn’t a tooth, and he hadn’t a claw, In that ‘Struggle’ so ‘Sublime’; And, however sharp they touch’d him on the raw, He couldn’t come up to time. And this, you will observe, was the reason why Wan Humbug, on weak grounds, Was forced to make believe that he heard his cry In all unlikely sounds. So, there wasn’t a bleat from an Essex Calf, Or a Duke, or a Lordling slim; But he said, with a wery triumphant laugh, ‘I’m blest if that ain’t him.’ At length, wery bald in his mane and tail, The British Lion growed: He pined, and declined, and he satisfied The last debt which he owed. And when they came to examine the skin, It was a wonder sore, To find that the an-i-mal within Was nothing but a Boar! Right toor rol, loor rol, fee faw fum, The British Lion bold! That was always a-going for to do great things, And was always being ‘sold!’
II. THE HYMN OF THE WILTSHIRE LABOURERS
THE HYMN OF THE WILTSHIRE LABOURERS
‘Don’t you all think that we have a great need to Cry to our God to put it in the hearts of our greassous Queen and her Members of Parlerment to grant us free bread!’
Lucy Simpkins, at Bremhill.
Oh God, who by Thy Prophet’s hand Didst smite the rocky brake, Whence water came, at Thy command, Thy people’s thirst to slake; Strike, now, upon this granite wall, Stern, obdurate, and high; And let some drops of pity fall For us who starve and die! The God, who took a little child, And set him in the midst, And promised him His mercy mild, As, by Thy Son, Thou didst: Look down upon our children dear, So gaunt, so cold, so spare, And let their images appear Where Lords and Gentry are! Oh God, teach them to feel how we, When our poor infants droop, Are weakened in our trust in Thee, And how our spirits stoop; For, in Thy rest, so bright and fair, All tears and sorrows sleep: And their young looks, so full of care, Would make Thine Angels weep! The God, who with His finger drew The Judgment coming on, Write, for these men, what must ensue, Ere many years be gone! Oh God, whose bow is in the sky, Let them not brave and dare, Until they look (too late) on high, And see an Arrow there! Oh God, remind them! In the bread They break upon the knee, These sacred words may yet be read, ‘In memory of Me!’ Oh God, remind them of His sweet Compassion for the poor, And how He gave them Bread to eat, And went from door to door!
FROM THE ‘KEEPSAKE’