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"The Storm"

Herman Charles Merivale

"The Storm" (January 1881), from Rhymes for the Times, in The White Pilgrim (1883)

This late-Victorian satire invokes Frankenstein as an analogue for the politician Northcote, "shrink[ing] from the monster he made."

The Storm

Dame Nature, perusing the newspaper page,
Jumped out of her bed in a deuce of a rage;
And swore by all Saints to the Calendar known,
She would prove on the spot she'd a will of her own.
"I have waited and waited," quoth she, "by the Mass,
In the hope things might come to a likelier pass;
When sham 'Peace and Honour' were kicked out o' door,
I swore to give England a chance or two more.
In return for that kicking, I gave her a year
To the heart of the Briton I thought might be dear;
With a warm sun above him, a kind earth below,
And seasons as true as the ocean at flow --
When crops might all flourish, and harvest increase,
And Trade lift her head for a worthier peace;
When Zulus and Afghans might rest on their oars,
And B-rtle be fêted on civilised shores;
I drank power to his elbow, though under the sun
B-rtle's elbow had wrought all the harm to be done --
Believing, at least, the small reason of men
Would prevent him from shaking that elbow again.
I bowed out my D-zzy, nor grudged him the while
Of my sister, Dame Fortune, the kindliest smile,
(For though Truth in the end should compel us to flee him
We both of us know a big man when we see him):
I bowed in my Gl-dst-n-, right worthy to share
By Tories created, by Tories deplored,
In the Queen's House of Commons mere Brass is the lord;
Sleek N-rthc-t- calls angels and saints to his aid,
And like Frankenstein shrinks from the monster he made,
And while his poor hands he in humbleness rubs,
The Tory bear-leader is led by his cubs;
St. Stephen's still echoes the infantine Ch-rch-ll
(Whose pedagogues, surely, used ruler and birch ill,
When they fostered the pea in its juvenile pod,
And ruined the child by avoiding the rod).
While S-l-sbr-y utters his figments serene,
Still Anarchy stalks o'er the desolate scene;
Nor Br-ght, nor M-nd-lla, nor D-lke, has pretence
To infuse in the mixture one tittle of sense.

The O'shine, the O'Paque, the O'Brian Boru,
Give the best of bad brains their own land to undo;
O'Tongs and MacHammer keep pounding away,
The first half the night, and the second all day,
With never a glimmer of wit to the fore,
All powerless to speak, and all-powerful to bore --
Till Ireland's dead Currans indignant disclaim
The darkness of dulness now linked with her name.

Historic McC-rthy, on history nursed,
Tries to make of his 'own times' the weakest and worst;
P-rn-ll plays the stalest of demagogue play,
To be called 'King P-rn-ll' talks his country away;
And while England, awake to the wrongs of the past,
The mantle of Love over Erin would cast,
Bad landlords would banish, good tenants would bless,
And kiss a loved sister with sister's caress,
These self-seeking weaklings, of Pigmydom born,
Make Ireland a desert, and England a scorn.

If there's not in the wide world a valley so sweet
As that in whose bosom the bright waters meet,
Oh! sad was that valley when luckless she fell
To thee and to thine, cattle-maiming P-rn-ll!

What differs the past from the present, I pray?
Wherein, please, is yesterday worse than to-day?
The floor of your Commons is held by the men
Who held it before, and now hold it again;
Dishonour the master, and honour trod down,
And N-rthc-t- submissive to S-l-sb-ry's frown,
The country, o'erweary, o'erpatient, o'erworn,
Uprising in murmurs of infinite scorn,
And asking wherein, to those that have eyes,
Between 'Whig' and 'Tory' the difference lies.
I am weary of all of you -- weary and sad --
Where weak beyond weak seems the best to be had;
Since for Right and for Reason no strength ye have got,
By the Lord of Creation, I'll 'Boycott' the lot!"

Dame Nature arose, in her infinite strength,
In the depths of her spirit outwearied at length;
The East wind and North wind she summoned to throw
Over Earth, Sea, and Heaven her masterful snow:
She "boycotted" London from Kew to Mile End,
Bade Thames to the tempest his armoury lend,
She locked up two Judges forlorn and alone,
And forced on the House a clôture of her own:
She blocked the steel rails man-invented to prove
That man was the master of force from above;
She laughed at his mission, she mocked at his word,
And through the loud storm-drift her warning was heard:
"Ay! speak from the West, and foretell to a day
When the storm-cloud shall break, and the lightning shall play;
Foretelling is folly, and knowledge for fools,
For the wisest of men keep the oldest of rules:
Ye fret me, ye stir me, ye move me to mirth,
At your Lownesses crawling 'twixt Heaven and Earth.
My tide it shall gather, my storm it shall burst,
In their own thoughts alone, sirs, your last shall be first:
In an hour of the tempest, a frown of the cloud,
I stoop to the humble, I threaten the proud."