Lapsus Calami (Apr 1891)/A Political Allegory

Lapsus Calami  (1891)  by J.K.S.
A Political Allegory

Originally published in A Wreath of Songs (1880) by the Cambridge Lotos Club, and later reprinted (in a revised form) in the first two editions of Lapsus Calami.

A Political Allegory[1].

Once there was a famous nation
With a long and glorious past:
Very splendid was its station,
And its territory vast:
It had won the approbation,
The applause and admiration,
Of the states who'd had occasion.
In a time of tribulation,
And of disorganisation,
Not to mention degradation,
And profound humiliation,
To observe it standing fast
Without any trepidation,
Or a sign of vacillation,
Firm and faithful to the last.

Came a time of dire distraction,
Full of terror and despair,
When a delicate transaction
Called for unexampled care;
But the people were directed,
Both the well and ill-affected,
To a wholly unexpected
And surprising course of action,
Based on motives new and rare
(Being governed by a faction,
As they generally were).

In a little time the nation
Had a chance of saying whether
It and its administration
Seemed inclined to pull together:
And it spoke its mind with vigour:—
"Such disgraceful conduct must
Everlastingly disfigure
Future annals, and disgust
Evermore the candid student:
You have been unwise, imprudent,
Pusillanimous, unjust,
And neglectful of the glory
Appertaining to our name
Till this melancholy story
Put a period to our fame."

So this faction, disappointed,
Lost the national good graces,
And their rivals were anointed,
And were set in the high places.

Pretty soon arose conditions
Most embarrassing and hard,
And the party politicians
Had to be upon their guard.
Illegitimate ambitions,
Democratic rhetoricians,
Persons prone to base submissions,
Men of warlike dispositions,
Wild and wicked statisticians,
Metaphysical magicians,
Men inclined to make conditions,
And a host of wary foes,
Compassed round the ruling faction:
But a certain line of action
They incontinently chose:
And with great determination,
And extreme discrimination,
After proper preparation,
And profound examination,
Wrought it out with acclamation,
And each other's approbation,
Till the national taxation
Not unnaturally rose.

To the nation soon occurred an
Opportunity of saying
What they thought about the burden
Which the government was laying
On their shoulders: and they said it
In uncompromising terms:—
"Your behaviour would discredit
Tigers, crocodiles, or worms:
You have ruined and disgraced us,
And successfully effaced us
From the proud commanding station
Where the zeal and penetration
Of our ancestors had placed us.
Go! we are a ruined nation;
But before our dissolution
We pronounce your condemnation—
Sappers of our constitution,
Slayers of our reputation!"

But the nation—mark the moral,
For its value is untold—
During each successive quarrel
Grew and prospered as of old.

  1. From "A Wreath of Song" by the Lotos Club. Cambridge, Deighton and Bell, 1880.