Queen Flax.

You may boast as you like of your Kaiser or Czar,
Prince, President, Archduke, Tycoon, Hospodar,
Rey [?], Khan, Sheik, or Lama, or Sultan or Caesar,
I’d thank you to tell me what benefit these are?
When they don’t bleed or hang us they certainly tax,
But here’s to our faultless young Sovereign, QUEEN
The grandest of monarchs is certainly NAPPY—
But then are his subjects free, wealthy, and happy?
His fine ships in armor and nice rifled cannon
May do for the Seine but won’t answer the Shannon
His hands smell of blood, like the dirty Cossacks,
But that’s not the case with our stainless QUEEN FLAX.
There is King HONEST MAN, who robs every one — don’t he?
And shot down his “pal” at the famed Aspromonte—
Who rules by the grace of the mob and the bay’net—
With the blood of his subjects to rust and to stain it—
Is he a good king, I respectfully “ax”—
Is he fit to be named with the angel QUEEN FLAX?
Death, banishment, torture, oppression and ruin
Are stains on the shield of the Emperor BRUIN,
Who liberates serfs, while enslaving the Pole,—
The good, the heroic, the noble of soul,—
But the strong hand of heaven his grasp will relax,
And turn his attention once more to QUEEN FLAX.
Old Prussia is brave, but her King is insane,
And, to hide her own faults, gone to plunder the Dane,
In whose state just at present, there’s something so rotten,
It threatens to fall like the tyrant KING COTTON,
Whose fall has occasioned the Lancashire tax,
But also occasioned the rise of QUEEN FLAX.
And now some benighted and rascally Tory
May hint that I envy Victoria her glory;
But, no! I admit she’s the flower of the flock,
Though her rulers have left us like weeds on the rock,—
I admit that we’re jealous of Sawneys and Jacks—
But the queen of all queens upon earth is QUEEN FLAX!
Yes! boast as you please of your Kinglets and Kings,
And other expensive and troublesome things—
And Parliament men who pay court to the nation,
While seeking advancement and riches and station—
And senseless rebellion’s resultless attacks.—
What are they but humbugs, compared to QUEEN FLAX!
Oh! beautiful queen, where your smiles are enjoyed,
Men, women and children are promptly employed;
There’s sowing and skutching and spinning and weaving,
And everything else except grumbling and grieving;
while jolly and rich whole communities wax,
And all from the prosperous reign of QUEEN FLAX.
Bestiocracy boasts of its cattle and swine,--
But they use neither groceries nor whiskey nor wine;
And Gladstone himself, though so wise and discreet,
Is puzzled at times how to make all ends meet—
But Billy himself must acknowledge the facts
Which fatten his budget when blessed by QUEEN FLAX.
Oh! she springs from our soil, does that sweet fairy Queen,
With eyes blue as heaven, in her mantle of green,
And her fair yellow locks, with their wavelets of gold,
Will charm us again as they charmed us of old,—
And joy, peace and plenty repel all attacks
Of want and blue devils, so, long live QUEEN FLAX!

Title:Queen Flax.


Publication:Irish American

Published in:

Date:February 20th 1864

Keywords:cotton, industry, trade


Written from Limerick, though published later in the Irish American Weekly, this “Industrial Impromptu” offers a poetic panegyric to Ireland’s native fibre-crop, flax, which sustained mills in the country’s linen industry. As with the characterisation of its more famous counterpart, King Cotton, the poet personifies flax in monarchic form, though here to present an image of a liberating and enriching Queen; an exception amidst the described backdrop of ruling tyranny. Flax, as the poet suggests, offers the prospect of Industrial prosperity for Ireland, where ‘Men, women and children are promptly employed’, and where ‘jolly and rich whole communities wax’. This image of promised affluence is set in contrast to a livestock-based economy – ‘bestiocracy’ – which promises little in way of lucrative trade to bolster the purse of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, William Gladstone. The poet acknowledges the contemporaneous fall of ‘King Cotton’, and its subsequent effects on both Lancashire’s and Ireland’s economic prospects: the supply issues of raw cotton effected a ‘Lancashire tax,| But also occasioned the rise of QUEEN FLAX.’ W.O Henderson described how the dearth in Lancashire’s cotton supply afforded the growth of the Irish linen industry (amongst others), noting that ‘while in 1859 there were in Ireland 82 flax spinning mills running 560,642 spindles, in 1868 there were 90 mills running 841,867 spindles’.* Thus, the poet’s observation of economic opportunism is an accurate one, and the promise of Ireland’s industrial prosperity is carried forth by Queen Flax. JC

* W.O Henderson, The Lancashire Cotton Famine 1861-5, (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1934), p.13.