A Word With Lady Lions.

ENGLISH MOTHER, step-dame rather
Born to prove the adage true.
In our roving ever loving,
We have fixed our eyes on you.
Westward veering, empires rearing,
Our constructive web we wrought
Like no slattern; taking pattern
Of the grand ancestral thought.
Shakespeare’s maxims, Bacon’s axioms,
Milton’s blindfold majesty.
O’er the wonders of sea-thunders
Reigning, taught us how to be.
Is the youthful, fine and truthful
Is the feeling of their faults’
Will o’erleaping Reason’s keeping.
Conscience in amazement halts.
By your teaching, nobly reaching.
We essayed our ways to mend;
After rupture, making capture
Of your right hand, friend to friend.
Men of letters as to betters
Looked across the ocean wave,
Where your Dickens and Game Chickens
Niggard approbation gave.
So renouncing ill pronouncing,
Shaming out our Yankee twang,
As promotion to our notion
We received you, snobs and slang.
At my table, was one able
To decry the British name?
Grace forgetting, calm upsetting,
I was swift to give him shame.
“Be more decent than your recent
Utterings, if you would be wise;
He who slanders my Englanders
Takes if from my lips, he lies!”
Even your shindies in the Indies
Did my vexed heart wait upon
With sad following, ever swallowing
Tear for tear, and moan for moan.
Ye grew cruel in your duel,
Where you never came to bless;
By the savage taught to ravage
Like the fiends of heathenesse.
In your reigning there disdaining
All but greed of gold and rank;
For your Lordlings threats and dawdlings
Had the Coolies much to thank?
Fatly feeding for your needing
Thriftless sons of foreign race
And compelling the indwelling [?]
Inborn Chiefs to yield them place.
Would we borrow, in our sorrow,
Succor from the mother’s heart,
She rehearses taunts and curses,
With our foes takes stand and part.
“Though my quickening helped the sickening
Stricken wherewithal ye lie;
Let your fever call me never,
Struggle for yourselves, or die.”
So we leave thee, will receive thee
Never as our friend, at best;
Wasps to honey, men to money,
Englishmen to interest.
Keep thy curses for reverses
That attend thee, fixed as Fate;
At thy blustering foes are mustering,
On thy treasons, treasons wait.
And your cotton realm is rotten,
Ruin ripens in your State,
Heart abysses sealed by kisses,
Rumbling deep with grief and hate.
In the hour when your power
Finds its blooming semblance gone,
Do not seek us, nor bespeak us
For your wreck to rest upon.
Ye have sent us, kindly lent us
Millions of your want and woe,
Creatures starving, more than halving
What to humankind you owe.
In the splendors of your tenders,
With your beggary denied,
Did you match us, and dispatch us
A forlorn, degraded bride.
Kelts most wretched, far you fetched,
Low conceived in mud and stones;
And we fed them, bodies bred them,
You had only sent the bones!
By our raising, they amazing
Grew to have the port of men,
Festive throngings, free belongings,
Thrift and honorable gain.
What befriending, for your tending,
Should your Grace expect from them?
In our rising, they despising,
Flout your faithless diadem.
They were kennelled and impanneled,
That your nobles might be great;
Blood of peasants feeds your pheasants,
Rags stuff out your robes of state.
Though your drumming’s ever coming
On the earth, the whole way round,
Yet Creation’s glad ovations
Heed not the ambitious sound.
Every nation to salvation
Works its way as God sees fit,
Heavenly flogging help thy jogging,
World-rebuking mend thy wit!
Though it grieve us, thou must leave us
Wronged in loving past repair;
We can weep not, though they sleep not
Who encompass thy despair.
In the sentence of repentance
Every fateful crisis brings,
Shall the angels’ new evangel
Touch some unremembered strings.
Your pretension, in convention
Of the world, to make and rule;
The ill manners of your banners,
Flaunting o’er some pompous fool.
Your soft canting, and loud ranting,
Piety uplift of nose,
Plethoric nectors, thief-detectors,
Swindler’s traps and paupers woes.
Your obeying, God is weighing
In His awful, bribeless hand;
Nay, my Lord there, speak no word there,
In the Debtor’s form you stand.
For your owing, He is showing
Little wealth of Christian grace;
This the boast was, this the most was;
Braggart, take a Bankrupt’s place.

Title:A Word With Lady Lions.


Publication:New York Daily Tribune

Published in:New York

Date:November 8th 1861

Keywords:politics, religion, satire


This poem encapsulates the feeling of many in the Union towards Britain’s conduct at the beginning of the American Civil War. The poem is broadly comic in its satire but there is also a sense of disappointment and the UK is personified as a ‘step-dame’, perhaps closer to a pantomime figure than a true relation. The poem ends with the threat of bankruptcy due to the loss of cotton from the blockade. An interesting historical aspect here is that the poem was published on November 8th 1861, the very day that the Trent was intercepted and Confederate diplomats Mason and Slidell were arrested attempting to travel to Europe to negotiate with Britain and France, although the writer could not have known this. From that day the Trent Affair sent US-UK relations into an even deeper downward spiral. – SR