Song of Steam

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Synopsis: Celebration of the triumph of steam

Harness me down with your iron bands
Be sure of your curb and rein
For I scorn the strength of your puny hands
As the tempest scorns the chain

How I laughed as I lay concealed from sight
For many a countless hour
At the childish boast of human might
And the pride of human power

When I saw an army upon the land
A navy upon the seas
Creeping along, a snail-like band
Or waiting the wayward breeze.

When I measured the panting courser's speed [Note 393.1]
The flight of the carrier dove
As the bore the law which a king decreed
Or the lines of impatient love

When I marked the peasant faintly reel
With the toil which he daily bore
As he feebly turned the tardy wheel
Or tugged at the weary oar

I couldn't but think how the world would feel
As these were outstripped far
When I should be bound to the rushing wheel
Or chained to the flying car

Hurrah! Hurrah!, the waters o'er
The mountain's steep decline
Time, space, have yielded to my power
The world - the world is mine

The rivers the sun hath earliest blest
And those where his beams decline
The giant streams of the queenly west
And the orient floods divine

The ocean pales where're I sweep
To hear my strength rejoice
And the monsters of the briny deep
Cower, trembling at my voice

I carry the wealth and the lords of earth
The thoughts of the godlike mind
The wind lags after my flying forth
And the lightning's left behind

In the darksome depths of the cavernous mine
My tireless arm does play
Where the rocks never saw the sun decline
Or the dawn of the glorious day.

I bring earth's glittering jewels up
From the hidden cave below
And I make the fountain's granite cup
With a crystal gush o'erflow

I blow the bellows, I forge the steel
In all the shops of trade
I hammer the ore, I turn the wheel
Where my arms of strength are made

I manage the furnace, the mill, the mint
I carry, I spin, I weave,
And all my doings I put into print [Note 393.2]
On every Saturday eve

I've no muscle to weary, no breast to decay
No bones to be laid on the shelf
And soon I intend you may go and play
While I manage the world by myself

But Harness me down with your iron bands
Be sure of your curb and rein
For I scorn the strength of your puny hands
As the tempest scorns the chain

Notes on the Song and Its Historical Context:

 

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