Punch,  11 (1846), 40.

The Poetry of Steam

John Coke


Letter, Drollery; Poetry, Drollery


Steam-power, Railways, Engineers, Futurism, Controversy, Steamships

    Describing himself as a 'stoker', the narrator attacks William Wordsworth's criticism of steam-power, and presents a poem, after William Shakespeare, on the eulogistic 'Seven Ages of Steam'. The poem opens by noting steam's dominance over men and women's lives, and traces the various stages of steam power: the kettle, Thomas Newcomen's engine, James Watt's 'more economic' condenser and 'double-acting' engine, Robert Fulton's odiferous and overcrowded steam-boat, and George Stephenson's steam-horse with 'wheels of clumsy cut'. Regards the 'Sixth Age' as the 'war of broad and narrow gauge' between Isambard K Brunel and George Hudson. Thinks the last 'scene' 'Is general brotherhood, of mere oblivion / Of troops, of wars, of blood, and all such things'.

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