Punch,  37 (1859), 140.

A Parallel



Poetry, Drollery


Steamships, Engineering, Imperialism, Accidents, Progress, Prognostication

    A comparison between the two 'Great Easterns'—the 'Great Eastern Empire', the 'Leviathan of Conquests', and the Great Eastern, the 'Leviathan of Ships'. Notes that despite early failures 'Both o'er failure grew to wonders', until the protagonists of both enterprises 'Stretched their hands in self-complacence'. Compares the boasts of James A B Ramsay (1st Marquess of Dalhousie), who retired as Governor General of India shortly before the Indian Mutiny, to the optimistic 'Reports of Blithe Directors' of the Great Ship Company, and the power of the British empire over 'two hundred million souls' to the dwarfing of 'minnow-shoals' and warships by the Great Eastern. Points out that just as the eastern empire demonstrates the need to 'learn the art to rule', so the ship shows the importance of taming 'Nature's forces'. In the second half of the poem, however, the tone is pessimistic, a mood reflecting the explosion of one of the Great Eastern's funnels on 9 September 1859. Queries, 'How should we have heard the prophet' who foretold losses to the empire (caused by a 'greased cartridge') and disasters to the ship (from a 'closed stop-cock'), and observes that the prophet rightly predicted such 'Great effects' could have been caused by such 'little causes'. Warns that both disasters speak of a 'Too great striving after glory' and 'gain', and teach the need for 'Working hand and heart and head / Till our Empire justice-strengthened, / And our Steamer wisdom-ruled'. Concludes that such action will make us 'Wiser for our follies' and 'Our Great ship defy the sea'.

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