Riding the Rail

Image from the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Co. website.



The following we clip from one of our Exchanges, and is excellent in its way. We hope “one of the Lobby,” will try his hand on some of the other “mania’s.”

“The age of chivalry is past,”
Says Burke; the railroad age
Has dawned upon the world at last —
Railroads are all the rage.

The iron horse is soon to pant
Along Superior’s shore —
The rattle of the rushing car
To mingle with its roar;

The far off swamps and lakes, which feed
The father of the Floods,
Where but a stripping rivulet
He winds through pathless woods;

The sandy bluffs about La Crosse;
St. Croix — still farther on;
Oconto’s piny solitudes;
The “plains of Marathon;”

And myriad places more which now Are all unknown to fame,
Waupacca and Packwaukee, and
Full many a lengthy name —
Sweet sounding or cacophonous,
To us is all the same —
Are soon to hear his angry snort,
And see his breath of flame —
That is, if one road’s built for ten
Of the charters which men frame.

But old and young, and rich and poor
This mania controls,
From him who strives our souls to mend,
To him who mends our souls.

The men who mix in politics,
With one accord avow,
They find no motives pay as well
As loco motives now.

All native modesty has fled
Its loss we well may wail,
When poets own, without a blush,
They’ve ridden on the rail. *

Whilome, when one indulged in drink
Until it crazed his brain,
Men said that he was drunk, but now —
He’s only on a train.

How long a state of things like this
Is likely to endure,
Is hard to say — but there’s one thing
That’s tolerably sure;

Which is, if passing Railroad bills,
Or talking aught avails,
We soon shall travel — as you know
Folks did here; some few years ago —
Entirely on T rails.

Madison, Feb. 16.
* See poems by J.G. SAXE, who openly declares that it’s “pleasant Riding on the rail.”

Democratic State Register (Watertown, Wisconsin) Mar 14, 1853

Image from Strangers to Us All: Lawyers and PoetryWVnet.edu

From the SAXE biography on Wikipedia:

In 1875 he suffered head injuries in a rail accident near Wheeling, West Virginia, from which he never fully recovered….

From The Other Pages website:

Rhyme of the Rail

SINGING through the forests,
Rattling over ridges,
Shooting under arches,
Rumbling over bridges,
Whizzing through the mountains,
Buzzing o’er the vale,–
Bless me! this is pleasant,
Riding on the Rail!

Men of different “stations”
In the eye of Fame
Here are very quickly
Coming to the same.
High and lowly people,
Birds of every feather,
On a common level
Traveling together!

Gentleman in shorts,
Looming very tall;
Gentleman at large,
Talking very small;
Gentleman in tights,
With a loose-ish mien;
Gentleman in gray,
Looking rather green.

Gentleman quite old,
Asking for the news;
Gentleman in black,
In a fit of blues;
Gentleman in claret,
Sober as a vicar;
Gentleman in Tweed,
Dreadfully in liquor!

Stranger on the right,
Looking very sunny,
Obviously reading
Something rather funny.
Now the smiles are thicker,
Wonder what they mean?
Faith, he’s got the KNICKER-
BOCKER Magazine!

Stranger on the left,
Closing up his peepers;
Now he snores amain,
Like the Seven Sleepers;
At his feet a volume
Gives the explanation,
How the man grew stupid
From “Association”!

Ancient maiden lady
Anxiously remarks,
That there must be peril
‘Mong so many sparks!
Roguish-looking fellow,
Turning to the stranger,
Says it’s his opinion
She is out of danger!

Woman with her baby,
Sitting vis-a-vis;
Baby keeps a squalling;
Woman looks at me;
Asks about the distance,
Says it’s tiresome talking,
Noises of the cars
Are so very shocking!

Market-woman careful
Of the precious casket,
Knowing eggs are eggs,
Tightly holds her basket;
Feeling that a smash,
If it came, would surely
Sent her eggs to pot
Rather prematurely!

Singing through the forests,
Rattling over ridges,
Shooting under arches,
Rumbling over bridges,
Whizzing through the mountains,
Buzzing o’er the vale,–
Bless me! this is pleasant,
Riding on the Rail!

John Godfrey Saxe

A SAXE quote:

New York Times October, 15, 1916

Taxes are made necessary by expenditures. No one can quarrel with legitimate expenses, nor with taxes to pay them. The demand for new methods of taxation, however, is not for taxation to pay for legitimate expenses, but to pay for waste, extravagance, and graft. Extravagance and graft will probably exist as long as Governments exist.

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