Rhyme and Reform

Victorian Working-Class Poets Elizabeth Barrett Brownings "The Cry of the Children"

IV: “The Steam King”

This poem, published in The Northern Star on the 11th of February 1843, was written by Edwin Mead.  Known as “the Commodore,” Mead was an important regional Chartist leader in the East Midlands of England (especially Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire).  He was a staunch ally of the Chartist Leader, Feargus O’Connor, and a friend of the Chartist poet Thomas Cooper, whose epic poem The Purgatory of Suicides was published to critical acclaim in 1845.  In the same year, Mead’s poem was also included by Friedrich Engels in his famous work, The Condition of the Working Class in England.


There is a King, and a ruthless King,
Not a King of the poet’s dream;
But a tyrant fell, white slaves know well,
And that ruthless King is Steam.

He hath an arm, an iron arm,
And tho’ he hath but one,
In that mighty arm there is a charm,
That millions hath undone.

Like the ancient Moloch grim, his sire
In Himmon’s vale that stood,
His bowels are of living fire,
And children are his food.

His priesthood are a hungry band,
Blood-thirsty, proud, and bold;
’Tis they direct his giant hand,
In turning blood to gold.

For filthy gain, in their servile chain
All nature’s rights they bind;
They mock at lovely woman’s pain,
And to manly tears are blind.

The sighs and groans of Labour’s sons
Are music in their ear,
And the skeleton shades, of lads and maids,
In the Steam King’s hells appear.

Those hells upon earth, since the Steam King’s brith
Have scatter’d around despair;
For the human mind for heaven design’d,
With the body, is murdered there.

The down with the King, the Moloch King.
Ye working millions all;
O chain his hand, or our native land
Is destin’d by him to fall.

And his Satraps abhor’d each proud Mill Lord,
Now gorg’d with gold and blood;
Must be put down by the nation’s frown,
As well as their monster God.

The cheap bread crew will murder you,
By bludgeon, ball, or brand;
The your Charter gain and the power will be vain
Of the Steam King’s bloody band.

Then down with the King, the Moloch King,
And the satraps of his might,
Let right prevail, then freedom hail!
When might shall stoop to right!

UStrathclyde

erik_swanson • August 16, 2018


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