Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Steam King

Recently, I've been working as a Post-Doctoral Research Assistant on a project involving searching databases of nineteenth-century newspapers. Though it has nothing to do with the project, I've become quite enamored with the following poem by Edward P. Mead, which was originally published in The Northern Star and reprinted in Engels' Conditions of the Working Class in England. I was also pleased to see it discussed in a recent conference paper, at the De Montfort The Monster Inside Us, The Monsters Around Us conference.

If you're interested in the industrial revolution, and the ways in which some people of the time viewed it, or if you're a steampunk writer or fan, I think you'll enjoy...

The Steam King by Edward P. Mead
Originally published in The Northern Star, and Leeds General Advertiser (vol. 6, February 1843); reproduced in Engels, Conditions of the Working Class in England (1845)

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 hell appear.

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

Then 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.


  1. It's fantastic - I'm just quoting you in my blog as you have the complete poem - I lost it as usual on the net and found you by chance! many thanks Carys Davies

  2. Wonderful... I have just translated this classic poem in HINDI, with Engels book Conditions of the Working Class in England...

    1. That sounds brilliant! Was it difficult to translate?