― 96 ―

The Drivel of Our Fathers.

THE DRIVEL OF OUR FATHERS,—it is borne across the seas,
Like Britain's half-mast flag it braves the battle and the breeze;
Unchanging and eternal, it fills the listening air,
Where'er our fathers trod they left its dismal spirit there

The drivel of our fathers—it shall never pass away,
The “gags” about an empire blessed by eternal day,
And the bald and dreary chestnut concerning men of old
(Certain ancient Hebrew prophets long since gathered to the fold)

Who wrote a burning Scripture that Victoria's throne might stand
(As expounded to a native from Asia's coral strand
Whose fathers sold their kingdom for a quantity of rum,
That the Briton's trade might prosper and the Christian faith might hum—

And who sent a startled nigger to inquire about the way
That a pious Christian nation had bounced his throne away,
And received a joyous answer that the British crown was moored
On the drivel of our fathers and the glory of the Lord.

  ― 97 ―
But the rum that bought the empire, and the brass nails, and the tacks,
And the lying, and the slaughter, and the other cheerful fax
Were omitted from the fable that the heathen bore away,
For the drivel of our fathers is mostly built that way.

And the whole thing never happened—here we pause to curse and pray—
For there wasn't any heathen, and besides he stayed away,
But the tale is still narrated by the Fathers of the Church
How that pagan prince discovered what had left him in the lurch.)

The drivel of our fathers like a ceaseless river flows,
And the cable daily tells us how the ancient legend goes;
And our hearts are filled with triumph and our souls with sacred joy
When we hear of how an army (three armed cripples and a boy)

Met ten thousand raging Arabs in some unexpected spot,
And straightway rose in anger and shattered all the lot;
For where the British soldier is the heathen dies in stacks,
For the drivel of our fathers always whoops its battle-axe.

And history mostly travels on the things it never knew—
And the deeds of men who never lived, or else kept out of view,
Are revealed in tomes of frenzy by historians who died
And were buried and embalmed before the days of which they lied.

The scenes of ancient battles are moved about a heap,
For the place where each first happened was mostly found too steep,

  ― 98 ―
And it proved, on close spection, that the troops who struggled there
(If there ever was a struggle) must have hung on by their hair.

And the noble deeds of ancient days were mostly done in swamps,
Which suggests that many a hero must have been exposed to cramps;
But the men who sung their glories didn't first survey the ground,
So they never even hinted why these heroes weren't drowned.

The drivel of our fathers on many a tombstone shines
Where the earthly gods of ages are sleeping 'neath the vines—
Men who hollered loud on paper while in strife they hollered low,
And perished fighting bravely where the ruby liquors flow.

The drivel of our fathers tells us how they died in mail
Where the blood-stained flags were streaming on the shrill November gale,
And as they fell they spluttered forth some language wild and terse
(Sometimes they spoke in prose and other times they spoke in verse);

And in these observations they said that they were there,
And begged their stricken country not to weep and rend its hair
When their spirits had departed to join the heav'nly choirs,
And their mem'ries were embalméd 'midst the drivel of their sires.

The drivel of our fathers hands the dreary legend down,
Its gods and heroes building out of dolt and ass and clown;

  ― 99 ―
The facts that never happened and the things that never would
Are engraved upon the statues of the men who never could.

The warriors who skedaddled, the kings of rags and dust,
The saints who liquored for their faith and perished “on the bust,”
The philosophers and sages who gibbered in their caves,
The buccaneers and vikings who were sick upon the waves;

The saga-singing poet roaming o'er an ancient sea
(An unshorn, dusty savage who stuttered from a tree)
Through the weary tracks of history since man's primeval fall,
The drivel of our fathers has been drivelled o'er them all.

And when heaven and earth are reeling 'midst a galaxy of wreck
The last of human drivellers will raise his voice on deck,
And the gabble of his fathers in a dismal tone rehearse
To the seraphim astounded who steer the universe.