The Modern Argonauts.


You have heard the ancient story,1
How the gallant sons of Greece,2
Long ago, with Jason ventured3
For the fated Golden Fleece ;4
How they traversed distant regions,5
How they trod on hostile shores ;6
How they vexed the hoary Ocean7
With the smiting of their oars ;—8
Listen, then, and you shall hear another wondrous tale,9
Of a second Argo steering before a prosperous gale !10


From the southward came a rumour,11
Over sea and over land ;12
From the blue Ionian islands,13
And the old Hellenic strand ;14
That the sons of Agamemnon,15
To their faith no longer true,16
Had confiscated the carpets17
Of a black and bearded Jew !18
Helen’s rape, compared to this, was but an idle toy,19
Deeper guilt was that of Athens than the crime of haughty Troy.20


And the rumour, winged by Ate,21
To the lofty chamber ran,22
Where great Palmerston was sitting23
In the midst of his Divan :24
Like Saturnius triumphant,25
In his high Olympian hall,26
Unregarded by the mighty,27
But detested by the small ;28
Overturning constitutions—setting nations by the ears,29
With divers sapient plenipos, like Minto and his peers.30


With his fist the proud dictator31
Smote the table that it rang32
From the crystal vase before him33
The blood-red wine upsprang !34
Is my sword a wreath of rushes,35
Or an idle plume my pen,36
That they dare to lay a finger37
On the meanest of my men ?38
No amount of circumcision can annul the Briton’s right39
Are they mad, these lords of Athens, for I know they cannot fight?40


Had the wrong been done by others,41
By the cold and haughty Czar,42
Thad trembled ere I opened43
All the thunders of my war.44
But I care not for the yelping45
Of these fangless curs of Greece46
Soon and sorely will I tax them47
For the merchant’s plundered Fleece.48
From the earth his furniture for wrath and vengeance cries49
Ho, Eddisbury !  take thy pen, and straightway write to Wyse !”50


Joyfully the bells are ringing51
In the old Athenian town,52
Gaily to Piræus harbour53
Stream the merry people down ;54
For they see the fleet of Britain55
Proudly steering to their shore,56
Underneath the Christian banner57
That they knew so well of yore,58
When the guns at Navarino thundered o’er the sea,59
And the Angel of the North proclaimed that Greece again was free.60


Hark !— a signal gun—another !61
On the deck a man appears62
Stately as the Ocean-shaker—63
Ye Athenians, lend your ears !64
Thomas Wyse am I, a Herald65
Come to parley with the Greek ;66
Palmerston hath sent me hither,67
In his awful name I speak68
Ye have done a deed of folly—one that ye shall sorely rue !69
Wherefore did ye lay a finger on the carpets of the Jew ?70


Don Pacifico of Malta !71
Dull, indeed, were Britain’s ear,72
If the wrongs of such a hero73
Tamely she could choose to hear !74
Don Pacifico of Malta !75
Knight-commander of the Fleece76
For his sake I hurl defiance77
At the haughty towns of Greece.78
Look to it—For by my head !  since Xerxes crossed the strait,79
Ye never saw an enemy so vengeful at your gate.80


Therefore now, restore the carpets,81
With a forfeit twenty-fold ;82
And a goodly tribute offer83
Of your treasure and your gold :84
Sapienza, and the islet85
Cervi, ye shall likewise cede ;86
So the mighty gods have spoken,87
Thus hath Palmerston decreed !88
Ere the sunset, let an answer issue from your monarch’s lips ;89
In the meantime, I have orders to arrest your merchant ships.”90


Thus he spake, and snatched a trumpet91
Swiftly from a soldier’s hand,92
And therein he blew so shrilly,93
That along the rocky strand94
Rang the war-note, till the echoes95
From the distant hills replied ;96
Hundred trumpets wildly wailing,97
Poured their blast on every side ;98
And the loud and hearty shout of Britain rent the skies,99
Three cheers for noble Palmerston !— another cheer for Wyse !”100


Gentles !  I am very sorry101
That I cannot yet relate,102
Of this gallant expedition,103
What has been the final fate.104
Whether Athens was bombarded105
For her Jew-coercing crimes,106
Hath not been as yet reported107
In the columns of the Times.108
But the last accounts assure us of some valuable spoil :109
Various coasting vessels, laden with tobacco, fruit, and oil.110


Ancient chiefs !  that sailed with Jason111
Over the wild and stormy waves112
Let not sounds of later triumphs113
Stir you in your quiet graves !114
Other Argonauts have ventured115
To your old Hellenic shore,116
But they will not live in story,117
Like the valiant men of yore.118
O ! ’tis more than shame and sorrow thus to jest upon a theme119
That, for Britain’s fame and glory, all would wish to be a dream !120