July 29, 2011

Saxe: the mighty cord they call the Atlantic Cable

The first transatlantic wire was sent by telegraph on July 29, 1866; the first message was an exchange between Queen Victoria and President Andrew Johnson. Though this was not the first attempt, the momentous occasion, connecting the Old World with the New, inspired a poem by John Godrey Saxe in honor of the project's financier Cyrus West Field. The poem is titled "How Cyrus Laid the Cable":

Come, listen all unto my song;
     It is no silly fable;
'T is all about the mighty cord
     They call the Atlantic Cable.

Bold Cyrus Field he said, says he,
     "I have a pretty notion
That I can run a telegraph
     Across the Atlantic Ocean."

To carry out his foolish plan
     He never would be able;
He might as well go hang himself
     With his Atlantic Cable.

But Cyrus was a valiant man,
     A fellow of decision;
And heeded not their mocking words,
     Their laughter and derision.

Twice did his bravest efforts fail,
     And yet his mind was stable;
He wa'n't the man to break his heart
     Because he broke his cable.

"Once more, my gallant boys!" he cried;
     "Three times! — you know the fable
(I'll make it thirty," muttered he,
     "But I will lay the cable!").

Once more they tried, — hurrah! hurrah!
     What means this great commotion?
The Lord he praised! the cable's laid
     Across the Atlantic Ocean!

Loud ring the bells, — for, flashing through
     Six hundred leagues of water,
Old Mother England's benison
     Salutes her eldest daughter!

O'er all the land the tidings speed,
     And soon, in, every nation,
They'll hear about the cable with
     Profoundest admiration!

Now, long live President and Queen;
     And long live gallant Cyrus;
And may his courage, faith, and zeal
     With emulation fire us;

And may we honor evermore
     The manly, bold, and stable;
And tell our sons, to make them brave.
     How Cyrus laid the cable!

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