C. H. W.
An Ode to the Japanese (1860)
By the Bard that Sang
welcome to this shore!
We greet you as we greet the Orient breeze
Whose rustling robes have swept the perfumed seas;
You come as welcome as the earliest peas,—
Can soul of man
Illustrious Pagans from the Niphon Isle,
Come to our arms—we’ll while away a while
In pleasant talk
Tell us in sweet communion what you think
Of all you’ve seen, and with a latent wink
Tell us, sub rosa, what you’ll take to drink—
tell us that!
And we’ll pay half the charges of a hack
To take you to the Central Park and back,
In short, we’ll
put you through;
We’ll trot you out, we’ll take you to the Tombs,
The City Hall, the Common Council rooms,
And the Volks
Will have a grand procession down Broadway,
Stop in the Park to see the engines play,
And zealous little
Shall black your boots—they’ll charge you each three cents,
But as you’re guests, to share the expense
Will swell Fernando’s
And Barnum then shall show his stock in trade,
Display to you the mermaid that you made—
like his honest phiz.
And then perhaps he’ll take you to the cage
Which holds “the living wonder of the age,”
And tell you
what it is!
But have a care of Barnum’s promptness, since
’Tis like he’ll hire a Kami or a prince
To stand upon
And advertise next day, “Admission cheap
To an amphibious monster of the deep
That comes from
And have a care lest Peter Funk may sell
A pinchbeck watch so some Celestial swell,
To some Mad-darin
And watch lest ticket-swindlers come anon,
And sell to every Pagan mother’s son
A ticket to Japan!
Should this be done, oh! do not cross the sea
In bitter wrath and poison our Bohea;
That though our Common Council bore your ears,
That though we dot your heathen eyes with tears,
You will not
cross our teas!
‘An Ode to
the Japanese’ appeared on page 1 of the New York Times
May 15, 1860, and was reprinted in Littell’s Living Age,
9 June 1860, p. 611. I have not been able to determine the identity of
C. H. W. The reference to ‘the Bard that Sang of Heenan’ must
be to the rousing ‘Battle Hymn’ that appeared in the Times
April 30, 1860, about the thirty-seven round prize fight in London two
weeks earlier between the American John C. Heenan and the Irishman Tom
Sayers, which ended in a draw and a riot. ‘A Battle Hymn’,
however, is signed simply ‘W’.
Regarding the ‘grand procession down Broadway’
of line 20, see Walt Whitman’s more remarkable treatment of the
first Japanese embassy to the United States, The
Errand-Bearers, which appeared in the Times two months after
C. H. W.’s ‘Ode’.