Alexander Rodger

The Devil’s Visit to the Islands of Japan:
A Tale Translated from the Japanese (1838)

From his brimstone throne, at the close of day,
The devil went out to walk,
To visit a “snug little Isle of the sea,”
And have with his friends some talk;
And over the hill, and over the dale,
And over the plain he hies,
And still as he walked he whisked his tail,
As a cow whisks off the flies.
Thus trudged he along without feeling fatigue,
Till he came to a very great town, [1]
Then he hid his horns ’neath a Judge’s wig,
And his tail ’neath a Bishop’s gown,
And on his cloven feet he puts
A pair of dandy Wellington boots;
For, quoth Nick, my friends would be sadly hurt
Unless I appeared in style at Court.
He went to visit a very great man, [2]
Who very large whiskers wore:
He found him beside his flowing can,
While from mouth and from nose the red liquor ran,
As he wallowed and snored on the floor.
“Your servant,” quoth Nick, “I’m so happy to find you
From radical practices free,
That I’ll be most graciously pleased to assign you,
So soon as friend Death to my care has consigned you,
A place near myself which has long been designed you,
For being so faithful to me: —
I’ll give you to drink of the river of lava,
Which flows from the foot of my throne,
And you’ll eat of the fruit of the upas of Java,
A tree which has long been my own:
And your bed shall be scented with vitriol strong,
Mixed up with manganese;
And if you should graciously happen to long
For an old wench or two,
Then I’ve got enow,
Such as old Madam Endor,—Xantippe the shrew,
Agrippina, Medusa, old Jezebel too,
Northern Kate, and Meg Merrilees:
And your pot-mates shall be like yourself, men of weight,
Belshazzar, and Heliogabulus great.”
A portly old lady [3] he visited next,
He never saw any thing fairer nor fatter;
He ogled, and sighed, and looked sore perplexed,
And wished himself man,
For then he began
To feel himself queerish, and half guess’d the matter:
O L___d, cried Nick, what a luscious feast,
How fitted to please the great man’s taste.

In Needle-thread Street [4] he met an old hag, [5]
Bedecked and bedizened with many an old rag.
Quoth Satan, my dear, we’re relations,
For thou art sure
The old scarlet w___e
John saw in his Revelations:
For the kings of the earth thou hast made to drink
Of the cup of thy fornications,
Until thou hast made thy name to stink,
In the noses of them who can reason and think,
Through thy horrid abominations.
I hear thou art getting a new sable dress, [6]
To cover thy hideous ugliness,
And thy wrinkled appearance to mend:
But it rather looks ominous, I must confess,
Of thine own approaching end.
And O, what a terrible day will that be,
For all who have had dealings with thee,
When instead of finding themselves enriched,
They will find they have only been duped and bewitched;
But the fools can have no just cause to complain;
They were well enough warned by C*bb*t and P**ne. [7]
Confound these two rascals! they’ve done me more ill,
By that little damnable weapon—the quill,
Than e’er has been done me elsewhere,
By all the fat tribe of sleek Bonzes in black, [8]
Who make it a rule every Sunday to thwack
My poor tortured hide,—till the gaping mouthed pack
Almost fancy they hear me receiving each smack,
While I gnaw my hot chains in despair:
But farewell, my dear Sister,—when aught happens thee,
A very warm friend thou wilt have in me.

From thence he went to a house of bad fame: [9]
But when he looked round he blushed red with shame,
I thought, quoth Satan, that hell was most foul,
But this place is dirtier far, ’pon my soul!
He sat him down in an empty chair,
And heard some matters debated;
Quoth he, I’ll learn some lessons here,
How subjects ought to be treated.
And tho’ I’m king of the shades below,
My sceptre I will for a while forego,
And sojourn here seven years—or so,
To learn how shackles are made:
Like Peter the Great, who left Moscow
To learn the carpenter trade.

He heard “Derry Down” make a frothy speech, [10]
Concerning the features of his breech: [11]
Quoth Nick, he has made it quite plain,
From the manner in which he “prostrate stands,”
See-sawing his salt-and-gun-powder-stained hands,
That his breech is the case of his brain;
Why, I’d not be surprised if that same stupid elf
Would, on one of these days, turn his back on himself;
Yet the fellow’s rare talents command my esteem
More than any one’s talents I know,
And so well has he used them that soon I’ll make him
My own Provost-Marshal below:
For such skill he acquired ’mong the cropt-headed Pats, [12]
That he’ll wield most expertly my thunder-bolt cats,
And make the damned felons run squeaking like rats,
Through my dark gloomy regions of woe.

Old Circular, [13] too, his black Majesty saw,
With his thumb-screws, gags, and chains,
To his under-turnkeys dictating law,
And inventing new tortures and pains.
Quoth Nick, my dear boy, thou must go with me,
For Cerberus [14] grows old and frail,
And a famous assistant to him thou wilt be,
With thy double face, and his heads three,
Provided thy saintship and he can agree,
To guard my infernal jail:
By the bye, thou’rt so like him, so hideous, and grim,
That I really believe thou art brother to him.

But his Devilship never got half so much fun
As when he beheld a mountebank Hunn [15]
Making sport of an old man’s sorrows;
Quoth Nick, that stage gettling has pleased me so well,
That I ne’er felt such pleasure before—since man fell:
By Jove! I will have him made Jester in hell,
To quiz at the poor tortured wretches who yell,
When with pain they’re all howling in chorus.

He looked, and he saw two bags of green
Upon a huge table laid;
Crammed full of vile stories about some Queen,
Who, ’twas said, had the wanton played.
Quoth Nick, I know how these bags came there,
For at filling of them I had my own share:
Because I always take vast delight,
Along with my darling sons of night,
In making a character black that is fair.
The Vice-whipper-General Satan espied,
With the Sophister-General [16] close by his side,
Telling stories so grossly obscene,
That even old Nick with astonishment stared,
For, fiend as he was, he had not been prepared
To meet human nature so void of regard,
For every thing decent, as e’er to have dared
To utter such slanders as those he now heard,
So wicked, so low, and so mean.
Well, quoth Satan, for all the experience I’ve had,
I never before thought that man was so bad;
But hold!—let me look at the creatures again.
Why, truly!—they’ve only the semblance of men;
They are reptiles, I see, of the lowest description,
That, hatched in the dunghill of putrid corruption,
Are warmed into life by the Treasury’s sun:
For men!—even devils could ne’er do as they’ve done.

He saw “Non-Ricordo,” [17] and Miss Columbier,
With twenty such worthies, brought forward to swear
To vile stories cooked [18] up at Milan:
Quoth Nick, ’tis now time that my trade I give o’er,
’Tis not worth my while to be Devil any more;
For, lo! I’m out-deviled by that brazen w___e,
And eke by that consummate villain.

He saw how the Bonzes and Quos [19] gladly listened
To every improbable fib;
And how their chaste eyes most delightedly glistened,
And how they yelled out like wild Indians unchristened,
When any thing foul was about to be fastened
On great Dairo Whiskerman’s rib.
Well, quoth Satan, my lads, you’re a beautiful set
To meddle with such ugly matter;
Pray now, how much wages may each of you get
For this pretty business on which you are met?
For that you’re well paid for’t, my kingdom I’d bet,
You make such a rumpus and clatter.
However, I wish you success of your job;
May your labours succeed to your wishes!
Then, take my advice, never mind the rude mob,
But each of you act by your conscience—your fob,
Still minding the “loaves and the fishes.”
Then success to your bags, and success to your spies,
Success to your perjury, bribery, and lies,
To plots against people, and plots against Queens,
And bickerings between your Outs and your Ins,
Who, for aught I can see, are so curious a batch,
That in all my dominions I have not your match.
Carry on, my dear boys, you are all doing right,
Your proceedings have given me a h*ll of delight,
I’ll home now, full fraught with the knowledge I’ve got,
And through Sulphur-land trumpet your fame;
Yea, I’ll bellow your praise till my furnace, so hot,
Shall blaze with a tenfold flame.

Rodger’s notes:

1. Jedda, the Capital of Japan.
2. Supposed to be one of the great Quos, or Nobles at Court; or the Dairo himself.
3. A certain celebrated Quo-ess—“fat, and fair, and fifty.”
4. A street in Jedda, where the Bank of Japan is situated.
5. A nickname by which the Bank is personified.
6. A projected new Note, with a black ground, to prevent forgery.
7. Two political writers, whose writings have made a great noise in Japan.
8. Priests in Japan.
9. A large building in Jedda, where a wholesale manufactory of chains, gags, and shackles is carried on, resembling, both in exterior and interior, St. Stephen’s Chapel.
10. Derry Down, otherwise Long-thong-Derry—a well-known Minister at the Court of Japan, celebrated for making disadvantageous treaties, frothy speeches, and blundering bulls; also for planning foolish and destructive expeditions, but chiefly for applying salt and gunpowder to the newly flogged backs of political delinquents.
11. His “fundamental features.”
12. A particular sect, distinguished by their cropt hair, inhabiting Patland, one of the islands of Japan.
13. The head Jailor in Japan.
14. In heathen mythology, a dog with three necks, which guarded the gates of hell.
15. A sort of a Merry-Andrew, employed in the chain manufactory in Jeddo, whose chief talent lay in turning the sufferings of humanity into ridicule.
16. Two great State Lawyers in Japan, who, in all their words and actions, shewed that they held the incontrovertible doctrine that might constitutes right.
17. A fellow who made it a rule to “forget to remember,” and to “remember to forget.”
18. Who has not heard of Cooke, who was so well rewarded for cooking up these dainty dishes of Milan scandal?
19. The Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Japan.

Alexander Rodger (1784-1846) was a poet and satirist who along with James Ballantine and William Miller (author of ‘Wee Willie Winkie’) was a contributor to the highly popular ‘Whistle-binkie’ poetry anthologies that appeared in Glasgow in the 1840s and beyond. ‘The Devil’s Visit’ appeared in Poems and Songs, Humorous and Satirical (Glasgow: David Robertson; Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1838). Among Rodger’s other works are Scotch Poetry, Consisting of Songs, Odes, Anthems, and Epigrams (1821) and Peter Comclips: A Tale of Real Life (1827).

Perhaps it is too obvious to note that ‘The Devil’s Visit’ is not translated from the Japanese.

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