Beware the Ulsterman my son…

I bought a wee book at the auction today called Malice in Kulturland by Horace Wyatt, published by The Car Illustrated in 1915. It’s a satire on the political situation in Europe at the start of the Great War in the style of Alice in Wonderland complete with Tenniel-like illustrations by ‘W. Tell’.

By page 4, Alice has met the Dodo(Liberal Prime Minister Asquith) and the following conversation takes place –

“Might I ask what sort of a bird you are?” Alice inquired.

“You might, and on the other hand you might not,” said the Bird very slowly. “As a matter of fact, I am a Dodo. I used to call myself a Liberal, some other people used to call me a Radical, and plenty of others used to call me everything they could lay their tongues to.”

“But I thought the Dodo was extinct,” said Alice.

“So it is,” said the Bird, “for the present, quite extinct. And there’s another extinct party somewhere about the garden. He’s called a Lory or a Tory, I forget which, and at the present moment he’s over there doing spade work. He’s busy burying the hatchet. We’re very friendly you know?”

“Indeed!” said Alice politely, “I thought you were great enemies.”

“So we were, so we were,” said the Dodo. “But now everything is different; we have no time to quarrel.”

“Not even about Ireland?” asked Alice.

“Ireland – now let me see,” said the Dodo. “Ah, yes,” he added after a pause; “now you mention it, there was some slight bickering in that quarter. I don’t clearly remember what the trouble was; but, anyhow, it’s all right now.”

“How is that?” asked Alice.

“It’s because of the war,” the Dodo explained. “I will tell you all about it in the simplest possible language. Listen carefully, and don’t interrupt –

“‘Twas dertag, and the slithy Huns
Did sturm and sturgel through the sludge;
All bulgous were the blunderguns,
And the bosch bombs outbludge.

“‘Beware the Ulsterman, my son –
The jaws that bite at kin and kith;
Beware the Carsonclan, and shun
The frumious Ridersmith.’

“He put his vetal schemes in hand;
Long time the welcome end he sought;
So rested he by the Redmond Tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

“And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Kaiserhog, with eyes of flame,
Came prumpling through the tulgey wood,
And blasphied as he came!

“One, two! Quick, quick! In half a tick,
The vetal schemes split far and wide.
Orange and green were promptly seen
Advancing side by side.

“‘And is the Kaiserhog at large?
Then show him to your blarney boy!
Oh, frabjous day! Hurroo! Hurray!
They chortled in their joy.

“‘Twas dertag, and the slithy Huns
Did sturm and sturgel through the sludge;
All bulgous were the blunderguns,
And the bosch bombs outbludge.”

“Thankyou very much,” said Alice; “it was kind of you to explain it to me. But it’s just a little difficult to understand, isn’t it?”

“Perhaps so,” said the Dodo.

The other bird was, of course, the Conservative leader Andrew Bonar Law.

A source no less than the head of British History at Edinburgh University tells me that ‘Ridersmith’ referred to at the end of the second verse …

“is F.E. Smith, later Lord Birkenhead, who (opportunistically) fell
in with his fellow lawyer, Edward Carson in 1912-14: he was
nicknamed ‘Galloper Smith’ at this
time.”

This little extract amuses me for two reasons.

The first , obviously, is that I am a Veda eating water buffalo from Ulster.

The second is that, at school, Jabberwocky(upon which the above poem is based),  was one of my favourite poems. My friends and I used to time each other to see who could recite Jabberwocky in the shortest time. Guess who holds the record – a tongue-tying 17.1 seconds?

Yours in Wonderland,

Clarence.

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