Saturday, December 6, 2014

"An Old Newspaper" by William Lyle (1886)



Yes, there it lies, faded, crisp and yellow,

        And what a world of wondrous things it tells.

It is well the editor, poor fellow,

        Is far beyond the reach of chestnut bells,

The jokes were fewer then, and not so bold,

But, to my thinking, they were quite as old.

Births, deaths and marriages, half a column—

        Some neatly terse, and some elaborate,

Ah! the shortest might have filled a volume,

        Had it set forth the freaks men have with fate.

Poor, frail humanity, so far away,

Is just like poor humanity to-day.

Let's see the other page—is it better?

        Alas! why should it—'tis the same old world.

Here's the very crank who writes a letter

        To prove that time is just about unfurled.

And here's the idiot who thinks he knows

Much better than the paper "how things goes."

There are many ads., all quaintly written,

        But then they tell their plain, unvarnished tales,

And here were some ventures, where some were bitten,

        And some to riches sailed with spreading sails.

While here and there an item pokes its head,

With the rank fumes of politics o'erspread.

Now turn once more, that's the poets' corner—

        What, there were no poets in those old days—

Men were wiser then—go to, thou scorner!

        Time never saw a year without their lays,

And never will, while this old earth's afloat,

Despite what saucy Stedman ever wrote.

Just here we may do some moralizing:

        Poor old sheet, where are all the moving heads

That framed your squibs and blest your advertising,

        And spaced you out so nice with double leads?

They ache no more—they've passed across the tide,

Peace be their portion on the other side.

My saffron friend, I own to your failings,

        But you had virtues I would not ignore—

You printed no portraits, all your ailings

        May be condoned upon that worthy score.

Of course, you can't expect to vie in dress

With this here dandy of the modern press.

You had no phones, and you had no cable,

        To tell you things that never come to pass;

You had no telegraph near your table,

        Yet after all you were not quite an ass.

You worked great wonders with the tools you had,

And need not blush, my lemon-visaged lad.

Now I shall bid farewell, just like others,

        I must make up with new things as they come.

Still I shall regard you all as brothers,

        Although, of course, you have been long from home.

Among such company you may seem rude,

But, never mind, they shall not call you dude.

Well, yes, they're beauties, sure ink and paper

        Well, yes, they're beauties, sure ink and paper

        Can never go beyond this perfect line.

With due allowance for pride and caper,

        You'll own yourself that they are very fine.

I lay you part, just now, my friend, but when

I would compare, I'll bring you out again.

Weekly Detroit Free Press. October 2, 1886: 1 col 6.

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