Saturday, 8 October 2016
Saturday Rave: From a Railway Carriage by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Today is the anniversary of the Rainhill Trials, which took place in Northern England in 1829 to decide upon the best design for a steam locomotive.
The trials were won by Robert Stevenson's The Rocket, an engine which cleverly integrated several existing engineering ideas, and proved to form the basis for steam engine design for the next 150 years.
(You can still see The Rocket at the Science Museum in London.)
In celebration, here's a wonderful poem by another Robert Stevenson, this time Robert Louis. It comes from A Child's Garden of Verses, and it was the poem that first made me notice that words can have such a thing as rhythm.
In those days railway tracks were made in fairly short lengths joined together, and the wheels of the carriages clicked as they travelled over the joins: diddle-dee DAH, diddle-dee DAH, they went.
Or, to be more elegant about it, they made a noise rather like this:
From a Railway Carriage
Faster than fairies, faster than witches
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle,
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.
Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,
All by himself and gathering brambles;
Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;
And there is the green for stringing the daisies!
Here is a cart run away in the road
Lumping along with man and load;
And here is a mill and there is a river:
Each a glimpse and gone forever!
It's rather nonsense, of course: but then who can bear to be entirely sensible when you're going along very fast on a steam train?
Word To Use Today: steam. This word is Old English. It might be related to the Old High German stioban, to raise dust.