Neo-Victorian Studies, the e-journal that I wrote about in yesterday's post, has proved informative reading on steampunk aspects of the 1800s. Take the article: "'The Steam Arm': Proto-Steampunk Themes in a Popular Victorian Song." The article discusses the theme of technology gone wrong, prevalent in the steampunk subculture, within the pre-Victorian song "The Steam Arm." Written at an unknown date, probably before Queen Victoria's reign, with an unknown melody by an anonymous writer, the song describes the incompatibility of new technology with the daily life of common people.
Just a fun little "what if?" ballad of a man unable to control the superhuman powers inherent in new technology? Or, perhaps, a song delving into the realm of Victorian anti-technology propaganda?
Whatever this may be, I think the ballad would make an excellent basis for a hilarious steampunk movie.
THE STEAM ARM
Oh! Wonders sure will never cease,
While works of art do so increase;
No matter whether in war or peace,
Men can do whatever they please.
Ri too ral, etc
A curious tale I will unfold
To all of you, as I was told,
About a soldier stout and bold,
Whose wife, ‘tis said, was an arrant scold.
At Waterloo he lost an arm,
Which gave him pain and great alarm;
But he soon got well, and grew quite calm,
For a shilling a day was a sort o’ balm.
The story goes, on every night
His wife would bang him left and right;
So he determined, out of spite,
To have an arm, cost what it might.
He went at once, strange it may seem,
To have one made to work by steam,
For a ray of hope began to gleam,
That force of arms would win her esteem.
The limb was finished, and fixed unto
His stump of a shoulder neat and true;
You’d have thought it there by nature grew,
For it stuck to its place as tight as glue.
He started home and knocked at the door,
His wife her abuse began to pour;
He turn’d a small peg, and before
He’d time to think, she fell on the floor.
With policemen soon his room was fill’d,
But every one he nearly killed;
For the soldier’s arm had been so drill’d,
That once in action, it couldn’t be still’d.
They took him, at length, before the mayor,
His arm kept moving all the while there;
The mayor said ‘Shake your fist if you dare,’
When the steam arm knocked him out of the chair.
This rais’d in court a bit of clamour,
The arm going like an auctioneer’s hammer;
It fell in weight like a paviour’s rammer,
And many with fear began to stammer.
He was lock’d in a cell for doing harm,
To satisfy those who had still a qualm,
When all at once they heard an alarm,
Down fell the walls and out popp’d the arm.
He soon escap’d and reach’d his door,
And knock’d by steam raps half a score;
But as the arm in power grew more and more,
Bricks, mortar and wood soon strew’d the floor.
With eagerness he stepp’d each stair,
Popp’d into the room – his wife was there;
‘Oh! Come to my arms’, he said, ‘my dear’;
When his steamer smash’d the crockery ware.
He left his house, at length, outright,
And wanders now just like a sprite;
For he can’t get sleep either day or night,
And his arm keeps moving with two-horse might.