C. H. W.

An Ode to the Japanese (1860)

By the Bard that Sang of Heenan

O Japanese,
You’re welcome to this shore!
We greet you as we greet the Orient breeze
Whose rustling robes have swept the perfumed seas;
You come as welcome as the earliest peas,—
Can soul of man say more?

Illustrious Pagans from the Niphon Isle,
Come to our arms—we’ll while away a while
In pleasant talk and chat;
Tell us in sweet communion what you think
Of all you’ve seen, and with a latent wink
Tell us, sub rosa, what you’ll take to drink—
Sweet Pagans, tell us that!

And we’ll pay half the charges of a hack
To take you to the Central Park and back,
In short, we’ll put you through;
We’ll trot you out, we’ll take you to the Tombs,
The City Hall, the Common Council rooms,
And the Volks Garten, too.

Will have a grand procession down Broadway,
Stop in the Park to see the engines play,
And zealous little boys
Shall black your boots—they’ll charge you each three cents,
But as you’re guests, to share the expense
Will swell Fernando’s joys.

And Barnum then shall show his stock in trade,
Display to you the mermaid that you made—
You’ll like his honest phiz.
And then perhaps he’ll take you to the cage
Which holds “the living wonder of the age,”
And tell you what it is!

But have a care of Barnum’s promptness, since
’Tis like he’ll hire a Kami or a prince
To stand upon all fours
And advertise next day, “Admission cheap
To an amphibious monster of the deep
That comes from Niphon’s shores!”

And have a care lest Peter Funk may sell
A pinchbeck watch so some Celestial swell,
To some Mad-darin man;
And watch lest ticket-swindlers come anon,
And sell to every Pagan mother’s son
A ticket to Japan!

Should this be done, oh! do not cross the sea
In bitter wrath and poison our Bohea;
But promise, Japanese,
That though our Common Council bore your ears,
That though we dot your heathen eyes with tears,
You will not cross our teas!

‘An Ode to the Japanese’ appeared on page 1 of the New York Times May 15, 1860, and was reprinted in Littell’s Living Age, 9 June 1860, p. 611. I have not been able to determine the identity of C. H. W. The reference to ‘the Bard that Sang of Heenan’ must be to the rousing ‘Battle Hymn’ that appeared in the Times April 30, 1860, about the thirty-seven round prize fight in London two weeks earlier between the American John C. Heenan and the Irishman Tom Sayers, which ended in a draw and a riot. ‘A Battle Hymn’, however, is signed simply ‘W’.

Regarding the ‘grand procession down Broadway’ of line 20, see Walt Whitman’s more remarkable treatment of the first Japanese embassy to the United States, The Errand-Bearers, which appeared in the Times two months after C. H. W.’s ‘Ode’.

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