My First Imperial Adventure
As a child, I loved to pore
Upon an atlas like a book.
The early chapters laid out Europe,
Where I knew it’s ev’ry nook.
Later on came Africa or Asia,
I forget which first.
The other next, then North, then South America
Would be traversed.
Oceania bringing up the rear,
And scattered islands next,
With local names italicised beside
The faithful English text.
That was the story’s climax, now the coda –
Now the final pair of plates –
The Arctic, then the Ant, in round tableaux,
The Baring and Magellan Straits.
Antarctica, to my surprise,
Had place-name labels scattered round –
The Ross Ice Shelf and Ellsworth Mountains,
Kemp Land, and McMurdo Sound.
Such British names ! The Arctic, though, was foreign –
Though I’d love to think
How Queen Victoria might send
The Royal Navy out to turn it pink.
Take Greenland, with its Anglo-Saxon name –
From Cape Farewell down in the South,
On through Discov’ry Bay to Upper Tooley,
And out East there’s Scoresby Mouth.
The Viceroy has his Residence in Goodhope,
With the inevitable railway lines –
Heading South to Hope St Julian,
Through Greenvale and the Squarehill mines.
And the Great Green Mainline steaming North,
With a branch and boat-train out to Sugar Top,
And via Lower Streamouth aerodrome,
To Foxborough – which once was the final stop,
Until the junction to Jacob’s Harbour,
(Ferries to God’s Haven from the pleasure pier),
Then the final push to Springfield Isle,
On viaducts of steel that we’d engineer.
Of course, in time the Esquimaux would learn
The ways of cricket and the bowler hat,
And in later years, there’s some would settle down
In Blighty, in a council flat
In Ashford, Accrington and Aberdeen,
To drive the buses and newspaper stands,
Opening churches, opening restaurants,
Marrying the local girls and forming bands.
I know, I know, so many problems
Unthought-out in the fantasy of a kid.
Just as well it never happened –
And yet…on a parallel Earth, it probably did.