The History of an Industrial Revolution, Located in a Parallel Universe

The Iron Forge
The Iron Forge by Joseph Wright

 

The History of an Industrial Revolution, Located in a Parallel Universe

There was a time before the steam,
The world was truly manned:
Each ditch was dug and plough was drug
By animal or hand;
And all the light to see by came
From tallow or the sun.
So lives would trudge on just the same,
Each short and brutal run.
There was a time before the steam,
The only help was wind or stream;
So up we moved to brook or hill,
Forever lashed to nature’s will –
We’d tap the earth to drive our mill.
A little better, maybe – but we’d only just begun.

There was a time before the steam,
The world was short and slow.
Our only fuel was ox or mule,
Or when the wind might blow.
And all the heat in winter came
From hearths of wood or peat,
With forests lost to make a flame
And give a little heat.
There was a time before the steam,
Before the pitch-black golden seam,
When all the energy not hooved
Could not be bottled, bred or moved.
Our lives could only be improved
By pilgrimage to power on our thousand weary feet.

There was a time before the steam,
The world was harshly ranged;
The days were long, yet swiftly gone,
And nothing ever changed.
But then came coal – the good earth’s soul,
The black and frozen fire –
And finally we took control,
And built our chimneys higher.
There was a time before the steam,
But that was then – before the gleam
Of pistons, valves and proud machines
Whose vapour-thrust provides the means
For endless and precise routines:
To serve our ev’ry labour and to never miss or tire.

There was a time before the steam,
To which we dread return;
But once the coke is up in smoke,
Well, what then will we burn ?
We’ve still got wind and rivers, sure,
But those have local clout.
Their power cannot take a tour
To where there’s folk about.
Will there be times beyond the steam,
A flywheel to prolong the dream ?
If only we can tame the spark –
The lightning bolt, the static arc –
And store it, then release its bark !
Or else we face an Age of Dark, when all the lights go out.

 

 

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