Book 3


The fact is that some years ago, hearing of the death of George the third, king of Great Britain, the thought occurred to me, which has been expressed in a preceding chapter, of that monarch coming down to the borders of the Styx, and claiming immunity from ferriage on the score of being a customer of so long standing, and to so great an amount, in sending down shades. And as a few doggerel verses were struck off by me at a public house where I was detained during a snow storm, it has come into my mind, by way of varying the entertainment of this book, to give these, as I happen to have the paper by me; and those who may not like it well in prose, may relish it in a sort of measure; especially as it is drawn out to greater length, and with some variation of expression, though the ideas be, in substance, the same. It is thus, that an entertainment is diversified by having the same food dressed in a different manner, by culinary preparation. The same fish, flesh, or fowl, boiled and roasted, are not rejected because they are the same. I have not leisure, nor the documents from whence to collect a statement of the wars with the different people, and the probable bloodshed of these wars. But it would seem to me, that in few reigns has there been more than under that of the king of England, taking into view what he may have ended or have left on hand. The Dialogue is supposed to be as follows.

George III. Charon, Mercury


When George came to the Stygian flood,
Quoth Charon in his surly mood,
Advance, and pay the ferriage due;
Which George in dudgeon took; what, you
Demand me ferriage, who scot free
May claim to navigate this sea;
Have been so good a customer,
And shipp’d you cargoes many a year;
At least a million in my time,
Of every origin and clime;
Abatement of a single copper;
But treated as an interloper;
A trespasser upon your docks,
And funds arising from your stocks.
Do you distinguish whom you have
About to enter in your nave;
And honour to your portage bring;
No common Phantom, but a king?
Quoth Mercury, and cock’d his eye,
Who, with his rod, was standing by;
This is king George the III. d’ye see,
Charon, his British majesty;
Not that St. George who slew the dragon,
And hack’d and hew’d some centuries agone;
But George, a namesake, and more skill’d
In cabinet, if not in field,
To deal about him better blows,
And knock down men instead of cows;
A very hero, in his day,
And murderer, in sort of way,
By ministers, and means of war.
D--m me, quoth Charon, if I care,
A hero or a man of Gotham;
‘Tis all the same to me to boat him.
But if a champion of such mettle,
Surpassing far your common cattle;
Where are the badges of his order,
And his certificates of murder;
Accoutrement of lance and horse,
To tilt a tournament, and spurs,
And helmet with the beaver down,
The enemy to charge upon;
And other matters in campaign
That have cut short the lives of men.
More like, he seems to me, to kill
A sheep; or rather like to steal.
Charon, quoth Mercury, a wag
You always were; and bullyrag.
In this your rhapsody of nonsense,
You know you speak against your conscience,
And do not believe the half you say;
For, a mere devil in his way,
His head, if not his hand, has sent
A million to your continent,
As I have a good right to know,
Charg’d with the driving them below;
And, from the multitude, can vouch
He has put thousands in your pouch;
For not since Noah’s flood, or yont,
Has boating turn’d to such account;
As since this man took to the trade;
The mystery of knocking on the head;
Not by his individual arm;
For that did very little harm;
But, by his cabinet of crimes,
War manufactures of his times.
Have you not found your toll increase
Beyond your customary fees;
And grown much richer than you were,
When traffic of the stream was bare:
Some say begin to realize--
We scarcely can believe our eyes,
To see the country seats that fix
Themselves upon the river Styx;
Of which ‘tis said, you have a box
Built up from profit of your docks,
In this great run of luck of late,
Owing a good deal to his pate,
Who made a war out of a tax,
On tea, and stuck to it like wax,
Occasioning a double douse,
Of grist to this your mill, you goose.
I shall say nothing of the East;
Or war in Ireland lately pressed;
And though the French folks bear the blame,
Else-where, they lighted up the flame.
To Pilnitz is the credit due,
And influx of the gain to you.
I own, quoth Charon, we have had
For some time past, or luck in trade,
A pretty tolerable run--
Tolerable! you son of a gun,
Quoth Mercury: Why? not since Caesar,
Or’s predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar,
Has there been such an emigration,
By folly caus’d, or by the passion
Of this same tyrant of the seas,
Who managed so to keep down peace
That in his whole reign there was war,
With those near hand, or those afar:
Not even your Bajazette, or Tamerlane,
Contributed so much to your gain;
Nor Alaric or Attila,
Did after them such havock draw;
Not by the maxims of his rule,
So much as obstinacy of mule.
But Charon have you no more wit,
Than never once to think of it,
The dangers of oeconomy,
Too much to Pluto’s treasury,
Who, by your saving may grow rich
And build a bridge across this ditch,
And in your old age turn you off,
Having had your service long enough.
More likely turn me into hell,
Quoth Charon, since ‘twill do as well.
But are you not a pretty god,
Dan Mercury, to spread abroad
Such doctrine that a man may cheat,
Provided he advantage get:
Bad ethic’s in our school to teach;
Or for the devil himself to preach.
No wonder that with upper men,
You have been call’d the god of gain;
Nor much concern’d for common weal,
You make your shifts, some say you steal:
But as for me an honest tar,
I neither over-charge the fare,
Or rob my senior of his rent,
Defrauding him a single cent;
And hence it is I keep my place,
Nor yet have suffered a disgrace;
Charg’d with embezzlement, or fraud,
From speculation, just as bad;
Which conduct I shall not pursue,
Nor with your cheating have to do;
For not a single head shall pass
The stygian bourne, without the cash,
Whatever be his pedigree,
Or deeds that he has done, d’ye see.
Not if he had murdered every man
And woman, since the world began.
For such the will of Jove, and fate,
To change the rule would be too late;
And so it is that every soul
That crosses in this boat, pays toll;
Will not abate a single copper,
To fighting warrior, or clod-hopper;
Must every one douse down his Obole,
Whether he peasant be, or noble.
Just at that instant, an uproar
Was heard upon the other shore:
Ghosts wanting scalps, some wanting limb,
Wishing to get a claw at him;
And calling out to let him pass,
And they themselves would pay his brass.
The Hindo, with his staff in air,
And many an Irishman was there,
With his shilelah, to be at
His majesty, and give a pat.
But stiffer than the stiffest mast
That ever bent before the blast
Stood Charon, and might still have stood,
Had not, from t’other side the flood,
King Pluto, hearing of the din
And uproar that the town was in,
Hung out his signal, from the shore,
For ferry boat to hasten o’er;
And telegraph with what was writ,
As far we could decypher it;
Which was to draw an order on
The treasury, or score him down;
Or take a credit in account
For what his ferriage might amount.
Aye, aye, quoth Charon, very well,
Since I have got the word of hell
‘Tis all the same to me, and so
Hoist anchor, and set sail; ye ho.