In China

by JOHN LIDDELL KELLY (1850-1926)

Of all earth’s un-English and heathenish holes,
None comes within cooey of China.
The rottenest place, from the Line to the Poles,
Is that same Middle Kingdom of China.
Yet sometimes I think that we say and we do
Lots of things, and applaud them as proper and true,
Which we’d censure and damn with a mighty “Boo-hoo,”
Were they done by the people of China.

All ranks and all titles by merit are won
In the pestilent kingdom of China;
They go back to the father, not down to the son
Shows they’re all topsy-turvy in China.
It is birth, and not worth, that we Britishers prize;
We “kotow” to men whom we inly despise ;
The knaves and the noodles make laws for the wise.
We should call that rank nonsense in China.

They’ve a praying machine, which petitions can string.
Sixty millions a minute, in China;
Of course it’s a horrid, irreverent thing,
They’d use nowhere else than in China.
We British keep thousands of parsons to pray,
Costing millions a year. But though Chows do not pay,
They get as much soul-saving comfort, they say.
From those praying contraptions in China.

We send parsons and opium and cotton and guns
To the poor, darkened heathen of China;
We force our religion and Sunday-school buns
On the perishing millions of China.
But supposing they sent us some preachers across,
To make us wear pigtails and worship a Joss,
Should we blandly look on while they tore down the Cross?
No; I guess we’d make ructions in China.

The way they treat women’s a perfect disgrace
To the bad, brutal people of China;
They cramp the poor feet and they paint the doll’s face
Of each dear little girlie in China.
Our women may paint, and it can’t be denied
That their waists may be pinched, and their hair may be dyed.
And their busts may be padded, and lots more beside;
But, bless you, they don’t live in China.

The practice of gambling’s a terrible vice
‘Mong the sin-sodden people of China!
Fan-tan, pak-a-pu, and a species of dice
Are all known to the gamblers of China.
True, we bet in our streets, and play cards in our pubs;
We have poker and nap in our big, toney clubs;
But we cannot attend to our own dirty dubs
While we’re preaching reform out in China.

They have no old-age pensions or maintenance laws.
These barbarous wretches in China;
No bankrupts are there; and to find out the cause
Is to cast a dark shade over China.
There a man cuts his throat when he can’t pay his debts;
No child e’er to honour his parents forgets;
And the worst thing of all is that nobody frets;
They are most unprogressive in China.

They are all imitation they’re copyists grand
The ingenious toilers of China;
But they never invent, and they don’t understand
How to fashion a new thing in China.
Yet I fancy I’ve read that in centuries gone
They made silks, and had printing-machines of their own,
And the mariner’s compass, to Europe unknown
But, of course, we don’t copy from China.

We pay our physicians for potions and pills;
They pay them for health, there, in China:
While the patient is well he has regular bills;
When ill he stops paying, in China.
Our doctor draws fees, if he cures, if he kills;
He gets paid while we’re sick, he gets named in our wills.
How blest are we British, escaping the ills
Of unhappy, illogical China!

We are patriots here, when we hold by our own;
‘Tis a different matter in China.
To expel the invader, or bid him begone,
Is flat-foot rebellion in China.
How happy, contented and proud should we be
That our lot has been cast in the Isles of the Free,
Where we do as we like if we only agree
To condemn the same things done in China.

1901.

John Liddell Kelly Contemporaries
William Ernest Henley
James Whitcomb Riley
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Eugene Field

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