"Welcome! bright stranger of the sky,
That after many a lingering year,
Again appeared to mortal eye,
As though in thy sublime career,
Swifter than flashing thought can trace,
Roll'st on through endless fields of space.
Since last thou didst thy visit pay,
How chequered has been hist'ry's page!
Millions have hailed the light of day -
Fretted their hour on life's dull stage -
Then, like the storm-drops on the wave,
Have fallen into traceless grave."
Fear not you poets of Blogland, this is not a new star that has risen in the firmament. Fear not lovers of fine literature, this is not me embarking on the life of a jobbing poet. The author of these fine words that can be found in the Preston Chronicle and Lancashire Advertiser of the 17th October 1835 is a certain James Scott Walker who is either long since dead or perhaps living as a semi-recluse in London ever since the Walker Brothers split up. The reason that these wondrous verses are being reprinted here for the first time in 176 years is that I am waiting for the gas man to come and repair my central heating boiler.
Now regular readers of News From Nowhere will know that I have spent a large amount of my adult life waiting for the gas man to come and repair my central heating boiler (he has already been 4 times this year and came at least 12 times last year) and therefore the lines will be delivered, when I greet him at the door, with a liberal splash of irony. As his last visit was only yesterday, even in these days of galloping population growth, it is unlikely that "millions have hailed the light of day" since his last visit.
I didn't go out of my way to find Walkers' remarkably unapposite words, I found them whilst searching for some historic ammunition. I wanted to be able to convey to the gas engineer in question that, given the amount of time gas heating has been around, expecting my boiler to function for more than a week without the aid of spare parts was not unreasonable. And a search through the on-line Newspaper Archives in the British Library collection came up with the following brief paragraph in the Preston Chronicle of 1835
HEATING BY GAS : The novel application of heating by the flame of burning gas is coming very extensively into use. The plan has recently been introduced at Islington Church and St. Michaels Church, Strand, the vestry room at St Sepulchre's, his Majesty's Mint, Westminster Hospital, and several banking houses and other public buildings.
So has the British Gas engineer been popping into the Royal Mint on a weekly basis since 1835, or Islington Church. Or is it just my boiler that seems to be fated.? It was after reading the above paragraph that I noticed the poem which had been conveniently printed on the same page. But excuse me now, I need to go and practice my lines in anticipation of the gas mans' arrival.