Poem: History of a Printer by Anonymous

"Blest Invention, alone to God the praise!
For gifting man this noble art to raise;
From thee what benefits do men possess?
Our Nation's Bulwark is -- the BRITISH PRESS!"

At ten years old (as if to raise my fame)
My father placed me in a wooden frame
In my left hand he clapt an iron stick
On which brass rule was often heard to click. 
Though I'm not skill'd in Greek or Latin lore,  
Nor ancient Hebrew used in days of yore,
With due submission I inform my betters.
That I can boast I am a man of letters.
Bred to the bar, though I ne'er studied law,
I well could espy every deed I saw; 
And though no Christian merchant, Turk, or Jew,  
I've dealt in pearl, and oft in diamond too.
And, though unskill'd in aught of pastry art,  
In making pie I oft have had my part.
This, too, I own, whatever my condition,
That I have often practis'd imposition
When numerous lines and columns have appear'd
In hostile proof, I've prick'd them in the beard
With bodkin keen, as poinards were of old, 
Which vile assassins oft employed for gold.
I am no traitor, but depend upon't,
I've form'd and placed French cannon in the front;
With English too, I've hit them in the nick,
And chased whole thousands with one shooting-stick.    
In forming lines it oft has been my pride,
Into a town to pour a whole broadside
Oft at the gallows have I tugg'd and sweat,    
And with a mallet heavy metier beat.
A galley slave near fifty years I've been,
And at the stocks my hands wore often seen;
But still, to show my history's not ill paged,
At cards and balls I've often been engag'd.
Though never rich, I yet have had my horse,  
But found by doing so my case was worse;
For, when with others in the chase I've join'd,
I've met with crosses that have hurt my mind.
When author's works by me were looked o'er,
I've lock'd them up to publish them the more. 
And, though no doz, this my assertions true,
'I've been a pointer and a setter to;
But not a spaniel, for I ne'er could lick
The foot of him who dared attempt to kick.  
Howe'er an author did his language dress,
In varĂ¯ous forms I've sent it to the press
But hard's the fate of poor unlucky I,
My father taught me in damp sheets to lie;
Yet, when the tympans and the platten bell,
They form'd new lines for other folks to tell.  
Although neglected at my grammar schools,
I've paid obedience to the chapel rules;
And yet, to prove that I was not uncivil,
I always spoke in favour of the devil.

   But now no more the brazen rule doth click,
Nor well-adjusted line adorn the stick;
No more I see the chapellonions sit
To try their causes and exert their wit.
While the gav pitcher jovially would pass,
From ass to pig, from pig again to ass;
And thus one truth most other truth surpasses,
I've drank with pigs, and often fed with asses,
So when astray from either sty or stall,
And they on me would in their trumping call,
I pledge my soul as witness of the deed,
I ne'er forsook them in the time of need;
Unless indeed I'd set up every space, 
And caused myself to have an empty case.
At present I have set up every letter.
My copy's out and I've imposed the matter;    
And when my cuter form returns to clay,
Preserve, O GOD! my inner form I pray;
If I perchance, and there can be no doubt,
Have made a double or have left an out,
The error's trivial, 'tis with us as common
As noisy tongue is to a scolding woman.
My case being out and nothing to distribute, 
Should some kind ass or generous pig contribute,
To fill my case, in thinking I'll be proud,
And bray and grunt my gratitude aloud.  
If to some wood-hole I am doom'd to go,
To end my days in misery and woe,
Where tyrants rule with cruelly replete,
Ah! dread abode -- the poor man's last retreat,
'Midst dire oppression, anguish, pain, and grief,
Without a friend to yield the least relief ;
Then haste, kind Death, in pity to my age,
And clap the FINIS, to my life's last page.
May heaven's great Author my foul proof revise,
Cancel the page in which my error lies
And raise my form above the ethereal skies.


No more shall copy bad perplex my brain ;
No more shall type's small face my eye-balls strain;
No more the proof's foul page create me troubles,
By errors, transpositions, fonts and doubles;  
No more to overrun shall I begin;
No more be driving out or taking in;
The stubborn Pressman's frown I now may scoff;
Raised, corrected, finally worked off!

First published in The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 17 March 1842

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on October 3, 2009 8:50 AM.

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