by May Kendall aka Adelina Mabel Kendall (1873-1953)
Comic verse about two men and an automaton from a little-known Australian poet, published in 1906.
Two men I know – Eugene and Joe –
And one is always moping,
The other’s bright and ready wit
Doth keep him always hoping.
One day Eugene, said, “It is plain
That one of us must marry.
No matter what we try to do
Our efforts all miscarry.
“We try to cook a silly chuck –
The legs both burst asunder;
The breast is burnt, the back is raw –
We always make some blunder.
“We try to sweep – the dust is deep –
And makes us cough and splutter,
And as we make a bolt for air
Some frightful things we utter.
“We try to wash – it seems but bosh
To spend the time in tubbing –
The colour of the clothes is worse
Than ’twas before our rubbing!”
“Just wait,” said Joe, “a thing I know
That’s better far than women;
They have so many silly ways
They set your brain a-swimmin’.
“Now here’s an ‘ad.’ that isn’t bad,
It tells of an inventor
Who’s hit upon a thing which sets
Man free from his tormentor.
“Through works she skims and has no whims
Nor strikes for higher wages,
And even when for meals you’re late
She never gets in rages.
“About she steals on noiseless wheels
Nor even needs a candle,
She never gossips o’er the fence
Nor takes delight in scandal.
“Next day but one I’ll take a run
To town to test her powers,
And if I find she’s all they claim
By George, she’ll soon be ours.”
The day dawned bright, Joe’s heart was light,
As off to town he hurried.
He left his brother looking sad,
And feeling very worried.
“I sadly fear that I shall hear
Joe’s trip has proved a failure;
I hardly think that he will find
Such wonders in Australia.”
With little heart he took the cart,
To meet the train that even –
Joe hauled his purchase out and said,
“Well, seein’ is believin’.”
They drove her home, that Marvellous one,
And felt their woes were ended;
She’d scrub, and cook, and sweep, and wash –
Directions were appended.
She always worked, and never shirked,
For clock-work, faithful, moved her;
The maker had, with best results,
That very morning proved her.
They set about to measure out
The distance for each duty,
Then in her brain recorded it
And wound her up – the beauty!
It took those men till half-past ten
To get the figure working,
And then they watched her quite an hour,
Like two big schoolboys smirking.
All night she toiled, and slaved and moiled,
Preparing for the morrow,
They slept the while, with seraph smile,
Nor dreamed of coming sorrow.
With “Bang and burr, and clang and clurr!”
They wakened in the morning,
The figure had, with cymballed hands,
Thus given timely warning.
A cup of tea each farmer she
Then handed with precision –
Eugene’s with sugar, Joe’s without –
For this they’d made provision.
The floors were swept by hands adept,
The cobwebs all were routed,
The figure had not grumbled once –
Nor had she even pouted.
With hearts elate, at half-past eight,
Their way they homeward wended;
They’d milked the cows and fed the calves,
The pigs and fowls had tended.
On cloth so white, oh, novel sight!
Were plates of porridge ready;
While in a pan upon the stove
The bacon frizzled steady.
For seven days unstinted praise
They gave their costly treasure,
Then Joe displaced a row of tins
And put them out of measure.
“What awful tea! what can it be?”
They cried in doleful chorus;
“It tastes just like tobacco-juice –
And what is this before us?”
The porridge she had made of tea –
You should have seen their faces!
It never struck them ’twas Joe’s fault,
For altering the places.
The bacon came – ’twas such in name –
But soon they saw with sorrow
That it had pleased her ladyship
Joe’s Sunday boots to borrow!
The scones were wrong, and tasted strong
Of kerosene and mustard;
Instead of eggs, she’d found some pegs
And beaten them for custard!
At length they found on looking round
The cause of all the worry;
They had to put things straight again,
Then off to ploughing hurry.
It made them late, and when, irate,
They hastened home to dinner,
Each feeling hungry, cross and tired,
And just a little thinner,
Alas! they found, the figure wound,
The time had kept precisely –
The dinner had been cooked and served,
Exactly half-an-hour observed,
Then dishes scraped and scraps preserved
In piggy’s bucket nicely!
Two sadder men ne’er owned a pen
Of pigs in all Australia,
And yet it seemed to hungry Joe
The crowning touch to all his woe
Was glum Eugene’s, “I told you so;
I knew she’d prove a failure!”
May Kendall, The mechanical housekeeper, Punch (11 Dec 1906): 41.