Every poor Quidnunc now condemns
The Tunnel underneath Old Thames,
And swears, his science all forgetting,
Friend Brunel's judgment wanted whetting;
'Tis thus great characters are dish'd,
When they get wetter than was wish'd,--
Brunel to Gravesend meant to go
Under the water, wags say so,
And under that same water put
His hopes to find a shorter cut;
But when we leave the light of day.
Water hath many a devious way,
Which, like a naughty woman, leads
The best of men to strange misdeeds:
Had nearly, 'twas a toss-up whether,
Gone to his grave and end together.
How the performance went amiss
The classical account is this--
The Naiads, Thames' stream that swim in,
Being curious, just like mortal women,
Dear souls! 'tis said, midst all their cares,
They love to peep at man's affairs,
And wondering at the workmen's hammers,
The noise of axes, engines, rammers,
Thought 'twould be well, nor meant the fun ill,
To make an opening through the Tunnel,
Just to see how the work went on,
And then, down dash'd they, every one;
When these same belles began to dire,
'Twas well the workmen 'scaped alive:
Brunel, indeed, who knew full well
The nature of a diving bell,
Remain'd some time, nor made wry faces,
Within their aqueous embraces;
Nay, fierce and ungallant, adventured
To oust them by the breach they entered.
Vain man! 'twas well that he could swim,
Or, certes, they had ousted him.
Speed on great projects! though we rate 'em
Rash, for alluvial pomatum,
And under that a sandy stratum,
Will offer at a little distance
An insurmountable resistance.
How strange! to find the labour done
Just as the sand begins to run;
In general human projects drop,
Just when our sand begins to stop!