Thanks to Professor Emeritus J. F. Belanger at University of British Columbia for his assistance.

The City of the World (A song in praise of London)

The City of the World (A song in praise of London). 1842. Illustrated London News. Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the author and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

In a supplement to the The Illustrated London News for 31 December 1842, the reader would have encountered both a song for Christmas and one in praise of London's greatness as the world's preeminent metropolis. Bayley's "Jolly, Holly Christmas! A Song of the Wassail Bowl" (pp. 532-33) was followed by the three verses of "The City of the World" (words by Bayley and music by E. J. Loder). Here is the first verse:

A spirit from a fairy world
Track'd thro' the realms of light,
And saw the cities of the earth
Spread far beneath her flight;
And once her white wings furl'd a-while
O'er London's mighty home,
And gave their dew-starr'd beauty rest
On yon cathedral dome.
Sing, glad and bold, to London old,
That proudly, proudly shines impearl'd
In England's breast, o'er all the rest,
"The city of the world!"

Successive verses on p. 551 extol the city's "lusty Commerce" (verse 4, line 29), "The giant arms of shining Thames" (line 31), and the "wond'rous storehouse" (line 34) holding the gold of empires. The Bayley lyrics also contrast the "kingly palace" (verse 5, line 37: undoubtedly an allusion to Buckingham Palace, bought by George III in 1761, remodeled by George IV in 1826 as a palace with the aid of John Nash, and since 1837 the official London residence of Queen Victoria) and "the fair park" (line 39, possibly Hyde Park, open to the public from 1637) with "Misery's hovels near" (line 41), as a stark reminder that the British lion distributes wealth and privilege somewhat unequally at the start of The Hungry Forties.

A spirit from a fairy world
Track'd thro' the realms of light,
And saw the cities of the earth
Spread far beneath her flight!
And once her white wings furl'd awhile
O'er London's mighty home,
And gave their dew-starr'd beauty rest
On yon cathedral dome!

Fair curling clouds of silver rose
Soft through the morning air,
And London's eye of pride looked up
To catch the sun-glow there!
Then as the spirit gazed below,
Through all the misty light,
No dreamy grandeur of old worlds
Seemed half so vast and bright!

Proud, lusty Commerce burst alive
From out the bands of sleep!
The giant arms of shining Thames
Clasped forests to his deep!
The gold of empires seemed to find
Its wond'rous storehouse there! —
A lion — symbolizing wealth —
With London for his lair!

The kingly palace looking up
In regal grandeur now!
And the fair park — like Nature's kiss
Upon the city's brow!
And lo! though Misery's hovels near
Prove life with Sorrow's leaven,
God's temples send their spiral tow'rs
To point the way to Heaven!

The Spirit felt within her heart
The glow of wild amaze,
And her sweet fairy eyes looked down
Blind-dazzled by their gaze!
"Farewell, bright view — for elfin land
My wing is now unfurled,
But, wonder-struck, I leave behind
The City of the World!"

References

Bayley and Loder, E. J. "The City of the World." Illustrated London News. (31 December 1842): 550-51.


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Last modified 3 March 2012