Vanity Fair (UK), February 15, 1906

THERE’S a sound, as of a multitude assembling
   (Oh, Sergeant, are the policemen at the door?).
I fancy that the Speaker must be trembling
   (They say he placed the policemen at the door);
Just notice how he watches with a quiet kind of grin,
The sinister procession of new Members trooping in;
For he knows that now the battle is a-going to begin
   (Oh, Sergeant, are the policemen at the door?).

It’s Take your life-preserver from the hat-rack,
   Practise rifle-shooting all you know.
      Learn the way to fell a
      Foe with an umbrella,
   Bring a brick, or something hard, to throw.
Take a dozen lessons in Jiu-Jitsu,
   If you are not fit, begin to train:
      Bring your knuckle-duster,
      For the moment’s come to muster;
   Parliament is opening again.

There’s an able representative of Labour
   (He’s knocking out his clay pipe at the door),
He’s making rude remarks about his neighbour
   (Oh, Sergeant, are the policemen to the fore?)
Now he’s quarrelled with a Member of the Cabinet. Oh dear!
He’s talking about giving him a something I can’t hear.
He says “ ’e’d put an ’ead on ’im for ’arf a pint of beer”
   (Oh, Sergeant, are the policemen at the door?).

For it’s “Come artside and tike yer blooming coat orf,
   I’ll knock yer ugly ’ead agenst the wall,
      I ain’t no bloomin’ torker,
      But at fightin’ I’m a corker:
   You ask ’em dahn at Wonderland, that’s orl!”
The language of debate, as you will notice,
   Is eminently sensible and plain;
      Your knowledge must be thorough
      Of the idioms of the Borough
   Now Parliament is opening again.

There’s an Irish Member jumping up and shrieking
   (Oh, Sergeant, are the policemen at the door?),
Mark the fury in his eyeball as he’s speaking!
   (Oh, Sergeant, do be ready at the door).
He says “the counthry’s bleeding, and fair-play, bedad, ’s a jool,
And hwhat’s the Premier mane to do to bring about Home Rule,
Mr. Spayker, sorr, I’d have ye know that I am kapin’ cool”
   (Be ready, Mr. Sergeant, at the door!).

For it’s “Hand me up me darlin’ old shillelagh,
   Let me get the spalpeen by the throat,
      Faith, I’ll tache the divil
      To address the Mimbers civil.
   Where’s the bhoy’ll tread upon me coat?”
You’ll gather very quickly, if you listen
   To the compliments which shower down like rain,
      What a splendid language Erse is
      For giving point to curses
   When Parliament is opening again!

Oh, the trouble of a Speaker (take, for instance,
   The need of having policemen at the door),
The squashing of the Flavins and the Winstons
   (Oh, Sergeant, are the bobbies at the door?).
The necessity of acting as a sort of referee
In a House where no two Members ever manage to agree.
No, I’m certain that a Speaker’s life would never do for me
   (Oh, Sergeant, are the policemen at the door?).

For it’s Take your Colt’s revolver in your pocket,
   Let your bowie’s edge be keen and bright,
      Keep a handy hatchet
      By your seat, to snatch it,
   And use it with effect if there’s a fight.
Don’t forget a bludgeon, neatly wielded,
   Lends weight to the opinions you maintain:
      Develop all your muscles,
      You’ll need them in the tussles,
   Now Parliament is opening again.

P. G. Wodehouse.



Note: In the general election of 12 January to 8 February 1906, the Conservative–Liberal Unionist alliance lost more than half their seats in Parliament, retaining only 156; the Liberal party under Henry Campbell-Bannerman won a large majority of 397 seats; the Irish Parliamentary Party made a strong showing at 82 seats, and the success of 29 labour candidates led to the official forming of the Labour Party.

The actual opening of Parliament was on February 19, after this poem appeared, so Wodehouse’s satire is fanciful.

—Neil Midkiff