Words: Redfield Clarke Music: J. Bodewalt Lampe
As I sit here in my office chair and watch the dying fire,
I think of all the messages that flash along the wire.
I hear the constant clicking, the clicking of the key,
And while in the mood I’ll tell you what the wires tell me.
Click, click, click, a message of sorrow and pain,
Click, click, click, a message of profit and gain,
Click, click, click, a monarch is hurled from his throne,
Click, click, click, click, mother is dying, come home.
This is a sad or merry world, we each one have our own,
Yours filled with friends and happiness, I live in mine alone.
Be his tidings sad or joyous, my small friend never tires
As he clicks to me the messages that flash along the wires.
Click, click, click, a good ship’s gone down in a gale,
Click, click, click, close the switch for the limited mail,
Click, click, click, a man worth ten millions is dead,
Click, click, click, whole nations are praying for bread. —What the Wires Tell to Me, (1893) (Once and Future Web)
A song about the telegraph, presenting a rather melodramatic glimpse into the privilged position of an almost monastic telegraph operator, whose work makes possible a communictions event that was at the time still a very unusual experience.
Consider the very different, chatty tone of the 1936 “The Telegram Song (STOP),” which was written for a culture that had fully integrated the telegraph in daily life:
My darling, I miss you tonight – STOP –
I wish I could kiss you tonight – STOP-
Want to let you know just how I am,
So I’m sending you this telegram.
The weather is rainy and cold – STOP-
The next house to our house was sold -STOP-
Audio for these songs, and several others, are available on the site.