What the Wires Tell to Me, (1893)

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.