Daily Express, Friday, October 9, 1903

Poem 09

(Attribution uncertain)



Where the Club of Cobden’s portals
House those very brainy mortals—
German honorary members,
French and Russian by the score; 1
I observed the Parrot standing
In an attitude commanding,
Screaming in a German accent:
Dot Ihr Essen kosten more.

“Why,” I asked him, “have you chosen
Words that might in Kiel or Posen
Seem the thing, but which in London
I have rarely heard before?
If you join in our discussion,
Cease to talk to us in Prussian.”
But “A bas!” the Parrot answered.
Vos repas vous couteront more.”

So I cried: “Your secret’s leaking;
For the manner of your speaking
Would suggest your sympathising
With the envious foreign corps—
Jealous of the British Nation,
Hating ‘Joe’ with trepidation.”
But the bird replied in Yankee:
Stranger, food will cost you more.”

“Bird,” I said, in language bitter,
“You had better be a flitter
To more suitable surroundings on
Some distant alien shore;
For the foreigner desiring
British trade to be acquiring,
He it is who tells our people that
Your food will cost you more.’ ”



On 30 September 1903, the Times had printed a letter from Mr. J. Powell Williams MP, who had been criticised for saying, in an earlier letter to the secretary of the Cobden Club, that the club consisted largely of gentlemen of foreign origin, from countries that “refuse to practise what the Cobden Club preaches”.

In his letter to the Times, which was briefly summarised in the following day’s Daily Express, Powell Williams pointed out that the 485 members of the Cobden Club included 170 foreigners, living abroad and classed as honorary members, as well as many members with foreign names living in Britain, and he suggested that if the club tried to change its policy these members would resist the change, “asserting, each in his own tongue, and none perhaps in ours, the eternal principle of ‘free dumping’ as applied to Great Britain only.”