[Mr Chamberlain displays the utmost terror of the “Daily News” (says the “Daily News”).]


Like Bombastes Furioso 1
See the Parrot in a pose so
Very valiant, you might think him
Leader of an army corps.
Gone his look as black as thunder
At the “Daily News’s” blunder, 2
And again he squawked quite clearly
That “Your food will cost you more.”

“Why”, he squawked, “I made an error;
In a state of utmost terror
Is poor Joe. In fact he wishes
He could vanish through the floor.
Though with cunning he dissembles,
Only notice how he trembles
When the ‘Daily News’ and I, sir,
Cry ‘Your food will cost you more.’”

“Stop”, I cried, “you foolish nagger,
Do you think your feeble swagger
Will induce the British people
Your misstatements to ignore?
Do you think a single reader
Will believe the D.N. leader
When it says that Joe is frightened
At your ‘Food will cost you more’?”

But the bird continues gaily
Cheering for the bumptious “Daily
News”, and otherwise behaving
Like a little england bore. 3
So I left him to his folly.
Who can care if such a Polly
Says or does not say the falsehood
That “Your food will cost you more”?


Bombastes Furioso is a burlesque opera by William Barnes Rhodes (1772-1826) which quickly became popular after its first performance, in 1810. The title, which echoes that of the 16th century epic poem, Orlando Furioso, has the literal meaning “Mad Bombastes“. In the opera, General Bombastes is engaged to Distaffina, who jilts him in favour of the king, Artaxaminous, whereupon Bombastes goes mad and kills the king and is in turn killed by the king’s minister.

As used here, “Bombastes Furioso” is someone who talks boastfully, using inflated language.


This refers to the Daily News’s posters, which had been ridiculed by Chamberlain in his speech at Birmingham two days earlier: see poem 32


The term “little Englander” was applied to those who were opposed to the expansion of the Empire (or, indeed, to the existence of the Empire). Cecil Rhodes, addressing an annual general meeting of the British South Africa Company in January 1895, explained it thus:

[. . .] your little Englander very fairly says, What is the advantage of all these expansions; what is the advantage of our colonies?

Arthur Balfour, speaking at Norwich on 4 November 1897, compared the two opposing attitudes to the Empire:

He has a natural and ineradicable aversion to Empire. He makes no secret of the fact that he is what in the cant phrase of modern politics is called a “little Englander”. He sees the burden of Empire; he sees the sordid part of Empire, and a sordid part there will be so long as men are men in any great multitude. He sees the sordid side, but he is blind to the heroism, blind to the self-abnegation, blind to the sacrifices made in obscure corners of the Empire by countless unknown Englishmen [he used the term to embrace all those born in the British Isles: Balfour himself was a Scot] for the best interests and honour of the nation and the progress of civilization.

The term acquired considerably currency from 1895-96, as relations between the Boer republics and British colonies in South Africa deteriorated, and during the Boer War (1899-1902) it was used perjoratively to describe those who opposed the war for any reason, not just those with pro-Boer sympathies.

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