Daily Chronicle, March 12, 1904

[According to a daily paper, the war 1 has had the effect of making “agar-agar” expensive in Great Britain. Up to the time of going to press the bard has been unable to find out what this article is. A similar uncertainty attaching to the pronunciation of the word, he has decided to preserve an open mind on that subject, and to rhyme it accordingly.]

I am not one whose heartstrings thrill,
 Whose pulses move in wild gyration
When angry powers set out to kill
 The warriors of some other nation:
For all the struggles of the Jap
 Against the burly Russian bragger,
I really should not care a rap,
 Could I but get my agar-agar.

But since this dreadful war began,
 I’ve shunned the tradesmen who supply it.
Only the very wealthy man
 Is able nowadays to buy it.
Whene’er I take my walks abroad,
 My bearing lacks its normal swagger;
Men sneer, as if to say, “You fraud!
You haven’t any agar-agar!”

The manufacturer tears his hair,
 Loudly his cruel fate bewailing:
For who more thoroughly aware
 How swiftly the supply is failing?
Ah! Battles, both on land and sea,
 Among the things that vex and plague are:
What is the good of war to me?
 I cannot get my agar-agar.

Enough! Alexeieff, Togo, list.
 Blow out War’s newly-kindled ember,
It’s wrong and foolish thus to twist
 The British Lion’s caudal member.
Yes, let the war-drum cease to roll:
 Unless you’re anxious to enrage her
Beyond the bounds of self-control,
 Give Britain back her agar-agar.

P. G. W. 



The substance in question is natural vegetable gelatin used to make jellies, puddings, and custards. Brilliant linguistic work as PGW finds different rhymes based on different pronunciations, none of them correct! It’s ä′gär ä′gär.

John Dawson    

1  The Russo-Japanese War had begun in February 1904.
Agar-agar, derived from a type of seaweed, was discovered in Japan in 1658. Besides its culinary uses, it is valuable as a base for growing bacterial cultures in Petri dishes. Mikhail Alekseyev was a Russian major general in Manchuria, Togo a Japanese admiral.

Neil Midkiff