I see him at night with his head low down
And his terrible eyes ablaze,
He takes at astride the long street of the town,
Like a dragon of older days
The throb, throb, throb of his heart I hear,
And the throb of my own replies
As he booms and bounds from the darkness near,
And into the darkness flies.
And I long to leap out on his back and away,
Away, in the night, alone,
Any where out of myself and to-day,
To drown in the deep Unknown.
This little poem by J.H.Goring—a minor versifier of the early twentieth century—was discovered in The Odd Volume (1910). It is not the best or earliest car poem,but it is powerful enough and perhaps deserves a place in an anthology of motoring literature for its evocation of the romantic allure of early motor vehicles.
The opening stanza also recalls that famous engraving of 1845 by George Cruikshank entitled ‘The Railway Dragon’ which shows a locomotive as a fire breathing dragon consuming everything in its path. The difference, of course, is that in 1845 passenger locomotives had only been around for about 15 years and were genuinely feared by many of the older generation, especially farmers, who were terrified that their crops would be destroyed by sparks from a locomotive’s chimney. However, in 1910 motor vehicles were more commonplace. In fact, the first had taken to the road around 1885, and by 1910 around 100,000 were in existence in the UK. That is not to say that in south Essex, where Goring lived, the sight of a motor car did not have to power to thrill and excite the imagination. [R.M.Healey]