Dirty Father Thames by William Newman (1817-1871). Wood engraving. Punch (7 October 1848). The Thames was badly polluted long before the "Big Stink" of 1858 forced the government to take measures to alleviate the problem. A submerged and bedraggled Father Thames is shown here grimacing as he fishes up debris like shoes, caps etc. Dead fish can be seen floating upside down around him. The accompanying poem, which ends with an appeal to the Lord Mayor to do something about this situation, reads:

Filthy river, filthy river,
   Foul from London to the Nore,
What art thou but one vast gutter,
   One tremendous common shore?

All beside thy sludgy waters,
   All beside thy reeking ooze,
Christian folks inhale mephitis,
   Which thy bubbly bosom brews.

All her foul abominations
   Into thee the City throws;
These pollutions, ever churning,
   To and fro thy current flows.

And from thee is brewed our porter -
   Thee, thou gully, puddle, sink!
Thou, vile cesspool, art the liquor
   Whence is made the beer we drink!

Thou too hast a Conservator,
   He who fills the civic chair;
Well does he conserve thee, truly,
   Does he not, my good LORD MAYOR?

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"Dirty Father Thames." Punch, Vol. 15 (1848). Internet Archive. Sponsored by the Kahle/Austin Foundation. Web. 16 May 2022.

Created 17 May 2022