"The Necklong" from Punch

Author Unknown. “The Necklong.” Punch (28 Nov. 1881): 250. Following is the full-text of Punch’s parody of Arnold’s “The Neckan.” It appears, as mentioned previously, with a visual caricature.

IN summer, in Sky-Limbo,
High o’er PHILISTIA’S throng,
Sits NECKLONG with his harp of gold,
And thrums a dismal song.

Thick herds, beneath Sky-Limbo,
The incult dull British P.,
And there Gath’s shallow singers chaunt
Their Laus Philistiae.

They sing not of High Culture,
In pure perfection pale,
Of earth, gross earth, the Gathites sing –
They have no other tale.

But NECKLONG, in Sky-Limbo,
Soft pipes a somber stave,
Sweetness and Light inspire his lay,
Bland taste and manners suave.

He chaffs the Swell Barbarian,
He chides the stolid clown,
The dull dissenter, BOTTLES,

Upon the middle classes
His feather-flail he lays,
And the D.T.’s ‘young lions mocks,
Whose roars to him are brays.

Pooh-pooheth all the Parties,
Their fuss and fi-fo-fum,
And twitteth their small tweedledee,
And smaller tweedledum.

He sings how from the Chapel
Comes nought but narrow pride,
And how the Church’s shibboleths
Pure Reason doth deride.

How Beauty, lone, sits weeping,
Midst wastes that round her lie,
‘PHILSITIA shares my state,’ she weeps,
‘No cultured mate have I.

How if that fed on Sweetness,
Exposed to Lights’ soft rain,
Even the Philistine himself
True Culture might attain.

He sings how on an evening,
Beneath the willows cool,
He sat and thrummed upon his harp,
And wept into the pool.

Beside the pool sat NECKLONG,
Tears filled his soft blue eye;
On his slow mule, across the bridge,
The Philistine rode by.

‘Why sitt’st thou there, O NECKLONG,
And hrum’st thy harp of gold?
‘Tis pretty twanging, I admit,
But finical and cold.

‘A soft-curled SAMSON, doubtless,
Or dandy DAVID, you;
But all your songs and sneers won’t dash
PHILISTIA’S merry crew.’

The Philistine rode onwards,
And vanished with his mule;
And NECKLONG, in the twilight grey,
Wept on into the pool.

He wept: ‘This earthly blindness
Would shame the burrowing moles.
By Hecate, I begin to doubt
If Philistines have souls!’

All Summer, in Sky-Limbo,
Above PHILISTIA’S throng,
Sits NECKLONG with his harp of gold,
And pipes this plaintive song.

Matthew Arnold is presented here as the Neckan of his own poem (the NECKLONG of the poem spoof). Similar to contemporary conceptions of Arnold, the Neck-Long sits apart from the movement of life, “Philistia’s throng,” weeping over it and playing a “dismal song.” The poem associates Arnold/Necklong with “Sky-Limbo,” removed from any association with earthly (read “practical”) concerns, while Philistia concerns itself only with gross and earthly matters (although Philistia is presented in the poetic spoof as much happier than Necklong, who is weeping throughout the poem; near the poem’s end, the Philistine has a “merry crew”). The poem references several of Arnold’s frequent targets in his prose, including Dissenters, the character (from Friendship’s Garland) Bottles, the Daily Telegraph young reporters, and current theology.

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Matthew Arnold

Matthew Arnold
A rare photograph of Arnold smiling