William Schwenck Gilbert poems

William Schwenck Gilbert(1836 - 1911 / London / England)
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Damon vs. Pythias

- by William Schwenck Gilbert 150

Two better friends you wouldn't pass
Throughout a summer's day,
Than DAMON and his PYTHIAS, -
Two merchant princes they.

At school together they contrived
All sorts of boyish larks;
And, later on, together thrived
As merry merchants' clerks.

And then, when many years had flown,
They rose together till
They bought a business of their own -
And they conduct it still.

They loved each other all their lives,
Dissent they never knew,
And, stranger still, their very wives
Were rather friendly too.

Perhaps you think, to serve my ends,
These statements I refute,
When I admit that these dear friends
Were parties to a suit?

But 'twas a friendly action, for
Good PYTHIAS, as you see,
Fought merely as executor,
And DAMON as trustee.

They laughed to think, as through the throng
Of suitors sad they passed,
That they, who'd lived and loved so long,
Should go to law at last.

The junior briefs they kindly let
Two sucking counsel hold;
These learned persons never yet
Had fingered suitors' gold.

But though the happy suitors two
Were friendly as could be,
Not so the junior counsel who
Were earning maiden fee.

They too, till then, were friends. At school
They'd done each other's sums,
And under Oxford's gentle rule
Had been the closest chums.

But now they met with scowl and grin
In every public place,
And often snapped their fingers in
Each other's learned face.

It almost ended in a fight
When they on path or stair
Met face to face. They made it quite
A personal affair.

And when at length the case was called
(It came on rather late),
Spectators really were appalled
To see their deadly hate.

One junior rose - with eyeballs tense,
And swollen frontal veins:
To all his powers of eloquence
He gave the fullest reins.

His argument was novel - for
A verdict he relied
On blackening the junior
Upon the other side.

"Oh," said the Judge, in robe and fur,
"The matter in dispute
To arbitration pray refer -
This is a friendly suit."

And PYTHIAS, in merry mood,
Digged DAMON in the side;
And DAMON, tickled with the feud,
With other digs replied.

But oh! those deadly counsel twain,
Who were such friends before,
Were never reconciled again -
They quarrelled more and more.

At length it happened that they met
On Alpine heights one day,
And thus they paid each one his debt,
Their fury had its way -

They seized each other in a trice,
With scorn and hatred filled,
And, falling from a precipice,
They, both of them, were killed.

A Classical Revival

- by William Schwenck Gilbert 94

At the outset I may mention it's my sovereign intention
To revive the classic memories of Athens at its best,
For my company possesses all the necessary dresses,
And a course of quiet cramming will supply us with the rest.
We've a choir hyporchematic (that is, ballet-operatic)
Who respond to the CHOREUTAE of that cultivated age,
And our clever chorus-master, all but captious criticaster,
Would accept as the CHOREGUS of the early Attic stage.
This return to classic ages is considered in their wages,
Which are always calculated by the day or by the week -
And I'll pay 'em (if they'll back me) all in OBOLOI and DRACHMAE,
Which they'll get (if they prefer it) at the Kalends that are
Greek!

(At this juncture I may mention
That this erudition sham
Is but classical pretension,
The result of steady "cram.":
Periphrastic methods spurning,
To my readers all discerning
I admit this show of learning
Is the fruit of steady cram."!)

In the period Socratic every dining-room was Attic
(Which suggests an architecture of a topsy-turvy kind),
There they'd satisfy their twist on a RECHERCHE cold [Greek text
which cannot be reproduced],
Which is what they called their lunch - and so may you, if you're
inclined.
As they gradually got on, they'd [Greek text which cannot be
reproduced]
(Which is Attic for a steady and a conscientious drink).
But they mixed their wine with water - which I'm sure they didn't
oughter -
And we Anglo-Saxons know a trick worth two of that, I think!
Then came rather risky dances (under certain circumstances)
Which would shock that worthy gentleman, the Licenser of Plays,
Corybantian maniAC kick - Dionysiac or Bacchic -
And the Dithyrambic revels of those indecorous days.

(And perhaps I'd better mention
Lest alarming you I am,
That it isn't our intention
To perform a Dithyramb -
It displays a lot of stocking,
Which is always very shocking,
And of course I'm only mocking
At the prevalence of "cram.")

Yes, on reconsideration, there are customs of that nation
Which are not in strict accordance with the habits of our day,
And when I come to codify, their rules I mean to modify,
Or Mrs. Grundy, p'r'aps, may have a word or two to say:
For they hadn't macintoshes or umbrellas or goloshes -
And a shower with their dresses must have played the very deuce,
And it must have been unpleasing when they caught a fit of
sneezing,
For, it seems, of pocket-handkerchiefs they didn't know the use.
They wore little underclothing - scarcely anything - or no-thing -
And their dress of Coan silk was quite transparent in design -
Well, in fact, in summer weather, something like the "altogether."
And it's THERE, I rather fancy, I shall have to draw the line!

(And again I wish to mention
That this erudition sham
Is but classical pretension,
The result of steady "cram."
Yet my classic love aggressive,
If you'll pardon the possessive,
Is exceedingly impressive
When you're passing an exam.)

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