Ballards by W.S. Gilbert


Quelle: Gilbert and Sullivan Archive




When Britain really ruled the waves--
(In good Queen Bess's time)
The House of Peers made no pretence
To intellectual eminence,
Or scholarship sublime;
Yet Britain won her proudest bays
In good Queen Bess's glorious days!

When Wellington thrashed Bonaparte,
As every child can tell,
The House of Peers, throughout the war,
Did nothing in particular,
And did it very well;
Yet Britain set the world ablaze
In good King George's glorious days!

And while the House of Peers withholds
Its legislative hand,
And noble statesmen do not itch
To interfere with matters which
They do not understand,
As bright will shine Great Britain's rays,
As in King George's glorious days!



(as heard on Babylon 5)


I am the very pattern of a modern Major-Gineral,
I've information vegetable, animal, and mineral;
I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical,
From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical;
I'm very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,
I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical;
About binomial theorem I'm teeming with a lot o' news,
With interesting facts about the square of the hypotenuse.
I'm very good at integral and differential calculus,
I know the scientific names of beings animalculous.
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-Gineral.

I know our mythic history--KING ARTHUR'S and SIR CARADOC'S,
I answer hard acrostics, I've a pretty taste for paradox;
I quote in elegiacs all the crimes of HELIOGABALUS,
In conics I can floor peculiarities parabolous.
I tell undoubted RAPHAELS from GERARD DOWS and ZOFFANIES,
I know the croaking chorus from the "Frogs" of ARISTOPHANES;
Then I can hum a fugue, of which I've heard the music's din afore,
And whistle ail the airs from that confounded nonsense "Pinafore."
Then I can write a washing-bill in Babylonic cuneiform,
And tell you every detail of CARACTACUS'S uniform.
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-Gineral.

In fact, when I know what is meant by "mamelon" and "ravelin,"
When I can tell at sight a Chassepot rifle from a javelin,
When such affairs as sorties and surprises I'm more wary at,
And when I know precisely what is meant by Commissariat,
When I have learnt what progress has been made in modern gunnery,
When I know more of tactics than a novice in a nunnery,
In short, when I've a smattering of elementary strategy,
You'll say a better Major-General has never sat a gee--
For my military knowledge, though I'm plucky and adventury,
Has only been brought down to the beginning of the century.
But still in learning vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I the very model of a modern Major-Gineral!





Rising early in the morning,
We proceed to light the fire,
Then our Majesty adorning
In its work--a--day attire,
We embark without delay
On the duties of the day.

First, we polish off some batches
Of political despatches,
And foreign politicians circumvent;
Then, if business isn't heavy,
We may hold a Royal levee,
Or ratify some Acts of Parliament:
Then we probably review the household troops--
With the usual "Shalloo humps" and "Shalloo hoops!"
Or receive with ceremonial and state
An interesting Eastern Potentate.
After that we generally
Go and dress our private valet--
(It's a rather nervous duty--he a touchy little man)--
Write some letters literary
For our private secretary--
(He is shaky in his spelling, so we help him if we can.)
Then, in view of cravings inner,
We go down and order dinner;
Or we polish the Regalia and the Coronation Plate--
Spend an hour in titivating
All our Gentlemen--in--Waiting;
Or we run on little errands for the Ministers of State.
Oh, philosophers may sing
Of the troubles of a King,
Yet the duties are delightful, and the privileges great;
But the privilege and pleasure
That we treasure beyond measure
Is to run on little errands for the Ministers of State!

After luncheon (making merry
On a bun and glass of sherry),
If we've nothing in particular to do,
We may make a Proclamation,
Or receive a Deputation--
Then we possibly create a Peer or two.
Then we help a fellow-creature on his path
With the Garter or the Thistle or the Bath:
Or we dress and toddle off in semi-State
To a festival, a function, or a fete.
Then we go and stand as sentry
At the Palace (private entry),
Marching hither, marching thither, up and down and to and fro,
While the warrior on duty
Goes in search of beer and beauty
(And it generally happens that he hasn't far to go).
He relieves us, if he's able,
Just in time to lay the table,
Then we dine and serve the coffee; and at half-past twelve
or one,
With a pleasure that's emphatic;
Then we seek our little attic
With the gratifying feeling that our duty has been done.
Oh, philosophers may sing
Of the troubles of a King,
But of pleasures there are many and of troubles there
are none;
And the culminating pleasure
That we treasure beyond measure
Is the gratifying feeling that our duty has been done!



Dr. Belville was regarded as the Crichton of his age
His tragedies were reckoned much too thoughtful for the stage;
His poems held a noble rank, although it's very true
That, being very proper, they were read by very few.
He was a famous Painter, too, and shone upon the "line,"
And even Mr. Ruskin came and worshipped at his shrine;
But, alas, the school he followed was heroically high--
The kind of Art men rave about, but very seldom buy;
And everybody said
"How can he be repaid--
This very great--this very good--this very gifted man?"
But nobody could hit upon a practicable plan!

He was a great Inventor, and discovered, all alone,
A plan for making everybody's fortune but his own;
For, in business, an Inventor's little better than a fool,
And my highly-gifted friend was no exception to the rule.
His poems--people read them in the Quarterly Reviews--
His pictures--they engraved them in the Illustrated News--
His inventions--they, perhaps, might have enriched him by
But all his little income went in Patent Office fees;
And everybody said
"How can he be repaid--
This very great--this very good--this very gifted man?"
But nobody could hit upon a practicable plan!

At last the point was given up in absolute despair,
Then a distant cousin died, and he became a millionaire
With a county seat in Parliament, a moor or two of grouse,
And a taste for making inconvenient speeches in the House!
Then it flashed upon Britannia that the fittest of rewards
Was, to take him from the Commons and to put him in the Lords!
And who so fit to sit in it, deny it if you can,
As this very great--this very good--this very gifted man?
(Though I'm more than half afraid
That it sometimes may be said
That we never should have revelled in that source of proper
However great his merits--if his cousin hadn't died!)