Poems of the Week: Light Verse and Doggerel



"The Profane Ballad of Ecclesiastical Reform"
There's only way with recalcitrant clerks,
     Saith experience under the sun:
Only the headsman and gallows will work
      To make 'em behave and to pray well to God.
You can keep all your  councils  and posh  seminaries,
     Your hands on your beads and your heads in the mire,
I'm with Constantine, Charlemagne, Justin and Harry:
     Be faithful to Christ or be fuel for the  pyre.
Trust not in mere pontiffs and monkish distinctions,
     The Church is a Lady who follows her Man--
And Christ is a King incarnate in chieftans
     And ever by sword-arms did Christendom stand.
--Carl Hildebrand

LIST while the poet trolls
Who had a cure of souls
At Spiffton-extra-Sooper.

He lived on curds and whey,
And daily sang their praises,
And then he'd go and play
With buttercups and daisies.

Wild croquet HOOPER banned,
And all the sports of Mammon,
He warred with cribbage, and
He exorcised backgammon.

His helmet was a glance
That spoke of holy gladness;
A saintly smile his lance;
His shield a tear of sadness.

His Vicar smiled to see
This armour on him buckled:
With pardonable glee
He blessed himself and chuckled.

"In mildness to abound
My curate's sole design is;
In all the country round
There's none so mild as mine is!"

And HOOPER, disinclined
His trumpet to be blowing,
Yet didn't think you'd find
A milder curate going.

A friend arrived one day
At Spiffton-extra-Sooper,
And in this shameful way
He spoke to Mr. HOOPER:

"You think your famous name
For mildness can't be shaken,
That none can blot your fame -
But, HOOPER, you're mistaken!

"Your mind is not as blank
Who holds a curate's rank
At Assesmilk-cum-Worter.

"HE plays the airy flute,
And looks depressed and blighted,
Doves round about him 'toot,'
And lambkins dance delighted.

"HE labours more than you
At worsted work, and frames it;
In old maids' albums, too,
Sticks seaweed - yes, and names  it!"

The tempter said his say,
Which pierced him like a needle -
He summoned straight away
His sexton and his beadle.

(These men were men who could
Hold liberal opinions:
On Sundays they were good -
On week-days they were minions.)

Your fare I will afford you -
 Deal him a deadly blow,
And blessings shall reward you.

"But stay - I do not like
Undue assassination,
And so before you strike,
Make this communication:

"I'll give him this one chance -
If he'll more gaily bear him,
Play croquet, smoke, and dance,
I willingly will spare him."

They went, those minions true,
To Assesmilk-cum-Worter,
And told their errand to

"What?" said that reverend gent,
"Dance through my hours of leisure?
Smoke? - bathe myself with scent? -
Play croquet?  Oh, with pleasure!

"Wear all my hair in curl?
Stand at my door and wink - so -
At every passing girl?
My brothers, I should think so!

"For years I've longed for some
Excuse for this revulsion:
Now that excuse has come -
I do it on compulsion!!!"

He smoked and winked away -
The deuce there was to pay
At Assesmilk-cum-Worter.

And HOOPER holds his ground,
In mildness daily growing -
They think him, all around,
The mildest curate going.

--W.S. Gilbert


The Fleming Foundation