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The Cunning Woman

On all Arcadia's sunny plain,
On all Arcadia's hill,
None were so blithe as BILL and JANE,
So blithe as JANE and BILL.

No social earthquake e'er occurred
To rack their common mind:
To them a Panic was a word -
A Crisis, empty wind.

No Stock Exchange disturbed the lad
With overwhelming shocks -
BILL ploughed with all the shares he had,
JANE planted all her stocks.

And learn in what a simple way
Their pleasures they enhanced -
JANE danced like any lamb all day,
BILL piped as well as danced.

Surrounded by a twittling crew,
Of linnet, lark, and thrush,
BILL treated his young lady to
This sentimental gush:

"Oh, JANE, how true I am to you!
How true you are to me!
And how we woo, and how we coo!
So fond a pair are we!

"To think, dear JANE, that anyways.
Your chiefest end and aim
Is, one of these fine summer days,
To bear my humble name!"

Quoth JANE, "Well, as you put the case,
I'm true enough, no doubt,
But then, you see, in this here place
There's none to cut you out.

"But, oh! if anybody came -
A Lord or any such -
I do not think your humble name
Would fascinate me much.

"For though your mates, you often boast.
You distance out-and-out;
Still, in the abstract, you're a most
Uncompromising lout!"

Poor BILL, he gave a heavy sigh,
He tried in vain to speak -
A fat tear started to each eye
And coursed adown each cheek.

For, oh! right well in truth he knew
That very self-same day,
The LORD DE JACOB PILLALOO
Was coming there to stay!

The LORD DE JACOB PILLALOO
All proper maidens shun -
He loves all women, it is true,
But never marries one.

Now JANE, with all her mad self-will,
Was no coquette - oh no!
She really loved her faithful BILL,
And thus she tuned her woe:

"Oh, willow, willow, o'er the lea!
And willow once again!
The Peer will fall in love with me!
Why wasn't I made plain?"

  *

A cunning woman lived hard by,
A sorceressing dame,
MACCATACOMB DE SALMON-EYE
Was her uncommon name.

To her good JANE, with kindly yearn
For BILL'S increasing pain,
Repaired in secrecy to learn
How best to make her plain.

"Oh, JANE," the worthy woman said,
"This mystic phial keep,
And rub its liquor in your head
Before you go to sleep.

"When you awake next day, I trow,
You'll look in form and hue
To others just as you do now -
But not to PILLALOO!

"When you approach him, you will find
He'll think you coarse - unkempt -
And rudely bid you get behind,
With undisguised contempt."

The LORD DE PILLALOO arrived
With his expensive train,
And when in state serenely hived,
He sent for BILL and JANE.

"Oh, spare her, LORD OF PILLALOO!
(Said BILL) if wed you be,
There's anything I'D rather do
Than flirt with LADY P."

The Lord he gazed in Jenny's eyes,
He looked her through and through:
The cunning woman's prophecies
Were clearly coming true.

LORD PILLALOO, the Rustic's Bane
(Bad person he, and proud),
HE LAUGHED HA! HA! AT PRETTY JANE,
AND SNEERED AT HER ALOUD!

He bade her get behind him then,
And seek her mother's stye -
Yet to her native countrymen
She was as fair as aye!

MACCATACOMB, continue green!
Grow, SALMON-EYE, in might,
Except for you, there might have been
The deuce's own delight.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:01 min read
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William Schwenck Gilbert

Sir William Schwenck Gilbert was an English dramatist librettist poet and illustrator best known for his fourteen comic operas produced in collaboration with the composer Sir Arthur Sullivan of which the most famous include HMS Pinafore The Pirates of Penzance and one of the most frequently performed works in the history of musical theatre The Mikado These as well as most of their other Savoy operas continue to be performed regularly throughout the English-speaking world and beyond by opera companies repertory companies schools and community theatre groups Lines from these works have become part of the English language such as short sharp shock What never Well hardly ever and Let the punishment fit the crime Gilbert also wrote the Bab Ballads an extensive collection of light verse accompanied by his own comical drawings His creative output included over 75 plays and libretti numerous stories poems lyrics and various other comic and serious pieces His plays and realistic style of stage direction inspired other dramatists including Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw According to The Cambridge History of English and American Literature Gilberts lyrical facility and his mastery of metre raised the poetical quality of comic opera to a position that it had never reached before and has not reached since Source - Wikipedia more…

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    "The Cunning Woman" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 28 Sep. 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/41282/the-cunning-woman>.

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