The Ghost, the Gallant, the Gael, and the Goblin



O'er unreclaimed suburban clays
Some years ago were hobblin'
An elderly ghost of easy ways,
And an influential goblin.
The ghost was a sombre spectral shape,
A fine old five-act fogy,
The goblin imp, a lithe young ape,
A fine low-comedy bogy.

And as they exercised their joints,
Promoting quick digestion,
They talked on several curious points,
And raised this delicate question:
"Which of us two is Number One -
The ghostie, or the goblin?"
And o'er the point they raised in fun
They fairly fell a-squabblin'.

They'd barely speak, and each, in fine,
Grew more and more reflective:
Each thought his own particular line
By chalks the more effective.
At length they settled some one should
By each of them be haunted,
And so arrange that either could
Exert his prowess vaunted.

"The Quaint against the Statuesque" -
By competition lawful -
The goblin backed the Quaint Grotesque,
The ghost the Grandly Awful.
"Now," said the goblin, "here's my plan -
In attitude commanding,
I see a stalwart Englishman
By yonder tailor's standing.

"The very fittest man on earth
My influence to try on -
Of gentle, p'r'aps of noble birth,
And dauntless as a lion!
Now wrap yourself within your shroud -
Remain in easy hearing -
Observe - you'll hear him scream aloud
When I begin appearing!

The imp with yell unearthly - wild -
Threw off his dark enclosure:
His dauntless victim looked and smiled
With singular composure.
For hours he tried to daunt the youth,
For days, indeed, but vainly -
The stripling smiled! - to tell the truth,
The stripling smiled inanely.

For weeks the goblin weird and wild,
That noble stripling haunted;
For weeks the stripling stood and smiled,
Unmoved and all undaunted.
The sombre ghost exclaimed, "Your plan
Has failed you, goblin, plainly:
Now watch yon hardy Hieland man,
So stalwart and ungainly.

"These are the men who chase the roe,
Whose footsteps never falter,
Who bring with them, where'er they go,
A smack of old SIR WALTER.
Of such as he, the men sublime
Who lead their troops victorious,
Whose deeds go down to after-time,
Enshrined in annals glorious!

"Of such as he the bard has said
'Hech thrawfu' raltie rorkie!
Wi' thecht ta' croonie clapperhead
And fash' wi' unco pawkie!'
He'll faint away when I appear,
Upon his native heather;
Or p'r'aps he'll only scream with fear,
Or p'r'aps the two together."

The spectre showed himself, alone,
To do his ghostly battling,
With curdling groan and dismal moan,
And lots of chains a-rattling!
But no - the chiel's stout Gaelic stuff
Withstood all ghostly harrying;
His fingers closed upon the snuff
Which upwards he was carrying.

For days that ghost declined to stir,
A foggy shapeless giant -
For weeks that splendid officer
Stared back again defiant.
Just as the Englishman returned
The goblin's vulgar staring,
Just so the Scotchman boldly spurned
The ghost's unmannered scaring.

For several years the ghostly twain
These Britons bold have haunted,
But all their efforts are in vain -
Their victims stand undaunted.
This very day the imp, and ghost,
Whose powers the imp derided,
Stand each at his allotted post -
The bet is undecided.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on March 05, 2023

2:45 min read
85

Quick analysis:

Scheme ABABCDCD EBEBBBBB BFBFGHGI JKJKBLBL MBMBNLNL OPOPQDQK OHOIBDBD RPRPSTST XJGJUPUP BLBLVJVL PWPWXLXL BHBIYIYI
Closest metre Iambic tetrameter
Characters 3,020
Words 538
Stanzas 12
Stanza Lengths 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8

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…

All William Schwenck Gilbert poems | William Schwenck Gilbert Books

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