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The Phantom Curate

A bishop once - I will not name him see -
Annoyed his clergy in the mode conventional;
From pulpit shackles never set them free,
And found a sin where sin was unintentional.
All pleasures ended in abuse auricular -
The Bishop was so terribly particular.

Though, on the whole, a wise and upright man,
He sought to make of human pleasures clearances;
And form his priests on that much-lauded plan
Which pays undue attention to appearances.
He couldn't do good deeds without a psalm in 'em,
Although, in truth, he bore away the palm in 'em.

Enraged to find a deacon at a dance,
Or catch a curate at some mild frivolity,
He sought by open censure to enhance
Their dread of joining harmless social jollity.
Yet he enjoyed (a fact of notoriety)
The ordinary pleasures of society.

One evening, sitting at a pantomime
(Forbidden treat to those who stood in fear of him),
Roaring at jokes, SANS metre, sense, or rhyme,
He turned, and saw immediately in rear of him,
His peace of mind upsetting, and annoying it,
A curate, also heartily enjoying it.

Again, 't was Christmas Eve, and to enhance
His children's pleasure in their harmless rollicking,
He, like a good old fellow, stood to dance;
When something checked the current of his frolicking:
That curate, with a maid he treated lover-ly,
Stood up and figured with him in the "Coverley!"

Once, yielding to an universal choice
(The company's demand was an emphatic one,
For the old Bishop had a glorious voice),
In a quartet he joined - an operatic one.
Harmless enough, though ne'er a word of grace in it,
When, lo! that curate came and took the bass in it!

One day, when passing through a quiet street,
He stopped awhile and joined a Punch's gathering;
And chuckled more than solemn folk think meet,
To see that gentleman his Judy lathering;
And heard, as Punch was being treated penally,
That phantom curate laughing all hyaenally.

Now at a picnic, 'mid fair golden curls,
Bright eyes, straw hats, BOTTINES that fit amazingly,
A croquet-bout is planned by all the girls;
And he, consenting, speaks of croquet praisingly;
But suddenly declines to play at all in it -
The curate fiend has come to take a ball in it!

Next, when at quiet sea-side village, freed
From cares episcopal and ties monarchical,
He grows his beard, and smokes his fragrant weed,
In manner anything but hierarchical -
He sees - and fixes an unearthly stare on it -
That curate's face, with half a yard of hair on it!

At length he gave a charge, and spake this word:
"Vicars, your curates to enjoyment urge ye may;
To check their harmless pleasuring's absurd;
What laymen do without reproach, my clergy may."
He spake, and lo! at this concluding word of him,
The curate vanished - no one since has heard of him.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:28 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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