William Schwenck Gilbert ( )

The Bab Ballads. The Rival Curates

List while the poet trolls
   Of Mr. Clayton Hooper,
Who had a cure of souls
   At Spiffton-extra-Sooper.

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

Wild croquêt 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 curates sole design is;
In all the country round
   Theres none so mild as mine is!

And Hooper, disinclined
   His trumpet to be blowing,
Yet didnt think youd 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 cant be shaken,
That none can blot your fame
   But, Hooper, youre mistaken!

Your mind is not as blank
   As that of Hopley Porter,
Who holds a curates 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 seaweedyes, 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.)

To Hopley Porter go,
   Your fare I will afford you
Deal him a deadly blow,
   And blessings shall reward you.

But stayI do not like
   Undue assassination,
And so before you strike,
   Make this communication:

Ill give him this one chance
   If hell more gaily bear him,
Play croquêt, smoke, and dance,
   I willingly will spare him.

They went, those minions true,
   To Assesmilk-cum-Worter,
And told their errand to
   The Reverend Hopley Porter.

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

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

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

He smoked and winked away
   This Reverend Hopley Porter
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.

William Schwenck Gilbert's other poems:
  1. The Modest Couple
  2. The Bab Ballads. Ferdinando and Elvira; or, the Gentle Pieman
  3. The Bab Ballads. The Phantom Curate
  4. The Bab Ballads. The Force of Argument
  5. The Bab Ballads. Gentle Alice Brown

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