William Schwenck Gilbert ( )


The Bab Ballads. The Yarn of the Nancy Bell


Twas on the shores that round our coast
   From Deal to Ramsgate span,
That I found alone on a piece of stone
   An elderly naval man.

His hair was weedy, his beard was long,
   And weedy and long was he,
And I heard this wight on the shore recite,
   In a singular minor key:

Oh, I am a cook and a captain bold,
   And the mate of the Nancy brig,
And a bosun tight, and a midshipmite,
   And the crew of the captains gig.

And he shook his fists and he tore his hair,
   Till I really felt afraid,
For I couldnt help thinking the man had been drinking,
   And so I simply said:

Oh, elderly man, its little I know
   Of the duties of men of the sea,
And Ill eat my hand if I understand
   However you can be

At once a cook, and a captain bold,
   And the mate of the Nancy brig,
And a bosun tight, and a midshipmite,
   And the crew of the captains gig.

Then he gave a hitch to his trousers, which
   Is a trick all seamen larn,
And having got rid of a thumping quid,
   He spun this painful yarn:

Twas in the good ship Nancy Bell
   That we sailed to the Indian Sea,
And there on a reef we come to grief,
   Which has often occurred to me.

And pretty nigh all the crew was drowned
   (There was seventy-seven o soul),
And only ten of the Nancys men
   Said Here! to the muster-roll.

There was me and the cook and the captain bold,
   And the mate of the Nancy brig,
And the bosun tight, and a midshipmite,
   And the crew of the captains gig.

For a month wed neither wittles nor drink,
   Till a-hungry we did feel,
So we drawed a lot, and, accordin shot
   The captain for our meal.

The next lot fell to the Nancys mate,
   And a delicate dish he made;
Then our appetite with the midshipmite
   We seven survivors stayed.

And then we murdered the bosun tight,
   And he much resembled pig;
Then we wittled free, did the cook and me,
   On the crew of the captains gig.

Then only the cook and me was left,
   And the delicate question, Which
Of us two goes to the kettle? arose,
   And we argued it out as sich.

For I loved that cook as a brother, I did,
   And the cook he worshipped me;
But wed both be blowed if wed either be stowed
   In the other chaps hold, you see.

Ill be eat if you dines off me, says Tom;
   Yes, that, says I, youll be,
Im boiled if I die, my friend, quoth I;
   And Exactly so, quoth he.

Says he, Dear James, to murder me
   Were a foolish thing to do,
For dont you see that you cant cook me,
   While I canand willcook you!

So he boils the water, and takes the salt
   And the pepper in portions true
(Which he never forgot), and some chopped shalot,
   And some sage and parsley too.

Come here, says he, with a proper pride,
   Which his smiling features tell,
T will soothing be if I let you see
   How extremely nice youll smell.

And he stirred it round and round and round,
   And he sniffed at the foaming froth;
When I ups with his heels, and smothers his squeals
   In the scum of the boiling broth.

And I eat that cook in a week or less,
   Andas I eating be
The last of his chops, why, I almost drops,
   For a wessel in sight I see!

* * * *

And I never larf, and I never smile,
   And I never lark nor play,
But sit and croak, and a single joke
   I havewhich is to say:

Oh, I am a cook and a captain bold,
   And the mate of the Nancy brig,
And a bosun tight, and a midshipmite,
   And the crew of the captains gig!



William Schwenck Gilbert's other poems:
  1. The Modest Couple
  2. The Bab Ballads. The Phantom Curate
  3. The Bab Ballads. The Force of Argument
  4. The Played-Out Humorist
  5. The Bab Ballads. Sir Guy the Crusader


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