William Schwenck Gilbert ( )


The Bab Ballads. The Bishop of Rum-ti-Foo


From east and south the holy clan
Of Bishops gathered to a man;
To Synod, called Pan-Anglican,
      In flocking crowds they came.
Among them was a Bishop, who
Had lately been appointed to
The balmy isle of Rum-ti-Foo,
      And Peter was his name.

His peopletwenty-three in sum
They played the eloquent tum-tum,
And lived on scalps served up, in rum
      The only sauce they knew.
When first good Bishop Peter came
(For Peter was that Bishops name),
To humour them, he did the same
      As they of Rum-ti-Foo.

His flock, Ive often heard him tell,
(His name was Peter) loved him well,
And, summoned by the sound of bell,
      In crowds together came.
Oh, massa, why you go away?
Oh, Massa Peter, please to stay.
(They called him Peter, people say,
      Because it was his name.)

He told them all good boys to be,
And sailed away across the sea,
At London Bridge that Bishop he
      Arrived one Tuesday night;
And as that night he homeward strode
To his Pan-Anglican abode,
He passed along the Borough Road,
      And saw a gruesome sight.

He saw a crowd assembled round
A person dancing on the ground,
Who straight began to leap and bound
      With all his might and main.
To see that dancing man he stopped,
Who twirled and wriggled, skipped and hopped,
Then down incontinently dropped,
      And then sprang up again.

The Bishop chuckled at the sight.
This style of dancing would delight
A simple Rum-ti-Foozleite.
      Ill learn it if I can,
To please the tribe when I get back.
He begged the man to teach his knack.
Right Reverend Sir, in half a crack,
      Replied that dancing man.

The dancing man he worked away,
And taught the Bishop every day
The dancer skipped like any fay
      Good Peter did the same.
The Bishop buckled to his task,
With battements, and pas de basque.
(Ill tell you, if you care to ask,
      That Peter was his name.)

Come, walk like this, the dancer said,
Stick out your toesstick in your head,
Stalk on with quick, galvanic tread
      Your fingers thus extend;
The attitudes considered quaint.
The weary Bishop, feeling faint,
Replied, I do not say it aint,
      But Time! my Christian friend!

We now proceed to something new
Dance as the Paynes and Lauris do,
Like thisone, twoone, twoone, two.
      The Bishop, never proud,
But in an overwhelming heat
(His name was Peter, I repeat)
Performed the Payne and Lauri feat,
      And puffed his thanks aloud.

Another game the dancer planned
Just take your ankle in your hand,
And try, my lord, if you can stand
      Your body stiff and stark.
If, when revisiting your see,
You learnt to hop on shorelike me
The novelty would striking be,
      And must attract remark.

No, said the worthy Bishop, no;
That is a length to which, I trow,
Colonial Bishops cannot go.
      You may express surprise
At finding Bishops deal in pride
But if that trick I ever tried,
I should appear undignified
      In Rum-ti-Foozles eyes.

The islanders of Rum-ti-Foo
Are well-conducted persons, who
Approve a joke as much as you,
      And laugh at it as such;
But if they saw their Bishop land,
His leg supported in his hand,
The joke they wouldnt understand
      Twould pain them very much!



William Schwenck Gilbert's other poems:
  1. The Bab Ballads. The Sensation Captain
  2. The Bab Ballads. The Periwinkle Girl
  3. Songs of a Savoyard. Proper Pride
  4. The Bab Ballads. Sir Guy the Crusader
  5. The Bab Ballads. The Ghost, the Gallant, the Gael, and the Goblin


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