William Schwenck Gilbert ( )


The Bab Ballads. The Phantom Curate


         A FABLE

A BISHOP onceI will not name his 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 couldnt 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 childrens 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 companys demand was an emphatic one,
For the old Bishop had a glorious voice),
   In a quartet he joinedan operatic one.
Harmless enough, though neer 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 Punchs gathering;
And chuckled more than solemn folk think meet,
   To see that gentleman his Judy lathering;
And heard, as Punch was being treated penalty,
That phantom curate laughing all hyænally.

Now at a picnic, mid fair golden curls,
   Bright eyes, straw hats, bottines that fit amazingly,
A croquêt-bout is planned by all the girls;
   And he, consenting, speaks of croquêt 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 seesand fixes an unearthly stare on it
That curates 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 pleasurings absurd;
   What laymen do without reproach, my clergy may.
He spake, and lo! at this concluding word of him,
The curate vanishedno one since has heard of him.



William Schwenck Gilbert's other poems:
  1. The Bab Ballads. The Troubadour
  2. The Bab Ballads. The Ghost, the Gallant, the Gael, and the Goblin
  3. The Bab Ballads. At a Pantomime
  4. The Bab Ballads. The Three Kings of Chickeraboo
  5. The Bab Ballads. To the Terrestrial Globe


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