William Schwenck Gilbert ( )


The Bab Ballads. Thomas Winterbottom Hance


In all the towns and cities fair
   On Merry Englands broad expanse,
No swordsman ever could compare
   With Thomas Winterbottom Hance.

The dauntless lad could fairly hew
   A silken handkerchief in twain,
Divide a leg of mutton too
   And this without unwholesome strain.

On whole half-sheep, with cunning trick,
   His sabre sometimes hed employ
No bar of lead, however thick,
   Had terrors for the stalwart boy.

At Dover daily hed prepare
   To hew and slash, behind, before
Which aggravated Monsieur Pierre,
   Who watched him from the Calais shore.

It caused good Pierre to swear and dance,
   The sight annoyed and vexed him so;
He was the bravest man in France
   He said so, and he ought to know.

Regardez donc, ce cochon gros
   Ce polisson!  Oh, sacré bleu!
Son sabre, son plomb, et ses gigots
   Comme cela mennuye, enfin, mon Dieu!

Il sait que les foulards de soie
   Give no retaliating whack
Les gigots morts nont pas de quoi
   Le plomb dont ever hit you back.

But every day the headstrong lad
   Cut lead and mutton more and more;
And every day poor Pierre, half mad,
   Shrieked loud defiance from his shore.

Hance had a mother, poor and old,
   A simple, harmless village dame,
Who crowed and clapped as people told
   Of Winterbottoms rising fame.

She said, Ill be upon the spot
   To see my Tommys sabre-play;
And so she left her leafy cot,
   And walked to Dover in a day.

Pierre had a doating mother, who
   Had heard of his defiant rage;
His Ma was nearly ninety-two,
   And rather dressy for her age.

At Hances doings every morn,
   With sheer delight his mother cried;
And Monsieur Pierres contemptuous scorn
   Filled his mamma with proper pride.

But Hances powers began to fail
   His constitution was not strong
And Pierre, who once was stout and hale,
   Grew thin from shouting all day long.

Their mothers saw them pale and wan,
   Maternal anguish tore each breast,
And so they met to find a plan
   To set their offsprings minds at rest.

Said Mrs. Hance, Of course I shrinks
   From bloodshed, maam, as youre aware,
But still theyd better meet, I thinks.
   Assurément! said Madame Pierre.

A sunny spot in sunny France
   Was hit upon for this affair;
The ground was picked by Mrs. Hance,
   The stakes were pitched by Madame Pierre.

Said Mrs. H., Your work you see
   Go in, my noble boy, and win.
En garde, mon fils! said Madame P.
   Allons!  Go on!  En garde!  Begin!

(The mothers were of decent size,
   Though not particularly tall;
But in the sketch that meets your eyes
   Ive been obliged to draw them small.)

Loud sneered the doughty man of France,
   Ho! ho!  Ho! ho!  Ha! ha!  Ha! ha!
The French for Pish said Thomas Hance.
   Said Pierre, LAnglais, Monsieur, pour Bah.

Said Mrs. H., Come, one! two! three!
   Were sittin here to see all fair.
Cest magnifique! said Madame P.,
   Mais, parbleu! ce nest pas la guerre!

Je scorn un foe si lache que vous,
   Said Pierre, the doughty son of France.
I fight not coward foe like you!
   Said our undaunted Tommy Hance.

The French for Pooh! our Tommy cried.
   LAnglais pour Va! the Frenchman crowed.
And so, with undiminished pride,
   Each went on his respective road.



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 Played-Out Humorist


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