William Schwenck Gilbert ( )


The Bab Ballads. The Ghost, the Gallant, the Gael, and the Goblin


Oer unreclaimed suburban clays
   Some years ago were hobblin
An elderly ghost of easy ways,
   And an influential goblin.
The ghost was a sombre spectral shape,
   A fine old five-act fogy,
The goblin imp, a lithe young ape,
   A fine low-comedy bogy.

And as they exercised their joints,
   Promoting quick digestion,
They talked on several curious points,
   And raised this delicate question:
Which of us two is Number One
   The ghostie, or the goblin?
And oer the point they raised in fun
   They fairly fell a-squabblin.

Theyd barely speak, and each, in fine,
   Grew more and more reflective:
Each thought his own particular line
   By chalks the more effective.
At length they settled some one should
   By each of them be haunted,
And so arrange that either could
   Exert his prowess vaunted.

The Quaint against the Statuesque
   By competition lawful
The goblin backed the Quaint Grotesque,
   The ghost the Grandly Awful.
Now, said the goblin, heres my plan
   In attitude commanding,
I see a stalwart Englishman
   By yonder tailors standing.

The very fittest man on earth
   My influence to try on
Of gentle, praps of noble birth,
   And dauntless as a lion!
Now wrap yourself within your shroud
   Remain in easy hearing
Observeyoull hear him scream aloud
   When I begin appearing!

The imp with yell unearthlywild
   Threw off his dark enclosure:
His dauntless victim looked and smiled
   With singular composure.
For hours he tried to daunt the youth,
   For days, indeed, but vainly
The stripling smiled!to tell the truth,
   The stripling smiled inanely.

For weeks the goblin weird and wild,
   That noble stripling haunted;
For weeks the stripling stood and smiled,
   Unmoved and all undaunted.
The sombre ghost exclaimed, Your plan
   Has failed you, goblin, plainly:
Now watch yon hardy Hieland man,
   So stalwart and ungainly.

These are the men who chase the roe,
   Whose footsteps never falter,
Who bring with them, whereer they go,
   A smack of old Sir Walter.
Of such as he, the men sublime
   Who lead their troops victorious,
Whose deeds go down to after-time,
   Enshrined in annals glorious!

Of such as he the bard has said
   Hech thrawfu raltie rorkie!
Wi thecht ta croonie clapperhead
   And fash wi unco pawkie!
Hell faint away when I appear,
   Upon his native heather;
Or praps hell only scream with fear,
   Or praps the two together.

The spectre showed himself, alone,
   To do his ghostly battling,
With curdling groan and dismal moan,
   And lots of chains a-rattling!
But nothe chiels stout Gaelic stuff
   Withstood all ghostly harrying;
His fingers closed upon the snuff
   Which upwards he was carrying.

For days that ghost declined to stir,
   A foggy shapeless giant
For weeks that splendid officer
   Stared back again defiant.
Just as the Englishman returned
   The goblins vulgar staring,
Just so the Scotchman boldly spurned
   The ghosts unmannered scaring.

For several years the ghostly twain
   These Britons bold have haunted,
But all their efforts are in vain
   Their victims stand undaunted.
This very day the imp, and ghost,
   Whose powers the imp derided,
Stand each at his allotted post
   The bet is undecided.



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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