William Schwenck Gilbert

(1836 - 1911 / London / England)

A Worm Will Turn


I love a man who'll smile and joke
When with misfortune crowned;
Who'll pun beneath a pauper's yoke,
And as he breaks his daily toke,
Conundrums gay propound.

Just such a man was Bernaqrd Jupp
He scoffed at Fortune's frown;
He gaily drained his bitter cup -
Though Fortune often threw him up,
It never cast him down.

Though years their share of sorrow bring,
We know that far above
All other griefs, are griefs that spring
From some misfortune happening
To those we really love.

E'en sorrow for another's woe
Our BERNARD failed to quell;
Though by this special form of blow
No person ever suffered so,
Or bore his grief so well.

His father, wealthy and well clad,
And owning house and park,
Lost every halfpenny he had,
And then became (extremely sad!)
A poor attorney's clerk.

All sons it surely would appal,
Except the passing meek,
To see a father lose his all,
And from an independence fall
To one pound ten a week!

But JUPP shook off this sorrow's weight,
And, like a Christian son,
Proved Poverty a happy fate -
Proved Wealth to be a devil's bait,
To lure poor sinners on.

With other sorrows Bernard coped,
For sorrows came in packs;
His cousins with their housemaids sloped -
His uncles forged - his aunts eloped -
His sisters married blacks.

But BERNARD, far from murmuring
(Exemplar, friends, to us),
Determined to his faith to cling, -
He made the best of everything,
And argued softly thus:

"'Twere harsh my uncles' forging knack
Too rudely to condemn -
My aunts, repentant, may come back,
And blacks are nothing like as black
As people colour them!"

Still Fate, with many a sorrow rife,
Maintained relentless fight:
His grandmamma next lost her life,
Then died the mother of his wife,
But still he seemed all right.

His brother fond (the only link
To life that bound him now)
One morning, overcome by drink,
He broke his leg (the right, I think)
In some disgraceful row.

But did my Bernard swear and curse?
Oh no - to murmur loth,
He only said, "Go, get a nurse:
Be thankful that it isn't worse;
You might have broken both!"

But worms who watch without concern
The cockchafer on thorns,
Or beetles smashed, themselves will turn
If, walking through the slippery fern,
You tread upon their corns.

One night as Bernard made his track
Through Brompton home to bed,
A footpad, with a vizor black,
Took watch and purse, and dealt a crack
On BERNARD'S saint-like head.

It was too much - his spirit rose,
He looked extremely cross.
Men thought him steeled to mortal foes,
But no - he bowed to countless blows,
But kicked against this loss.

He finally made up his mind
Upon his friends to call;
Subscription lists were largely signed,
For men were really glad to find
Him mortal, after all!

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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