William Schwenck Gilbert (1836 - 1911 / London / England)
The Bishop of Rum-Ti-Foo Again
I often wonder whether you
Think sometimes of that Bishop, who
From black but balmy Rum-ti-Foo
Last summer twelvemonth came.
Unto your mind I p'r'aps may bring
Remembrance of the man I sing
To-day, by simply mentioning
That PETER was his name.
Remember how that holy man
Came with the great Colonial clan
To Synod, called Pan-Anglican;
And kindly recollect
How, having crossed the ocean wide,
To please his flock all means he tried
Consistent with a proper pride
And manly self-respect.
He only, of the reverend pack
Who minister to Christians black,
Brought any useful knowledge back
To his Colonial fold.
In consequence a place I claim
For "PETER" on the scroll of Fame
(For PETER was that Bishop's name,
As I've already told).
He carried Art, he often said,
To places where that timid maid
(Save by Colonial Bishops' aid)
Could never hope to roam.
The Payne-cum-Lauri feat he taught
As he had learnt it; for he thought
The choicest fruits of Progress ought
To bless the Negro's home.
And he had other work to do,
For, while he tossed upon the Blue,
The islanders of Rum-ti-Foo
Forgot their kindly friend.
Their decent clothes they learnt to tear -
They learnt to say, "I do not care,"
Though they, of course, were well aware
How folks, who say so, end.
Some sailors, whom he did not know,
Had landed there not long ago,
And taught them "Bother!" also, "Blow!"
(Of wickedness the germs).
No need to use a casuist's pen
To prove that they were merchantmen;
No sailor of the Royal N.
Would use such awful terms.
And so, when BISHOP PETER came
(That was the kindly Bishop's name),
He heard these dreadful oaths with shame,
And chid their want of dress.
(Except a shell - a bangle rare -
A feather here - a feather there
The South Pacific Negroes wear
Their native nothingness.)
He taught them that a Bishop loathes
To listen to disgraceful oaths,
He gave them all his left-off clothes -
They bent them to his will.
The Bishop's gift spreads quickly round;
In PETER'S left-off clothes they bound
(His three-and-twenty suits they found
In fair condition still).
The Bishop's eyes with water fill,
Quite overjoyed to find them still
Obedient to his sovereign will,
And said, "Good Rum-ti-Foo!
Half-way I'll meet you, I declare:
I'll dress myself in cowries rare,
And fasten feathers in my hair,
And dance the 'Cutch-chi-boo!'" (13)
And to conciliate his See
He married PICCADILLILLEE,
The youngest of his twenty-three,
Tall - neither fat nor thin.
(And though the dress he made her don
Looks awkwardly a girl upon,
It was a great improvement on
The one he found her in.)
The Bishop in his gay canoe
(His wife, of course, went with him too)
To some adjacent island flew,
To spend his honeymoon.
Some day in sunny Rum-ti-Foo
A little PETER'll be on view;
And that (if people tell me true)
Is like to happen soon.
Comments about this poem (The Bishop of Rum-Ti-Foo Again by William Schwenck Gilbert )
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