William Schwenck Gilbert

(1836 - 1911 / London / England)

A Classical Revival - Poem by William Schwenck Gilbert

At the outset I may mention it's my sovereign intention
To revive the classic memories of Athens at its best,
For my company possesses all the necessary dresses,
And a course of quiet cramming will supply us with the rest.
We've a choir hyporchematic (that is, ballet-operatic)
Who respond to the CHOREUTAE of that cultivated age,
And our clever chorus-master, all but captious criticaster,
Would accept as the CHOREGUS of the early Attic stage.
This return to classic ages is considered in their wages,
Which are always calculated by the day or by the week -
And I'll pay 'em (if they'll back me) all in OBOLOI and DRACHMAE,
Which they'll get (if they prefer it) at the Kalends that are
Greek!

(At this juncture I may mention
That this erudition sham
Is but classical pretension,
The result of steady "cram.":
Periphrastic methods spurning,
To my readers all discerning
I admit this show of learning
Is the fruit of steady cram."!)

In the period Socratic every dining-room was Attic
(Which suggests an architecture of a topsy-turvy kind),
There they'd satisfy their twist on a RECHERCHE cold [Greek text
which cannot be reproduced],
Which is what they called their lunch - and so may you, if you're
inclined.
As they gradually got on, they'd [Greek text which cannot be
reproduced]
(Which is Attic for a steady and a conscientious drink).
But they mixed their wine with water - which I'm sure they didn't
oughter -
And we Anglo-Saxons know a trick worth two of that, I think!
Then came rather risky dances (under certain circumstances)
Which would shock that worthy gentleman, the Licenser of Plays,
Corybantian maniAC kick - Dionysiac or Bacchic -
And the Dithyrambic revels of those indecorous days.

(And perhaps I'd better mention
Lest alarming you I am,
That it isn't our intention
To perform a Dithyramb -
It displays a lot of stocking,
Which is always very shocking,
And of course I'm only mocking
At the prevalence of "cram.")

Yes, on reconsideration, there are customs of that nation
Which are not in strict accordance with the habits of our day,
And when I come to codify, their rules I mean to modify,
Or Mrs. Grundy, p'r'aps, may have a word or two to say:
For they hadn't macintoshes or umbrellas or goloshes -
And a shower with their dresses must have played the very deuce,
And it must have been unpleasing when they caught a fit of
sneezing,
For, it seems, of pocket-handkerchiefs they didn't know the use.
They wore little underclothing - scarcely anything - or no-thing -
And their dress of Coan silk was quite transparent in design -
Well, in fact, in summer weather, something like the "altogether."
And it's THERE, I rather fancy, I shall have to draw the line!

(And again I wish to mention
That this erudition sham
Is but classical pretension,
The result of steady "cram."
Yet my classic love aggressive,
If you'll pardon the possessive,
Is exceedingly impressive
When you're passing an exam.)


Comments about A Classical Revival by William Schwenck Gilbert

  • (4/3/2019 11:06:00 PM)

    Great love for the Greek classics marvelously depicted with an intent to go for their revival. A master piece in itself. (Report)Reply

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  • (4/3/2019 2:50:00 PM)

    He certainly has performed a trotting Dithyramb. Great rhythm-sytactical and consistent beat with wit. (Report)Reply

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  • Harley White (4/3/2019 5:40:00 AM)

    I love Gilbert and Sullivan! Their comic operettas are classic and always so masterfully crafted! (Report)Reply

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  • Ramesh T A (4/3/2019 3:11:00 AM)

    Classic ballad opera performance is the way to express this story means it is a great master piece indeed! (Report)Reply

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  • Kumarmani Mahakul (4/3/2019 2:30:00 AM)

    Yet my classic love aggressive,
    If you'll pardon the possessive,
    Is exceedingly impressive
    When you're passing an exam.) ....touching expression. Beautiful poem.
    (Report)Reply

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  • Subhas Chandra Chakra (4/4/2018 1:00:00 PM)

    A perfect game of words, so well played. (Report)Reply

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  • Jez Brul (4/3/2018 9:00:00 PM)

    The imagery, the rhyming, the metaphors...what could I ask for? It's just perfect! (Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
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  • Susan Williams (4/3/2018 4:34:00 PM)

    I have rarely seen a poet who had such a fantastic time playing with his topic in all ways available! ! ! (Report)Reply

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  • (4/3/2018 2:50:00 PM)

    Hyporchema was a lyric dance similar to a crane dance performed by Theseus in Delos after his return from Crete.The poems or songs that have been accompanied by a hyporchema became hyporchemata. I like this association between the idea of mixing the old greek, divine, Dionysiac or Bacchic wine with water and the periphrastic methods used in poetry. (Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
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  • Bernard F. Asuncion (4/3/2018 1:41:00 AM)

    Such a great poem by William Schwenck Gilbert👍👍👍 (Report)Reply

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  • (4/3/2018 1:24:00 AM)

    Still as amusing as when first read. (Report)Reply

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  • (4/3/2017 11:03:00 PM)

    A classic with an amazing style. Thanks for sharing it here. (Report)Reply

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  • Paul Amrod (4/3/2017 3:16:00 PM)

    An absolute visionary with a very modernistic style for the 19th century. This poem sounds more like a beat generation piece. Totally nonconventional and a wild combination of thoughts. Mister Gilbert was a highly creative genius. (Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
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  • Gajanan Mishra (4/3/2017 8:56:00 AM)

    classic love aggressive., right (Report)Reply

    2 person liked.
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  • Edward Kofi Louis (4/3/2017 4:49:00 AM)

    To codify! ! Thanks for sharing this poem with us. (Report)Reply

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  • (4/3/2017 3:44:00 AM)

    And when I come to codify their rules I mean to modify. Engaging and amusing parody. (Report)Reply

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  • Bernard F. Asuncion (4/3/2017 12:57:00 AM)

    Draw the line..... thanks for posting.... (Report)Reply

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Read all 18 comments »




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Read poems about / on: weather, summer, water, memory, dance



Poem Submitted: Thursday, January 1, 2004



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