William Schwenck Gilbert

(1836 - 1911 / London / England)

Lost Mr. Blake - Poem by William Schwenck Gilbert

Mr. Blake was a regular out-and-out hardened sinner,
Who was quite out of the pale of Christianity, so to speak,
He was in the habit of smoking a long pipe and drinking a glass of
grog on a Sunday after dinner,
And seldom thought of going to church more than twice or - if Good
Friday or Christmas Day happened to come in it - three times a
week.

He was quite indifferent as to the particular kinds of dresses
That the clergyman wore at church where he used to go to pray,
And whatever he did in the way of relieving a chap's distresses,
He always did in a nasty, sneaking, underhanded, hole-and-corner
sort of way.

I have known him indulge in profane, ungentlemanly emphatics,
When the Protestant Church has been divided on the subject of the
proper width of a chasuble's hem;
I have even known him to sneer at albs - and as for dalmatics,
Words can't convey an idea of the contempt he expressed for THEM.

He didn't believe in persons who, not being well off themselves,
are obliged to confine their charitable exertions to collecting
money from wealthier people,
And looked upon individuals of the former class as ecclesiastical
hawks;
He used to say that he would no more think of interfering with his
priest's robes than with his church or his steeple,
And that he did not consider his soul imperilled because somebody
over whom he had no influence whatever, chose to dress himself up
like an exaggerated GUY FAWKES.

This shocking old vagabond was so unutterably shameless
That he actually went a-courting a very respectable and pious
middle-aged sister, by the name of BIGGS.
She was a rather attractive widow, whose life as such had always
been particularly blameless;
Her first husband had left her a secure but moderate competence,
owing to some fortunate speculations in the matter of figs.

She was an excellent person in every way - and won the respect even
of MRS. GRUNDY,
She was a good housewife, too, and wouldn't have wasted a penny if
she had owned the Koh-i-noor.
She was just as strict as he was lax in her observance of Sunday,
And being a good economist, and charitable besides, she took all
the bones and cold potatoes and broken pie-crusts and candle-ends
(when she had quite done with them), and made them into an
excellent soup for the deserving poor.

I am sorry to say that she rather took to BLAKE - that outcast of
society,
And when respectable brothers who were fond of her began to look
dubious and to cough,
She would say, "Oh, my friends, it's because I hope to bring this
poor benighted soul back to virtue and propriety,
And besides, the poor benighted soul, with all his faults, was
uncommonly well off.

And when MR. BLAKE'S dissipated friends called his attention to the
frown or the pout of her,
Whenever he did anything which appeared to her to savour of an
unmentionable place,
He would say that "she would be a very decent old girl when all
that nonsense was knocked out of her,"
And his method of knocking it out of her is one that covered him
with disgrace.

She was fond of going to church services four times every Sunday,
and, four or five times in the week, and never seemed to pall of
them,
So he hunted out all the churches within a convenient distance that
had services at different hours, so to speak;
And when he had married her he positively insisted upon their going
to all of them,
So they contrived to do about twelve churches every Sunday, and, if
they had luck, from twenty-two to twenty-three in the course of the
week.

She was fond of dropping his sovereigns ostentatiously into the
plate, and she liked to see them stand out rather conspicuously
against the commonplace half-crowns and shillings,
So he took her to all the charity sermons, and if by any
extraordinary chance there wasn't a charity sermon anywhere, he
would drop a couple of sovereigns (one for him and one for her)
into the poor-box at the door;
And as he always deducted the sums thus given in charity from the
housekeeping money, and the money he allowed her for her bonnets
and frillings,
She soon began to find that even charity, if you allow it to
interfere with your personal luxuries, becomes an intolerable bore.

On Sundays she was always melancholy and anything but good society,
For that day in her household was a day of sighings and sobbings
and wringing of hands and shaking of heads:
She wouldn't hear of a button being sewn on a glove, because it was
a work neither of necessity nor of piety,
And strictly prohibited her servants from amusing themselves, or
indeed doing anything at all except dusting the drawing-rooms,
cleaning the boots and shoes, cooking the parlour dinner, waiting
generally on the family, and making the beds.
But BLAKE even went further than that, and said that people should
do their own works of necessity, and not delegate them to persons
in a menial situation,
So he wouldn't allow his servants to do so much as even answer a
bell.
Here he is making his wife carry up the water for her bath to the
second floor, much against her inclination, -
And why in the world the gentleman who illustrates these ballads
has put him in a cocked hat is more than I can tell.

After about three months of this sort of thing, taking the smooth
with the rough of it,
(Blacking her own boots and peeling her own potatoes was not her
notion of connubial bliss),
MRS. BLAKE began to find that she had pretty nearly had enough of
it,
And came, in course of time, to think that BLAKE'S own original
line of conduct wasn't so much amiss.

And now that wicked person - that detestable sinner ("BELIAL BLAKE"
his friends and well-wishers call him for his atrocities),
And his poor deluded victim, whom all her Christian brothers
dislike and pity so,
Go to the parish church only on Sunday morning and afternoon and
occasionally on a week-day, and spend their evenings in connubial
fondlings and affectionate reciprocities,
And I should like to know where in the world (or rather, out of it)
they expect to go!


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Read poems about / on: money, respect, lost, husband, people, sister, sorry, family, girl, believe, work, water, hope, hunting, friend



Poem Submitted: Thursday, January 1, 2004



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