William Schwenck Gilbert
The Haughty Actor - Poem by William Schwenck Gilbert
AN actor - GIBBS, of Drury Lane -
Of very decent station,
Once happened in a part to gain
It sometimes turns a fellow's brain
And makes him singularly vain
When he believes that he receives
His great success half drove him mad,
But no one seemed to mind him;
Well, in another piece he had
Another part assigned him.
This part was smaller, by a bit,
Than that in which he made a hit.
So, much ill-used, he straight refused
To play the part assigned him.
THAT NIGHT THAT ACTOR SLEPT, AND I'LL ATTEMPT
TO TELL YOU OF THE VIVID DREAM HE DREAMT.
In fighting with a robber band
(A thing he loved sincerely)
A sword struck GIBBS upon the hand,
And wounded it severely.
At first he didn't heed it much,
He thought it was a simple touch,
But soon he found the weapon's bound
Had wounded him severely.
To Surgeon COBB he made a trip,
Who'd just effected featly
An amputation at the hip
A rising man was Surgeon COBB
But this extremely ticklish job
He had achieved (as he believed)
The actor rang the surgeon's bell.
"Observe my wounded finger,
Be good enough to strap it well,
And prithee do not linger.
That I, dear sir, may fill again
The Theatre Royal Drury Lane:
This very night I have to fight -
So prithee do not linger."
"I don't strap fingers up for doles,"
Replied the haughty surgeon;
"To use your cant, I don't play ROLES
Utility that verge on.
First amputation - nothing less -
That is my line of business:
We surgeon nobs despise all jobs
Utility that verge on.
"When in your hip there lurks disease"
(So dreamt this lively dreamer),
"Or devastating CARIES
In HUMERUS or FEMUR,
If you can pay a handsome fee,
Oh, then you may remember me -
With joy elate I'll amputate
Your HUMERUS or FEMUR."
The disconcerted actor ceased
The haughty leech to pester,
But when the wound in size increased,
And then began to fester,
He sought a learned Counsel's lair,
And told that Counsel, then and there,
How COBB'S neglect of his defect
Had made his finger fester.
"Oh, bring my action, if you please,
The case I pray you urge on,
And win me thumping damages
From COBB, that haughty surgeon.
He culpably neglected me
Although I proffered him his fee,
So pray come down, in wig and gown,
On COBB, that haughty surgeon!"
That Counsel learned in the laws,
With passion almost trembled.
He just had gained a mighty cause
Before the Peers assembled!
Said he, "How dare you have the face
To come with Common Jury case
To one who wings rhetoric flings
Before the Peers assembled?"
Dispirited became our friend -
Depressed his moral pecker -
"But stay! a thought! - I'll gain my end,
And save my poor exchequer.
I won't be placed upon the shelf,
I'll take it into Court myself,
And legal lore display before
The Court of the Exchequer."
He found a Baron - one of those
Who with our laws supply us -
In wig and silken gown and hose,
As if at NISI PRIUS.
But he'd just given, off the reel,
A famous judgment on Appeal:
It scarce became his heightened fame
To sit at NISI PRIUS.
Our friend began, with easy wit,
That half concealed his terror:
"Pooh!" said the Judge, "I only sit
In BANCO or in Error.
Can you suppose, my man, that I'd
O'er NISI PRIUS Courts preside,
Or condescend my time to spend
On anything but Error?"
"Too bad," said GIBBS, "my case to shirk!
You must be bad innately,
To save your skill for mighty work
Because it's valued greatly!"
But here he woke, with sudden start.
He wrote to say he'd play the part.
I've but to tell he played it well -
The author's words - his native wit
Combined, achieved a perfect "hit" -
The papers praised him greatly.
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