William Schwenck Gilbert

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William Schwenck Gilbert Biography

William Schwenck Gilbert, born in London in 1836, was the son of a retired naval surgeon. Except for a kidnapping by Italian brigands in Italy at age two, and a ransomed release, he appears to have had a very normal upbringing. Beyond ordinary schooling, he took training as an artillery officer and was tutored in military science with hopes of participating in the Crimean War. Unfortunately for him, but not for us, he did not graduate until after the War was over. Gilbert subsequently joined the militia and was a member for 20 years.

After finishing his military training Gilbert worked in a government bureau job which he hated. Upon receiving a nice inheritance from an aunt, Gilbert indulged his fancy and became a barrister. Called to the bar at age 28, Gilbert's law career, with no "r ...

William Schwenck Gilbert Comments

Terri Norvell 02 February 2012

Absolutely love this verse! Captures the spirit of nature honorably! The Oak holds that space in my heart as well.

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The Best Poem Of William Schwenck Gilbert

A Classical Revival

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.)

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