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English Poetry. William Schwenck Gilbert. The Bab Ballads. The Precocious Baby. Уильям Швенк Гильберт.

William Schwenck Gilbert (Уильям Швенк Гильберт)

The Bab Ballads. The Precocious Baby


(To be sung to the Air of the “Whistling Oyster.”)

An elderly person—a prophet by trade—
         With his quips and tips
         On withered old lips,
He married a young and a beautiful maid;
         The cunning old blade!
         Though rather decayed,
He married a beautiful, beautiful maid.

She was only eighteen, and as fair as could be,
         With her tempting smiles
         And maidenly wiles,
And he was a trifle past seventy-three:
         Now what she could see
         Is a puzzle to me,
In a prophet of seventy—seventy-three!

Of all their acquaintances bidden (or bad)
         With their loud high jinks
         And underbred winks,
None thought they’d a family have—but they had;
         A dear little lad
         Who drove ’em half mad,
For he turned out a horribly fast little cad.

For when he was born he astonished all by,
         With their “Law, dear me!”
         “Did ever you see?”
He’d a pipe in his mouth and a glass in his eye,
         A hat all awry—
         An octagon tie—
And a miniature—miniature glass in his eye.

He grumbled at wearing a frock and a cap,
         With his “Oh, dear, oh!”
         And his “Hang it! ’oo know!”
And he turned up his nose at his excellent pap—
         “My friends, it’s a tap
         Dat is not worf a rap.”
(Now this was remarkably excellent pap.)

He’d chuck his nurse under the chin, and he’d say,
         With his “Fal, lal, lal”—
         “’Oo doosed fine gal!”
This shocking precocity drove ’em away:
         “A month from to-day
         Is as long as I’ll stay—
Then I’d wish, if you please, for to toddle away.”

His father, a simple old gentleman, he
         With nursery rhyme
         And “Once on a time,”
Would tell him the story of “Little Bo-P,”
         “So pretty was she,
         So pretty and wee,
As pretty, as pretty, as pretty could be.”

But the babe, with a dig that would startle an ox,
         With his “C’ck!  Oh, my!—
         Go along wiz ’oo, fie!”
Would exclaim, “I’m afraid ’oo a socking ole fox.”
         Now a father it shocks,
         And it whitens his locks,
When his little babe calls him a shocking old fox.

The name of his father he’d couple and pair
         (With his ill-bred laugh,
         And insolent chaff)
With those of the nursery heroines rare—
         Virginia the Fair,
         Or Good Goldenhair,
Till the nuisance was more than a prophet could bear.

“There’s Jill and White Cat” (said the bold little brat,
         With his loud, “Ha, ha!”)
         “’Oo sly ickle Pa!
Wiz ’oo Beauty, Bo-Peep, and ’oo Mrs. Jack Sprat!
         I’ve noticed ’oo pat
         My pretty White Cat—
I sink dear mamma ought to know about dat!”

He early determined to marry and wive,
         For better or worse
         With his elderly nurse—
Which the poor little boy didn’t live to contrive:
         His hearth didn’t thrive—
         No longer alive,
He died an enfeebled old dotard at five!


Now, elderly men of the bachelor crew,
         With wrinkled hose
         And spectacled nose,
Don’t marry at all—you may take it as true
         If ever you do
         The step you will rue,
For your babes will be elderly—elderly too.

William Schwenck Gilbert’s other poems:

  1. The Bab Ballads. The Sensation Captain
  2. The Bab Ballads. The Yarn of the “Nancy Bell”
  3. The Bab Ballads. The Phantom Curate
  4. The Bab Ballads. Thomson Green and Harriet Hale
  5. The Bab Ballads. To the Terrestrial Globe

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