Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Loquacious twit

No, not me, silly. W.S. Gilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan fame.



Since reader Kate in Tauranga, New Zealand, found the words of I Am The Ruler of the Queen’s Navy from H.M.S. Pinafore very droll, I thought she and others of you might also enjoy these tongue-twisting lyrics from The Pirates of Penn’s Aunts Penzance:

I am the very model of a modern Major-General,
I’ve information vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical
From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical;
I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,
I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical,
About binomial theorem I’m teeming with a lot o’ news,
(bothered for a rhyme)
With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse.

I’m very good at integral and differential calculus;
I know the scientific names of beings animalculous:
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.

I know our mythic history, King Arthur’s and Sir Caradoc’s;
I answer hard acrostics, I’ve a pretty taste for paradox,
I quote in elegiacs all the crimes of Heliogabalus,
In conics I can floor peculiarities parabolous;
I can tell undoubted Raphaels from Gerard Dows and Zoffanies,
I know the croaking chorus from The Frogs of Aristophanes!
Then I can hum a fugue of which I’ve heard the music’s din afore,
(bothered for a rhyme)
And whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense Pinafore.

Then I can write a washing bill in Babylonic cuneiform,
And tell you ev’ry detail of Caractacus’s uniform:
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.

In fact, when I know what is meant by “mamelon” and “ravelin”,
When I can tell at sight a Mauser rifle from a javelin,
When such affairs as sorties and surprises I’m more wary at,
And when I know precisely what is meant by “commissariat”,
When I have learnt what progress has been made in modern gunnery,
When I know more of tactics than a novice in a nunnery –
In short, when I’ve a smattering of elemental strategy –
(bothered for a rhyme)
You’ll say a better Major-General has never sat a gee.

For my military knowledge, though I’m plucky and adventury,
Has only been brought down to the beginning of the century;
But still, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.

Whew! I rest my case.

I could never write a washing bill in Babylonic cuneiform, but I can tell you that Buttercup in H.M.S. Pinafore was probably Jewish -- just like Lady Rose’s new husband in Downton Abbey.

I mean, why else would Gilbert have made her sing, “Sweet Little Buttercup, Oy!”?

Here is William Penn without his aunts:


  1. A contemporary wrote of W.S.Gilbert that he "was quick-tempered, often unreasonable, and he could not bear to be thwarted, but how anyone could call him unamiable I cannot understand." This could just as easily have been written about the septuagenarian who is the governor of this blog!

  2. Yorkshire Pudding, W.S. Gilbert, Brother Theodore Gottlieb and I were practically triplets, but I alone survive. There is really nothing special about me at all. When I am tempted to think of myself more highly than I ought to think, I remember what F. Murray Abraham in the role of Salieri said at the end of Amadeus: "Mediocrities of the world, I am your champion! I am your patron saint!" Comments like yours help too. *exits, stage right, mumbling to himself

  3. Hello Mr. Withplague, and thanks for stopping over at my blog. Yesterday I wrote a (possibly) witty response to your comments and questions. Then I tried to post it here and got an error message.

    Of course I didn't know whether or not my comment was sent before it disappeared. And ... sigh ... It probably wasn't funny anyway.

    Where did I come across your blog? It happened at Helsie's.

  4. ThreeOldKeys, happy to make your acquaintance. I'm tempted to say, "What happens at Helsie's stays at Helsie's" but then I wouldn't have, you know, made your acquaintance.

  5. I really enjoyed the film Amadeus, by the by.

    I must confess I cannot bear Gilbert and Sullivan. Pa has performed in so, so, soooo many of their productions and as a child, and into my teen years I was forced to play all the other parts when he was rehearsing. In my free time I got to listen to him singing it, again and again, inside the house, outside in the garden, the car. And then we went to see the actual performance too! The only one I can bear is The Mikado. I think it was his best role in their work too. I painted the sets and did the make up sometimes, that was substantially more fun than listening to it. I'm not sure if I have mentioned Side Show Bob on the Simpsons, singing Gilbert and Sullivan, but I very much enjoy that. Otherwise, mark me down as a heathen.