William Schwenck Gilbert

1836 - 1911 / London / England

Damon Vs. Pythias

Two better friends you wouldn't pass
Throughout a summer's day,
Than DAMON and his PYTHIAS, -
Two merchant princes they.

At school together they contrived
All sorts of boyish larks;
And, later on, together thrived
As merry merchants' clerks.

And then, when many years had flown,
They rose together till
They bought a business of their own -
And they conduct it still.

They loved each other all their lives,
Dissent they never knew,
And, stranger still, their very wives
Were rather friendly too.

Perhaps you think, to serve my ends,
These statements I refute,
When I admit that these dear friends
Were parties to a suit?

But 'twas a friendly action, for
Good PYTHIAS, as you see,
Fought merely as executor,
And DAMON as trustee.

They laughed to think, as through the throng
Of suitors sad they passed,
That they, who'd lived and loved so long,
Should go to law at last.

The junior briefs they kindly let
Two sucking counsel hold;
These learned persons never yet
Had fingered suitors' gold.

But though the happy suitors two
Were friendly as could be,
Not so the junior counsel who
Were earning maiden fee.

They too, till then, were friends. At school
They'd done each other's sums,
And under Oxford's gentle rule
Had been the closest chums.

But now they met with scowl and grin
In every public place,
And often snapped their fingers in
Each other's learned face.

It almost ended in a fight
When they on path or stair
Met face to face. They made it quite
A personal affair.

And when at length the case was called
(It came on rather late),
Spectators really were appalled
To see their deadly hate.

One junior rose - with eyeballs tense,
And swollen frontal veins:
To all his powers of eloquence
He gave the fullest reins.

His argument was novel - for
A verdict he relied
On blackening the junior
Upon the other side.

"Oh," said the Judge, in robe and fur,
"The matter in dispute
To arbitration pray refer -
This is a friendly suit."

And PYTHIAS, in merry mood,
Digged DAMON in the side;
And DAMON, tickled with the feud,
With other digs replied.

But oh! those deadly counsel twain,
Who were such friends before,
Were never reconciled again -
They quarrelled more and more.

At length it happened that they met
On Alpine heights one day,
And thus they paid each one his debt,
Their fury had its way -

They seized each other in a trice,
With scorn and hatred filled,
And, falling from a precipice,
They, both of them, were killed.
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