William Schwenck Gilbert

1836 - 1911 / London / England

First Love

A clergyman in Berkshire dwelt,
And in his church there weekly knelt
At least a hundred souls.

There little ELLEN you might see,
The modest rustic belle;
In maidenly simplicity,
She loved her BERNARD well.

Though ELLEN wore a plain silk gown
Untrimmed with lace or fur,
Yet not a husband in the town
But wished his wife like her.

Though sterner memories might fade,
You never could forget
The child-form of that baby-maid,
The Village Violet!

A simple frightened loveliness,
Whose sacred spirit-part
Shrank timidly from worldly stress,
And nestled in your heart.

POWLES woo'd with every well-worn plan
And all the usual wiles
With which a well-schooled gentleman
A simple heart beguiles.

The hackneyed compliments that bore
World-folks like you and me,
Appeared to her as if they wore
The crown of Poesy.

His winking eyelid sang a song
Her heart could understand,
Eternity seemed scarce too long
When BERNARD squeezed her hand.

He ordered down the martial crew
Of GODFREY'S Grenadiers,
And COOTE conspired with TINNEY to
Ecstaticise her ears.

Beneath her window, veiled from eye,
They nightly took their stand;
On birthdays supplemented by
The Covent Garden band.

And little ELLEN, all alone,
Enraptured sat above,
And thought how blest she was to own
The wealth of POWLES'S love.

I often, often wonder what
Poor ELLEN saw in him;
For calculated he was NOT
To please a woman's whim.

He wasn't good, despite the air
An M.B. waistcoat gives;
Indeed, his dearest friends declare
No greater humbug lives.

No kind of virtue decked this priest,
He'd nothing to allure;
He wasn't handsome in the least, -
He wasn't even poor.

No - he was cursed with acres fat
(A Christian's direst ban),
And gold - yet, notwithstanding that,
Poor ELLEN loved the man.

As unlike BERNARD as could be
Was poor old AARON WOOD
(Disgraceful BERNARD'S curate he):
He was extremely good.

A BAYARD in his moral pluck
Without reproach or fear,
A quiet venerable duck
With fifty pounds a year.

No fault had he - no fad, except
A tendency to strum,
In mode at which you would have wept,
A dull harmonium.

He had no gold with which to hire
The minstrels who could best
Convey a notion of the fire
That raged within his breast.

And so, when COOTE and TINNEY'S Own
Had tootled all they knew,
And when the Guards, completely blown,
Exhaustedly withdrew,

And NELL began to sleepy feel,
Poor AARON then would come,
And underneath her window wheel
His plain harmonium.

He woke her every morn at two,
And having gained her ear,
In vivid colours AARON drew
The sluggard's grim career.

He warbled Apiarian praise,
And taught her in his chant
To shun the dog's pugnacious ways,
And imitate the ant.

Still NELL seemed not, how much he played,
To love him out and out,
Although the admirable maid
Respected him, no doubt.

She told him of her early vow,
And said as BERNARD'S wife
It might be hers to show him how
To rectify his life.

"You are so pure, so kind, so true,
Your goodness shines so bright,
What use would ELLEN be to you?
Believe me, you're all right."

She wished him happiness and health,
And flew on lightning wings
To BERNARD with his dangerous wealth
And all the woes it brings.
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