William Schwenck Gilbert

1836 - 1911 / London / England

Trial By Jury


SCENE - A Court of Justice, Barristers, Attorney, and Jurymen


Hark, the hour of ten is sounding:
Hearts with anxious fears are bounding,
Hall of Justice, crowds surrounding,
Breathing hope and fear--
For to-day in this arena,
Summoned by a stern subpoena,
Edwin, sued by Angelina,
Shortly will appear.

Enter Usher


Now, Jurymen, hear my advice--
All kinds of vulgar prejudice
I pray you set aside:
With stern, judicial frame of mind
From bias free of every kind,
This trial must be tried.


From bias free of every kind,
This trial must be tried.

USHER Oh, listen to the plaintiff's case:
Observe the features of her face--
The broken-hearted bride.
Condole with her distress of mind:
From bias free of every kind,
This trial must be tried!

CHORUS From bias free, etc.

USHER And when, amid the plaintiff's shrieks,
The ruffianly defendant speaks--
Upon the other side;
What he may say you needn't mind---
From bias free of every kind,
This trial must be tried!

CHORUS From bias free, etc.

Enter Defendant


Is this the court of the Exchequer?
ALL. It is!
DEFENDANT (aside) Be firm, be firm, my pecker,
Your evil star's in the ascendant!
ALL. Who are you?
DEFENDANT. I'm the Defendant.

CHORUS OF JURYMEN (shaking their fists)

Monster, dread our damages.
We're the jury!
Dread our fury!

DEFENDANT Hear me, hear me, if you please,
These are very strange proceedings--
For permit me to remark
On the merits of my pleadings,
You're at present in the dark.

RECIT--USHER (on Bench)

Silence in Court, and all attention lend.
Behold your Judge! In due submission bend!

Enter Judge on Bench


All hail, great Judge!
To your bright rays
We never grudge
Ecstatic praise.
All hail!

May each decree
As statute rank
And never be
Reversed in banc.
All hail!

For these kind words, accept my thanks, I pray.
A Breach of Promise we've to try to-day.
But firstly, if the time you'll not begrudge,
I'll tell you how I came to be a Judge.

ALL. He'll tell us how he came to be a Judge!
JUDGE. I'll tell you how...
ALL. He'll tell us how...
JUDGE. I'll tell you how...
ALL. He'll tell us how...
JUDGE Let me speak...!
ALL. Let him speak!
JUDGE. Let me speak!
ALL. (in a whisper). Let him speak!
He'll tell us how he came to be a Judge!
USHER. Silence in Court! Silence in Court!


When I, good friends, was called to the bar,
I'd an appetite fresh and hearty.
But I was, as many young barristers are,
An impecunious party.

I'd a swallow-tail coat of a beautiful blue--
And a brief which I bought of a booby--
A couple of shirts, and a collar or two,
And a ring that looked like a ruby!

CHORUS. A couple of shirts, etc.

JUDGE. At Westminster Hall I danced a dance,
Like a semi-despondent fury;
For I thought I never should hit on a chance
Of addressing a British Jury--
But I soon got tired of third-class journeys,
And dinners of bread and water;
So I fell in love with a rich attorney's
Elderly, ugly daughter.

CHORUS. So he fell in love, etc.

JUDGE. The rich attorney, he jumped with joy,
And replied to my fond professions:
"You shall reap the reward of your pluck, my boy,
At the Bailey and Middlesex sessions.
You'll soon get used to her looks," said he,
"And a very nice girl you will find her!
She may very well pass for forty-three
In the dusk, with a light behind her!"

CHORUS. She may very well, etc.

JUDGE. The rich attorney was good as his word;
The briefs came trooping gaily,
And every day my voice was heard
At the Sessions or Ancient Bailey.
All thieves who could my fees afford
Relied on my orations.
And many a burglar I've restored
To his friends and his relations.

CHORUS. And many a burglar, etc.

JUDGE. At length I became as rich as the Gurneys--
An incubus then I thought her,
So I threw over that rich attorney's
Elderly, ugly daughter.
The rich attorney my character high
Tried vainly to disparage---
And now, if you please, I'm ready to try
This Breach of Promise of Marriage!

CHORUS. And now if you please, etc.

JUDGE. For now I'm a Judge!
ALL. And a good Judge, too!
JUDGE. For now I'm a Judge!
ALL. And a good Judge, too!
JUDGE. Though all my law be fudge,
Yet I'll never, never budge,
But I'll live and die a Judge!
ALL. And a good Judge, too!
JUDGE (pianissimo). It was managed by a job--
ALL. And a good job, too!
JUDGE. It was managed by a job!
ALL. And a good job too!
JUDGE. It is patent to the mob,
That my being made a nob
Was effected by a job.
ALL. And a good job too!

[Enter Counsel for Plaintiff. He takes his place in front row of
Counsel's seats


Swear thou the jury!

USHER. Kneel, Jurymen, oh, kneel!

[All the Jury kneel in the Jury-box, and so are hidden from

USHER. Oh, will you swear by yonder skies,
Whatever question may arise,
'Twixt rich and poor, 'twixt low and high,
That you will well and truly try?

JURY (raising their hands, which alone are visible)

To all of this we make reply
By the dull slate of yonder sky:
That we will well and truly try.
We'll try.

(All rise with the last note)


Where is the Plaintiff?
Let her now be brought.


Oh, Angelina! Come thou into Court!
Angelina! Angelina!

Enter the Bridesmaids


Comes the broken flower--
Comes the cheated maid--
Though the tempest lower,
Rain and cloud will fade
Take, oh maid, these posies:
Though thy beauty rare
Shame the blushing roses,
They are passing fair!
Wear the flowers 'til they fade;
Happy be thy life, oh maid!

[The Judge, having taken a great fancy to First Bridesmaid, sends
her a note by Usher, which she reads, kisses rapturously,
and places in her bosom.

Enter Plaintiff


O'er the season vernal,
Time may cast a shade;
Sunshine, if eternal,
Makes the roses fade!
Time may do his duty;
Let the thief alone--
Winter hath a beauty.
That is all his own.
Fairest days are sun and shade:
I am no unhappy maid!

[The Judge having by this time transferred his admiration to
Plaintiff, directs the Usher to take the note from First
Bridesmaid and hand it to Plaintiff, who reads it,
kisses it rapturously, and places it in her bosom.


Comes the broken flower, etc.

JUDGE. Oh, never, never, never,
Since I joined the human race,
Saw I so excellently fair a face.
THE JURY (shaking their forefingers at him). Ah, sly dog!
Ah, sly dog!
JUDGE (to Jury). How say you?
Is she not designed for capture?
FOREMAN (after consulting with the Jury). We've but one word,
m'lud, and that is--Rapture!
PLAINTIFF (curtseying). Your kindness, gentlemen, quite

JURY. We love you fondly, and would make you ours!

BRIDESMAIDS (shaking their forefingers at Jury).
Ah, sly dogs! Ah, sly dogs!


May it please you, m'lud!
Gentlemen of the jury!


With a sense of deep emotion,
I approach this painful case;
For I never had a notion
That a man could be so base,
Or deceive a girl confiding,
Vows, etcetera deriding.

ALL. He deceived a girl confiding,
Vows, etcetera, deriding.

[Plaintiff falls sobbing on Counsel's breast and remains there.

COUNSEL. See my interesting client,
Victim of a heartless wile!
See the traitor all defiant
Wear a supercilious smile!
Sweetly smiled my client on him,
Coyly woo'd and gently won him.

ALL. Sweetly smiled, etc.

COUNSEL. Swiftly fled each honeyed hour
Spent with this unmanly male!
Camberwell became a bow'r,
Peckham an Arcadian Vale,
Breathing concentrated otto!--
An existence … la Watteau.

ALL. Bless, us, concentrated otto! etc.

COUNSEL. Picture, then, my client naming,
And insisting on the day:
Picture him excuses framing--
Going from her far away;
Doubly criminal to do so,
For the maid had bought her trousseau!

ALL. Doubly criminal, etc.
COUNSEL (to Plaintiff, who weeps)

Cheer up, my pretty--oh, cheer up!

JURY. Cheer up, cheer up, we love you!

[Counsel leads Plaintiff fondly into Witness-box; he takes a tender
leave of her, and resumes his place in Court.

(Plaintiff reels as if about to faint)

JUDGE. That she is reeling
Is plain to see!

FOREMAN. If faint you're feeling
Recline on me!

[She falls sobbing on to the Foreman's breast.

PLAINTIFF (feebly). I shall recover
If left alone.

ALL. (shaking their fists at Defendant)
Oh, perjured lover,
Atone! atone!

FOREMAN. Just like a father [Kissing her
I wish to be.

JUDGE. (approaching her)
Or, if you'd rather,
Recline on me!

[She jumps on to Bench, sits down by the Judge, and falls sobbing
on his breast.

COUNSEL. Oh! fetch some water
From far Cologne!

ALL. For this sad slaughter
Atone! atone!

JURY. (shaking fists at Defendant)
Monster, monster, dread our fury--
There's the Judge, and we're the Jury!
Come! Substantial damages,

USHER. Silence in Court!


Oh, gentlemen, listen, I pray,
Though I own that my heart has been ranging,
Of nature the laws I obey,
For nature is constantly changing.
The moon in her phases is found,
The time, and the wind, and the weather.
The months in succession come round,
And you don't find two Mondays together.
Consider the moral, I pray,
Nor bring a young fellow to sorrow,
Who loves this young lady to-day,
And loves that young lady to-morrow.

BRIDESMAIDS (rushing forward, and kneeling to Jury).

Consider the moral, etc.

One cannot eat breakfast all day,
Nor is it the act of a sinner,
When breakfast is taken away,
To turn his attention to dinner.
And it's not in the range of belief,
To look upon him as a glutton,
Who, when he is tired of beef,
Determines to tackle the mutton.
But this I am willing to say,
If it will appease her sorrow,
I'll marry this lady to-day,
And I'll marry the other to-morrow.

BRIDESMAIDS (rushing forward as before)

But this he is willing say, etc.


That seems a reasonable proposition,
To which, I think, your client may agree.

But I submit, m'lud, with all submission,
To marry two at once is Burglaree!
[Referring to law book.
In the reign of James the Second,
It was generally reckoned
As a rather serious crime
To marry two wives at a time.
[Hands book up to Judge, who reads it.

ALL. Oh, man of learning!


JUDGE. A nice dilemma we have here,
That calls for all our wit:

COUNSEL. And at this stage, it don't appear
That we can settle it.

DEFENDANT (in Witness-box).
If I to wed the girl am loth
A breach 'twill surely be--

PLAINTIFF. And if he goes and marries both,
It counts as Burglaree!

ALL. A nice dilemma we have here,
That calls for all our wit.


PLAINTIFF (embracing him rapturously)

I love him--I love him--with fervour unceasing
I worship and madly adore;
My blind adoration is ever increasing,
My loss I shall ever deplore.
Oh, see what a blessing, what love and caressing
I've lost, and remember it, pray,
When you I'm addressing, are busy assessing
The damages Edwin must pay---
Yes, he must pay!

DEFENDANT (repelling her furiously)

I smoke like a furnace--I'm always in liquor,
A ruffian--a bully--a sot;
I'm sure I should thrash her, perhaps I should kick her,
I am such a very bad lot!
I'm not prepossessing, as you may be guessing,
She couldn't endure me a day!
Recall my professing, when you are assessing
The damages Edwin must pay!

PLAINTIFF. Yes, he must pay!

[She clings to him passionately; after a struggle, he throws her
off into arms of Counsel.

JURY. We would be fairly acting,
But this is most distracting!
If, when in liquor he would kick her,
That is an abatement.


The question, gentlemen--is one of liquor.
You ask for guidance--this is my reply:
He says, when tipsy, he would thrash and kick her.
Let's make him tipsy, gentlemen, and try!

COUNSEL. With all respect,
I do object!

PLAINTIFF. I do object!

DEFENDANT. I don't object!

ALL. With all respect
We do object!

JUDGE (tossing his books and paper about)

All the legal furies seize you!
No proposal seems to please you,
I can't sit up here all day,
I must shortly get away.
Barristers, and you, attorneys,
Set out on your homeward journeys;
Gentle, simple-minded Usher,
Get you, if you like, to Russher;
Put your briefs upon the shelf,
I will marry her myself!

[He comes down from Bench to floor of Court. He embraces


PLAINTIFF. Oh, joy unbounded,
With wealth surrounded,
The knell is sounded
Of grief and woe.

COUNSEL. With love devoted
On you he's doated,
To castle moated
Away they go.

DEFENDANT. I wonder whether
They'll live together,
In marriage tether
In manner true?

USHER. It seems to me, sir,
Of such as she, sir,
A Judge is he, sir,
And a good Judge, too!

JUDGE. Yes, I am a Judge!

ALL. And a good Judge, too!

JUDGE. Yes, I am a Judge!

ALL. And a good Judge, too!

JUDGE. Though homeward as you trudge,
You declare my law is fudge.
Yet of beauty I'm a judge.

ALL. And a good Judge too!

JUDGE. Though defendant is a snob,

ALL. And a great snob, too!

JUDGE. Though defendant is a snob,

ALL. And a great snob, too!

JUDGE. Though defendant is a snob,
I'll reward him from his fob.
So we've settled with the job,

ALL. And a good job, too!
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