Subscribe: by Email | in Reader

To Sit In Solemn Silence... -- W S Gilbert

(Poem #247) To Sit In Solemn Silence...
  To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock,
  In a pestilential prison, with a life-long lock,
  Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock,
  From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block!
-- W S Gilbert
         (from The Mikado)

Note: This fragment appears at the end of a longer song[1], in which various
  people explain why they will not trade places with a condemned man; after
  various different lead-ins ("I must decline..." "I don't much care..." "So
  I object...") they sing the above piece in chorus.

Paralleling the enormous popularity of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, a
number of the songs have achieved an almost independent prominence; notable
examples being the Captain's song from HMS Pinafore and the Major General's
song from The Pirates of Penzance.

Slightly less famous, but no less noteworthy are some of the smaller, less
standalone fragments embedded like gems within larger pieces. Although they
require a bit of context to fully appreciate, they often show Gilbert at his
very best; not a word out of place, not a break in the rhythm, and lyrics
that stick in one's memory (though it's admittedly hard to see how this
distinguishes them from anything else he wrote).

The above piece is one of my two favourite fragments (the other being the
'Now is not this ridiculous' chorus from Patience); it also has a special
place in my affection as being the first piece of G&S I ever read. I came
across it unattributed, and long before I knew who either Gilbert or
Sullivan were anyway, but fell in love with it; it remains the finest piece
of alliterative patter verse I have yet encountered[2]. (It was also a
pleasant experience discovering who had written it, and being able to put a
tune to the words).

And of course no Mikado commentary would be complete without my urging you
to listen, if at all possible, to what is undoubtedly the best work Gilbert
and Sullivan have produced - the lyrics are great, but the music adds a
whole new dimension.

[1] Whole text at <[broken link]>
[2] possibly excepting Swinburne's 'Nephelidia', poem #99, though 'To Sit
In Solemn Silence' has the advantage of being shorter and therefore better
able to maintain consistency.

For random Gilbert and Sullivan info, including a biography and links, see
the previous pieces in the archive
<[broken link]>.

- m.

47 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Penney Mark said...

I first encountered "To Sit in Solemn Silence" as a diction warm-up
before stage performances (of all kinds, not just of G&S operettas).
It's great for that purpose because it's although it's high-energy and
rapid-paced, you have to be on your toes to recite it without garbling
it or eliding the consonants. Also it's easily memorized.

Curry Caroline said...

I was introduced to Sit in Solemn Silence on my speech team as a diction
warm-up, but also in my school's theater productions. We do a cast
warm-up called "Green Room" that brings us all together. And when we do
this, we clasp hands and stand in a circle, and step back and forth in
and out of the circle while swinging our hands in and out as well. It's
so amazing, because the rhythm at which we walk matches that of the
poem, and by the end you've speeded up and it reminds you of soldiers
marching to the execution site or something. It's an amazing sensation.

Anonymous said...

I was introduced to this recently as a diction exercise. Our Drama department does it before productions.

Anonymous said...

i just got it as a diction thingey

stuartpalm said...

Got this as a diction exercise when I was around ten years old taking my first acting class.

Anonymous said...

It is an eloquent darkly humorous indictment of capital punishment.

Jose said...

Always a great warm-up for theatre! Along with "Big black bugs bleed blue, but baby blue bugs bleed black"

Anonymous said...

I stumbled on these lines first almost 30 years ago in Bernard Blackstone's grammer book. I was marvelled at the sheer magic of alliteration. Those who speak my language (Bengali) and complain that English is a rhyme-poor language, I read to them this, the Raven (Poe) and some other well known verses.

steroids said...

hi dude, please keep the update..

male extra pills said...

penis enlargement, penis enlargement pills, male enhancement, male enhancement pills

Penis enlargement pills have been proven is the best way to make the penis bigger and effective to increase men’s sexual performance.vimax pills, vigrx plus, prosolution pills, maleextra

Anonymous said...

I leard this diction as a warm up before acting in my drama group.

Anonymous said...

I first found this poem by my musical director because she was challenging me and the other leads to saying this faster than each other.

Anonymous said...

i do this every day in theatre

wood said...

100% natural male enhancement pill with 100% money back guarantee! Try Vigrx risk free today!

wood said...

Guys! Alcohol or tobacco usage, may lead to impotence. Buy levitra 20mg and rescue yourself from ED right away!

Space Matters Real Estates said...

Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article. I’ll be sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I will definitely return. Plots for sale in Hyderabad
Plots for sale in Banjara Hills
Plots for sale in Jubilee Hills
Plots for sale in Manikonda
Plots for sale in Madhapur
Plots for sale in kondapur
Plots for sale in Gachibowli
Plots for sale in Kukatpally

Anonymous said...

I was introduced to this poem when I was in high school. My English teacher gave it to me as a way to pronounce my S's properly as I used to have a list at the time. This little fragment along with other simple exercises, given to me by a speech therapist, helped me neutralize my lisp. Very helpful poem!

Anonymous said...

If some one needs expert view concerning running a blog then i suggest
him/her to go to see this web site, Keep up the fastidious job.

Check out my web page: buy virility ex

Anonymous said...

It's awesome for me to have a site, which is helpful for my know-how. thanks admin

Also visit my page;

Anonymous said...

What a stuff of un-ambiguity and preserveness of precious experience about unpredicted feelings.

my webpage;

Anonymous said...

I really like this poem, the rhythm and the feel it gives you after you read it.

Anonymous said...

I love this poem! It is sooooooooooooo awesome! I just love it!

Paul Reed said...

The article posted was very informative and useful. You people are doing a great job. Bhutan Travel | CHILD EDUCATION LAW | Keep going.

lina sexshop said...

Obat Kuat

Thank you for sharing in this article

I can learn a lot and could also be a reference

I am happy to find your website and can join to comment

I think is very valuable to be able to read your writing, and on this occasion will I use for my reference source

Thank you so much for sharing, I hope you continue to write spirit next topic

>> Obat pembesar penis <<

Viagra said...

makasih informasinya..

zarena cantik said...

perfect perfect fried rice, good post for the beginners as well..Super Prema, loved the presentation very much
Selaput Dara Buatan
Vimax asli Canada
Obat Perangsang
viagra usa
Bio Slim Herbal
Boneka Full Body
vimax canada

Obat Herbal said...

Seberat apapun beban masalah yang kamu hadapi saat ini, percayalah bahwa semua itu tidak pernah melebihi batas kemampuan kamu.

Post a Comment