Sending this on Martin's behalf:
(Poem #900) Ballad: The Sorcerer's Song
Oh! My name is John Wellington Wells - I'm a dealer in magic and spells, In blessings and curses, And ever-filled purses, In prophecies, witches, and knells! If you want a proud foe to make tracks - If you'd melt a rich uncle in wax - You've but to look in On our resident Djinn, Number seventy, Simmery Axe! We've a first-class assortment of magic; And for raising a posthumous shade With effects that are comic or tragic, There's no cheaper house in the trade. Love-philtre - we've quantities of it; And for knowledge if any one burns, We keep an extremely small prophet, a prophet Who brings us unbounded returns: For he can prophesy With a wink of his eye, Peep with security Into futurity, Sum up your history, Clear up a mystery, Humour proclivity For a nativity. With mirrors so magical, Tetrapods tragical, Bogies spectacular, Answers oracular, Facts astronomical, Solemn or comical, And, if you want it, he Makes a reduction on taking a quantity! Oh! If anyone anything lacks, He'll find it all ready in stacks, If he'll only look in On the resident Djinn, Number seventy, Simmery Axe! He can raise you hosts, Of ghosts, And that without reflectors; And creepy things With wings, And gaunt and grisly spectres! He can fill you crowds Of shrouds, And horrify you vastly; He can rack your brains With chains, And gibberings grim and ghastly. Then, if you plan it, he Changes organity With an urbanity, Full of Satanity, Vexes humanity With an inanity Fatal to vanity - Driving your foes to the verge of insanity. Barring tautology, In demonology, 'Lectro biology, Mystic nosology, Spirit philology, High class astrology, Such is his knowledge, he Isn't the man to require an apology Oh! My name is John Wellington Wells - I'm a dealer in magic and spells, In blessings and curses, And ever-filled purses - In prophecies, witches, and knells. If any one anything lacks, He'll find it all ready in stacks, If he'll only look in On the resident Djinn, Number seventy, Simmery Axe!
Appears in the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta "The Sorcerer", which had its premiere at the Opera Comique, London, November 17th, 1877. This was the first of G&S's operas to be produced by the Richard D'Oyly Carte company. 'John Wellington Wells' is of Gilbert's more famous pieces, and rightly so - words like 'helter-skelter' and 'breathless' approach, but don't quite do justice to, the dizzying cascade of twisted rhymes and tossed metre that flows seemingly effortlessly through Wellington Wells' catalogue of marvels. Structurewise, the song is rather unusual in that it divides into two nested sections - the outer "My Name is John Wellington Wells", and the inner description of the "very small prophet", with a very different tune and metre for each. It works well, though, the two parts segueing in and out without jarring, and intertwined neatly through the use of the refrain. As is typical for Gilbert, the song has an undercurrent of silliness - or, perhaps more accurately, ridiculousness - running through it. Any tendencies towards a serious atmosphere are neatly subverted by side comments like 'and that without reflectors', the use of adjectives like 'creepy', and rhymes like 'And, if you want it, he / Makes a reduction on taking a quantity!'. I'm actually not sure how well the song works within the play (which is not one of my favourites anyway), but as a standalone it is delightful, showcasing Gilbert's ability to carry extended sequences of rhymes with never a faltering syllable. -martin. [Links] Sir William Schwenck Gilbert on the Minstrels: Poem #88, The Major General's Song Poem #135, I've Got a Little List Poem #161, The Yarn of the Nancy Bell Poem #247, To Sit In Solemn Silence... Poem #505, The Story of Prince Agib And elsewhere: http://math.boisestate.edu/gas/ is as good a place to start as any.