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Ballad: The Sorcerer's Song -- W S Gilbert

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!
-- W S Gilbert
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.

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