You are here: Archive Home > Bab Ballads > Little Oliver

Little Oliver

Fun, n.s. VIII - 5th Dec. 1868

Earl Joyce he was a kind old party
Whom nothing ever could put out,
Though eighty-two, he still was hearty,
Excepting as regarded gout.

He had one unexampled daughter,
The Lady Minnie-haha Joyce,
Fair Minnie-haha, "Laughing Water,"
So called from her melodious voice.

By Nature planned for lover-capture,
Her beauty every heart assailed;
The good old nobleman with rapture
Observed how widely she prevailed.

Aloof from all the lordly flockings
Of titled swells who worshipped her,
There stood, in pumps and cotton stockings,
One humble lover — Oliver.

He was no peer by Fortune petted,
His name recalled no bygone age;
He was no lordling coronetted —
Alas! he was a simple page!

With vain appeals he never bored her,
But stood in silent sorrow by —
He knew how fondly he adored her,
And knew, alas! how hopelessly!

Well grounded by a village tutor
In languages alive and past,
He'd say unto himself, "Knee-suitor,
Oh, do not go beyond your last!"

But though his name could boast no handle,
He could not every hope resign;
As moths will hover round a candle,
So hovered he about her shrine.

The brilliant candle dazed the moth well:
One day she sang to her Papa
The air that Marie sings with Bothwell
In Neidermeyer's opera.

(Therein a stable boy, it's stated,
Devoutly loved a noble dame,
Who ardently reciprocated
His rather injudicious flame.)

And then, before the piano closing
(He listened coyly at the door),
She sang a song of her composing —
I give one verse from half a score:

Illustration by Gilbert

BALLAD

Why, pretty page, art ever sighing?
In sorrow in thy heartlet lying?
Come, set a-ringing
Thy laugh entrancing,
And ever singing
And ever dancing.
Ever singing, Tra! la! la!
Ever dancing, Tra! la! la!
Ever singing, ever dancing,
Ever singing, Tra! la! la!

He skipped for joy like little muttons,
He danced like Esmeralda's kid.
(She did not mean a boy in buttons,
Although he fancied that she did.)

Poor lad! convinced he thus would win her,
He wore out many pairs of soles;
He danced when taking down the dinner —
He danced when bringing up the coals.

Illustration by Gilbert

He danced and sang (however laden)
With his incessant "Tra! la! la!"
Which much surprised the noble maiden,
And puzzled even her Papa.

Illustration by Gilbert

He nourished now his flame and fanned it,
He even danced at work below.
The upper servants wouldn't stand it,
And Bowles the butler told him so.

At length on impulse acting blindly,
His love he laid completely bare;
The gentle Earl received him kindly
And told the lad to take a chair.

"Oh, sir," the suitor uttered sadly,
"Don't give your indignation vent;
I fear you think I'm acting madly,
Perhaps you think me insolent?"

The kindly Earl repelled the notion;
His noble bosom heaved a sigh,
His fingers trembled with emotion,
A tear stood in his mild blue eye;

For, oh! the scene recalled too plainly
The half-forgotten time when he,
A boy of nine, had worshipped vainly
A governess of forty-three!

"My boy," he said, in tone consoling,
"Give up this idle fancy — do —
The song you heard by daughter trolling
Did not, indeed, refer to you.

Illustration by Gilbert

"I feel for you, poor boy, acutely;
I would not wish to give you pain;
Your pangs I estimate minutely, —
I, too, have loved, and loved in vain.

"But still your humble rank and station
For Minnie surely are not meet" —
He said much more in conversation
Which it were needless to repeat.

Now I'm prepared to bet a guinea,
Were this a mere dramatic case,
The page would have eloped with Minnie,
But, no — he only left his place.

The simple Truth is my detective,
With me Sensation can't abide;
The Likely beats the mere Effective,
And Nature is my only guide.

Archive Home  |  W. S. Gilbert  |   Bab Ballads

Page Created 29 July, 2011