You are here: Archive Home > Bab Ballads > The Martinet

The Martinet

Fun, n.s. VIII - 13th Feb. 1869

Illustration by Gilbert

Some time ago, in simple verse,
  I sang the story true
Of CAPTAIN REECE, The Mantlepiece,
  And all her happy crew.

I showed how any captain may
  Attach his men to him,
If he but heeds their smallest needs,
  And studies every whim.

Now mark how, by Draconic rule
  And hauteur ill-advised,
The noblest crew upon the blue
  May be demoralised.

When his ungrateful country placed
  Kind REECE upon half-pay,
Without much claim SIR BERKELY came,
  And took command one day.

SIR BERKLEY was a martinet —
  A stern unyielding soul —
Who ruled his ship by dint of whip
  And horrible black-hole.

A sailor who was overcome
  From having freely dined,
And chanced to reel when at the wheel,
  He instantly confined!

And tars who, when an action raged,
  Appeared alarmed or scared,
And those below who wished to go,
  He very seldom spared.

E'en he who smote his officer
  For punishment was booked,
And mutinies upon the seas
  He rarely overlooked.

In short, the happy Mantelpiece
  Where all had gone so well,
Beneath that fool SIR BERKELY'S rule
  Became a floating hell.

When first SIR BERKELY came aboard
  He read a speech to all,
And told them how he'd made a vow
  To act on duty's call.

Then WILLIAM LEE he up and said
  (The captain's coxswain he):
"We've heard the speech your honour's made,
  And werry pleased we be.

"We won't pretend, my lad, as how
  We're glad to lose our REECE;
Urbane, polite, he suited quite
  The saucy Mantlepiece.

"But if your honour gives your mind
  To study all our ways,
With dance and song we'll jog along
  As in those happy days.

"I like your honour's looks, and feel
  You're worthly of your sword.
Your hand, my lad — I'm doosid glad
  To welcome you aboard!"

SIR BERKELY looked amazed, as though
  He did not understand.
"Don't shake your head," good WILLIAM said,
  "It is an honest hand.

"It's grasped a better hand than yourn--
  Come, gov'nor, I insist!"
The Captain stared — the coxswain glared —
  The hand became a fist!
Illustration by Gilbert

"Down, upstart!" said the hardy salt;
  But BERKELY dodged his aim,
And made him go in chains below:
  The seamen murmured "Shame!"

He stopped all songs at 12 P.M.,
  Stopped hornpipes when at sea,
And swore his cot (or bunk) should not
  Be used by aught than he.

He never joined their daily mess,
  Nor asked them to his own,
But chaffed in gay and social way
  The officers alone.

His first Lieutenant, PETER, was
  As useless as could be,
A helpless stick, and always sick
  When there was any sea.

This First Lieutenant proved to be
  His foster-sister MAY,
Who went to sea for love of he,
  In masculine array.

And when he learnt the curious fact,
  Did he emotion show,
Or dry her tears, or end her fears
  By marrying her? No!

Illustration by Gilbert
Or did he even try to soothe
  This maiden in her teens?
Oh no! — instead he made her wed
  The Sergeant of Marines!

Of course such Spartan discipline
  Would make an angel fret.
They drew a lot, and straightway shot
  This fearful martinet.

The Admiralty saw how ill
  They'd treated CAPTAIN REECE;
He was restored once more aboard
  The saucy Mantelpiece.

Archive Home  |  W. S. Gilbert  |   Bab Ballads

Page Created 30 July, 2011