by: W.S. Gilbert (1836-1911)
- HE bravest
names for fire and flames,
- And all that mortal durst,
- Were General John and Private James,
- Of the Sixty-seventy-first.
- General John was a soldier tried,
- A chief of warlike dons;
- A haughty stride and a withering pride
- Were Major-General John.
- A sneer would play on his martial phiz,
- Superior birth to show;
- "Pish!" was a favorite word of his,
- And he often said "Ho! ho!"
- Full-Private James described might be,
- As a man of mournful mind;
- No characteristic trait had he
- Of any distinctive kind.
- From the ranks, one day, cried Private James,
- "Oh! Major-General John,
- I've doubts of our respective names,
- My mournful mind upon.
- "A glimmering thought occurs to me,
- (It's source I can't unearth),
- But I've a kind of notion we
- Were cruelly changed at birth.
- "I've a strange idea, each other's names
- That we have each got on.
- Such things have been," said Private James.
- "They have!" sneered General John.
- "My General John, I swear upon
- My oath I think it is so--"
- "Pish!" proudly sneered his General John,
- And he also said "Ho! ho!"
- "My General John! My General John!
- My General John!" quoth he,
- "This aristocratical sneer upon
- Your face I blush to see.
- "No truly great or generous cove
- Deserving of them names
- Would sneer at a fixed idea that's drove
- In the mind of a Private James!"
- Said General John, "Upon your claims
- No need your breath to waste;
- If this is a joke, Full-Private James,
- It's a joke of doubtful taste.
- "But being a man of doubtless worth,
- If you feel certain quite
- That we were probably changed at birth,
- I'll venture to say you're right."
- So General John as Private James
- Fell in, parade upon;
- And Private James, by change of names,
- Was Major-General John.
POEMS BY W.S. GILBERT
"General John" is reprinted
from A Nonsense Anthology. Ed. Carolyn Wells. New York:
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1915.