The Bishop Of Rum-Ti-Foo

A poem by William Schwenck Gilbert

From east and south the holy clan
Of bishops gathered, to a man;
To synod, called Pan-Anglican;
In flocking crowds they came.
Among them was a Bishop, who
Had lately been appointed to
The balmy isle of Rum-ti-Foo,
And Peter was his name.

His people twenty-three in sum
They played the eloquent tum-tum
And lived on scalps served up in rum
The only sauce they knew,
When, first good Bishop Peter came
(For Peter was that Bishop's name),
To humor them, he did the same
As they of Rum-ti-Foo.

His flock, I've often heard him tell,
(His name was Peter) loved him well,
And summoned by the sound of bell,
In crowds together came.
"Oh, massa, why you go away?
Oh, Massa Peter, please to stay."
(They called him Peter, people say,
Because it was his name.)

He told them all good boys to be,
And sailed away across the sea.
At London Bridge that Bishop he
Arrived one Tuesday night
And as that night he homeward strode
To his Pan-Anglican abode,
He passed along the Borough Road
And saw a gruesome sight.

He saw a crowd assembled round
A person dancing on the ground,
Who straight began to leap and bound
With all his might and main.
To see that dancing man he stopped.
Who twirled and wriggled, skipped and hopped,
Then down incontinently dropped,
And then sprang up again.

The Bishop chuckled at the sight,
"This style of dancing would delight
A simple Rum-ti-Foozle-ite.
I'll learn it, if I can,
To please the tribe when I get back."
He begged the man to teach his knack.
"Right Reverend Sir, in half a crack,"
Replied that dancing man.

The dancing man he worked away
And taught the Bishop every day
The dancer skipped like any fay
Good Peter did the same.
The Bishop buckled to his task
With battements, cuts, and pas de basque
(I'll tell you, if you care to ask,
That Peter was his name).

"Come, walk like this," the dancer said,
"Stick out your toes stick in your head.
Stalk on with quick, galvanic tread
Your fingers thus extend;
The attitude's considered quaint,"
The weary Bishop, feeling faint,
Replied, "I do not say it ain't,
But 'Time!' my Christian friend!"

"We now proceed to something new
Dance as the Paynes and Lauris do,
Like this one, two one, two one, two."
The Bishop, never proud,
But in an overwhelming heat
(His name was Peter, I repeat),
Performed the Payne and Lauri feat,
And puffed his thanks aloud.

Another game the dancer planned
"Just take your ankle in your hand,
And try, my lord, if you can stand
Your body stiff and stark.
If, when revisiting your see,
You learnt to hop on shore like me
The novelty must striking be,
And must excite remark."

"No," said the worthy Bishop, "No;
That is a length to which, I trow,
Colonial Bishops cannot go.
You may express surprise
At finding Bishops deal in pride
But, if that trick I ever tried,
I should appear undignified
In Rum-ti-Foozle's eyes.

"The islanders of Rum-ti-Foo
Are well-conducted persons, who
Approve a joke as much as you,
And laugh at it as such;
But if they saw their Bishop land,
His leg supported in his hand,
The joke they wouldn't understand
'Twould pain them very much!"

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