The Cunning Woman

A poem by William Schwenck Gilbert

On all Arcadia's sunny plain,
On all Arcadia's hill,
None were so blithe as BILL and JANE,
So blithe as JANE and BILL.

No social earthquake e'er occurred
To rack their common mind:
To them a Panic was a word
A Crisis, empty wind.

No Stock Exchange disturbed the lad
With overwhelming shocks
BILL ploughed with all the shares he had,
JANE planted all her stocks.

And learn in what a simple way
Their pleasures they enhanced
JANE danced like any lamb all day,
BILL piped as well as danced.

Surrounded by a twittling crew,
Of linnet, lark, and thrush,
BILL treated his young lady to
This sentimental gush:

"Oh, JANE, how true I am to you!
How true you are to me!
And how we woo, and how we coo!
So fond a pair are we!

"To think, dear JANE, that anyways.
Your chiefest end and aim
Is, one of these fine summer days,
To bear my humble name!"

Quoth JANE, "Well, as you put the case,
I'm true enough, no doubt,
But then, you see, in this here place
There's none to cut you out.

"But, oh! if anybody came
A Lord or any such
I do not think your humble name
Would fascinate me much.

"For though your mates, you often boast.
You distance out-and-out;
Still, in the abstract, you're a most
Uncompromising lout!"

Poor BILL, he gave a heavy sigh,
He tried in vain to speak
A fat tear started to each eye
And coursed adown each cheek.

For, oh! right well in truth he knew
That very self-same day,
The LORD DE JACOB PILLALOO
Was coming there to stay!

The LORD DE JACOB PILLALOO
All proper maidens shun
He loves all women, it is true,
But never marries one.

Now JANE, with all her mad self-will,
Was no coquette oh no!
She really loved her faithful BILL,
And thus she tuned her woe:

"Oh, willow, willow, o'er the lea!
And willow once again!
The Peer will fall in love with me!
Why wasn't I made plain?"

* * * * *

A cunning woman lived hard by,
A sorceressing dame,
MACCATACOMB DE SALMON-EYE
Was her uncommon name.

To her good JANE, with kindly yearn
For BILL'S increasing pain,
Repaired in secrecy to learn
How best to make her plain.

"Oh, JANE," the worthy woman said,
"This mystic phial keep,
And rub its liquor in your head
Before you go to sleep.

"When you awake next day, I trow,
You'll look in form and hue
To others just as you do now
But not to PILLALOO!

"When you approach him, you will find
He'll think you coarse unkempt
And rudely bid you get behind,
With undisguised contempt."

The LORD DE PILLALOO arrived
With his expensive train,
And when in state serenely hived,
He sent for BILL and JANE.

"Oh, spare her, LORD OF PILLALOO!
(Said BILL) if wed you be,
There's anything I'D rather do
Than flirt with LADY P."

The Lord he gazed in Jenny's eyes,
He looked her through and through:
The cunning woman's prophecies
Were clearly coming true.

LORD PILLALOO, the Rustic's Bane
(Bad person he, and proud),
HE LAUGHED HA! HA! AT PRETTY JANE,
AND SNEERED AT HER ALOUD!

He bade her get behind him then,
And seek her mother's stye
Yet to her native countrymen
She was as fair as aye!

MACCATACOMB, continue green!
Grow, SALMON-EYE, in might,
Except for you, there might have been
The deuce's own delight

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