The Periwinkle Girl

A poem by William Schwenck Gilbert

I've often thought that headstrong youths,
Of decent education,
Determine all-important truths
With strange precipitation.

The over-ready victims they,
Of logical illusions,
And in a self-assertive way
They jump at strange conclusions.

Now take my case: Ere sorrow could
My ample forehead wrinkle,
I had determined that I would
Not like to be a winkle.

"A winkle," I would oft advance
With readiness provoking,
"Can seldom flirt, and never dance
Or soothe his mind by smoking."

In short, I spurned the shelly joy,
And spoke with strange decision
Men pointed to me as a boy
Who held them in derision.

But I was young too young, by far
Or I had been more wary,
I knew not then that winkles are
The stock-in-trade of Mary.

I had not seen her sunlight blithe
As o'er their shells it dances,
I've seen those winkles almost writhe
Beneath her beaming glances.

Of slighting all the winkly brood
I surely had been chary,
If I had known they formed the food
And stock-in-trade of Mary.

Both high and low and great and small
Fell prostrate at her tootsies,
They all were noblemen, and all
Had balances at Coutts's.

Dukes with the lovely maiden dealt,
Duke Bailey and Duke Humphy,
Who eat her winkles till they felt
Exceedingly uncomfy.

Duke Bailey greatest wealth computes,
And sticks, they say, at no-thing.
He wears a pair of golden boots
And silver underclothing.

Duke Humphy, as I understand.
Though mentally acuter,
His boots are only silver, and
His underclothing pewter.

A third adorer had the girl,
A man of lowly station
A miserable grov'ling earl
Besought her approbation.

This humble cad she did refuse
With much contempt and loathing;
He wore a pair of leather shoes
And cambric underclothing!

"Ha! ha!" she cried, "Upon my word!
Well, really come, I never!
Oh, go along, it's too absurd!
My goodness! Did you ever?

"Two dukes would make their Bowles a bride,
And from her foes defend her"
"Well, not exactly that," they cried,
"We offer guilty splendor.

"We do not offer marriage rite,
So please dismiss the notion!"
"Oh, dear," said she, "that alters quite
The state of my emotion."

The earl he up and says, says he,
"Dismiss them to their orgies,
For I am game to marry thee
Quite reg'lar at St. George's."

He'd had, it happily befell,
A decent education;
His views would have befitted well
A far superior station.

His sterling worth had worked a cure,
She never heard him grumble;
She saw his soul was good and pure
Although his rank was humble.

Her views of earldoms and their lot,
All underwent expansion;
Come, Virtue in an earldom's cot!
Go, Vice in ducal mansion!

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