The Reverend Simon Magus

William Schwenck Gilbert 1836 – 1911

A rich advowson, highly prized,
For private sale was advertised;
And many a parson made a bid;
The REVEREND SIMON MAGUS did.

He sought the agent's: "Agent, I
Have come prepared at once to buy
(If your demand is not too big)
The Cure of Otium-cum-Digge."

"Ah!" said the agent, "THERE'S a berth -
The snuggest vicarage on earth;
No sort of duty (so I hear),
And fifteen hundred pounds a year!

"If on the price we should agree,
The living soon will vacant be;
The good incumbent's ninety five,
And cannot very long survive.

See - here's his photograph - you see,
He's in his dotage." "Ah, dear me!
Poor soul!" said SIMON. "His decease
Would be a merciful release!"

The agent laughed - the agent blinked -
The agent blew his nose and winked -
And poked the parson's ribs in play -
It was that agent's vulgar way.

The REVEREND SIMON frowned: "I grieve
This light demeanour to perceive;
It's scarcely COMME IL FAUT, I think:
Now - pray oblige me - do not wink.

"Don't dig my waistcoat into holes -
Your mission is to sell the souls
Of human sheep and human kids
To that divine who highest bids.

"Do well in this, and on your head
Unnumbered honours will be shed."
The agent said, "Well, truth to tell,
I HAVE been doing very well."

"You should," said SIMON, "at your age;
But now about the parsonage.
How many rooms does it contain?
Show me the photograph again.

"A poor apostle's humble house
Must not be too luxurious;
No stately halls with oaken floor -
It should be decent and no more.

" No billiard-rooms - no stately trees -
No croquet-grounds or pineries."
"Ah!" sighed the agent, "very true:
This property won't do for you."

"All these about the house you'll find." -
"Well," said the parson, "never mind;
I'll manage to submit to these
Luxurious superfluities.

"A clergyman who does not shirk
The various calls of Christian work,
Will have no leisure to employ
These 'common forms' of worldly joy.

"To preach three times on Sabbath days -
To wean the lost from wicked ways -
The sick to soothe - the sane to wed -
The poor to feed with meat and bread;

"These are the various wholesome ways
In which I'll spend my nights and days:
My zeal will have no time to cool
At croquet, archery, or pool."

The agent said, "From what I hear,
This living will not suit, I fear -
There are no poor, no sick at all;
For services there is no call."

The reverend gent looked grave, "Dear me!
Then there is NO 'society'? -
I mean, of course, no sinners there
Whose souls will be my special care?"

The cunning agent shook his head,
"No, none - except" - (the agent said) -
"The DUKE OF A., the EARL OF B.,
The MARQUIS C., and VISCOUNT D.

"But you will not be quite alone,
For though they've chaplains of their own,
Of course this noble well-bred clan
Receive the parish clergyman."

"Oh, silence, sir!" said SIMON M.,
"Dukes - Earls! What should I care for them?
These worldly ranks I scorn and flout!"
"Of course," the agent said, "no doubt!"

"Yet I might show these men of birth
The hollowness of rank on earth."
The agent answered, "Very true -
But I should not, if I were you."

"Who sells this rich advowson, pray?"
The agent winked - it was his way -
"His name is HART; 'twixt me and you,
He is, I'm grieved to say, a Jew!"

"A Jew?" said SIMON, "happy find!
I purchase this advowson, mind.
My life shall be devoted to
Converting that unhappy Jew!"

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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William Schwenck Gilbert

Sir William Schwenck Gilbert was an English dramatist librettist poet and illustrator best known for his fourteen comic operas produced in collaboration with the composer Sir Arthur Sullivan of which the most famous include HMS Pinafore The Pirates of Penzance and one of the most frequently performed works in the history of musical theatre The Mikado These as well as most of their other Savoy operas continue to be performed regularly throughout the English-speaking world and beyond by opera companies repertory companies schools and community theatre groups Lines from these works have become part of the English language such as short sharp shock What never Well hardly ever and Let the punishment fit the crime Gilbert also wrote the Bab Ballads an extensive collection of light verse accompanied by his own comical drawings His creative output included over 75 plays and libretti numerous stories poems lyrics and various other comic and serious pieces His plays and realistic style of stage direction inspired other dramatists including Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw According to The Cambridge History of English and American Literature Gilberts lyrical facility and his mastery of metre raised the poetical quality of comic opera to a position that it had never reached before and has not reached since Source - Wikipedia more…

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"The Reverend Simon Magus" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 9 Aug. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/41324/the-reverend-simon-magus>.

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