The Troubadour

written by William Schwenck Gilbert

The Troubadour

— William Schwenck Gilbert

A troubadour he played
Without a castle wall,
Within, a hapless maid
Responded to his call.

"Oh, willow, woe is me!
Alack and well-a-day!
If I were only free
I'd hide me far away!"

Unknown her face and name,
But this he knew right well,
The maiden's wailing came
From out a dungeon cell.

A hapless woman lay
Within that dungeon grim -
That fact, I've heard him say,
Was quite enough for him.

"I will not sit or lie,
Or eat or drink, I vow,
Till thou art free as I,
Or I as pent as thou."

Her tears then ceased to flow,
Her wails no longer rang,
And tuneful in her woe
The prisoned maiden sang:

"Oh, stranger, as you play,
I recognize your touch;
And all that I can say
Is, thank you very much."

He seized his clarion straight,
And blew thereat, until
A warden oped the gate.
"Oh, what might be your will?"

"I've come, Sir Knave, to see
The master of these halls:
A maid unwillingly
Lies prisoned in their walls."'

With barely stifled sigh
That porter drooped his head,
With teardrops in his eye,
"A many, sir," he said.

He stayed to hear no more,
But pushed that porter by,
And shortly stood before
SIR HUGH DE PECKHAM RYE.

SIR HUGH he darkly frowned,
"What would you, sir, with me?"
The troubadour he downed
Upon his bended knee.

"I've come, DE PECKHAM RYE,
To do a Christian task;
You ask me what would I?
It is not much I ask.

"Release these maidens, sir,
Whom you dominion o'er -
Particularly her
Upon the second floor.

"And if you don't, my lord" -
He here stood bolt upright,
And tapped a tailor's sword -
"Come out, you cad, and fight!"

SIR HUGH he called - and ran
The warden from the gate:
"Go, show this gentleman
The maid in Forty-eight."

By many a cell they past,
And stopped at length before
A portal, bolted fast:
The man unlocked the door.

He called inside the gate
With coarse and brutal shout,
"Come, step it, Forty-eight!"
And Forty-eight stepped out.

"They gets it pretty hot,
The maidens what we cotch -
Two years this lady's got
For collaring a wotch."

"Oh, ah! - indeed - I see,"
The troubadour exclaimed -
"If I may make so free,
How is this castle named?

The warden's eyelids fill,
And sighing, he replied,
"Of gloomy Pentonville
This is the female side!"

The minstrel did not wait
The Warden stout to thank,
But recollected straight
He'd business at the Bank.

About the poet


William Schwenck Gilbert

William Schwenck Gilbert, born in London in 1836, was the son of a retired naval surgeon. Except for a kidnapping by Italian brigands in Italy at age two, and a ransomed release, he appears to have had a very normal upbringing. Beyond ordinary schooling, he took training as an artillery officer and was tutored in military science with hopes of participating in the Crimean War. Unfortunately for him, but not for us, he did not graduate until after the War was over. Gilbert subsequently joined the militia and was a member for 20 years. After finishing his military training Gilbert worked in a government bureau job which he hated. Upon receiving a nice inheritance from an aunt, Gilbert indulged his fancy and...

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