Lieutenant-Colonel Flare

written by William Schwenck Gilbert

Lieutenant-Colonel Flare

— William Schwenck Gilbert

The earth has armies plenty,
And semi-warlike bands,
I dare say there are twenty
In European lands;
But, oh! in no direction
You'd find one to compare
In brotherly affection
With that of COLONEL FLARE.

His soldiers might be rated
As military Pearls.
As unsophisticated
As pretty little girls!
They never smoked or ratted,
Or talked of Sues or Polls;
The Sergeant-Major tatted,
The others nursed their dolls.

He spent his days in teaching
These truly solemn facts;
There's little use in preaching,
Or circulating tracts.
(The vainest plan invented
For stifling other creeds,
Unless it's supplemented
With charitable DEEDS.)

He taught his soldiers kindly
To give at Hunger's call:
"Oh, better far give blindly,
Than never give at all!
Though sympathy be kindled
By Imposition's game,
Oh, better far be swindled
Than smother up its flame!"

His means were far from ample
For pleasure or for dress,
Yet note this bright example
Of single-heartedness:
Though ranking as a Colonel,
His pay was but a groat,
While their reward diurnal
Was - each a five-pound note.

Moreover, - this evinces
His kindness, you'll allow, -
He fed them all like princes,
And lived himself on cow.
He set them all regaling
On curious wines, and dear,
While he would sit pale-ale-ing,
Or quaffing ginger-beer.

Then at his instigation
(A pretty fancy this)
Their daily pay and ration
He'd take in change for his;
They brought it to him weekly,
And he without a groan,
Would take it from them meekly
And give them all his own!

Though not exactly knighted
As knights, of course, should be,
Yet no one so delighted
In harmless chivalry.
If peasant girl or ladye
Beneath misfortunes sank,
Whate'er distinctions made he,
They were not those of rank.

No maiden young and comely
Who wanted good advice
(However poor or homely)
Need ask him for it twice.
He'd wipe away the blindness
That comes of teary dew;
His sympathetic kindness
No sort of limit knew.

He always hated dealing
With men who schemed or planned;
A person harsh - unfeeling -
The Colonel could not stand.
He hated cold, suspecting,
Official men in blue,
Who pass their lives detecting
The crimes that others do.

For men who'd shoot a sparrow,
Or immolate a worm
Beneath a farmer's harrow,
He could not find a term.
Humanely, ay, and knightly
He dealt with such an one;
He took and tied him tightly,
And blew him from a gun.

The earth has armies plenty,
And semi-warlike bands,
I'm certain there are twenty
In European lands;
But, oh! in no direction
You'd find one to compare
In brotherly affection
With that of COLONEL FLARE.

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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