This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Saturday Rave: Pish's Song by WS Gilbert.

Sir Arthur Sullivan's contribution to The Mikado - that is, the music - is a joyous thing, but I want to rave about the words.

WS Gilbert is brilliant at plotting, and he's a master of comic verse. He'll take the silliest possible idea and turn on it a logical, affectionate and steely eye, summon up the most divinely focused language, and delight absolutely everyone who isn't a complete grouch.

Here's just one of many brilliant songs from The Mikado. It's sung by a character called Pish.

Our great Mikado, virtuous man.
When he to rule our land began,
Resolved to try
A plan whereby
Young men might best be steadied.
So he decreed, in words succinct,
That all who flirted, leered, or winked
(Unless connubially linked)
Should forthwith be beheaded.

And I expect you'll all agree
That he was right to so decree.
And I am right,
And you are right,
And all is right as right can be!

MEN: And you are right, etc.

PISH: This stern decree, you'll understand,
Caused great dismay throughout the land:
For young and old
And shy and bold
Were equally affected.
The youth who winked a roving eye,
Or breathed a non-connubial sigh,
Was thereupon condemned to die
He usually objected.

And you'll allow, as I expect,
That he was right to so object.
And I am right,
And you are right,
And everything is quite correct!

MEN: And you are right, etc.

PISH: And so we straight let out on bail
A convict from the county jail,
Whose head was next,
On some pretext,
Condemned to be mown off,
And made him Headsman, for we said,
"Who's next to be decapited
Cannot cut off another's head
Until he's cut his own off.'

And we are right, I think you'll say,
To argue in this kind of way.

And I am right,
And you are right,
And all is right too-loo-ral-lay! 

* * *

Now, how silly is that story? I mean, is it historically accurate? Does Gilbert's stance confirm the patriarchy? Where is the Mikado's motivation? That's what I want to know...

...well, actually I don't. Quite honestly I couldn't care less.

And that mown off/own off rhyme? Contrived? You bet.

But who cares? Not me.

For all is right too-loo-ral-lay.

File:Groucho Marx Koko the Mikado Bell Telephone Hour 1960.JPG
This is Groucho Marx playing Koko the Lord High Executioner in The Mikado.

Word To Use Today: decapited. Okay this isn't really a word - it should be decapitated, but that wouldn't scan. Still, we all know what it means, don't we, even though its middle has been cut out.

If anyone queries our use of it, a simple and dignified reference to The Mikado should sort out any problems.

Decapited comes from the Latin caput, which means head.


  1. I have sung along to this with enormous pleasure. WSGilbert is the TOPS!

    1. The greatest genius ever to have the middle name of Schwenck. Probably.