GENTLE ALICE BROWN
by: W.S. Gilbert (1836-1911)
- T was
a robber's daughter, and her name was Alice Brown.
- Her father was the terror of a small Italian town;
- Her mother was a foolish, weak, but amiable old thing;
- But it isn't of her parents that I'm going for to sing.
- As Alice was a-sitting at her window-sill one day,
- A beautiful young gentleman he chanced to pass that way;
- She cast her eyes upon him, and he looked so good and true,
- That she thought, "I could be happy with a gentleman
- And every morning passed her house that cream of gentlemen,
- She knew she might expect him at a quarter unto ten,
- A sorter in the Custom-house, it was his daily road
- (The Custom-house was fifteen minutes' walk from her abode.)
- But Alice was a pious girl, who knew it wasn't wise
- To look at strange young sorters with expressive purple eyes;
- So she sought the village priest to whom her family confessed,
- The priest by whom their little sins were carefully assessed.
- "Oh, holy father," Alice said, "'t would grieve
you, would it not?
- To discover that I was a most disreputable lot!
- Of all unhappy sinners I'm the most unhappy one!"
- The padre said, "Whatever have you been and gone and
- "I have helped mamma to steal a little kiddy from its
- I've assisted dear papa in cutting up a little lad.
- I've planned a little burglary and forged a little check,
- And slain a little baby for the coral on its neck!"
- The worthy pastor heaved a sigh, and dropped a silent tear--
- And said, "You mustn't judge yourself too heavily, my
- It's wrong to murder babies, little corals for to fleece;
- But sins like these one expiates at half-a-crown apiece.
- "Girls will be girls--you're very young, and flighty
in your mind;
- Old heads upon young shoulders we must not expect to find:
- We mustn't be too hard upon these little girlish tricks--
- Let's see--five crimes at half-a-crown--exactly twelve-and-six."
- "Oh, father," little Alice cried, "your kindness
makes me weep,
- You do these little things for me so singularly cheap--
- Your thoughtful liberality I never can forget;
- But O there is another crime I haven't mentioned yet!
- "A pleasant-looking gentleman, with pretty purple eyes,
- I've noticed at my window, as I've sat a-catching flies;
- He passes by it every day as certain as can be--
- I blush to say I've winked at him and he has winked at me!"
- "For shame," said Father Paul, "my erring
daughter! On my word
- This is the most distressing news that I have ever heard.
- Why, naughty girl, your excellent papa has pledged your hand
- To a promising young robber, the lieutenant of his band!
- "This dreadful piece of news will pain your worthy parents
- They are the most remunerative customers I know;
- For many many years they've kept starvation from my doors,
- I never knew so criminal a family as yours!
- "The common country folk in this insipid neighborhood
- Have nothing to confess, they're so ridiculously good;
- And if you marry any one respectable at all,
- Why, you'll reform, and what will then become of Father Paul?"
- The worthy priest, he up and drew his cowl upon his crown,
- And started off in haste to tell the news to Robber Brown;
- To tell him how his daughter, who now was for marriage fit,
- Had winked upon a sorter, who reciprocated it.
- Good Robber Brown, he muffled up his anger pretty well,
- He said, "I have a notion, and that notion I will tell;
- I will nab this gay young sorter, terrify him into fits,
- And get my gentle wife to chop him into little bits.
- "I've studied human nature, and I know a thing or two,
- Though a girl may fondly love a living gent, as many do--
- A feeling of disgust upon her senses there will fall
- When she looks upon his body chopped particularly small."
- He traced that gallant sorter to a still suburban square;
- He watched his opportunity and seized him unaware;
- He took a life-preserver and he hit him on the head,
- And Mrs. Brown dissected him before she went to bed.
- And pretty little Alice grew more settled in her mind,
- She nevermore was guilty of a weakness of the kind,
- Until at length good Robber Brown bestowed her hand
- On the promising young robber, the lieutenant of his band.
POEMS BY W.S. GILBERT
"Gentle Alice Brown" is
reprinted from A Nonsense Anthology. Ed. Carolyn Wells.
New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1915.