The "Bab" Ballads/Peter the Wag

Peter the Wag  (1868) 
by W.S. Gilbert
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From his obscure retreat:
He was a merry, genial wag,
Who loved a mad conceit.
If he were asked the time of day
By country bumpkins green,
He not unfrequently would say
"A Quarter past thirteen."

If ever you, by word of mouth,
Enquired of Mister Forth
The way to somewhere in the South
He always sent you North.
With little boys his beat along
He loved to stop and play;
He loved to send old ladies wrong,
And teach their feet to stray.

He would in frolic moments, when
Such mischief bent upon,
Take Bishops up as betting men—
Bid Ministers move on.
Then all the worthy boys he knew
He regularly licked,
And always collared people who
Had had their pockets picked.

He was not naturally bad,
Or viciously inclined,
But from his early youth he had
A waggish turn of mind.
The Men of London grimly scowled
With indignation wild;
The Men of London gruffly growled,
But Peter calmly smiled.

Against this minion of this Crown
The swelling murmurs grew—
From Camberwell to Kentish Town
From Rotherhithe to Kew.
Still humoured he his wagsome turn,
And fed in various ways
The coward rage that dared to burn
But did not dare to blaze.

Still, Retribution has her day
Although her flight is slow,
One day that Crusher lost his way
Near Poland Street, Soho.
The haughty boy, too proud to ask,
To find his way resolved,
And in the tangle of his task
Got more and more involved.

The Men of London, overjoyed,
Came there to jeer their foe—
And flocking crowds completely cloyed
The mazes of Soho.
The news, on telegraphic wires,
Sped swiftly o'er the lea,
Excursion trains from distant shires
Brought myriads to see.

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For weeks he trod his self-made beats
Through Newport- Gerrard- Bear-
Greek- Rupert- Frith- Dean- Poland-streets
And into Golden-square.
But all, alas, in vain, for when
He tried to learn the way
Of little boys or grown-up men
They none of them would say.

Their eyes would flash—their teeth would grind—
Their lips would tightly curl—
They'd say, "Thy way thyself must find,
Thou misdirecting churl!"
And, similarly, also, when
He tried a foreign friend;
Italians answered, "Il balen"—
The French, "No comprehend."

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The Russ would say with gleaming eye
"Sevastopol!" and groan.
The Greek said, "Τυπτω, τυπτομαι,
Τυπτω, τυπτειν, τυπτων."
To wander thus for many a year
That Crusher never ceased—
The Men of London dropped a tear,
Their anger was appeased.

At length exploring gangs were sent
To find poor Forth's remains—
A handsome grant by Parliament
Was voted for their pains.

To seek the poor policeman out
Bold spirits volunteered,
And when they swore they'd solve the doubt
The Men of London cheered.

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And in a yard, dark, dank, and drear,
They found him, on the floor—
It leads, from Richmond Buildings—near
The Royalty stage-door.
With brandy cold and brandy hot
They plied him starved and wet,
And made him sergeant on the spot—
The Men of London's pet!