Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > British
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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vols. VI–IX: British
 
Bombastes Furioso
By William Barnes Rhodes (1772–1826)
 
        
CHARACTERS
  
ARTAXOMINOUS, King of Utopia.
FUSBOS, Minister of State.
GENERAL BOMBASTES.
ATTENDANTS.
ARMY: A long Drummer, a short Fifer, and two (sometimes three) Soldiers of different dimensions.
DISTAFFINA.

SCENE I. Interior of the Palace.

The KING in his chair of state. A table set out with punch-bowl, glasses, pipes, etc. ATTENDANTS on each side.

TRIO“Tekeli.”

1st Atten.  What will your Majesty please to wear?
  Or blue, green, red, black, white, or brown.
  2d Atten.  D’ye choose to look at the bill of fare?  (Showing long bill.)
  King.    Get out of my sight, or I’ll knock you down.
  2d Atten.  Here is soup, fish, or goose, or duck, or fowl, or pigeons, pig, or hare!        5
  1st Atten.  Or blue, or green, or red, or black, or white, or brown.
What will your Majesty, etc.
  King.                Get out of my sight, etc.  (Exeunt ATTENDANTS.)
 
Enter FUSBOS, and kneels to the KING.

  Fusbos.  Hail, Artaxominous, yclep’d the Great!
I come, an humble pillar of thy state,
Pregnant with news. But ere that news I tell,        10
First let me hope your Majesty is well.
  King.  Rise, learned Fusbos—rise, my friend, and know
We are but middling—that is, so, so!
  Fusbos.  Only so, so! Oh, monstrous, doleful thing!
Is it the mulligrubs affects the king?        15
Or, dropping poisons in the cup of joy,
Do the blue devils your repose annoy?
  King.  Nor mulligrubs nor devils blue are here,
But yet we feel ourselves a little queer.
  Fusbos.  Yes, I perceive it in that vacant eye,        20
The vest unbutton’d, and the wig awry;
So sickly cats neglect their fur-attire,
And sit and mope beside the kitchen fire.
  King.  Last night, when undisturb’d by state affairs,
Moist’ning our clay, and puffing off our cares,        25
Oft the replenish’d goblet did we drain,
And drank and smok’d, and smok’d and drank again!
Such was the case, our very actions such,
Until at length we got a drop too much.
  Fusbos.  So when some donkey on the Blackheath Road,        30
Falls, overpower’d, beneath his sandy load;
The driver’s curse unheeded swells the air,
Since none can carry more than they can bear.
  King.  The sapient Doctor Muggins came in haste,
Who suits his physic to his patient’s taste;        35
He, knowing well on what our heart is set,
Hath just prescrib’d, “To take a morning whet”;
The very sight each sick’ning pain subdues.
Then sit, my Fusbos, sit, and tell thy news.
  Fusbos  (sits).  Gen’ral Bombastes, whose resistless force        40
Alone exceeds by far a brewer’s horse,
Returns victorious, bringing mines of wealth!
  King.  Does he, by Jingo? Then we’ll drink his health!  (Drum and fife.)
  Fusbos.  But hark! With loud acclaim, the fife and drum
Announce your army near; behold, they come!        45
 
Enter BOMBASTES, attended by one DRUMMER, one FIFER, and two SOLDIERS, all very materially differing in size. They march round the stage and back.

  Bombas.  Meet me this ev’ning at the Barley Mow;
I’ll bring your pay—you see I’m busy now.
Begone, brave army, and don’t kick up a row.  (Exeunt SOLDIERS.)
(To the KING.) Thrash’d are your foes. This watch and silken string,
Worn by their chief, I as a trophy bring;        50
I knock’d him down, then snatch’d it trom his fob.
“Watch! watch!” he cried, when I had done the job.
“My watch is gone!” says he. Says I, “Just so;
Stop where you are; watches were made to go.”
  King.  For which we make you Duke of Strombelo.  (BOMBASTES kneels; the KING dubs him with a pipe, and then presents the bowl.)        55
From our own bowl here drink, my soldier true;
And if you’d like to take a whiff or two,
He whose brave arm hath made our foes to crouch,
Shall have a pipe from this our royal pouch.
  Bombas  (arises).  Honours so great have all my toils repaid,        60
My liege, and Fusbos, here’s “Success to trade.”
  Fusbos.  Well said, Bombastes! Since thy mighty blows
Have given a quietus to our foes,
Now shall our farmers gather in their crops,
And busy tradesmen mind their crowded shops.        65
The deadly havoc of war’s hatchet cease;
Now shall we smoke the calumet of peace.
  King.  I shall smoke short-cut; you smoke what you please.
  Bombas.  Whate’er your Majesty shall deign to name,
Short cut or long to me is all the same.        70
  Bombas and Fusbos.  In short, so long as we your favours claim,
Short cut or long, to us is all the same.
  King.  Thanks, gen’rous friends! Now list whilst I impart
How firm you’re lock’d and bolted in my heart;
So long as this here pouch a pipe contains,        75
Or a full glass in that there bowl remains,
To you an equal portion shall belong;
This do I swear. And now let’s have a song.
  Fusbos.  My liege shall be obeyed.  (Advances and attempts to sing.)
  Bombas.                Fusbos, give place;
You know you haven’t got a singing face;        80
Here nature, smiling, gave the winning grace.
 
 
SONG“Hope Told a Flattering Tale.”
  
Hope told a flattering tale,
  Much longer than my arm,
That love and pots of ale
  In peace would keep me warm.
The flatt’rer is not gone;
She visits number one:
In love I’m monstrous deep.
Love! odsbobs, destroys my sleep.
Hope told a flattering tale,
  Lest love should soon grow cool;
A tub thrown to a whale,
  To make the fish a fool:
Should Distaffina frown,
  Then love’s gone out of town;
And when love’s dream is o’er,
  Then we wake and dream no more.  (Exit.)

  (The KING evinces strong emotions during the song, and at the conclusion starts up.)
  Fusbos.  What ails my liege? Ah, why that look so sad?
  King  (coming forward).  I am in love! I scorch, I freeze, I’m mad!
Oh, tell me, Fusbos, first and best of friends,        85
You, who have wisdom at your fingers’ ends,
Shall it be so, or shall it not be so?
Shall I my Griskinissa’s charms forego,
Compel her to give up the regal chair,
And place the rosy Distaffina there?        90
In such a case, what course can I pursue?
I love my queen, and Distaffina too.
  Fusbos.  And would a king his general supplant?
I can’t advise, upon my soul I can’t.
  King.  So when two feasts, whereat there’s nought to pay,        95
Fall unpropitious on the self-same day,
The anxious Cit each invitation views,
And ponders which to take or which refuse;
From this or that to keep away is loth,
And sighs to think he cannot dine at both.  (Exit.)        100
  Fusbos.  So when some schoolboy, on a rainy day,
Finds all his playmates will no longer stay,
He takes the hint himself—and walks away.  (Exit.)
 
SCENE II. An Avenue of Trees.
Enter the KING.

  King.  I’ll seek the maid I love, though in my way
A dozen gen’rals stood in fierce array!        105
Such rosy beauties nature meant for kings;
Subjects have treat enough to see such things.
 
SCENE III. Inside of a Cottage.
Enter DISTAFFINA.

  Distaf.  This morn, as sleeping in my bed I lay,
I dreamt—and morning dreams come true, they say—
I dreamt a cunning man my fortune told,        110
And soon the pots and pans were turned to gold!
Then I resolv’d to cut a mighty dash;
But, lo! ere I could turn them into cash,
Another cunning man my heart betray’d,
Stole all away, and left my debts unpaid.        115
 
Enter the KING.

And pray, sir, who are you, I’d wish to know?
  King.  Perfection’s self, oh, smooth that angry brow!
For love of thee, I’ve wander’d thro’ the town,
And here have come to offer half a crown.
  Distaf.  Fellow! your paltry offer I despise;        120
The great Bombastes’ love alone I prize.
  King.  He’s but a general. Damsel, I’m a king.
  Distaf.  Oh, sir, that makes it quite another thing.
  King.  And think not, maiden, I could e’er design
A sum so trifling for such charms as thine.        125
No; the half crown that ting’d thy cheeks with red,
And bade fierce anger o’er thy beauties spread,
Was meant that thou should’st share my throne and bed.
  Distaf.  (aside).  My dream is out, and I shall soon behold
The pots and pans all turn to shining gold.        130
  King  (puts his hat down to kneel on).  Here, on my knees—those knees which ne’er till now
To man or maid in suppliance bent—I vow
Still to remain, till you my hopes fulfil,
Fixt as the Monument on Fish Street Hill.
  Distaf.  (kneels).  And thus I swear, as I bestow my hand,        135
As long as e’er the Monument shall stand,
So long I’m yours——
  King.            Are then my wishes crown’d?
  Distaf.  La, sir! I’d not say no for twenty pound.
Let silly maids for love their favours yield,
Rich ones for me—a king against the field.        140
 
 
SONG“Paddy’s Wedding.”
  
      Queen Dido at
      Her palace gate
Sat darning of her stocking Oh;
      She sung and drew
      The worsted through,
Whilst her foot was the cradle rocking Oh
      (For a babe she had
      By a soldier lad,
Though hist’ry passes it over Oh):
      “You tell-tale brat,
      I’ve been a flat,
Your daddy has proved a rover Oh.
      What a fool was I
      To be cozen’d by
A fellow without a penny Oh;
      When rich ones came,
      And ask’d the same,
For I’d offers from never so many Oh;
      But I’ll darn my hose,
      Look out for beaux,
And quickly get a new lover Oh.”
      Then come, lads, come,
      Love beats the drum,
And a fig for Æneas the rover Oh!
 
  King.  So Orpheus sang of old, or poets lie,
And as the brutes were charmed, e’en so am I.
Rosy-cheek’d maid, henceforth my only queen,
Full soon shalt thou in royal robes be seen;        145
And through my realm I’ll issue this decree,
None shall appear of taller growth than thee;
Painters no other face portray; each sign
O’er alehouse hung shall change its head for thine;
Poets shall cancel their unpublish’d lays,        150
And none presume to write but in thy praise.
  Distaf.  (fetches a bottle and glass).  And may I then, without offending, crave
My love to taste of this, the best I have?
  King.  Were it the vilest liquor upon earth,
Thy touch would render it of matchless worth;        155
Dear shall the gift be held that comes from you;
Best proof of love  (drinks), ’tis full-proof Hodges’ too;
Through all my veins I feel a genial glow;
It fires my soul——
  Bombastes  (within).    Ho, Distaffina, ho!
  King.  Heard you that voice?
  Distaf.            Oh yes, ’tis what’s-his-name,
        160
The General. Send him packing as he came.
  King.  And is it he? and doth he hither come?
Ah, me! my guilty conscience strikes me dumb.
Where shall I go? say, whither shall I fly?
Hide me, oh, hide me from his injur’d eye!        165
  Distaf.  Why, sure you’re not alarm’d at such a thing?
He’s but a general, and you’re a king.  (KING conceals himself in a closet.)
 
Enter BOMBASTES.

  Bombas.  Lov’d Distaffina! now by my scars I vow,
Scars got—I haven’t time to tell you how—
By all the risks my fearless heart hath run,        170
Risks of all shapes from bludgeon, sword, and gun,
Steel traps, the patrol, bailiff shrewd, and dun;
By the great bunch of laurel on my brow,
Ne’er did thy charms exceed their present glow!
Oh, let me greet thee with a loving kiss——  (Sees the hat,)        175
Why, what the devil! Say, whose hat is this?
  Distaf.  Why, help your silly brains, that’s not a hat.
  Bombas.  No hat?
  Distaf.            Suppose it is, why, what of that?
A hat can do no harm without a head!
  Bombas.  Whoe’er it fits, this hour I doom him dead;        180
Alive from hence the caitiff shall not stir——  (Discovers the KING.)
Your most obedient, humble servant, sir.
  King.  Oh, general, oh!
  Bombas.  My much-loved master, oh!
What means all this?
  King.  Indeed, I hardly know——
  Distaf.  You hardly know? A very pretty joke,        185
If kingly promises so soon are broke!
Aren’t I to be a queen, and dress so fine?
  King.  I do repent me of the foul design.
To thee, my brave Bombastes, I restore
Pure Distaffina, and will never more        190
Through lane or street with lawless passion rove,
But give to Griskinissa all my love.
  Bombas.  No, no, I’ll love no more. Let him who can,
Fancy the maid who fancies ev’ry man.
In some lone place I’ll find a gloomy cave;        195
There my own hands shall dig a spacious grave.
Then all unseen I’ll lay me down and die,
Since woman’s constancy is—all my eye.
 
TRIO“Oh, Lady Fair!”

      Distaf.  Oh, cruel man! where are you going?
        Sad are my wants, my rent is owing.        200
      Bombas.  I go, I go, all comfort scorning;
        Some death I’ll die before the morning.
      Distaf.  Heigho, heigho! sad is that warning;
        Oh, do not die before the morning!
      King.  I’ll follow him, all danger scorning;        205
        He shall not die before the morning.
      Bombas.  I go, I go, etc.
      Distaf.  Heigho, heigho, etc.
      King.  I’ll follow him, etc.  (They hold him by the coat-tails, but he gradually tugs them off.)
 
SCENE IV. A Wood.
Enter FUSBOS.

  Fusbos.  This day is big with fate. Just as I set
        210
My foot across the threshold, lo! I met
A man whose squint terrific struck my view.
Another came, and, lo! he squinted too.
And ere I reach’d the corner of the street,
Some ten short paces, ’twas my lot to meet        215
A third who squinted more. A fourth, and he
Squinted more vilely than the other three.
Such omens met the eye when Cæsar fell,
But cautioned him in vain; and who can tell
Whether those awful notices of fate        220
Are meant for kings or ministers of state;
For rich or poor, old, young, or short or tall,
The wrestler Love trips up the heels of all.
 
 SONG“My Lodging is on the Cold Ground.”
  
My lodging is in Leather Lane,
  A parlour that’s next to the sky;
’Tis exposed to the wind and the rain,
  But the wind and the rain I defy.
Such love warms the coldest of spots,
  As I feel for Scrubinda the fair;
Oh, she lives by the scouring of pots,
  In Dyot Street, Bloomsbury Square.
  
Oh, were I a quart, pint, or gill,
  To be scrubb’d by her delicate hands,
Let others possess what they will
  Of learning, and houses, and lands;
My parlour that’s next to the sky
  I’d quit, her blest mansion to share;
So happy to live and to die
  In Doyt Street, Bloomsbury Square.
  
And oh, would this damsel be mine,
  No other provision I’d seek;
On a look I could breakfast and dine,
  And feast on a smile for a week.
But, ah! should she false-hearted prove,
  Suspended, I’ll dangle in air,
A victim to delicate love,
  In Doyt Street, Bloomsbury Square.  (Exit.)
 
Enter BOMBASTES, preceded by a FIFER playing “Michael Wiggins.”

  Bombas.  Gentle musician, let thy dulcet strain
        225
Proceed. Play “Michael Wiggins” once again.  (He does so.)
Music’s the food of love; give o’er, give o’er,
For I must batten on that food no more.  (Exit FIFER.)
My happiness is chang’d to doleful dumps,
Whilst, merry Michael, all thy cards were trumps.        230
So, should some youth by fortune’s blest decrees,
Possess at least a pound of Cheshire cheese,
And bent some favour’d party to regale,
Lay in a kilderkin, or so, of ale;
Lo, angry fate! In one unlucky hour        235
Some hungry rats may all the cheese devour,
And the loud thunder turn the liquor sour.  (Forms his sash into a noose.)
Alas! Alack! Alack! And well-a-day,
That ever man should make himself away!
That ever man for woman false should die,        240
As many have, and so, and so  (prepares to hang himself; tries the sensation, but disapproves of the result)  won’t I!
No, I’ll go mad! ’gainst all I’ll vent my rage,
And with this wicked wanton world a woeful war I’ll wage!  (Hangs his boots to the arm of a tree, and, taking a scrap of paper, with a pencil writes the following couplet, which he attaches to them, repeating the words):
“Who dares this pair of boots displace,
Must meet Bombastes face to face.”        245
Thus do I challenge all the human race!  (Draws his sword, and retires up the stage, and off.)
 
Enter the KING.

  King.  Scorning my proffer’d hand, he frowning fled,
Curs’d the fair maid, and shook his angry head.  (Perceives the boots and label.)
“Who dares this pair of boots displace,
Must meet Bombastes face to face.”        250
Ha! dost thou dare me, vile, obnoxious elf?
I’ll make thy threats as bootless as thyself.
Where’er thou art, with speed prepare to go
Where I shall send thee—to the shades below.  (Knocks down the boots.)
  Bombas.  (coming forward).  So have I heard, on Afric’s burning shore,        255
A hungry lion give a grievous roar;
The grievous roar echo’d along the shore.
  King.  So have I heard on Afric’s burning shore
Another lion give a grievous roar,
And the first lion thought the last a bore.        260
  Bombas.  Am I then mocked? Now, by my fame, I swear
You soon shall have it. There!  (They fight.)
  King.                    Where?
  Bombas.                        There, and there!
  King.  I have it, sure enough! Oh, I am slain!
I’d give a pot of beer to live again.  (Falls on his back.)
Yet ere I die I something have to say:        265
My once-lov’d gen’ral, pri’thee come this way!
Oh! oh! my Bom——  (Dies.)
  Bombas.            —Bastes he would have said,
But, ere the word was out, his breath was fled.
Well, peace be with him; his untimely doom
Shall thus be mark’d upon his costly tomb:        270
“Fate cropt him short; for be it understood,
He would have liv’d much longer—if he could.”  (Retires again up the stage.)
 
Enter FUSBOS.

  Fusbos.  This was the way they came, and much I fear
There’s mischief in the wind. What have we here?
King Artaxominous bereft of life!        275
Here’ll be a pretty tale to tell his wife.
  Bombas.  A pretty tale, but not for thee to tell,
For thou shalt quickly follow him to hell;
There say I sent thee, and I hope he’s well.
  Fusbos.  No, thou thyself shalt thy own message bear;        280
Short is the journey, thou wilt soon be there.  (They fight; BOMBASTES is wounded.)
  Bombas.  Oh, Fusbos, Fusbos! I am diddled quite;
Dark clouds come o’er my eyes—farewell, good night!
Good night! my mighty soul’s inclined to roam,
So make my compliments to all at home.  (Lies down by the KING.)        285
  Fusbos.  And o’er thy grave a monument shall rise,
Where heroes yet unborn shall feast their eyes;
And this short epitaph that speaks thy fame,
Shall also there immortalize my name:
“Here lies Bombastes, stout of heart and limb,        290
Who conquered all but Fusbos—Fusbos him.”
 
Enter DISTAFFINA.

  Distaf.  Ah, wretched maid! Oh, miserable fate!
I’ve just arrived in time to be too late.
  Fusbos.  Go, beauty, go, thou source of woe to man,
And get another lover where you can.
  Distaf.        But are you sure they’re dead?
        295
  Fusbos.  Yes, dead as herrings—herrings that are red.
 
FINALE.

    Distaf.  Briny tears I’ll shed;
    King.    I for joy shall cry, too;  (Rising.)
    Fusbos.  Zounds! the King’s alive!
    Bombas.    Yes, and so am I, too!  (Rising.)        300
    Distaf.  It was better far,
    King.    Thus to check all sorrow;
    Fusbos.  But, if some folks please,
    Bombas.    We’ll die again to-morrow!
 
 
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