Immediately, upon reading Sidey’s Weekend Theme, a poem leapt to my mind. My mother had quoted a similar line from as far back as I can remember. I didn’t know who wrote it, or where it was from - she might have made them up for all I knew. I later learned the origin of the poem – they are from the first verse of the lyrics to a wonderful duet in Gilbert & Sullivan’s operetta, “H.M.S. Pinafore;” they are sung by “Buttercup” and “Captain Corcoran.” Here are some of the beginning verses:
“Things are seldom what they seem,
Skim milk masquerades as cream;
Highlows pass as patent leathers;
Jackdaws strut in peacock feathers.”
So they do.”
“Black sheep dwell in every fold;
All that glitters is not gold;
Storks turn out to be but logs;
Bulls are but inflated frogs.”
“So they be,
“Drops the wind and stops the mill;
Turbot is ambitious brill;
Gild the farthing if you will,
Yet it is a farthing still.”
Yes, I know.
That is so.
(You can hear the entire song by clicking on this link.)
When I was in college (“A many years ago, when I was young and charming…”) I had the privilege of being a founding member of The Gilbert and Sullivan Society at The University of Connecticut, during my sophomore year. The director was one of the music professors, Robert B. Hill, and he was (and still is) one of the most knowledgeable people I’ve ever known. In addition to being a scholar in Renaissance music, (“If music be the food of love, sing on!”) he was also known as a G&S expert. Our first year, we put on a production of ”Patience.” Patience is not as well-known as many of the G&S operettas, but it is a gem. I played the female comic lead, “Lady Jane.” I had a blast playing a pretentious older woman (“Getting older is no problem. You just have to live long enough.”) in love with a “Swinburne-esque” (“We thank with brief thanksgiving whatever gods may be. . .”) fop, given to loudly reciting his own poetry. Read the Wikipedia synopsis of the operetta here.
The following year we put on the much more well-known “H.M.S. Pinafore.” I had the pleasure of being cast as “Buttercup.” While I knew the basic plot of Pinafore, I was not completely familiar with all the music, so it was a delightful surprise when upon first reading the libretto I saw that the duet, quoted above, begins with those lines that I grew up hearing quoted countless times. I remember calling my mother (“A mother’s love endures through all.”) and asking her if she had any idea where those lines came from. She didn’t. They had been quoted to her by her mother (“An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy.”). As my children will tell you, I have carried on the rich (or annoying, depending on your perspective) tradition of quoting the odd lines of poetry and/or lyrics that seem appropriate for whatever situation in which we might find ourselves. I can picture them rolling their eyes even now. Admittedly, that habit could be rather obnoxious – which is the way I felt when my mom did it to me. I am looking forward to the day I see our sons doing the same to their children! It is bound to happen. It is apparently a genetic disease. There is no known cure. (Which an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of.)
To all of you, my Gentle Readers, I might seem to be, generally, a happy and contented person. Well, “All generalizations are false, including this one.” So if things aren’t always what they seem to be is considered, generally, to be true, it is therefore not true, which because it is a generalization, makes it false. Generally.
Excuse me while I go put some cream in my coffee. At least that’s what it looks like – the cream, I mean. . .or is that skim milk? And I don’t even like coffee! But, Gentle Readers, “You’re the cream in my coffee. . .” And now I find that you might be just skim milk. . .
Have you had enough. . .?