The Two Majors

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An excellent soldier who's worthy the name
Loves officers dashing and strict:
When good, he's content with escaping all blame,
When naughty, he likes to be licked.

He likes for a fault to be bullied and stormed,
Or imprisoned for several days,
And hates, for a duty correctly performed,
To be slavered with sickening praise.

No officer sickened with praises his CORPS
So little as MAJOR LA GUERRE -
No officer swore at his warriors more

Their soldiers adored them, and every grade
Delighted to hear their abuse;
Though whenever these officers came on parade
They shivered and shook in their shoes.

For, oh! if LA GUERRE could all praises withhold,
Why, so could MAKREDI PREPERE,
And, oh! if MAKREDI could bluster and scold,
Why, so could the mighty LA GUERRE.

"No doubt we deserve it - no mercy we crave -
Go on - you're conferring a boon;
We would rather be slanged by a warrior brave,
Than praised by a wretched poltroon!"

MAKREDI would say that in battle's fierce rage
True happiness only was met:
Poor MAJOR MAKREDI, though fifty his age,
Had never known happiness yet!

LA GUERRE would declare, "With the blood of a foe
No tipple is worthy to clink."
Poor fellow! he hadn't, though sixty or so,
Yet tasted his favourite drink!

They agreed at their mess - they agreed in the glass -
They agreed in the choice of their "set,"
And they also agreed in adoring, alas!
The Vivandiere, pretty FILLETTE.

Agreement, you see, may be carried too far,
And after agreeing all round
For years - in this soldierly "maid of the bar,"
A bone of contention they found!

It may seem improper to call such a pet -
By a metaphor, even - a bone;
But though they agreed in adoring her, yet
Each wanted to make her his own.

"On the day that you marry her," muttered PREPERE
(With a pistol he quietly played),
"I'll scatter the brains in your noddle, I swear,
All over the stony parade!"

"I cannot do THAT to you," answered LA GUERRE,
"Whatever events may befall;
But this I CAN do - IF YOU wed her, MON CHER!
I'll eat you, moustachios and all!"

The rivals, although they would never engage,
Yet quarrelled whenever they met;
They met in a fury and left in a rage,
But neither took pretty FILLETTE.

"I am not afraid," thought MAKREDI PREPERE:
"For country I'm ready to fall;
But nobody wants, for a mere Vivandiere,
To be eaten, moustachios and all!

"Besides, though LA GUERRE has his faults, I'll allow
He's one of the  bravest of men:
My goodness! if I disagree with him now,
I might disagree with him then."

"No coward am I," said LA GUERRE, "as you guess -
I sneer at an enemy's blade;
But I don't want PREPERE to get into a mess
For splashing the stony parade!"

One day on parade to PREPERE and LA GUERRE
And trembling all over, he prayed of them there
To give him the pretty FILLETTE.

"You see, I am willing to marry my bride
Until you've arranged this affair;
I will blow out my brains when your honours decide
Which marries the sweet Vivandiere!"

"Well, take her,' said both of them in a duet
(A favourite form of reply),
"But when I am ready to marry FILLETTE.
Remember you've promised to die!"

He married her then: from the flowery plains
Of existence the roses they cull:
He lived and he died with his wife; and his brains
Are reposing in peace in his skull.

© William Schwenck Gilbert