W.S. Gilbert And Politics

W.S. Gilbert satirized the political process in several of his operettas.  However, perhaps his most effective and comical political satire occurs in Iolanthe, performed in 1882.   The song When all night long, sung by Private Willis, a sentry standing outside Westminster Hall at the beginning of Act 2, remains as pertinent today as in 1882.  The lyric mentions M.P.s(members of parliament), but it could refer easily to members of the American Congress and the present stalemate.

Many wonderful singers have interpreted the song.  My favorite is Sydney Granville’s rendition on a Victor Recording from the late 1920s.  However, one could choose several others.  It must be mentioned that Sullivan’s solemn, almost regal music, which precedes the lyric, adds to the satire. Click on the link below, listen, and enjoy!

When all night long a chap remains

On sentry-go to chase monotony

He exercises of his brains,

That is, assuming that he’s got any.

Though never nurtured in the lap

Of luxury, yet I admonish you, I am an intellectual chap,

And think of things that would astonish you.

I often think it’s comical–Fal,la, la!  Fal, la la!

How Nature always does contrive–Fal,la, la!

That every boy and every gal

That’s born into the world alive

Is either a little Liberal

Or else a little Conservative

Fal,la, la!

When in that house M.P.’s divide,

If they’ve a brain and cerebellum, too.

They’ve got to leave that brain outside,

And vote just as their leaders tell’em to.

But then the prospect of a lot

Of dull M.P.’s in close proximity,

All thinking for themselves, is what

No man can face with equanimity.

Then let’s rejoice with loud Fal la–Fal lal la!  Fal la la!

That Nature always does contrive–Fal lal la!

That every boy and every gal

That’s born into the world alive,

Is either a little Liberal

Or else a little Conservative!

Fal la la!When All Night Long

About Robert M. Weiss
From an early age, I've taken great pleasure in reading. Also, I learned to play my 78 player when I was quite young, and enjoyed listening to musicals and classical music. I remember sitting on the floor, and following the text and pictures of record readers, which were popular in the 1940s and 50s. My favorites were the Bozo and Disney albums. I also enjoyed watching the slow spinning of 16s as they spun out tales of adventure. I have always been attracted by rivers, and I love to sit on a boulder with my feet in the water, gazing into the mysteries of swirling currents. I especially like inner tubing on the Rogue River in Southern Oregon. Since my early youth, I've been interested in collecting minerals, which have taught me about the wonderful possibilities in colors and forms. Sometimes I try to imagine what the ancient Greeks must have felt when they began to discover physical laws in nature. I also remember that I had a special passion for numbers, and used to construct them out of stones. After teaching Russian for several years, I became a writer, interviewer, editor, and translator. I continue to delight in form, and am a problem solver at heart.

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