I've Got a Little List

Author: Thomas James Martin
Published on: July 11, 2003

Gilbert & Sullivan CartoonAs an admirer of the light operettas of the 19th century British artists, Gilbert and Sullivan, I recently viewed The Mikado, one of their most famous and admired plays. Sir W.S. Gilbert, who wrote the lyrics and libretto of the plays is certainly one of the outstanding satirical poets to write in English. Likewise, Sir Arthur Sullivan's spirited music, alternately saucy and lyrical, beautifully complements Gilbert's splendid verses.

Anyway, I am amazed at how well some of Gilbert's observations of the Gilded Age relate to 21st century society. So, with apologies to W.S. Gilbert, here is my take on one of his more celebrated songs. Yes, it is yet another parody of the famous song sung by Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner of the city of Titipu (set in Japan), with a chorus of men and is called I've Got a Little List. You can find the original lyrics at Rice University. (You can also find links to other parodies of the verse as well, such as the one by Eric Idle of Monty Python fame.)

For those of you not familiar with the Mikado, in the speech immediately before the song, Ko-Ko relates the following about finding offenders to behead:


If I should ever be called upon to act professionally, I am happy to think that there will be no difficulty in finding plenty of people whose loss will be a distinct gain to society at large.

Again, Sir William, my apologies. I hope you will take my humble efforts in the spirit of the satirical verse forms that you so magnificently developed for later generations to enjoy, build upon and (of course)imitate. Here's my own modest example of a Little List with Gilbert's chorus left intact:


As some day it may happen that a victim must be found,
I've got a little list--I've got a little list.
Of society offenders who might well be underground,
And who never would be missed--who
never would be missed!

There's the pestilential pundits who write without a clue—
All men with bloated bellies who hang out guzzling brew—
All children who play computer games and beat you just like that—
All people who like a glutton eat but keep their tummies flat—
The terrifying boss you've only just met, who on first names insists—
They'd none of 'em be missed--they'd none of 'em be missed!

CHORUS. He's got 'em on the list--he's got 'em on the list;
And they'll none of 'em be missed--
they'll none of 'em be missed.

There's the Metallica lead guitarist and the others of his race,
And Material Girl, Madonna—I 've got them on the list!
And the fearful ladies who serve spaghetti on their finest lace,
They never would be missed--they never would be missed!
Then the millionaire ball players who smirk and snort cocaine,
And unfailingly prove that even with money you cannot buy a brain;
Then there's the homophobes in the closet who curse but mostly lie,
They'd rather stay where the sun don't shine than admit they like a guy;
And that shallowest of arrogant, back-stabbing pr--ks, the corporate ladder climber-ist--
I don't think he'd be missed--I'm sure he'd not he missed!

CHORUS. He's got them on the list--he's got them on the list;
And I don't think they'll be missed--I'm sure they'll not be missed!

And the self-righteous jurists, who free the high and mightier,
Overbearing, moralistic judges—I've got them on the list!
All afternoon talk show hosts—nah, not Oprah —but especially Jerry Springer;
They'd none of 'em be missed—they'd none of 'em be missed.
And the slick politician who about corporate influences never lies,
"What, never?" Well, hardly ever when even their socks Enron buys
But it really doesn't matter whom you put upon the list,
For they'd none of 'em be missed--they'd none of 'em be missed!

CHORUS. You may put 'em on the list--you may put 'em on the list;
And they'll none of 'em be missed--they'll none of 'em be missed!

The music to The Mikado by Sir Arthur Sullivan, who was the leading English composer of his day, is glorious also; he really caught the spirit of Gilbert's lyrics. You can learn more about these two incomparable artists, study the libretto of the Mikado and other plays and hear the songs at the Gilbert and Sullivan Archives

As 19th century British gentlemen(and women) said when they thought a thing "first-rate,I say, "Capital, Sir Wiliam! Capital Sir Arthur!"

Editor's Notes: You can also find out more about The Mikado and other musical works as well at Iris Bass's topic Opera.

Copyright 2003, Thomas James Martin, all rights reserved

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