Walter Stanford (1920)
The minstrel smote on the trembling strings 
And he chortled a song of war 
Of heroes hacking their way to fame 
Through rivers and seas of gore
Of headless bodies, of brain protruding, 
Of warm and quivering flesh 
Till the lord remarked, "Oh chuck it! Chestnuts 
Let's have something fresh." 
And the minstrel looked at his lord in grief 
"Gramercy, my liege," said he 
"Would'st thou that I sing of a knight and a dame 
And their love 'neath the greenwood tree?" 
"No, by my halidane," cried the lord 
"Thou drivest me off my chump 
These mildewed, fat-headed ditties of thine 
Give me the perishing hump. 
I give thee a week to learn something newer 
I've said it and thou dost know 
By Friday next thou wilt either do it 
Or take my money and go."

Sad was the minstrel at heart that night 
As he sat in his small bedroom 
With never a lamp and not even a candle 
To lighten his mental gloom 
With a grey goose quill and a horn of ink 
By the watery moonbeams' light 
He sat him down by his casement sill 
With an aching breast to write. 
Long, long he pondered, but nothing but blots 
Appeared on the parchment fair 
His muse was on strike, he champed his pen 
And ruffled and towsled his hair 
But, all in a flash, on his brain there came 
An inspiration divine 
He started to write, and there, in the silence 
A ballad grew line by line. 
And when it was finished he took up his harp 
And he tickled it pinkety-pong 
And sung sotto voce the great prototype 
Of the present day music-hall song. 

Friday is come and the supper is ended 
The lord and his lady are there 
And the former commands in a voice of contempt 
For the minstrel straightway to appear 
And he says, "Thou rememberest, Thou string-tickling varlet 
This evening I've ordered of thee 
A song that is new - if it's written get on with it 
Don't stand there gaping at me 
Bear in mind, we are dead off the fly-spotted 
Moth-eaten ballads of battle and love 
And remember this means an advance to thy screw 
Or the unconditional shove." 

The minstrel banged the responsive chords 
And he twiddled a lum-ti-tum air 
And he sang of a night at a town by the sea 
And the insects that fed on him there 
Then he chanted of cheeses and spouses who jaw 
Of tripe, twins and triplets and mothers-in-law 
Of the feet of policemen, of landladies' brats 
Of dog-bitten lovers, the manners of cats 
Of brokers and pawn-shops, false teeth and dyed hair 
Of tramps who hate work and of cabmen who swear 
About the militia who booze such a lot 
Of chaps 'up the pole' and blokes 'off their dot' 
And the song concluded, the chords ever mingling 
In one majestic strife 
With a verselet concerning a lodger who bunked 
And a landlord left minus a wife. 

At the close of the singing the castle resounded 
With clapping and cries of 'encore' 
Which didn't leave off till the minstrel had sung them 
The 'lodger' verse over once more 
And the lord was so pleased that he laughed till his feet ached 
And tears trickled all down his cheek 
And, true to his promise, he raised the bard's wages 
From four-pence to five-pence per week 
And they wrote down the words of that ballad on vellum 
Today anybody can see 'em 
By asking a man who has charge of such things 
In a room at the British Museum 
And though five hundred years have elapsed 
Since the night the first comic lay made a sensation 
Our music-hall singers still use the same themes 
We are such a conservative nation.
The end