Tag Archives: Major-general’s song

Information animal, vegetable and mineral


                Yesterday I saw the latest Goair commercial on TV. I immediately realized that it has been “inspired”/”copied” from the Major-general’s song from  the comic opera “The Pirates of Penzance” by Gilbert and Sullivan written in 1879.  The tune and words have both been copied. The “modern major general” has been changed to “modern global airline”.

                This song is full of historical and cultural references. It makes fun of the English Major Generals of that time who knew everything except military tactics.

                This has been one of my favorite poems since I was in college. In fact I was inspired by the amount and breadth of knowledge the Modern Major general claims to have. I have posted this in MHFL several years back. Here it is again. A wonderful piece of work.

First the link where you can see it being performed( it starts at 1 minute into the video)

                And here are the superb lyrics:

I am the very model of a modern Major-General,

I’ve information vegetable, animal, and mineral,

I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical

From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical;

I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,

I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical,

About binomial theorem I’m teeming with a lot o’ news,

With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse.

I’m very good at integral and differential calculus;

I know the scientific names of beings animalculous:

In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,

I am the very model of a modern Major-General.

I know our mythic history, King Arthur’s and Sir Caradoc’s;

I answer hard acrostics, I’ve a pretty taste for paradox,

I quote in elegiacs all the crimes of Heliogabalus,

In conics I can floor peculiarities parabolous;

I can tell undoubted Raphaels from Gerard Dows and Zoffanies,

I know the croaking chorus from The Frogs of Aristophanes!

Then I can hum a fugue of which I’ve heard the music’s din afore,

And whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense Pinafore.

Then I can write a washing bill in Babylonic cuneiform,

And tell you ev’ry detail of Caractacus’s uniform

In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,

I am the very model of a modern Major-General.

In fact, when I know what is meant by "mamelon" and "ravelin",

When I can tell at sight a Mauser rifle from a Javelin,

When such affairs as sorties and surprises I’m more wary at,

And when I know precisely what is meant by "commissariat",

When I have learnt what progress has been made in modern gunnery,

When I know more of tactics than a novice in a nunnery—

In short, when I’ve a smattering of elemental strategy—

You’ll say a better Major-General has never sat a gee.

For my military knowledge, though I’m plucky and adventury,

Has only been brought down to the beginning of the century;

But still, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,

I am the very model of a modern Major-General.



When everybody is making a face
 and calling each other names
 And the whole world is ajangle and ajar….
  I meditate on interstellar space
  And smoke a mild cigar…. 😉