Music and Texts of Gary Bachlund


The Broom, the Shovel, the Poker and Tongs - (2009)    

Edward Lear

for medium voice and piano



The Broom and the Shovel, the Poker and Tongs,
    They all took a drive in the Park,
And they each sang a song, Ding-a-dong, Ding-a-dong,
    Before they went back in the dark.
Mr. Poker he sate quite upright in the coach,
    Mr. Tongs made a clatter and clash,
Miss Shovel was all dressed in black (with a brooch),
    Mrs. Broom was in blue (with a sash).
        Ding-a-dong! Ding-a-dong!
        And they all sang a song!


"O Shovel so lovely!" the Poker he sang,
    "You have perfectly conquered my heart!
"Ding-a-dong! Ding-a-dong! If you're pleased with my song,
    'I will feed you with cold apple tart!
"When you scrape up the coals with a delicate sound,
    "You enrapture my life with delight!
"Your nose is so shiny! your head is so round!
    "And your shape is so slender and bright!
        "Ding-a-dong! Ding-a-dong!
        "Ain't you pleased with my song?"


"Alas! Mrs. Broom!" sighed the Tongs in his song,
    "O is it because I'm so thin,
"And my legs are so long -- Ding-a-dong! Ding-a-dong!
    "That you don't care about me a pin?
"Ah! fairest of creatures, when sweeping the room,
    "Ah! why don't you heed my complaint!
"Must you needs be so cruel, you beautiful Broom,
    "Because you are covered with paint?
        "Ding-a-dong! Ding-a-dong!
        "You are certainly wrong!"


Mrs. Broom and Miss Shovel together they sang,
    "What nonsense you're singing to-day!"
Said the Shovel, "I'll certainly hit you a bang!"
    Said the Broom, "And I'll sweep you away!"
So the Coachman drove homeward as fast as he could,
    Perceiving their anger with pain;
But they put on the kettle and little by little,
    They all became happy again.
        Ding-a-dong! Ding-a-dong!
        There's an end of my song!

[ 6 pages, circa 3' 25" ]

Edward Lear's sketch from this story in rhyme


The text is from Lear's Nonsense Songs, a small annotation by John Ruskin as foreword reads, "I really don't know any other author to whom I am half so grateful for my idle self as Edward Lear. I shall put him first of my hundred authors." Certainly, a considerable part of my settings are based in nonsense, among these authors being Lewis Carroll and Mervyn Peake in English, and so many of the German language texts drawn from the marvelous collection, Unsinn Poesie, which has given me such amusement over the years.



The setting is most conventional in structure, the first two strophes being repeated, until the storyline breaks into something more emotional -- at least for the Poker for a moment in time. The second phrase in the piano introduction, as with some similar gestures throughout the setting, mimics the organ registration in which the so-called fifteenth, two octaves and a fifth above the tonic, flavors the bright character of E major with an even brighter voicing. Similarly, the "authentic" parallel major triadic harmony at the opening of the verse itself is seen at measure ten and beyond, before falling back into diatonic parallelism.



The third strophe turns in to the minor, darkening in proper 19th century style the plight as the Tongs receives a rebuff from the other characters of this nonsensical tale. Even so, the echoes of the first verses remain with the "fifteenth" continuing its reappearances.


The last strophe does not complete the song form structure, but rather a recitativo-like section with slackening tempi neither fully E major nor E minor underscores the comeuppance of the Poker as the "ladies" calibrate his emotional suit. A very shortened reminiscence of the character of the opening verses completes the setting, with the advice at "There's an end of my song," non ritardando. And this piece of nonsense concludes without much ado.



The score for The Broom, the Shovel, the Poker and Tongs is available as a free PDF download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this piano-vocal score.


The Broom, the Shovel, the Poker and Tongs