BACK TO HIS NATIVE STRAND.

Punch, May 27, 1903

 

[“Sherlock Holmes” is to reappear in the “StrandMagazine.]

Air—“Archie in the Toreador.

Oh, Sherlock Holmes lay hidden more than half a dozen years.
He left his loving London in a whirl of doubts and fears.
    For we thought a wicked party
    Of the name of Moriarty
Had dispatched him (in a manner fit to freeze one).
They grappled on a cliff-top, on a ledge six inches wide;
We deemed his chances flimsy when he vanished o’er the side.
    But the very latest news is
    That he merely got some bruises.
If there is a man who’s hard to kill, why he’s one.
  Oh Sherlock, Sherlock, he’s in town again,
  That prince of perspicacity, that monument of brain.
    It seems he wasn’t hurt at all
    By tumbling down the waterfall.
  That sort of thing is fun to Sherlock.

When Sherlock left his native Strand, such groans were seldom heard;
With sobs the Public’s frame was rent: with tears its eye was blurred.
    But the optimists reflected
    That he might be resurrected:
It formed our only theme of conversation.
We asked each other, Would he be? And if so, How and where?
We went about our duties with a less dejected air.
    And they say that a suggestion
    Of a Parliamentary question
Was received with marked approval by the nation.
  And Sherlock, Sherlock, he’s in town again,
  Sir Conan has discovered him, and offers to explain.
    The explanation may be thin,
    But bless you! we don’t care a pin,
  If he’ll but give us back our Sherlock.

The burglar groans and lays aside his jemmy, keys, and drill;
The enterprising murderer proceeds to make his will;
    The fraud-promoting jobber
    Feels convinced that those who rob err;
The felon finds no balm in his employment.
The forger and the swindler start up shrieking in their sleep;
No longer on his mother does the coster gaily leap;
    The Mile-End sportsman ceases
    To kick passers-by to pieces,
Or does it with diminishing enjoyment.
  For Sherlock, Sherlock, he’s in town again,
  That prince of perspicacity, that monument of brain.
    The world of crime has got the blues,
    For Sherlock’s out and after clues,
And everything’s a clue to Sherlock.

 

                               

 

Unsigned verse lyric as printed; credited to P. G. Wodehouse in the Index to Vol. 124 of Punch.

 


 

Notes:

 

‘The Final Problem’ of 1893 was intended to be Arthur Conan Doyle’s last Sherlock Holmes story; he felt the Holmes stories were distracting him from more serious literary efforts and that "killing" Holmes off was the only way of getting his career back on track. But after resisting public pressure for eight years, the author wrote ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’, which appeared as a serial beginning in Strand in September 1901. Curiously, it wasn’t until May 27, 1903 that Punch published ‘Back to His Native Strand, P.G.’s verse about the return of Sherlock Holmes to Strand after an absence of eight years. It would appear that this poem had to have been written in 1901; why it took a year and a half after the event to be published is puzzling; by then, the content was out of date, but perhaps Punch felt it merited publishing even at the late date.

 

John Dawson    

 

The meter and rhyme scheme of this poem seem quite odd until it is matched with the original song which it parodies, from the 1901 musical comedy The Toreador. Here is a PDF of the sheet music to the song “Archie” (the first two of four verses) from the piano-vocal score. Not only does this poem fit the music by Lionel Monckton, but even some of the words of the first stanza of the poem are reminiscent of the song, for instance “If there is a gallant officer, well he’s one” in the original lyric by George Grossmith Jr, the stage “dude” with whom Plum would later work on The Cabaret Girl and The Beauty Prize.

One might make a good case that this is one of Wodehouse’s first published song lyrics*, even though it wasn’t published between the staves of the intended music; the association of words and music is unmistakeable. To remedy this situation, I've prepared sheet music combining “Back to His Native Strand” with the music of “Archie” as well as a MIDI file of the music for you to hear it.

 

Neil Midkiff    

 

* See also “The New Atkins” and “In the Air” on this site for earlier Wodehouse lyrics written to existing music.