Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Abdul Abulbul Amir

Considering geopolitical tensions and and a resurgent Russia flexing its muscles by the Black Sea, it strikes me that Percy French's 1877 lyric serves as a reminder from popular culture that there is little new under the sun.

The sons of the Prophet were brave men and bold
And quite unaccustomed to fear.
But the bravest by far in the ranks of the Shah
Was Abdul Abulbul Amir.

Now the heroes were plenty and well known to fame
In the troops that were led by the Tsar.
And the bravest of these was a man by the name
Of Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

One day this bold Russian had shouldered his gun,
And donned his most truculent sneer.
Downtown he did go, where he trod on the toe
Of Abdul Abulbul Amir.

"Young man," Quoth Abdul,"Has life grown so dull,
That you wish to end your career?
Vile Infidel, know, you have trod on the toe
Of Abdul Abulbul Amir."

Said Ivan, "My friend, your remarks, in the end,
Will avail you but little, I fear."
"For you ne'er will survive to repeat them alive.
Mr. Abdul Abulbul Amir."

"So take your last look at sunshine and brook.
And send your regrets to the Tsar.
By this I imply, you are going to die
Count Ivan Skavinsky Skavar."

Then that bold Mameluke drew his trusty skibouk.
With a cry of, "Allah-Akbar!"
And with murderous intent, he ferociously went
For Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

They fought all that night, 'neath the pale yellow moon.
The din, it was heard from afar.
And huge multitudes came, so great was the fame,
Of Abdul and Ivan Skavar.

As Abdul's long knife was extracting the life —
in fact he was shouting "Huzzah!"
He felt himself struck by that wily Kalmyk,
Count Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

The Sultan drove by in his red-breasted fly,
Expecting the victor to cheer.
But he only drew nigh to hear the last sigh,
Of Abdul Abulbul Amir.

Tsar Petrovich, too, in his spectacles blue,
Rode up in his new crested car.
He arrived just in time to exchange a last line,
With Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

There's a tomb rises up, where the blue Danube flows,
Engraved there in characters clear:
"Ah, stranger when passing, oh pray for the soul
Of Abdul Abulbul Amir.

A Muscovite maiden her lone vigil keeps
'Neath the light of the pale polar star
And the name that she murmurs so oft as she weeps,
Is Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

Anthony O'Donnell was Abdul in the 1980's Worthington ad version; small world.

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