Greetings, my fellow port swillers and Happy Birthday to Young Frederick!

When Ol’ Robbo actually does remember Leap Day, he almost invariably thinks back to Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance, and specifically to the Pirate King’s Chant explaining the paradox of Frederick’s birthday:

For some ridiculous reason, to which, however, I’ve no desire to be disloyal,
Some person in authority, I don’t know who, very likely the Astronomer Royal,
Has decided that, although for such a beastly month as February,
twenty-eight days as a rule are plenty,
One year in every four his days shall be reckoned as nine and twenty.
Through some singular coincidence – I shouldn’t be surprised if it were owing to the agency of an ill-natured fairy –
You are the victim of this clumsy arrangement, having been born in leap-year, on the twenty-ninth of February;
And so, by a simple arithmetical process, you’ll easily discover,
That though you’ve lived twenty-one years, yet, if we go by birthdays,
you’re only five,
and a little bit over!

That right there is some very clever writing and makes me smile whenever it wanders across my braims, especially in the somber, ecclesiastic intonations of the King in the old Doyle-Carte Company production which is Ol’ Robbo’s gold standard.

It is, of course, very shortly after they’ve had a laugh over this that the Pirate King points out to Frederick he had been apprenticed to the pirate band until he reached not his twenty-first year but in fact his twenty-first birthday and that rather than being released from his bond that day as they’d all at first thought, he actually had rather a lot of time left to go.

Later, Frederick tells his grief-stricken Mabel that he won’t reach his twenty-first birthday until the year 1940.  If my math is right, that would make today his forty-first.  Salute!


And while I’m on the subject of G&S in general and Pirates in particular, just about every production I’ve ever seen of it couldn’t resist the urge to camp things up.  Further, since the advent of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, every Pirate King seems to mimic Johnny Depp.  When Ol’ Robbo becomes Emperor of the World, these practices will cease.  For wit and humor, res ipsa loquitur and there is no need for either rubber chickens, slurred delivery, or drunken choreography.