A poem written by Amelia Earhart in 1928:
Courage is the price that
Life exacts for granting peace.
The soul that knows it not, knows no release
From little things:
Knows not the livid loneliness of fear,
Nor mountain heights where bitter joy can hear
The sound of wings.
How can life grant us boon of living, compensate
For dull grey ugliness and pregnant hate
Unless we dare
The soul’s dominion? Each time we make a choice, we pay
With courage to behold the resistless day,
And count it fair.
“Please know I am quite aware of the hazards,” she wrote in a final letter left to her husband. “I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.”
From the postscript to a 1737 letter by Jonathan Swift — “Here is a rhyme; it is a satire on an inconstant lover.”
You are as faithless as a Carthaginian,
To love at once Kate, Nell, Doll, Martha, Jenny, Anne.
Of course, she’s only a digestive tube, like all of us.
Yes, but look what it’s attached to!
— Gavin Ewart
“I saw you take his kiss!” “‘Tis true.”
“O modesty!” “‘Twas strictly kept:
He thought me asleep — at least, I knew
He thought I thought he thought I slept.”
— Coventry Patmore
During World War II the British Special Operations Executive used poetry to communicate with its agents in enemy territory. The sender and receiver would agree in advance on a poem, and by numbering its letters they produced a simple cipher that could be used to transmit messages. Because both sides could memorize the poem, there was no codebook to lose, but the Nazis could break the code fairly easily, particularly if the poem was well known.
Realizing this, SOE codes officer Leo Marks began to introduce original poems of his own creation. He gave this one to French agent Violette Szabo in March 1944:
The life that I have is all that I have,
And the life that I have is yours.
The love that I have of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours.
A sleep I shall have, a rest I shall have,
Yet death will be but a pause.
For the peace of my years in the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours.
Marks had written it three months earlier in memory of his girlfriend Ruth, who had died in a plane crash in Canada. The poem became famous when it was read in the 1958 film Carve Her Name With Pride, about Szabo’s exploits in the war. Unfortunately, Szabo herself was captured, tortured, and killed before she could transmit any messages.
In 1985, as the U.S. Senate was considering whether to declare the rose America’s national flower, Sen. Howell Heflin (D-Ala.) read out a seven-verse poem in support of the measure:
Marigolds and dogwood,
Camellias and more,
All flowers are beautiful
And made to adore.
But today there are deficits,
And farm bills and trade,
Aren’t these the subjects
On which decisions should be made?
Still, if on a nation’s flower
A few moments we spend,
We might be refreshed and
Come down to Earth again.
Besides, to select a flower
As America’s might not be bad,
Because I sure don’t want
To make the garden clubs mad.
But all flowers are delicate.
Each can refresh and amuse,
And that is the reason
I feel no flower should lose.
Still the rose is universal,
Its support has a strong voice,
So there should be no question
That the rose is the choice.
So let us raise our voice and
Proclaim with all our power
That the rose is more than beautiful —
It is “America’s Flower.”
Sen. Bennett Johnston (D-La.), who sponsored the joint resolution, replied in kind:
Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Heflin should be
A co-sponsor of this bill too.
Ronald Reagan signed the measure into law the following year.
“To the memory of Miss Emily Kay, cousin to Miss Ellen Gee, of Kew, who died lately at Ewell, and was buried in Essex.”
Sad nymphs of U L, U have much to cry for,
Sweet M L E K U never more shall C!
O S X maids! come hither and D 0,
With tearful I, this M T L E G.
Without X S she did X L alway,
Ah me! it truly vexes 1 2 C
How soon so D R a creature may D K,
And only leave behind X U V E!
Whate’er 1 0 to do she did discharge,
So that an N M E it might N D R:
Then why an S A write? — then why N
Or with my briny tears B D U her B R?
When her Piano-40 she did press,
Such heavenly sounds did M N 8, that she
Knowing her Q, soon 1 U 2 confess
Her X L N C in an X T C.
Her hair was soft as silk, not Y R E,
It gave no Q, nor yet 2 P to view:
She was not handsome; shall I tell U Y?
U R 2 know her I was all S Q.
L 8 she was, and prattling like a J;
How little, M L E! did you 4 C,
The grave should soon M U R U, cold as clay,
And you shall cease to be an N T T!
While taking T at Q with L N G,
The M T grate she rose to put a :
Her clothes caught fire — no 1 again shall see
Poor M L E, who now is dead as Solon.
O L N G! in vain you set at 0
G R and reproach for suffering her 2 B
Thus sacrificed; to J L U should be brought,
Or burnt U 0 2 B in F E G.
Sweet M L E K into S X they bore,
Taking good care the monument 2 Y 10,
And as her tomb was much 2 low B 4,
They lately brought fresh bricks the walls to 10.
— Horace Smith, in A Budget of Humorous Poetry, 1866
(This is a bit more recondite than the Ellen Gee poem. “D 0” is decipher, “1 0 to” is one ought to, N is enlarge, 10 is heighten, and “X U V E,” I am pleased to understand, is exuviae, “an animal’s cast or sloughed skin.” Let’s hope it stopped here.)
Lewis Carroll sent this poem to Mabel and Emily Kerr on May 20, 1871. He titled it “A Double Acrostic” — but where is the acrostic?
Thanks, thanks, fair Cousins, for your gift
So swiftly borne to Albion’s isle —
Though angry waves their crests uplift
Between our shores, for many a league!
(“So far, so good,” you say: “but how
Your Cousins?” Let me tell you, Madam.
We’re both descended, you’ll allow,
From one great-great-great-grandsire, Noah.)
Your picture shall adorn the book
That’s bound, so neatly and moroccoly,
With that bright green which every cook
Delights to see in beds of cauliflower.
The carte is very good, but pray
Send me the larger one as well!
“A cool request!” I hear you say.
“Give him an inch, he takes an acre!
“But we’ll be generous because
We well remember, in the story,
How good and gentle Alice was,
The day she argued with the Parrot!”
The last word in each stanza is a red herring. Replace each with the proper rhyme and then list these five words:
Their first and last letters spell MABEL and EMILY.
An aviators’ drinking song from World War I, from James Gilbert’s 1978 anthology Skywriting:
A young aviator lay dying
At the end of a bright summer’s day.
His comrades had gathered around him
To carry his fragments away.
The aeroplane was piled on his wishbone,
His Lewis was wrapped round his head,
He wore a spark plug in each elbow,
‘Twas plain he would shortly be dead.
He spat out a valve and a gasket
As he stirred in the sump where he lay,
And then to his wondering comrades
These brave parting words did he say:
“Take the manifold out of my larynx
And the butterfly valve off my neck.
Remove from my kidneys the camrods;
There’s a lot of good parts in this wreck.
“Take the piston rings out of my stomach,
And the cylinders out of my brain.
Extract from my liver the crankshaft,
And assemble the engine again.
“Pull the longeron out of my backbone,
The turnbuckle out of my ear,
From the small of my back take the rudder —
There’s all of your aeroplane here.”
A reader passed this along — in a lecture at the University of Maryland (starting around 34:18), Douglas Hofstadter presents Napoleon’s theorem by means of a sonnet:
Equilateral triangles three we’ll erect
Facing out on the sides of our friend ABC.
We’ll link up their centers, and when we inspect
These segments, we find tripartite symmetry.
Equilateral triangles three we’ll next draw
Facing in on the sides of our friend BCA.
Their centers we’ll link up, and what we just saw
Will enchant us again, in its own smaller way.
Napoleon triangles two we’ve now found.
Their centers seem close, and indeed that’s the case:
They occupy one and the same centroid place!
Our triangle pair forms a figure and ground,
Defining a six-edgéd torus, we see,
Whose area’s the same as our friend, CAB!