From a collection of poems presented to J.B.S. Haldane by colleagues on his 60th birthday:
The Dinosaurs, or so we’re told,
Were far too imbecile to hold
Their own against mammalian brains;
Today not one of them remains.
There is another school of thought,
Which says they suffered from a sort
Of constipation from the loss
Of adequate supplies of moss.
But science now can put before us
The reason true why Brontosaurus
Became extinct. In the Cretaceous
A beast incredibly sagacious
Lived and loved and ate its fill;
Long were its legs, and sharp its bill,
Cunning its hands, to steal the eggs
Of beasts as clumsy in the legs
As Proto- and Triceratops,
And run, like gangsters from the cops,
To some safe vantage-point from which
It could enjoy its plunder rich.
Cleverer far than any fox
Or Stanley in the witness box
It was a VERY GREAT SUCCESS.
No egg was safe from it unless
Retained within its mother’s womb,
And so the Reptiles met their doom.
The Dinosaurs were most put out
And bitterly complained about
The way their eggs, of giant size,
Were eaten up before their eyes,
Before they had a chance to hatch,
By a beast they couldn’t catch.
This awful carnage could not last;
The age of ARCHOSAURS was past.
They went as broody as a hen
When all her eggs are pinched by men.
Older they grew, and sadder yet,
But still no offspring could they get.
Until at last the fearful time, as
Yet unguessed by Struthiomimus
Arrived, when no more eggs were laid,
And then at last was he afraid.
He could not learn to climb with ease
To reach the birds’ nests in the trees,
And though he followed round and round
Some funny furry things he found,
They never laid an egg — not once.
It made him feel an awful dunce.
So, thin beyond all recognition,
He died at last of inanition.
This story has a simple moral
With which the wise will hardly quarrel;
Remember, Prof., it scarcely ever
Pays to be too bloody clever.
– J. Maynard Smith
John Dryden agreed to serve as judge in an impromptu poetry competition among a group of friends, including the Duke of Buckingham, the Earl of Rochester, and Lord Dorset.
All the contestants worked thoughtfully at their entries except for Lord Dorset, who wrote two or three lines and passed them to Dryden almost immediately.
When everyone had finished, Dryden reviewed their submissions, and he smiled when he reached Dorset’s. “I must acknowledge,” he said, “that there are abundance of fine things in my hands, and such as do honor to the personages who wrote them, but I am under the indispensable necessity of giving the highest preference to Lord Dorset. I must request you will hear it yourselves, gentlemen, and I believe each and every one of you will approve my judgment:
I promise to pay John Dryden,
or order on demand,
the sum of five hundred pounds.
“I must confess that I am equally charmed with the style and the subject,” Dryden said. “This kind of writing exceeds any other, whether ancient or modern.”
Closing lines of a letter to Samuel Pepys from his brother-in-law, 1686:
I am Sir Stopped with a Torent of Sorofull Lamentation, for Oh god I have lost, oh I have lost such a loss, that noe man is or cann be Sensible but my Selfe: I have lost my wife, Sir, I have lost my wife; and such a wife, as your Honour knows has (may be) not lefte her felow, I cannot say any more at present being overwhelmed …
From the King James Bible, 2 Samuel 18:33, on David’s grief at the loss of his son:
And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept: and as he went, thus he said: O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!
Poet Paul Monette wrote this elegy after his lover Roger Horwitz died of AIDS on Oct. 22, 1986:
for hours at the end I kissed your temple stroked
your hair and sniffed it it smelled so clean we’d
washed it Saturday night when the fever broke
as if there was always the perfect thing to do
to be alive for years I’d breathe your hair
when I came to bed late it was such pure you
why I nuzzle your brush every morning because
you’re in there just like the dog the night
we unpacked the hospital bag and he skipped
and whimpered when Dad put on the red
sweater Cover my bald spot will you
you’d say and tilt your head like a parrot
so I could fix you up always always
till this one night when I was reduced to
I love you little friend here I am my
sweetest pea over and over spending all our
endearments like stray coins at a border
but wouldn’t cry then no choked it because
they all said hearing was the last to go
the ear is like a wolf’s till the very end
straining to hear a whole forest and I
wanted you loping off whatever you could
still dream to the sound of me at 3 P.M.
you were stable still our favorite word
at 4 you took the turn WAIT WAIT I AM
THE SENTRY HERE nothing passes as long as
I’m where I am we go on death is
a lonely hole two can leap it or else
or else there is nothing this man is mine
he’s an ancient Greek like me I do
all the negotiating while he does battle
we are war and peace in a single bed
we wear the same size shirt it can’t it can’t
be yet not this just let me brush his hair
it’s only Tuesday there’s chicken in the fridge
from Sunday night he ate he slept oh why
don’t all these kisses rouse you I won’t won’t
say it all I will say is goodnight patting
a few last strands in place you’re covered now
my darling one last graze in the meadow
of you and please let your final dream be
a man not quite your size losing the whole
world but still here combing combing
singing your secret names till the night’s gone
Monette himself died of AIDS nine years later.
“Oh! what is that comes gliding in,
And quite in middling haste?
It is the picture of my Jones,
And painted to the waist.
“It is not painted to the life,
For where’s the trowsers blue?
Oh Jones, my dear!–Oh dear! my Jones,
What is become of you?”
“Oh! Sally dear, it is too true,–
The half that you remark
Is come to say my other half
Is bit off by a shark!
“Oh! Sally, sharks do things by halves,
Yet most completely do!
A bite in one place seems enough,
But I’ve been bit in two.
“You know I once was all your own,
But now a shark must share!
But let that pass–for now, to you
I’m neither here nor there.”
“Alas! death has a strange divorce
Effected in the sea,
It has divided me from you,
And even me from me!
“Don’t fear my ghost will walk o’ nights
To haunt, as people say;
My ghost can’t walk, for, oh! my legs
Are many leagues away!
“Lord! think when I am swimming round,
And looking where the boat is,
A shark just snaps away a half,
Without ‘a quarter’s notice.’
“One half is here, the other half
Is near Columbia placed;
Oh! Sally, I have got the whole
Atlantic for my waist.
“But now, adieu–a long adieu!
I’ve solved death’s awful riddle,
And would say more, but I am doomed
To break off in the middle!”
– Thomas Hood, “Sally Simpkin’s Lament,” 1834
The rich man has his motor-car,
His country and his town estate.
He smokes a fifty-cent cigar
And jeers at Fate.
He frivols through the livelong day,
He knows not Poverty her pinch.
His lot seems light, his heart seems gay,
He has a cinch.
Yet though my lamp burns low and dim,
Though I must slave for livelihood –
Think you that I would change with him?
You bet I would!
– Franklin Pierce Adams, Tobogganing on Parnassus, 1913
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
That’s “Ozymandias,” Shelley’s most popular sonnet. The world was actually offered two entries on this theme: Shelley was writing in competition with his friend Horace Smith, whose own poem appeared in The Examiner three weeks later. Here’s his try:
In Egypt’s sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:–
“I am great OZYMANDIAS,” saith the stone,
“The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
“The wonders of my hand.”– The City’s gone,–
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.
We wonder,–and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro’ the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.
Enchantingly, Smith titled this “On A Stupendous Leg of Granite, Discovered Standing by Itself in the Deserts of Egypt, with the Inscription Inserted Below.” You can decide which deserves immortality.
Having given his opinion
he returns home to
his wife’s opinion
– Yachō (1882-1960)
he starts to say,
then looks around
One umbrella –
the person more in love
– Keisanjin (dates unknown)
By saying not to worry
he says something
At the ticket window
our child becomes
one year younger
– Seiun (dates unknown)
Ted Pauker devised the limeraiku, which compresses the rhymes of a limerick into the form of a haiku. Like limericks, they’re usually off-color:
There’s a vile old man
Of Japan who roars at whores:
“Where’s your bloody fan?”
Another, by W.S. Brownlee:
Said Little Boy Blue:
“Same to you. You scorn my horn?
You know what to do.”
Convicted of murder in Illinois in 1934, Walter Dittman composed a poem to serve as his last words:
I see it grimly waiting patiently for me,
To send me as its victim into eternity.
Not a whit or bit of mercy does it show for man or beast.
Its only song is, “Die, you dog, for your slide to hell is greased.”
It’s not the thought that I’m to die that makes me want to pray.
It’s because I’ll not be there, my own, to wipe your tears away.
God knows, and so do you, that I never slew nor stole,
And though the whole world’s turned against me,
He’ll have mercy on my soul.
An innocent maiden of Gloucester
Fell in love with a coucester named Foucester;
She met him in Leicester,
Where he merely careicester,
Then the hard-headed coucester just loucester.
There was a young lady of Worcester
Who urcest to crow like a rorcester;
She urcest to climb
Two trees at a time,
But her sircester urcest to borcester.
“There’s a train at 4.04,” said Miss Jenny.
“Four tickets I’ll take. Have you any?”
Said the man at the door,
“Not four for 4.04,
For four for 4.04 are too many.”
A certain young fellow named Beebee
Wished to wed with a lady named Phoebe.
But said he, “I must see
What the clerical fee
Be before Phoebe be Phoebe Beebee.”
The wise optician smiled and said:
“The upper half to look ahead;
The lower half whereby to read;
And thus one pair is all you need.
Have patience; in a week or two
Bifocals will not trouble you.”
I muttered as I left the shop:
“For distance vision use the top;
The bottom lenses you will need
When you sit down to write or read.”
I raised my right foot high in air
To mount a step which wasn’t there.
The level street became a hill;
I looked at people standing still,
And, since I used the lower glass,
There seemed no room for me to pass.
I turned a corner of the street
And knocked a woman from her feet.
And all that day throughout the town
My eyes kept looking up and down,
“That fellow’s drunk,” I heard men say
As I went reeling down the way.
With those bifocals on my face
The town became a crazy place.
Bifocal troubles curious are:
The far seems near, the near seems far.
You step from heights that ne’er exist,
And jostle folks you should have missed;
Until man grows bifocal-wise
He finds he can’t believe his eyes.
– Edgar Guest
In 1904, the Court of Claims rendered a judgment in the case of Harvey Steel Company v. United States. Writing for four of the five judges, Chief Justice Nott composed the majority opinion, and Justice Wright wrote a dissent. Writing in The Green Bag, poet Lincoln B. Smith dedicated these lines to Wright:
That Wright is Wright and Nott is Nott
Logicians must concede.
That Nott is right and Wright is not
Four judges have decreed.
That Nott is right, and Wright is not,
We all must now agree;
Then Nott is right and Wright is Nott–
The same thing, to a t.
If Nott is Nott and Wright is Nott,
It comes without a wrench
That we have not, if not two Notts,
Five judges on the bench.
If only four, as shown before,
And three agree with Nott,
The judgment is unanimous,
And Wright’s dissent is naught.
The knot is not, is Nott not Nott?
But is Wright right, or Nott?
Is Nott not right? What right has Wright
To write that Nott is not?
He concluded, “Do I do right to write to Wright / This most unrighteous rot?”
In reversing an opinion in 1975, Georgia appeals court judge Randall Evans Jr. wrote his decision in verse:
The D.A. was ready
His case was red-hot.
Defendant was present,
His witness was not.
He prayed one day’s delay
From his honor the judge.
But his plea was not granted
The Court would not budge.
So the jury was empaneled
All twelve good and true
But without his main witness
What could the twelve do?
The jury went out
To consider his case
And then they returned
The defendant to face.
“What verdict, Mr. Foreman?”
The learned judge inquired.
“Guilty, your honor.”
On Brown’s face — no smile.
“Stand up,” said the judge,
Then quickly announced,
“Seven years at hard labor”
Thus his sentence pronounced.
“This trial was not fair,”
The defendant then sobbed.
“With my main witness absent
I’ve simply been robbed.”
“I want a new trial –
State has not fairly won.”
“New trial denied,”
Said Judge Dunbar Harrison.
“If you still say I’m wrong,”
The able judge did then say
“Why not appeal to Atlanta?
Let those Appeals Judges earn part of their pay.”
“I will appeal, sir” –
Which he proceeded to do –
“They can’t treat me worse
Than I’ve been treated by you.”
So the case has reached us –
And now we must decide
Was the guilty verdict legal –
Or should we set it aside?
Justice and fairness
Must prevail at all times;
This is ably discussed
In a case without rhyme.
The law of this State
Does guard every right
Of those charged with crime,
Fairness always in sight.
To continue civil cases
The judge holds all aces.
But it’s a different ball game
In criminal cases.
Was one day’s delay
Too much to expect?
Could the State refuse it
With all due respect?
Did Justice applaud
Or shed bitter tears
When this news from Savannah
First fell on her ears?
We’ve considered this case
Through the night — through the day.
As Judge Harrison said,
“We must earn our poor pay.”
This case was once tried –
But should now be rehearsed
And tried one more time.
This case is reversed!
Evans explained in a footnote: “This opinion is placed in rhyme because approximately one year ago, in Savannah at a very convivial celebration, the distinguished Judge Dunbar Harrison, Senior Judge of Chatham Superior Courts, arose and addressed those assembled, and demanded that if Judge Randall Evans Jr. ever again was so presumptuous as to reverse one of his decisions, that the opinion be written in poetry. I readily admit I am unable to comply, because I am not a poet, and the language used, at best, is mere doggerel. I have done my best, but my limited ability just did not permit the writing of a great poem. It was no easy task to write the opinion in rhyme.”
Behold the Mansion reared by daedal Jack.
See the malt stored in many a plethoric sack,
In the proud cirque of Ivan’s bivouac.
Mark how the Rat’s felonious fangs invade
The golden stores in John’s pavilion laid.
Anon with velvet foot and Tarquin strides,
Subtle Grimalkin to his quarry glides,
Grimalkin grim, that slew the fierce rodent
Whose tooth, insidious, Johann’s sackcloth rent!
Lo! now the deep-mouthed canine foe’s assault,
That vexed the avenger of the stolen malt,
Stored in the hallowed precincts of that hall
That rose complete at Jack’s creative call.
Here stalks the impetuous Cow with crumpled horn,
Whereon the exacerbating hound was torn,
Who bayed the feline slaughter-beast that slew
The Rat predaceous whose keen fangs ran through
The textile fibers that involved the grain,
Which lay in Han’s inviolate domain.
Here walks forlorn the Damsel crowned with rue,
Lactiferous spoils from vaccine dugs who drew,
Of that corniculate beast whose tortuous horn
Tossed to the clouds, in fierce vindictive scorn,
The harrowing hound whose braggart bark and stir
Arched the lithe spine and reared the indignant fur
Of Puss that with verminicidal claw
Struck the weird rat, in whose insatiate maw
Lay reeking malt that erst in Juan’s courts we saw.
Robed in senescent garb, that seems in sooth
Too long a prey to Chronos’ iron tooth,
Behold the man whose amorous lips incline,
Full with young Eros’ osculative sign,
To the lorn maiden whose lact-albic hands
Drew albulactic wealth from lacteal glands
Of that immortal bovine, by whose horn
Distort, to realm ethereal was borne
The beast Catulean, vexer of that sly
Ulysses quadrupedal, who made die
The old mordaceous Rat that dared devour
Antecedaneous Ale in John’s domestic bower.
Lo here! with hirsute honors doffed, succinct
Of saponaceous locks: the Priest who linked
In Hymen’s golden bands the torn unthrift,
Whose means exiguous stared from many a rift,
Even as he kissed the virgin all forlorn,
Who milked the Cow with implicated horn,
Who in fine wrath the canine torturer skied,
That dared to vex the insidious muricide,
Who let auroral effluence thro’ the pelt
Of the sly Rat that robbed the place Jack built.
The loud cantankerous Shanghae comes at last,
Whose shouts arouse the shorn ecclesiast,
Who sealed the vows of Hymen’s sacrament
To him who, robed in garments indigent,
Inosculates the damsel lachrymose,
The emulgator of that horned brute morose,
That tossed the dog that worried the cat, that kilt
The rat that ate the malt that lay in the house that Jack built.
– “Canadian paper,” quoted in Notes and Queries, Dec. 20, 1862
Mr. H.G. Wells
Was composed of cells.
He thought the human race
Was a perfect disgrace.
So wrote Edmund Clerihew Bentley in demonstrating the whimsical biographical verse that he invented. “I never heard who started the practice of referring to this literary form — if that is the word — as a Clerihew,” he wrote, “but it began early, and the name stuck.”
That’s as it should be: In a 1981 collection, Gavin Ewart wrote, “Nobody much except Bentley has ever written really good clerihews.” Samples:
“The moustache of Adolf Hitler
Could hardly be littler,”
Was the thought that kept recurring
To Field-Marshal Goering.
It is curious that Handel
Should always have used a candle.
Men of his stamp
Generally use a lamp.
Was extremely fond of jelly,
He stuck religiously to mince
While he was writing The Prince.
The meaning of the poet Gay
Was always as clear as day,
While that of the poet Blake
Was often practically opaque.
A man in the position
Of the emperor Domitian
Ought to have thought twice
About being a Monster of Vice.
Edgar Allan Poe
Was passionately fond of roe.
He always like to chew some
When writing anything gruesome.
The great Duke of Wellington
Reduced himself to a skellington.
He reached seven stone two,
And then — Waterloo!
John Knox was a man of wondrous might,
And his words ran high and shrill,
For bold and stout was his spirit bright,
And strong was his stalwart will.
Kings sought in vain his mind to chain,
And that giant brain to control,
But naught on plain or stormy main
Could daunt that mighty soul.
John would sit and sigh till morning cold
Its shining lamps put out,
For thoughts untold on his mind lay hold,
And brought but pain and doubt.
But light at last on his soul was cast,
Away sank pain and sorrow,
His soul is gay, in a fair to-day,
And looks for a bright to-morrow.
– “Unidentified,” in Current Opinion, July 1888
She oped the portal of the palace,
She stole into the garden’s gloom;
From every spotless snowy chalice
The lilies breathed a sweet perfume.
She stole into the garden’s gloom,
She thought that no one would discover;
The lilies breathed a sweet perfume,
She swiftly ran to meet her lover.
She thought that no one would discover,
But footsteps followed, ever near:
She swiftly ran to meet her lover
Beside the fountain crystal clear.
But footsteps followed ever near;
Ah, who is that she sees before her
Beside the fountain crystal clear?
‘T is not her hazel-eyed adorer.
Ah, who is that she sees before her,
His hand upon his scimitar?
‘T is not her hazel-eyed adorer,
It is her lord of Candahar!
His hand upon his scimitar–
Alas, what brought such dread disaster!
It is her lord of Candahar,
The fierce Sultan, her lord and master.
Alas, what brought such dread disaster!
“Your pretty lover’s dead!” he cries–
The fierce Sultan, her lord and master–
“‘Neath yonder tree his body lies.”
“Your pretty lover’s dead!” he cries–
(A sudden, ringing voice behind him);
“‘Neath yonder tree his body lies–”
“Die, lying dog! go thou and find him!”
A sudden, ringing voice behind him,
A deadly blow, a moan of hate,
“Die, lying dog! go thou and find him!
Come, love, our steeds are at the gate!”
A deadly blow, a moan of hate,
His blood ran red as wine in chalice;
“Come, love, our steeds are at the gate!”
She oped the portal of the palace.
– Clinton Scollard, Pictures in Song, 1884
A carpenter named Charlie Bratticks,
Who had a taste for mathematics,
One summer Tuesday, just for fun,
Made a wooden cube side minus one.
Though this to you may well seem wrong,
He made it minus one foot long,
Which meant (I hope your brains aren’t frothing)
Its length was one foot less than nothing,
Its width the same (you’re not asleep?)
And likewise minus one foot deep;
Giving, when multiplied (be solemn!),
Minus one cubic foot of volume.
With sweating brow this cube he sawed
Through areas of solid board;
For though each cut had minus length,
Minus times minus sapped his strength.
A second cube he made, but thus:
This time each one-foot length was plus:
Meaning of course that here one put
For volume, plus one cubic foot.
So now he had, just for his sins,
Two cubes as like as deviant twins:
And feeling one should know the worst,
He placed the second in the first.
One plus, one minus — there’s no doubt
The edges simply canceled out;
So did the volume, nothing gained;
Only the surfaces remained.
Well may you open wide your eyes,
For those were now of double size,
On something which, thanks to his skill,
Took up no room and measured nil.
From solid ebony he’d cut
These bulky cubic objects, but
All that remained was now a thin
Black sharply-angled sort of skin
Of twelve square feet — which though not small,
Weighed nothing, filled no space at all.
It stands there yet on Charlie’s floor;
He can’t think what to use it for!
– J.A. Lindon
Florida bankruptcy judge A. Jay Cristol had moved to dismiss a case in 1986 when he reconsidered, inspired by “a little old ebony bird.” He filed this explanation:
Once upon a midnight dreary,
While I pondered weak and weary
Over many quaint and curious files of chapter seven lore
While I nodded nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door,
“‘Tis some debtor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door–
Only this and nothing more.”
Ah distinctly I recall, it was in the early fall
And the file still was small
The Code provided I could use it
If someone tried to substantially abuse it
No party asked that it be heard.
“Sua sponte” whispered a small black bird.
The bird himself, my only maven,
Strongly looked to be a raven.
Upon the words the bird had uttered
I gazed at all the files cluttered
“Sua sponte,” I recall, had no meaning; none at all.
And the cluttered files sprawl, drove a thought into my brain.
Eagerly I wished the morrow–vainly I had sought to borrow
From BAFJA, surcease of sorrow–and an order quick and plain
That this case would not remain as a source of further pain.
The procedure, it seemed plain.
As the case grew older, I perceived I must be bolder.
And must sua sponte act, to determine every fact,
If primarily consumer debts, are faced,
Perhaps this case is wrongly placed.
This is a thought that I must face, perhaps I should dismiss this case.
I moved sua sponte to dismiss it for I knew I would not miss it.
The Code said I could, I knew it.
But not exactly how to do it, or perhaps some day I’d rue it.
I leaped up and struck my gavel.
For the mystery to unravel
Could I? Should I? Sua sponte, grant my motion to dismiss?
While it seemed the thing to do, suddenly I thought of this.
Looking, looking towards the future and to what there was to see
If my motion, it was granted and an appeal came to be,
Who would be the appellee? Surely, it would not be me.
Who would file, but pray tell me, a learned brief for the appellee
The District Judge would not do so
At least this much I do know.
Tell me raven, how to go.
As I with the ruling wrestled
In the statute I saw nestled
A presumption with a flavor clearly in the debtor’s favor.
No evidence had I taken
Sua sponte appeared foresaken.
Now my motion caused me terror
A dismissal would be error.
Upon consideration of § 707(b), in anguish, loud I cried
The court’s sua sponte motion to dismiss under § 707(b) is denied.
(In re Love, 61 B.R. 558 (Bankr. 1986))
When I am dead you’ll find it hard,
To ever find another man
What makes you think, as I suppose
I’d ever want another man
– Eugene Fitch Ware, Some of the Rhymes of Ironquill, 1900
What hours I spent of precious time,
What pints of ink I used to waste,
Attempting to secure a rhyme
To suit the public taste,
Until I found a simple plan
Which makes the lamest lyric scan!
When I’ve a syllable de trop,
I cut it off without apol.
This verbal sacrifice, I know,
May irritate the schol.
But all must praise my dev’lish cunn.
Who realize that time is mon.
My sense remains as clear as cryst.,
My style as pure as any duch.
Who does not boast a bar sinist.
Upon her fam. escutch.,
And I can treat with scornful pit.
The sneers of ev’ry captious crit.
I gladly publish to the pop.
A scheme of which I make no myst.,
And beg my fellow scribes to cop.
This labor-saving syst.
I offer it to the consid.
Of ev’ry thoughtful individ.
The author, working like a beav.,
His readers’ pleasure could redoub.,
Did he but now and then abbrev.
The works he gives his pub.,
Did Upton Sinc. or Edith Whart.
Curtail their output by a quart.
If Mr. Caine rewrote “The Scape.”,
And Miss Corell. condensed “Barabb.”,
What could they save in foolscap pape.
Did they but cultivate the hab.
Which teaches people to suppress
All syllables that are unnec.!
If playwrights would but thus dimin.
The length of time each drama takes
(“The Second Mrs. Tanq.” by Pin.
Or even “Ham.” by Shakes.),
We could maintain a wakeful att.
When at a mat. on Wed. or Sat.
Foll. my examp., O Maurice Hewl.
When next you cater for the mill.;
You, too, immortal Mr. Dool.
And Ella Wheeler Wil.;
And share with me the grave respons.
Of writing this amazing nons.!
– Harry Graham, in Life, December 1909
“Don’t waste your time on the branches small,”
Said the farmer to his son,
“But lay your axe at the root of the tree,
So your work is sooner done.”
Then, like a good and obedient boy,
Not a word back did he say,
But he laid his axe at the root of the tree,
And went off and fished all day.
– Newton Mackintosh, Precious Nonsense!, 1895
I love thee, Mary, and thou lovest me–
Our mutual flame is like th’ affinity
That doth exist between two simple bodies:
I am Potassium to thine Oxygen.
‘Tis little that the holy marriage vow
Shall shortly make us one. That unity
Is, after all, but metaphysical.
Oh, would that I, my Mary, were an acid,
A living acid; thou an alkali
Endow’d with human sense, that, brought together,
We both might coalesce into one salt,
One homogeneous crystal. Oh, that thou
Wert Carbon, and myself were Hydrogen;
We would unite to form olefiant gas,
Or common coal, or naphtha–would to heaven
That I were Phosphorus, and thou wert Lime!
And we of Lime composed a Phosphuret.
I’d be content to be Sulphuric Acid,
So that thou might be Soda. In that case
We should be Glauber’s Salt. Wert thou Magnesia
Instead we’d form the salt that’s named from Epsom.
Couldst thou Potassa be, I Aqua-fortis,
Our happy union should that compound form,
Nitrate of Potash–otherwise Saltpetre.
And thus our several natures sweetly blent,
We’d live and love together, until death
Should decompose the fleshly tertium quid,
Leaving our souls to all eternity
Amalgamated. Sweet, thy name is Briggs
And mine is Johnson. Wherefore should not we
Agree to form a Johnsonate of Briggs?
– “A Rochester druggist,” quoted in The Medical Age, Oct. 11, 1886
JANet was quite ill one day.
FEBrile troubles came her way.
MARtyr-like she lay in bed;
APRoned nurses softly sped.
“MAYbe,” said the leech judicial,
“JUNket would be beneficial.”
JULeps, too, though freely tried,
AUGured ill, for Janet died.
SEPulcher was sadly made;
OCTaves pealed and prayers were said.
NOVices with many a tear
DECorated Janet’s bier.
– Carolyn Wells, Folly for the Wise, 1904
To find a rhyme for silver
Or any “rhymeless” rhyme
Requires only will, ver-
Bosity and time.
– Stephen Sondheim