“Literal Obedience”

“Oh, slip on something and come down quick!”
His wife exclaimed with a frightened air.
He did: and he feels he has been played a trick–
For he slipped on a rug at the top of the stair.

— Bert Leston Taylor, collected in A Book of American Humorous Verse, 1917

Unsuitable Footwear

There was a young lady of Twickenham
Whose shoes were too tight to walk quick in ’em;
She came back from her walk
Looking white as a chalk
And took ’em both off and was sick in ’em.

— Oliver Herford, collected in Carolyn Wells, The Book of Humorous Verse, 1920



One bitterly cold day [Henry J.] Byron was walking along the Strand when Lionel Brough, the comedian, met him, and said, ‘Why, Byron, you never wear an overcoat.’ ‘No,’ answered the farceur, ‘no, Brough, I never was.’

— John De Morgan, In Lighter Vein, 1907

To a Thesaurus

O precious codex, volume, tome,
Book, writing, compilation, work,
Attend the while I pen a pome,
A jest, a jape, a quip, a quirk.

For I would pen, engross, indite,
Transcribe, set forth, compose, address,
Record, submit–yea, even write
An ode, an elegy to bless–

To bless, set store by, celebrate,
Approve, esteem, endow with soul,
Commend, acclaim, appreciate,
Immortalize, laud, praise, extol

Thy merit, goodness, value, worth,
Experience, utility–
O manna, honey, salt of earth,
I sing, I chant, I worship thee!

How could I manage, live, exist,
Obtain, produce, be real, prevail,
Be present in the flesh, subsist,
Have place, become, breathe or inhale

Without thy help, recruit, support,
Opitulation, furtherance,
Assistance, rescue, aid, resort,
Favour, sustention, and advance?

Alack! Alack! and well-a-day!
My case would then be dour and sad,
Likewise distressing, dismal, gray,
Pathetic, mournful, dreary, bad.

Though I could keep this up all day,
This lyric, elegiac, song,
Meseems hath come the time to say
Farewell! Adieu! Good-by! So long!

— Franklin P. Adams, collected in Carolyn Wells, The Book of Humorous Verse, 1920

This Sceptred Isle

There was a young fellow named Cholmondeley,
Who always at dinner sat dolmondeley.
His fair partner said,
As he crumbled his bread,
“Dear me! You behave very rolmondeley!”

Said a man to his spouse in east Sydenham:
“My best trousers! Now where have you hydenham?
It is perfectly true
They were not very new,
But I foolishly left half a quydenham.”

A young Englishwoman named St John
Met a red-skinned American It John
Who made her his bride
And gave her, beside,
A dress with a gaudy bead Frt John.

There was a young vicar from Salisbury
Whose manners were quite halisbury-scalisbury.
He went around Hampshire
Without any pampshire
Till his bishop compelled him to walisbury.

(Thanks, Gavin.)

A Comeuppance


One day — said Mr. Lincoln — when I first came here, I got into a fit of musing in my room and stood resting my elbows on the bureau. Looking into the glass it struck me what an awfully ugly man I was. The fact grew on me and I made up my mind that I must be the ugliest man in the world. It so maddened me that I resolved, should I ever see an uglier, I would shoot him on sight. Not long after this, Andy — naming a lawyer present — came to town and the first time I saw him I said to myself, ‘There’s the man.’ I went home, took down my gun and prowled around the streets waiting for him. He soon came along. ‘Halt, Andy,’ said I, pointing the gun at him; ‘say your prayers, for I am going to shoot you.’ ‘Why, Mr. Lincoln, what’s the matter? What have I done?’ ‘Well, I made an oath that if I ever saw an uglier man than I am I’d shoot him on the spot. You are uglier; sure; so make ready to die.’ ‘Mr. Lincoln, do you really think that I am uglier than you?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Well, Mr. Lincoln,’ said Andy deliberately and looking me squarely in the face, ‘if I am any uglier, fire away.’

Harper’s Magazine, October 1877, quoted in Charles Anthony Shriner, Wit, Wisdom and Foibles of the Great, 1918

Married Life

A Frenchman, who spoke very broken English, having some Words with his Wife, endeavour’d to call her Bitch, but could not recollect the Name. At last he thought he had done it, by saying, Begar, mine Dear, but you be one vile Dog’s Wife. Aye, that’s true enough, answer’d the Woman, the more is my Misfortune.

The Jester’s Magazine, February 1766

Loud brayed an ass. Quoth Kate, ‘My dear,
(To spouse, with scornful carriage,)
One of your relatives I hear.’
‘Yes, love,’ said he, ‘by marriage.’

— I.J. Reeve, The Wild Garland; or, Curiosities of Poetry, 1866

Lay of the Deserted Influenzaed

Doe, doe!
I shall dever see her bore!
Dever bore our feet shall rove
The beadows as of yore!
Dever bore with byrtle boughs
Her tresses shall I twide–
Dever bore her bellow voice
Bake bellody with bide!
Dever shall we lidger bore,
Abid the flow’rs at dood,
Dever shall we gaze at dight
Upon the tedtder bood!
Ho, doe, doe!
Those berry tibes have flowd,
Ad I shall dever see her bore,
By beautiful! by owd!
Ho, doe, doe!
I shall dever see her bore,
She will forget be id a bonth,
(Bost probably before)–
She will forget the byrtle boughs,
The flow’rs we plucked at dood,
Our beetigs by the tedtder stars.
Our gazigs at the bood.
Ad I shall dever see agaid
The Lily and the Rose;
The dabask cheek! the sdowy brow!
The perfect bouth ad dose!
Ho, doe, doe!
Those berry tibes have flowd –
Ad I shall dever see her bore,
By beautiful! by owd!!

— Henry Cholmondeley-Pennell, Puck on Pegasus, 1868