“Forgotten Words Are Mighty Hard to Rhyme”

Quoth I to me, “A chant royal I’ll dite,
With much ado of words long laid away,
And make windsuckers of the bards who cite
The sloomy phrases of the present day.
My song, though it encompass but a page,
Will man illume from April bud till snow —
A song all merry-sorry, con and pro.”
(I would have pulled it off, too, given time,
Except for one small catch that didn’t show:
Forgotten words are mighty hard to rhyme.)

Ah, hadavist, in younghede, when from night
There dawned abluscent some fair morn in May
(The word for dawning, ‘sparrowfart,’ won’t quite
Work in here) — hadavist, I say,
That I would ever by stoopgallant age
Be shabbed, adushed, pitchkettled, suggiled so,
I’d not have been so redmod! Could I know? —
One scantling piece of outwit’s all that I’m
Still sure of, after all this catch-and-throw:
Forgotten words are mighty hard to rhyme.

In younghede ne’er a thrip gave I for blight
Of cark or ribble; I was ycore, gay;
I matched boonfellows hum for hum, each wight
By eelpots aimcried, till we’d swerve and sway,
Turngiddy. Blashy ale could not assuage
My thirst, nor kill-priest, even. No Lothario
Could overpass me on Poplolly Row.
A fairhead who eyebit me in my prime
Soon shared my donge. (The meaning’s clear, although
Forgotten words are mighty hard to rhyme.)

Fair draggle-tails once spurred my appetite;
Then walking morts and drossels shared my play.
Bedswerver, smellsmock, housebreak was I hight —
Poop-noddy at poop-noddy. Now I pray
That other fonkins reach safe anchorage —
Find bellibone, straight-fingered, to bestow
True love, till truehead in their own hearts grow.
Still, umbecasting friends who scrowward climb,
I’m swerked by mubblefubbles. Wit grows slow;
Forgotten words are mighty hard to rhyme.

Dim on the wong at cockshut falls the light;
Birds’ sleepy croodles cease. Not long to stay …
Once nesh as open-tide, I now affright;
I’m lennow, spittle-ready — samdead clay,
One clutched bell-penny left of all my wage.
Acclumsied now, I dare no more the scrow,
But look downsteepy to the Pit below.
Ah, hadavist! … Yet silly is the chime;
Such squiddle is no longer apropos.
Forgotten words are mighty hard to rhyme.

— Willard R. Espy

“Epitaph on Fop, A Dog Belonging to Lady Throckmorton”

Though once a puppy, and though Fop by name,
Here moulders one, whose bones some honour claim;
No sycophant, although of spaniel race,
And though no hound, a martyr to the chase.
Ye squirrels, rabbits, leverets, rejoice!
Your haunts no longer echo to his voice;
This record of his fate exulting view,
He died, worn out with vain pursuit of you.

“Yes” — the indignant shade of Fop replies —
“And worn with vain pursuit man also dies.”

— William Cowper, 1792

Small Talk

“A Brief and Somewhat Ungracious Exchange Between the British Ambassador’s Wife, Who Speaks No Spanish, and the Spanish Ambassador’s Wife, Who Speaks No English, During a Courtesy Call by the Latter Upon the Former: Written on the Assumption That My Readers Know the Sound of the Spanish Word for ‘Yes'”

“T?”

“C.”

— Willard R. Espy

Monometer

Thus I
Passe by,
And die:
As One,
Unknown,
And gon:
I’m made
A shade,
And laid
I’th grave,
There have
My Cave.
Where tell
I dwell,
Farewell.

— Robert Herrick, “Upon His Departure Hence,” 1648

“Appendicitis”

The symptoms of a typical attack
A clearly ordered sequence seldom lack;
The first complaint is epigastric pain
Then vomiting will follow in its train,
After a while the first sharp pain recedes
And in its place right iliac pain succeeds,
With local tenderness which thus supplies
The evidence of where the trouble lies.
Then only — and to this I pray be wise —
Then only will the temperature rise,
And as a rule the fever is but slight,
Hundred and one or some such moderate height.
‘Tis only then you get leucocytosis
Which if you like will clinch the diagnosis,
Though in my own experience I confess
I find this necessary less and less.

From Zachary Cope, The Diagnosis of the Acute Abdomen in Rhyme, 1947.

“A Rubric on Rubik Cubics”

https://www.flickr.com/photos/arselectronica/5056212423
Image: Flickr

Claude Shannon was a great enthusiast of Rubik’s cube — he designed the “manipulator” above, which now resides in the MIT museum.

In a 1981 letter to Scientific American editor Dennis Flanagan, Shannon included this poem, to be sung to the tune of “Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay”:

Strange imports come from Hungary:
Count Dracula, and ZsaZsa G.,
Now Erno Rubik’s Magic Cube
For PhD or country rube.
This fiendish clever engineer
Entrapped the music of the sphere.
It’s sphere on sphere in all 3D —
A kinematic symphony!

Ta! Ra! Ra! Boom De Ay!
One thousand bucks a day.
That’s Rubik’s cubic pay.
He drives a Chevrolet.

Forty-three quintillion plus
Problems Rubik posed for us.
Numbers of this awesome kind
Boggle even Sagan’s mind.
Out with sex and violence,
In with calm intelligence.
Kubrick’s “Clockwork Orange” — no!
Rubik’s Magic Cube — Jawohl!

Ta! Ra! Ra! Boom De Ay!
Cu-bies in disarray?
First twist them that-a-way,
Then turn them this-a-way.

Respect your cube and keep it clean.
Lube your cube with Vaseline.
Beware the dreaded cubist’s thumb,
The callused hand and fingers numb.
No borrower nor lender be.
Rude folks might switch two tabs on thee,
The most unkindest switch of all,
Into insolubility.

In-sol-u-bility.
The cruelest place to be.
However you persist
Solutions don’t exist.

Cubemeisters follow Rubik’s camp —
There’s Bühler, Guy and Berlekamp;
John Conway leads a Cambridge pack
(And solves the cube behind his back!).
All hail Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw,
A mayor with fast cubic draw.
Now Dave Singmaster wrote THE BOOK.
One more we must not overlook —

Singmaster’s office-mate!
Programming potentate!
Alg’rithmic heavyweight!
Morwen B. Thistlethwaite!

Rubik’s groupies know their groups:
(That’s math, not rock, you nincompoops.)
Their squares and slices, tri-twist loops,
Plus mono-swaps and supergroups.
Now supergroups have smaller groups
Upon their backs to bite ’em,
And smaller groups have smaller still,
Almost ad infinitum.

How many moves to solve?
How many sides revolve?
Fifty two for Thistlethwaite.
Even God needs ten and eight.

The issue’s joined in steely grip:
Man’s mind against computer chip.
With theorems wrought by Conway’s eight
‘Gainst programs writ by Thistlethwait.
Can multibillion-neuron brains
Beat multimegabit machines?
The thrust of this theistic schism —
To ferret out God’s algorism!

CODA:
He (hooked on
Cubing)
With great
Enthusiasm:

Ta! Ra! Ra! Boom De Ay!
Men’s schemes gang aft agley.
Let’s cube our life away!

She: Long pause
(having been
here before):
—————OY VEY!

The original includes 10 footnotes.

Punctuation

Greed

My life is full, indeed, of gloom.
I’ve naught, you see; just this small room.
I need more wealth — that’s misery.
What joys in great renown! What glee!
The mace and throne I long to own.
No crown too grand for me alone.

Contentment

My life is full, indeed!
Of gloom I’ve naught, you see.
Just this small room I need.
More wealth? That’s misery.
What joy’s in great renown?
What glee, the mace and throne?
I long to own no crown.
Too grand for me alone.

— Mary Youngquist

(David L. Silverman, “Kickshaws,” Word Ways 5:3 [August 1972], 168-181.)