Plausible Deniability

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The Boston Gazette published this cleverly seditious “Enigmatical Ballad” on June 24, 1782. If each line is read in full, the poem supports British rule of the American colonies, but if either the italic or the roman text is read alone, then it advocates revolution:

I justify every part, of King and Parliament,
Of a whig with all my heart, I hate their cursed intent;
For to support I’ll try, friends of administration,
Friends of Liberty, are troubles to the nation;
I think the association, a cruel, base intent,
An honor to the nation, the act of Parliament,
I wish the best success, to North and his conclusion,
Unto the grand Congress, the worst of all confusion;
All luck beneath the sun, to Mansfield, Bute and North;
To General Washington, destruction and so forth,
Hark! Hark! the trumpet sounds, the din of war’s alarms,
O’er seas and solid ground, doth call us all to arms;
Who for King George doth stand, their honors soon will shine;
Their ruin is at hand, who with the Congress join;
The acts of Parliament, in them I much delight;
I hate their cursed intent, who for the Congress fight,
The Tories of the day, they are my daily toast;
They soon will sneak away, who independence boast,
Who non-resistance hold, they have my hand and heart;
May they for slaves be sold, who act a whiggish part;
On Mansfield, North and Bute, may daily blessings pour,
Confusion and dispute, on Congress evermore;
To North, that British Lord, may honors still be done;
I wish a block or cord, to General Washington.

Ear and Eye

Peculiarly British limericks:

There was a young fellow of Beaulieu,
Who loved a fair maiden most treaulieu.
He said, “Do be mine,”
And she didn’t decline,
So the wedding was solemnized deaulieu.

There was a young maid of Aberystwyth,
Who took corn to the mill to make grystwyth,
The miller, named Jack,
With a pat on her back,
Pressed his own to the lips that she kystwyth.

There was a mechalnwick of Alnwick,
Whose opinions were anti-Germalnwick;
So when war had begun,
He went off with a gun
The proportions of which were Titalnwick.

There was a young lady of Slough,
Who went for a ride on a cough.
The brute pitched her off
When she started to coff;
She ne’er rides on such animals nough. (Langford Reed)

A bald-headed judge called Beauclerk
Fell in love with a maiden seau ferk
Residing at Bicester,
Who said when he kicester,
“I won’t wed a man without herk.”

See This Sceptred Isle and Sound Rhymes.

“The Roadside Littérateur”

There’s a little old fellow and he has a little paintpot,
And a paucity of brushes is something that he ain’t got,
And when he sees a road sign, the road sign he betters,
And expresses of himself by eliminating letters.

Thus THROUGH ROAD
Becomes ROUGH ROAD
And CURVES DANGEROUS
Is transformed to CURVES ANGER US
And 24-HOUR SERVICE
Turns into 24-HOUR VICE
And MEN AT WORK IN ENTRANCE
Is reduced to MEN AT WORK IN TRANCE
An SLOW DOWN BRIDGE ONE WAY
Is triumphantly condensed to
LOW DOWN BRIDE ON WAY

But the old fellow feels a slight dissatisfaction
With the uninspiring process of pure subtraction.
The evidence would indicate he’s taken as his mission
The improvement of the road signs by the process of addition.

Thus TRAFFIC LIGHT AHEAD
Becomes TRAFFIC SLIGHT AHEAD
And GAS AND OIL
Is improved to GASP AND BOIL
And simple REST ROOMS
Appear as QUEEREST ROOMS
And UNDERPASS ONE WAY
Emerges as UNDERPASS GONE AWAY
And (perhaps his masterpiece)
RIGHT
EAST BOUND
TUNNEL

Is elaborated to

FRIGHTENED
BEASTS ABOUND
IN TUNNEL

Thus we see the critical mood
Becomes the creative attitude.

— Morris Bishop

“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.