“Sonnet to Nothing”

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Mysterious Nothing! how shall I define
Thy shapeless, baseless, placeless emptiness?
Nor form, nor colour, sound, nor size is thine,
Nor words nor fingers can thy voice express;
But though we cannot thee to aught compare,
A thousand things to thee may likened be,
And though thou art with nobody nowhere,
Yet half mankind devote themselves to thee.
How many books thy history contain!
How many heads thy mighty plans pursue!
What labouring hands thy portion only gain!
What busy bodies thy doings only do!
To thee the great, the proud, the giddy bend,
And — like my sonnet — all in nothing end.

— Richard Porson, in Morning Chronicle, March 4, 1814

“The Jabberwocky of Authors”

‘Twas gilbert. The kchesterton
Did locke and bennett in the reed.
All meredith was the nicholson,
And harrison outqueed.

Beware the see-enn-william, son,
The londonjack with call that’s wild.
Beware the gertroo datherton
And richardwashburnchild.

He took his brady blade in hand;
Long time the partridge foe he sought.
Then stood a time by the oppenheim
In deep mcnaughton thought.

In warwick deeping thought he stood–
He poised on edithwharton brink;
He cried, “Ohbernardshaw! I could
If basilking would kink.”

Rexbeach! rexbeach!–and each on each
O. Henry’s mantles ferber fell.
It was the same’s if henryjames
Had wally eaton well.

“And hast thou writ the greatest book!
Come to thy birmingham, my boy!
Oh, beresford way! Oh, holman day!”
He kiplinged in his joy.

‘Twas gilbert. The kchesterton
Did locke and bennett in the reed.
All meredith was the nicholson,
And harrison outqueed.

— Harry Persons Taber, in Carolyn Wells, The Book of Humorous Verse, 1920

“Distich”

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There are three species of creatures who when they seem coming are going,
When they seem going they come: Diplomats, women, and crabs.

— John Hay, in The Library of Wit and Humor, Prose and Poetry, 1884

“The Wonderful Letters O U G H”

If your first line ends with cow,
Rhyme o w with plough;
Should your second nicely go,
Seek o long, as found in though;
Thirdly, would you try this too,
Double o is found in through;
Fourth, a variance we are taught,
Like an a u is heard in thought;
Speak you, fifthly, of a sorrow,
Give the o obscure in borough;
In the sixth place, you may pick up
Sound of u p in a hiccough;
Turn your seventh couplet off,
Assuming o f as in cough;
Eighthly, sing you of a rock,
Echo c k with a lough;
Ninth and last, and quantum suff,
Sound u f, and cry,–enough!

— I.J. Reeve, in The Wild Garland; or, Curiosities of Poetry, 1865

“Nemesis”

The man who invented the women’s waists that button down behind,
And the man who invented the cans with keys and the strips that will never wind,
Were put to sea in a leaky boat and with never a bite to eat
But a couple of dozen of patent cans in which was their only meat.

And they sailed and sailed o’er the ocean wide and never they had a taste
Of aught to eat, for the cans stayed shut, and a peek-a-boo shirtwaist
Was all they had to bale the brine that came in the leaky boat;
And their tongues were thick and their throats were dry, and they barely kept afloat.

They came at last to an island fair, and a man stood on the shore,
So they flew a signal of distress and their hopes rose high once more,
And they called to him to fetch a boat, for their craft was sinking fast,
And a couple of hours at best they knew was all their boat would last.

So he called to them a cheery call and he said he would make haste,
But first he must go back to his wife and button up her waist,
Which would only take him an hour or so and then he would fetch a boat.
And the man who invented the backstairs waist, he groaned in his swollen throat.

The hours passed by on leaden wings and they saw another man
In the window of a bungalow, and he held a tin meat can
In his bleeding hands, and they called to him, not once but twice and thrice,
And he said: “Just wait till I open this and I’ll be there in a trice!”

And the man who invented the patent cans he knew what the promise meant,
So he leaped in air with a horrid cry and into the sea he went,
And the bubbles rose where he sank and sank and a groan choked in the throat
Of the man who invented the backstairs waist and he sank with the leaky boat!

— J.W. Foley, in Carolyn Wells, ed., Such Nonsense!: An Anthology, 1918

“The Siege of Djklxprwbz”

Before a Turkish town
The Russians came
And with huge cannon
Did bombard the same.

They got up close
And rained fat bombshells down,
And blew out every
Vowel in the town.

And then the Turks,
Becoming somewhat sad,
Surrendered every
Consonant they had.

— Eugene Fitch Ware

A soldier of the Russians
Lay japanned at Tschrtzvkjskivitch,
There was lack of woman’s nursing
And other comforts which
Might add to his last moments
And smooth the final way;–
But a comrade stood beside him
To hear what he might say.
The japanned Russian faltered
As he took that comrade’s hand,
And he said: “I never more shall see
My own, my native land;
Take a message and a token
To some distant friends of mine
For I was born at Smnlxzrskgqrxzski,
Fair Smnlxzrskgqrxzski on the Irkztrvzkimnov.”

— W.J. Lampton

Limericks

When you think of the hosts without no.
Who are slain by the deadly cuco.,
It’s quite a mistake
Of such food to partake,
It results in a permanent slo.

A young lady sings in our choir
Whose hair is the color of phoir,
But her charm is unique,
She has such a fair chique,
It is really a joy to be nhoir.

There once was a choleric colonel
Whose oaths were obscene and infolonel,
And the chaplain, aghast,
Gave up protest at last,
But wrote them all down in his jolonel.

— Anonymous

Legal Ode

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In 1983 a driver hit a tree in Michigan. A tree surgeon repaired the damage, and the driver’s insurance paid the $550 bill, but the tree’s owner claimed $15,000 for pain and suffering; he said the “beautiful oak” was like someone dear to him.

A lower court threw out the case, and the appeals court agreed. The three-judge panel declared:

We thought that we would never see
A suit to compensate a tree,
A suit whose claim in tort is prest
Upon a mangled tree’s behest;
A tree whose battered trunk was prest
Against a Chevy’s crumpled crest;
A tree that faces each new day
With bark and limb in disarray;
A tree that may forever bear
A lasting need for tender care.
Flora lovers though we three,
We must uphold the court’s decree.
Affirmed.

(Fisher v. Lowe, 122 Mich. App. 418, 33 N.W.2d 67)