There was an old lady of Ryde
Who ate some green apples and died.
The apples, fermented
Inside the lamented,
Made cider inside ‘er inside.

— Anonymous

A gallant young man of Duquesne
Went home with a girl in the ruesne;
She said, with a sigh,
“I wonder when Igh
Shall see such a rain-beau aguesne.”

— Stanton Vaughn, ed., Limerick Lyrics, 1904

There was an old man said, “I fear
That life, my dear friends, is a bubble,
Still, with all due respect to a Philistine ear,
A limerick’s best when it’s double.”
When they said, “But the waste
Of time, temper, taste!”
He gulped down his ink with cantankerous haste,
And chopped off his head with a shubble.

— Walter de la Mare

“Sonnet From the Brooklynese”

My heart is gayly purzed as if it wuy
Ra buyd about to dart in jeryous flight
To you; my darling, may it but alight
On vuygin surl. And may it not incuy
Your anger or disdain. ‘Tis but a fleuy
D’amour, and if you spuyn it you will blight
Its life as if some purzon in the night
Had been instilled into its depths. You stuy
My soul into a tuymurl. If you’ve turyed
With me, I fain would hie me to a clurster,
Wherein my heart would never be annuryed
By thoughts of love. My eyes grow murst and murster
At contemplating such an aching vurd —
O grant me, then, the sang-froid of an urster.

— Margaret Fishback, One to a Customer, 1937

“Double Bluff”

Said Watson to Holmes, “Is it wise —
Such false whiskers when hunting for spies?”
Said the sleuth, “I’m afraid
You’re as dense as Lestrade:
I’m disguised as myself in disguise.”

— R.J.P. Hewison, Punch, Nov. 21, 1951

“Essay to Miss Catharine Jay”

An S A now I mean 2 write
2 U sweet K T J,
The girl without a ∥,
The belle of U T K.

I 1 der if U got that 1
I wrote 2 U B 4
I sailed in the R K D A,
And sent by L N Moore.

My M T head will scarce contain
A calm I D A bright,
But A T miles from you I must
M{ this chance 2 write.

And first, should N E N V U,
B E Z, mind it not.
Should N E friendship show, be true:
They should not be forgot.

From virt U nev R D V 8;
Her influence B 9
Alike induces 10 dern S,
Or 40 tude D vine.

And if you cannot cut a —
Or cause an !
I hope U’ll put a .
2 1 ?

R U for an X ation 2,
My cous N ? — heart and ☞
He off R’s in a ¶
A § 2 of land.

He says he loves you 2 X S,
U R virtuous and Y’s,
In X L N C U X L
All others in his I’s.

This S A, until U I C,
I pray U 2 X Q’s,
And do not burn in F E G
My young and wayward muse.

Now fare U well, dear K T J,
I trust that U R true–
When this U C, then you can say,
An S A I O U.

— Charles Carroll Bombaugh, Gleanings for the Curious From the Harvest-Fields of Literature, 1890


In Shakespeare’s plays
Nobody knows
For days and days,
Till the very end,
His closest friend
If he’s changed his clothes.

Prospero has
But to put on his hat
And he’s what he was,
A duke, like that!

They gladly aver,
Who knew him before,
“You are what you were
When you wear what you wore.”

— Henry G. Fischer

“A Llyric of the Llama”

Behold how from her lair the youthful llama
Llopes forth and llightly scans the llandscape o’er.
With llusty heart she llooks upon llife’s drama,
Relying on her llate-llearnt worldly llore.

But llo! Some llad, armed with a yoke infama
Soon llures her into llowly llabor’s cause;
Her wool is llopped to weave into pajama,
And llanguidly she llearns her Gees and Haws.

My children, heed this llesson from all llanguishing young lllamas,
If you would lllive with lllatitude, avoid each llluring lllay;
And do not lllightly lllleave, I beg, your llllonesome, lllloving mammas,
And llllast of allll, don’t spelllll your name in such a silllllly way.

— Burges Johnson, Everybody’s Magazine, August 1907


Jenny kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in.
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in.
Say I’m weary, say I’m sad;
Say that health and wealth have missed me;
Say I’m growing old, but add —
Jenny kissed me!

— Leigh Hunt

Jenny kissed me when we met.
She, adorned in silk and satin,
Told me, “That is all you get;
And as you leave, don’t let the cat in.”
Retrospection makes me glad:
Dread disease perhaps thus missed me.
God knows what I might have had
Had Jenny more than merely kissed me.

— Bruce Newling

“Office Mottoes”

Motto heartening, inspiring,
Framed above my pretty desk,
Never Shelley, Keats, or Byring
Penned a phrase so picturesque!
But in me no inspiration
Rides my low and prosy brow —
All I think of is vacation
When I see that lucubration:

When I see another sentence
Framed upon a brother’s wall,
Resolution and repentance
Do not flood o’er me at all
As I read that nugatory
Counsel written years ago,
Only when one comes to borry
Do I heed that ancient story:

Mottoes flat and mottoes silly,
Proverbs void of point or wit,
Office mottoes make me weary
And of all the bromide bunch
There is only one I seri-
Ously like, and that’s the cheery:

— Franklin Pierce Adams, Tobogganning on Parnassus, 1913

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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
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.”