In 1910 Frances Cornford published “To a Fat Lady Seen From the Train”:

O why do you walk through the fields in gloves,
Missing so much and so much?
O fat white woman whom nobody loves,
Why do you walk through the fields in gloves,
When the grass is soft as the breast of doves
And shivering sweet to the touch?
O why do you walk through the fields in gloves,
Missing so much and so much?

In 1927 G.K. Chesterton felt moved to reply:

Why do you rush through the field in trains,
Guessing so much and so much?
Why do you flash through the flowery meads,
Fat-head poet that nobody reads;
And why do you know such a frightful lot
About people in gloves and such?

Last Lesson

Multiplication is mie vexation,
And Division is quite as bad,
The Golden Rule is mie stumbling stule,
And Practice drives me mad.

So wrote an anonymous English student in 1570. Matters had not progressed far in 1809, when 6-year-old Marjorie Fleming wrote in her diary: “I am now going to tell you about the horible and wretched plaege my multiplication gives me you cant concieve it — the most Devilish thing is 8 times 8 & 7 times 7 it is what nature itselfe cant endure.”

Alas, the feeling is sometimes shared. After serving four years as a teacher, D.H. Lawrence wrote:

When will the bell ring, and end this weariness?
How long have they tugged the leash, and strained apart
My pack of unruly hounds: I cannot start
Them again on a quarry of knowledge they hate to hunt,
I can haul them and urge them no more.
No more can I endure to bear the brunt
Of the books that lie out on the desks: a full three score
Of several insults of blotted pages and scrawl
Of slovenly work that they have offered me.
I am sick, and tired more than any thrall
Upon the woodstacks working weariedly.

And shall I take
The last dear fuel and heap it on my soul
Till I rouse my will like a fire to consume
Their dross of indifference, and burn the scroll
Of their insults in punishment? — I will not!
I will not waste myself to embers for them,
Not all for them shall the fires of my life be hot,
For myself a heap of ashes of weariness, till sleep
Shall have raked the embers clear: I will keep
Some of my strength for myself, for if I should sell
It all for them, I should hate them —
— I will sit and wait for the bell.

See Such, Such Were the Joys.

Second Thoughts

Behold the mighty Dinosaur,
Famous in prehistoric lore,
Not only for his weight and strength
But for his intellectual length.
You will observe by these remains
The creature had two sets of brains —
One in his head (the usual place),
The other at his spinal base.
Thus he could reason a priori
As well as a posteriori.
No problem bothered him a bit:
He made both head and tail of it.
So wise he was, so wise and solemn,
Each thought filled just a spinal column.
If one brain found the pressure strong
It passed a few ideas along;
If something slipped his forward mind
‘Twas rescued by the one behind;
And if in error he was caught
He had a saving afterthought.
As he thought twice before he spoke
He had no judgments to revoke;
For he could think, without congestion,
Upon both sides of every question.

Oh, gaze upon this model beast,
Defunct ten million years at least.

— Bert Leston Taylor, A Line-O’-Verse or Two, 1911


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