“In the Sultan’s Garden (Pantoum)”

She oped the portal of the palace,
She stole into the garden’s gloom;
From every spotless snowy chalice
The lilies breathed a sweet perfume.

She stole into the garden’s gloom,
She thought that no one would discover;
The lilies breathed a sweet perfume,
She swiftly ran to meet her lover.

She thought that no one would discover,
But footsteps followed, ever near:
She swiftly ran to meet her lover
Beside the fountain crystal clear.

But footsteps followed ever near;
Ah, who is that she sees before her
Beside the fountain crystal clear?
‘T is not her hazel-eyed adorer.

Ah, who is that she sees before her,
His hand upon his scimitar?
‘T is not her hazel-eyed adorer,
It is her lord of Candahar!

His hand upon his scimitar–
Alas, what brought such dread disaster!
It is her lord of Candahar,
The fierce Sultan, her lord and master.

Alas, what brought such dread disaster!
“Your pretty lover’s dead!” he cries–
The fierce Sultan, her lord and master–
“‘Neath yonder tree his body lies.”

“Your pretty lover’s dead!” he cries–
(A sudden, ringing voice behind him);
“‘Neath yonder tree his body lies–”
“Die, lying dog! go thou and find him!”

A sudden, ringing voice behind him,
A deadly blow, a moan of hate,
“Die, lying dog! go thou and find him!
Come, love, our steeds are at the gate!”

A deadly blow, a moan of hate,
His blood ran red as wine in chalice;
“Come, love, our steeds are at the gate!”
She oped the portal of the palace.

— Clinton Scollard, Pictures in Song, 1884

Second Thoughts


Florida bankruptcy judge A. Jay Cristol had moved to dismiss a case in 1986 when he reconsidered, inspired by “a little old ebony bird.” He filed this explanation:

Once upon a midnight dreary,
While I pondered weak and weary
Over many quaint and curious files of chapter seven lore
While I nodded nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door,
“‘Tis some debtor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door–
Only this and nothing more.”

Ah distinctly I recall, it was in the early fall
And the file still was small
The Code provided I could use it
If someone tried to substantially abuse it
No party asked that it be heard.
“Sua sponte” whispered a small black bird.
The bird himself, my only maven,
Strongly looked to be a raven.

Upon the words the bird had uttered
I gazed at all the files cluttered
“Sua sponte,” I recall, had no meaning; none at all.
And the cluttered files sprawl, drove a thought into my brain.
Eagerly I wished the morrow–vainly I had sought to borrow
From BAFJA, surcease of sorrow–and an order quick and plain
That this case would not remain as a source of further pain.
The procedure, it seemed plain.

As the case grew older, I perceived I must be bolder.
And must sua sponte act, to determine every fact,
If primarily consumer debts, are faced,
Perhaps this case is wrongly placed.
This is a thought that I must face, perhaps I should dismiss this case.
I moved sua sponte to dismiss it for I knew I would not miss it.
The Code said I could, I knew it.
But not exactly how to do it, or perhaps some day I’d rue it.

I leaped up and struck my gavel.
For the mystery to unravel
Could I? Should I? Sua sponte, grant my motion to dismiss?
While it seemed the thing to do, suddenly I thought of this.

Looking, looking towards the future and to what there was to see
If my motion, it was granted and an appeal came to be,
Who would be the appellee? Surely, it would not be me.
Who would file, but pray tell me, a learned brief for the appellee

The District Judge would not do so
At least this much I do know.
Tell me raven, how to go.

As I with the ruling wrestled
In the statute I saw nestled
A presumption with a flavor clearly in the debtor’s favor.

No evidence had I taken
Sua sponte appeared foresaken.
Now my motion caused me terror
A dismissal would be error.

Upon consideration of § 707(b), in anguish, loud I cried
The court’s sua sponte motion to dismiss under § 707(b) is denied.

(In Re Love, 61 B.R. 558 (Bankr. S.D. Florida 1986))

“He and She”

When I am dead you’ll find it hard,
Said he,
To ever find another man
Like me.

What makes you think, as I suppose
You do,
I’d ever want another man
Like you?

— Eugene Fitch Ware, Some of the Rhymes of Ironquill, 1900

“Poetical Economy”

What hours I spent of precious time,
What pints of ink I used to waste,
Attempting to secure a rhyme
To suit the public taste,
Until I found a simple plan
Which makes the lamest lyric scan!

When I’ve a syllable de trop,
I cut it off without apol.
This verbal sacrifice, I know,
May irritate the schol.
But all must praise my dev’lish cunn.
Who realize that time is mon.

My sense remains as clear as cryst.,
My style as pure as any duch.
Who does not boast a bar sinist.
Upon her fam. escutch.,
And I can treat with scornful pit.
The sneers of ev’ry captious crit.

I gladly publish to the pop.
A scheme of which I make no myst.,
And beg my fellow scribes to cop.
This labor-saving syst.
I offer it to the consid.
Of ev’ry thoughtful individ.

The author, working like a beav.,
His readers’ pleasure could redoub.,
Did he but now and then abbrev.
The works he gives his pub.,
Did Upton Sinc. or Edith Whart.
Curtail their output by a quart.

If Mr. Caine rewrote “The Scape.”,
And Miss Corell. condensed “Barabb.”,
What could they save in foolscap pape.
Did they but cultivate the hab.
Which teaches people to suppress
All syllables that are unnec.!

If playwrights would but thus dimin.
The length of time each drama takes
(“The Second Mrs. Tanq.” by Pin.
Or even “Ham.” by Shakes.),
We could maintain a wakeful att.
When at a mat. on Wed. or Sat.

Foll. my examp., O Maurice Hewl.
When next you cater for the mill.;
You, too, immortal Mr. Dool.
And Ella Wheeler Wil.;
And share with me the grave respons.
Of writing this amazing nons.!

— Harry Graham, in Life, December 1909


“Don’t waste your time on the branches small,”
Said the farmer to his son,
“But lay your axe at the root of the tree,
So your work is sooner done.”

Then, like a good and obedient boy,
Not a word back did he say,
But he laid his axe at the root of the tree,
And went off and fished all day.

— Newton Mackintosh, Precious Nonsense!, 1895

“The Chemist to His Love”

I love thee, Mary, and thou lovest me–
Our mutual flame is like th’ affinity
That doth exist between two simple bodies:
I am Potassium to thine Oxygen.
‘Tis little that the holy marriage vow
Shall shortly make us one. That unity
Is, after all, but metaphysical.
Oh, would that I, my Mary, were an acid,
A living acid; thou an alkali
Endow’d with human sense, that, brought together,
We both might coalesce into one salt,
One homogeneous crystal. Oh, that thou
Wert Carbon, and myself were Hydrogen;
We would unite to form olefiant gas,
Or common coal, or naphtha–would to heaven
That I were Phosphorus, and thou wert Lime!
And we of Lime composed a Phosphuret.
I’d be content to be Sulphuric Acid,
So that thou might be Soda. In that case
We should be Glauber’s Salt. Wert thou Magnesia
Instead we’d form the salt that’s named from Epsom.
Couldst thou Potassa be, I Aqua-fortis,
Our happy union should that compound form,
Nitrate of Potash–otherwise Saltpetre.
And thus our several natures sweetly blent,
We’d live and love together, until death
Should decompose the fleshly tertium quid,
Leaving our souls to all eternity
Amalgamated. Sweet, thy name is Briggs
And mine is Johnson. Wherefore should not we
Agree to form a Johnsonate of Briggs?

— “A Rochester druggist,” quoted in The Medical Age, Oct. 11, 1886

“A Tragic Calendar”

JANet was quite ill one day.
FEBrile troubles came her way.
MARtyr-like she lay in bed;
APRoned nurses softly sped.
“MAYbe,” said the leech judicial,
“JUNket would be beneficial.”
JULeps, too, though freely tried,
AUGured ill, for Janet died.
SEPulcher was sadly made;
OCTaves pealed and prayers were said.
NOVices with many a tear
DECorated Janet’s bier.

— Carolyn Wells, Folly for the Wise, 1904


A lady who deftly crocheted,
A terrible temper displeted,
On finding when through
That a dropped stitch or twough
Had spoiled the contrivance she’d meted.

A newspaper man on the Isthmus
Said, “Colonel, now what about thisthmus?”
The Colonel said, “Write
That it looks like a fite,
But I think ’twill be over by Christhmus.”

Once a Frenchman who’d promptly said “Oui”
To some ladies who’d ask him if houi
Cared to drink, threw a fit
Upon finding that it
Was a tipple no stronger than toui.

Young Brewster wed Adeline Worcester,
But nobody knew what indorcester
In writing her name
To spell it the same
And make it read Adeline Brorcester.

There was a young man from Mont.
Who slipped on a peel of ban.
He fell on his head,
And what he then said
Was quite the reverse of “Hos.”

Punctuation’s abhorrent to Thos.,
And he loathes semicolons and cos.
He is such a bad boy
That a wave of great joy
Would arise were the kid taken fros.

— Stanton Vaughn, ed., Limerick Lyrics, 1904

The Golden Key

A monk was standing at a convent gate,
With sanctimonious phiz, and shaven pate,
Promising, with solemn cant,
To all that listen’d to his rant,
A full and perfect absolution,
With half-a-dozen hallowed benedictions,
If they would give some contribution,
Some large donation supererogatory,
To ransom fifty murder’d christians,
And free their precious souls from purgatory:
When (he asserted) they would gain
A passport from the realms of pain,
And find a speedy passage to the skies.
A knight was riding by, and heard these lies;
He stopp’d his horse, “Salve,” the parson cried;
And “Benedicite” the youth replied.
“Most reverend father,” quoth the knight,
Who, it appears, was sharp and witty,
“These martyr’d christians’ wretched plight
Believe me, I sincerely pity:
Nay, more–their sufferings to relieve,
I will these fifty ducats give.”
This was no sooner said than done;
The priest pronounc’d his benison.
“Now, I presume,” the soldier said,
“The spirits of these christians dead
Have reach’d their final place of rest?”
“Most true,” replied the rev’rend friar,
“(Unless Saint Francis is a liar;)
And, to reward the pious action
Of this most christian benefaction,
You will, no doubt, eternally be blest.”
“Well, then,” exclaim’d the soldier-youth,
“If what you say indeed be truth,
And these same pieces that I’ve given,
Have snatch’d their souls from purgatory’s pains,
And bought them a snug place in heaven,
No further use for them remains.”
He said thus much to prove, at least,
He was as cunning as the priest:
Then put the ducats in his poke
And rode off, laughing at the joke.

— “C.J.D.,” in The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, 1824