Blue Verse

Risqué limericks by W.H. Auden:

There was a young poet whose sex
Was aroused by aesthetic effects;
Marvell’s The Garden
Gave him a hard-on
And he came during Oedipus Rex.

Said the Queen to the King: “I don’t frown on
The fact that you choose to go down on
My page on the stairs
But you’ll give the boy airs
If you will do the job with your crown on.”

The Bishop-Elect of Hong Kong
Has a cock which is ten inches long;
He thinks the spectators
Are admiring his gaiters
When he goes to the Gents–he is wrong.

“Poetry is nobody’s business except the poet’s,” wrote Philip Larkin, “and everybody else can fuck off.”

“Epistle Written in a Diving-Bell”

A lady, of the name of Morris, the wife of Major Morris, had lately the courage to descend in the diving-bell, at Plymouth, and was probably the first of her sex who has penetrated into ‘the dark unfathom’d caves of ocean.’ On this occasion, whilst under water, she wrote a note to her father, which concluded with the following lines:

From a belle, my dear father, you’ve oft had a line,
But not from a bell under water;
Just now I can only assure you I’m thine,
Your dutiful, diving, affectionate daughter.

— J. Taylor, Eccentric and Humorous Letters of Eminent Men and Women, 1824


Nicholas Murray Butler presided over Columbia University for 43 years and won the Nobel Peace Prize; Teddy Roosevelt called him “Nicholas Miraculous.”

His students sometimes held a different opinion; when one of them, Rolfe Humphries, was invited to contribute an ode to Poetry in 1939, he sent this:

Niobe’s daughters yearn to the womb again,
Ionians bright and fair, to the chill stone;
Chaos in cry, Actaeon’s angry pack,
Hounds of Molussus, shaggy wolves driven

Over Ampsanctus’ vale and Pentheus’ glade,
Laelaps and Ladon, Dromas, Canace,–
As these in fury harry brake and hill
So the great dogs of evil bay the world.

Memory, Mother of Muses, be resigned
Until King Saturn comes to rule again!
Remember now no more the golden day
Remember now no more the fading gold,
Astraea fled, Proserpina in hell;
You searchers of the earth be reconciled!

Because, through all the blight of human woe,
Under Robigo’s rust, and Clotho’s shears,
The mind of man still keeps its argosies,
Lacedaemonian Helen wakes her tower,

Echo replies, and lamentation loud
Reverberates from Thrace to Delos Isle;
Itylus grieves, for whom the nightingale
Sweetly as ever tunes her Daulian strain.
And over Tenedos the flagship burns.

How shall men loiter when the great moon shines
Opaque upon the sail, and Argive seas
Rear like blue dolphins their cerulean curves?
Samos is fallen, Lesbos streams with fire,
Etna in rage, Canopus cold in hate,
Summon the Orphic bard to stranger dreams.

And so for us who raise Athene’s torch.
Sufficient to her message in this hour:
Sons of Columbia, awake, arise!

Read the first letter of each line.

More abusive acrostics: Poetic License, Thanks for Nothing, In Memoriam.

“Unsatisfied Yearning”

Down in the silent hallway
Scampers the dog about,
And whines, and barks, and scratches,
In order to get out.

Once in the glittering starlight,
He straightway doth begin
To set up a doleful howling
In order to get in.

— R.K. Munkittrick, in A Book of American Humorous Verse, ed. Carolyn Wells, 1917

“The New Vestments”

There lived an old man in the Kingdom of Tess,
Who invented a purely original dress;
And when it was perfectly made and complete,
He opened the door and walked into the street.

By way of a hat he’d a loaf of Brown Bread,
In the middle of which he inserted his head;
His Shirt was made up of no end of dead Mice,
The warmth of whose skins was quite fluffy and nice;
His Drawers were of Rabbit-skins, so were his Shoes;
His Stockings were skins, but it is not known whose;
His Waistcoat and Trowsers were made of Pork Chops;
His Buttons were Jujubes and Chocolate Drops;
His Coat was all Pancakes, with Jam for a border,
And a girdle of Biscuits to keep it in order.
And he wore over all, as a screen from bad weather,
A Cloak of green Cabbage-leaves stitched all together.

He had walked a short way, when he heard a great noise
Of all sorts of Beasticles, Birdlings, and Boys;
And from every long street and dark lane in the town
Beasts, Birdles, and Boys in a tumult rushed down.
Two Cows and a Calf ate his Cabbage-leaf Cloak;
Four Apes seized his Girdle, which vanished like smoke;
Three Kids ate up half of his Pancaky Coat,
And the tails were devoured by an ancient He-Goat;
An army of Dogs in a twinkling tore up his
Pork Waistcoat and Trowsers to give to their Puppies;
And while they were growling and mumbling the Chops,
Ten Boys prigged the Jujubes and Chocolate Drops.
He tried to run back to his house, but in vain,
For scores of fat Pigs came again and again;
They rushed out of stables and hovels and doors;
They tore off his Stockings, his Shoes, and his Drawers.
And now from the housetops with screechings descend
Striped, spotted, white, black, and grey Cats without end;
They jumped on his shoulders and knocked off his hat,
When Crows, Ducks, and Hens made a mincemeat of that:
They speedily flew at his sleeves in a trice
And utterly tore up his Shirt of dead Mice;
They swallowed the last of his Shirt with a squall,–
Whereon he ran home with no clothes on at all.

And he said to himself as he bolted the door,
“I will not wear a similar dress any more,
“Any more, any more, any more, nevermore!”

— Edward Lear

“Our Traveller”

If thou would’st stand on Etna’s burning brow,
With smoke above, and roaring flame below;
And gaze adown that molten gulf reveal’d,
Till thy soul shudder’d and thy senses reel’d:
If thou wouldst beard Niag’ra in his pride,
Or stem the billows of Propontic tide;
Scale all alone some dizzy Alpine haut,
And shriek “Excelsior!” among the snow:
Wouldst tempt all deaths, all dangers that may be–
Perils by land, and perils on the sea;
This vast round world, I say, if thou would’st view it–
Then, why the dickens don’t you go and do it?

— Henry Cholmondeley-Pennell, Puck on Pegasus, 1861

To a Thesaurus

O precious codex, volume, tome,
Book, writing, compilation, work,
Attend the while I pen a pome,
A jest, a jape, a quip, a quirk.

For I would pen, engross, indite,
Transcribe, set forth, compose, address,
Record, submit–yea, even write
An ode, an elegy to bless–

To bless, set store by, celebrate,
Approve, esteem, endow with soul,
Commend, acclaim, appreciate,
Immortalize, laud, praise, extol

Thy merit, goodness, value, worth,
Experience, utility–
O manna, honey, salt of earth,
I sing, I chant, I worship thee!

How could I manage, live, exist,
Obtain, produce, be real, prevail,
Be present in the flesh, subsist,
Have place, become, breathe or inhale

Without thy help, recruit, support,
Opitulation, furtherance,
Assistance, rescue, aid, resort,
Favour, sustention, and advance?

Alack! Alack! and well-a-day!
My case would then be dour and sad,
Likewise distressing, dismal, gray,
Pathetic, mournful, dreary, bad.

Though I could keep this up all day,
This lyric, elegiac, song,
Meseems hath come the time to say
Farewell! Adieu! Good-by! So long!

— Franklin P. Adams, collected in Carolyn Wells, The Book of Humorous Verse, 1920

“Why Doth a Pussy Cat?”
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Why doth a pussy cat prefer,
When dozing, drowsy, on the sill,
To purr and purr and purr and purr
Instead of merely keeping still?
With nodding head and folded paws,
She keeps it up without a cause.

Why doth she flaunt her lofty tail
In such a stiff right-angled pose?
If lax and limp she let it trail
‘Twould seem more restful, Goodness knows!
When strolling ‘neath the chairs or bed,
She lets it bump above her head.

Why doth she suddenly refrain
From anything she’s busied in
And start to wash, with might and main,
Most any place upon her skin?
Why doth she pick that special spot,
Not seeing if it’s soiled or not?

Why doth she never seem to care
To come directly when you call,
But makes approach from here and there,
Or sidles half around the wall?
Though doors are opened at her mew,
You often have to push her through.

Why doth she this? Why doth she that?
I seek for cause–I yearn for clews;
The subject of the pussy cat
Doth endlessly inspire the mews.
Why doth a pussy cat? Ah, me,
I haven’t got the least idee.

– Burges Johnson, in Harper’s Monthly Magazine, May 1909

Blank Verse

“The Idiot’s Lament”

Her has come
Her has went
Her has left I all alone
Oh, how can it was

— Anonymous

“The Moron”

See the happy moron,
He doesn’t give a damn!
I wish I were a moron–
My God! Perhaps I am!

— Anonymous