“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

This Sceptred Isle

There was a young fellow named Cholmondeley,
Who always at dinner sat dolmondeley.
His fair partner said,
As he crumbled his bread,
“Dear me! You behave very rolmondeley!”

Said a man to his spouse in east Sydenham:
“My best trousers! Now where have you hydenham?
It is perfectly true
They were not very new,
But I foolishly left half a quydenham.”

A young Englishwoman named St John
Met a red-skinned American It John
Who made her his bride
And gave her, beside,
A dress with a gaudy bead Frt John.

There was a young vicar from Salisbury
Whose manners were quite halisbury-scalisbury.
He went around Hampshire
Without any pampshire
Till his bishop compelled him to walisbury.

(Thanks, Gavin.)

It Begins


Sumer is icumen in,
Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweth sed, and bloweth med,
And springth the wude nu–
Sing cuccu!

— English round, 1260

Winter is icumen in,
Lhude sing Goddamm,
Raineth drop and staineth slop,
And how the wind doth ramm!
Sing: Goddamm.

— Ezra Pound, 1917

The names of the 12 months can be anagrammed into these lines:

Merry, durable, just grace
My every future month embrace;
No jars remain, joy bubble up apace.

But poet and journalist George Ellis (1753-1815) summed them up this way:

Snowy, Flowy, Blowy,
Showery, Flowery, Bowery,
Moppy, Croppy, Droppy,
Breezy, Sneezy, Freezy.


Calm and implacable,
Eyeing disdainfully the world beneath,
Sat Humpty-Dumpty on his mural eminence
In solemn state:
And I relate his story
In verse unfettered by the bothering restrictions of rhyme or metre,
In verse (or “rhythm,” as I prefer to call it)
Which, consequently, is far from difficult to write.

He sat. And at his feet
The world passed on — the surging crowd
Of men and women, passionate, turgid, dense,
Keenly alert, lethargic, or obese.
(Those two lines scan!)

Among the rest
He noted Jones; Jones with his Roman nose,
His eyebrows — the left one streaked with a dash of gray –
And yellow boots.
Not that Jones
Has anything in particular to do with the story;
But a descriptive phrase
Like the above shows that the writer is
A Master of Realism.

Let us proceed. Suddenly from his seat
Did Humpty-Dumpty slip. Vainly he clutched
The impalpable air. Down and down,
Right to the foot of the wall,
Right on to the horribly hard pavement that ran beneath it,
Humpty-Dumpty, the unfortunate Humpty-Dumpty,

And him, alas! no equine agency,
Him no power of regal battalions –
Resourceful, eager, strenuous –
Could ever restore to the lofty eminence
Which once was his.
Still he lies on the very identical
Spot where he fell — lies, as I said, on the ground,
Shamefully and conspicuously abased!

– Anthony C. Deane, in Carolyn Wells, A Parody Anthology, 1922