In a Word

n. excessive use of the letter M

My Madeline! my Madeline!
Mark my melodious midnight moans,
Much may my melting music mean,
My modulated monotones.

My mandolin’s mild minstrelsy,
My mental music magazine,
My mouth, my mind, my memory,
Must mingling murmur “Madeline.”

Muster ‘mid midnight masquerade,
Mark Moorish maidens, matrons’ mien;
‘Mongst Murcia’s most majestic maids,
Match me my matchless Madeline.

Mankind’s malevolence may make
Much melancholy musing mine;
Many my motives may mistake,
My modest merits much malign.

My Madeline’s most mirthful mood
Much mollifies my mind’s machine;
My mournfulness’s magnitude
Melts–make me merry, Madeline!

Match-making ma’s may machinate,
Manoeuvring misses me misween;
Mere money may make many mate,
My magic motto’s “Madeline.”

Melt, most mellifluous melody,
‘Midst Murcia’s misty mounts marine;
Meet me ‘mid moonlight–marry me,
Madonna mia! My Madeline!

— Walter Parke, “A Mellifluous Madrigal,” Ballou’s Monthly Magazine, January 1888

The Great War, A to Z

An Austrian Archduke, assaulted and assailed,
Broke Belgium’s barriers, by Britain bewailed,
Causing consternation, confused chaotic crises;
Diffusing destructive, death-dealing devices.
England engaged earnestly, eager every ear,
France fought furiously, forsaking foolish fear,
Great German garrisons grappled Gallic guard,
Hohenzollern Hussars hammered, heavy, hard.
Infantry, Imperial, Indian, Irish, intermingling,
Jackets jaunty, joking, jesting, jostling, jingling.
Kinetic, Kruppised Kaiser, kingdom’s killing knight,
Laid Louvain lamenting, London lacking light,
Mobilizing millions, marvellous mobility,
Numberless nonentities, numerous nobility.
Oligarchies olden opposed olive offering,
Prussia pressed Paris, Polish protection proffering,
Quaint Quebec quickly quartered quotidian quota,
Renascent Russia, resonant, reported regal rota.
Scotch soldiers, sterling, songs stalwart sung,
“Tipperary” thundered through titanic tongue.
United States urging unarmament, unwanted,
Visualized victory vociferously vaunted,
Wilson’s warnings wasted, world war wild,
Xenian Xanthochroi Xantippically X-iled.
Yorkshire’s young yeomen yelling youthfully,
“Zigzag Zeppelins, Zuyder Zee.”

— John R. Edwards

“The Viper”

Yet another great truth I record in my verse,
That some Vipers are venomous, some the reverse;
A fact you may prove if you try,
By procuring two Vipers and letting them bite;
With the first you are only the worse for a fright,
But after the second you die.

— Hilaire Belloc, collected in Carolyn Wells, The Book of Humorous Verse, 1920


I’m taught p-l-o-u-g-h
Shall be pronouncé “plow.”
“Zat’s easy w’en you know,” I say,
“Mon Anglais, I’ll get through!”

My teacher say zat in zat case,
O-u-g-h is “oo.”
And zen I laugh and say to him,
“Zees Anglais make me cough.”

He say, “Not ‘coo,’ but in zat word,
O-u-g-h is ‘off.'”
Oh, Sacre bleu! Such varied sounds
Of words makes me hiccough!

He say, “Again mon frien’ ees wrong;
O-u-g-h is ‘up’
In hiccough.” Zen I cry, “No more,
You make my t’roat feel rough.”

“Non, non!” he cry, “you are not right;
O-u-g-h is ‘uff.'”
I say, “I try to spik your words,
I cannot spik zem though.”

“In time you’ll learn, but now you’re wrong!
O-u-g-h is ‘owe.'”
“I’ll try no more, I s’all go mad,
I’ll drown me in ze lough!”

“But ere you drown yourself,” said he,
“O-u-g-h is ‘ock.'”
He taught no more, I held him fast,
And killed him wiz a rough!

— Charles Battell Loomis

“Justice to Scotland”

(“An Unpublished Poem by Burns”)

O mickle yeuks the keckle doup,
An’ a’ unsicker girns the graith,
For wae and wae! the crowdies loup
O’er jouk an’ hallan, braw an’ baith
Where ance the coggie hirpled fair,
And blithesome poortith toomed the loof,
There’s nae a burnie giglet rare
But blaws in ilka jinking coof.

The routhie bield that gars the gear
Is gone where glint the pawky een.
And aye the stound is birkin lear
Where sconnered yowies wheeped yestreen,
The creeshie rax wi’ skelpin’ kaes
Nae mair the howdie bicker whangs,
Nor weanies in their wee bit claes
Glour light as lammies wi’ their sangs.

Yet leeze me on my bonny byke!
My drappie aiblins blinks the noo,
An’ leesome luve has lapt the dyke
Forgatherin’ just a wee bit fou.
And Scotia! while thy rantin’ lunt
Is mirk and moop with gowans fine,
I’ll stowlins pit my unco brunt,
An’ cleek my duds for auld lang syne.

Punch, collected in James Parton, The Humorous Poetry of the English Language, 1884

“Be Good, Be Good. A Poem.”

Be good, be good, be always good,
And now & then be clever,
But don’t you ever be too good,
Nor ever be too clever;
For such as be too awful good
They awful lonely are,
And such as often clever be
Get cut & stung & trodden on by persons of lesser mental capacity, for this kind do by a law of their construction regard exhibitions of superior intellectuality as an offensive impertinence leveled at their lack of this high gift, & are prompt to resent such-like exhibitions in the manner above indicated — & are they justifiable? alas, alas they

(It is not best to go on; I think the line is already longer than it ought to be for real true poetry.)

— Mark Twain


Byron wasn’t shy with his political opinions — he proposed this epitaph for Lord Castlereagh, who died in 1822:

Posterity will ne’er survey
A nobler grave than this:
Here lie the bones of Castlereagh:
Stop, traveller, and piss.

Poetry in Motion"An+inextensible+heavy+chain"+maxwell&as_brr=1&ei=iQh6SoqCMZ6SygSHkbzKDA#v=onepage&q=&f=false

When he wasn’t taming electromagnetism, James Clerk Maxwell wrote verse. Here’s “A Problem in Dynamics,” composed in 1854:

An inextensible heavy chain
Lies on a smooth horizontal plane,
An impulsive force is applied at A,
Required the initial motion of K.

Let ds be the infinitesimal link,
Of which for the present we’ve only to think;
Let T be the tension, and T + dT
The same for the end that is nearest to B.
Let a be put, by a common convention,
For the angle at M ‘twixt OX and the tension;
Let Vt and Vn be ds‘s velocities,
Of which Vt along and Vn across it is;
Then Vn/Vt the tangent will equal,
Of the angle of starting worked out in the sequel.

In working the problem the first thing of course is
To equate the impressed and effectual forces.
K is tugged by two tensions, whose difference dT
Must equal the element’s mass into Vt.
Vn must be due to the force perpendicular
To ds‘s direction, which shows the particular
Advantage of using da to serve at your
Pleasure to estimate ds‘s curvature.
For Vn into mass of a unit of chain
Must equal the curvature into the strain.

Thus managing cause and effect to discriminate,
The student must fruitlessly try to eliminate,
And painfully learn, that in order to do it, he
Must find the Equation of Continuity.
The reason is this, that the tough little element,
Which the force of impulsion to beat to a jelly meant,
Was endowed with a property incomprehensible,
And was “given,” in the language of Shop, “inextensible.”
It therefore with such pertinacity odd defied
The force which the length of the chain should have modified,
That its stubborn example may possibly yet recall
These overgrown rhymes to their prosody metrical.
The condition is got by resolving again,
According to axes assumed in the plane.
If then you reduce to the tangent and normal,
You will find the equation more neat tho’ less formal.
The condition thus found after these preparations,
When duly combined with the former equations,
Will give you another, in which differentials
(When the chain forms a circle), become in essentials
No harder than those that we easily solve
In the time a T totum would take to revolve.

Now joyfully leaving ds to itself, a-
Ttend to the values of T and of a.
The chain undergoes a distorting convulsion,
Produced first at A by the force of impulsion.
In magnitude R, in direction tangential,
Equating this R to the form exponential,
Obtained for the tension when a is zero,
It will measure the tug, such a tug as the “hero
Plume-waving” experienced, tied to the chariot.
But when dragged by the heels his grim head could not carry aught,
So give a its due at the end of the chain,
And the tension ought there to be zero again.
From these two conditions we get three equations,
Which serve to determine the proper relations
Between the first impulse and each coefficient
In the form for the tension, and this is sufficient
To work out the problem, and then, if you choose,
You may turn it and twist it the Dons to amuse.

Spoon River

“Lines by an Oxford Don,” from the Globe, June 1805:

My brain was filled with rests of thought,
No more by currying wares distraught,
As lazing dreamily I lay
In my Canoodian canay.

Ah me, methought, how leef were swite
If men could neither wreak nor spite;
No erring bloomers, no more slang,
No tungles then to trip the tang!

No more the undergraddering tits
Would exercise their woolish fits
With tidal ales (and false, I wis)
Of my fame-farred tamethesis!

A sentence that makes equal sense when spoonerized: “I must brush my hat, for it is pouring with rain.”

When George S. Kaufman’s daughter told him a friend had eloped from Vassar, he said, “Ah! She put her heart before the course.”