Poem

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea,
And love is a thing that can never go wrong,
And I am Marie of Roumania.

— Dorothy Parker

Nonsense

Oh that my lungs could bleat like buttered peas;
But bleating of my lungs hath caught the itch,
And are as mangy as the Irish seas
That offer wary windmills to the rich.
I grant that rainbows being lulled asleep,
Snort like a woodknife in a lady’s eyes;
Which makes her grieve to see a pudding creep,
For creeping puddings only please the wise.
Not that a hard-roed herring should presume
To swing a tithe-pig in a catskin purse;
For fear the hailstones which did fall at Rome,
By lessening of the fault should make it worse.
For ’tis most certain winter woolsacks grow
From geese to swans if men could keep them so,
Till that the sheep-shorn planets gave the hint
To pickle pancakes in Geneva print.
Some men there were that did suppose the skie
Was made of carbonadoed antidotes;
But my opinion is, a whale’s left eye,
Need not be coined all King Harry groats.
The reason’s plain, for Charon’s western barge
Running a tilt at the subjunctive mood,
Beckoned to Bednal Green, and gave him charge
To fasten padlocks with Antarctic food.
The end will be the millponds must be laded,
To fish for white pots in a country dance;
So they that suffered wrong and were upbraided
Shall be made friends in a left-handed trance.

— “Nonsense,” Anonymous, 1617

Triolet

I wish I were a jelly fish
That cannot fall downstairs:
Of all the things I wish to wish
I wish I were a jelly fish
That hasn’t any cares,
And doesn’t even have to wish
“I wish I were a jelly fish
That cannot fall downstairs.”

— G.K. Chesterton

The Yak

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Yak_Drawing_historic.jpg

As a friend to the children commend me the Yak,
You will find it exactly the thing:
It will carry and fetch, you can ride on its back,
Or lead it about with a string.
The Tartar who dwells on the plains of Thibet
(A desolate region of snow)
Has for centuries made it a nursery pet,
And surely the Tartar should know!
Then tell your papa where the Yak can be got,
And if he is awfully rich
He will buy you the creature — or else he will not.
(I cannot be positive which.)

— Hilaire Belloc

Rubber-Stamp Poetry

“Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den,” a poem by Zhao Yuanren, in English:

In a stone den was a poet Shi Shi, who loved to eat lions, and decided to eat ten.
He often went to the market to look for lions.
One day at ten o’clock, ten lions just arrived at the market.
At that time, Shi Shi just arrived at the market too.
Seeing those ten lions, he killed them with arrows.
He brought the corpses of the ten lions to the stone den.
The stone den was damp. He asked his servants to wipe it.
After the stone den was wiped, he tried to eat those ten lions.
When he ate, he realized that those ten lions were in fact ten stone lion corpses.
Try to explain this.

… and in Hanyu Pinyin:

Shishi shishi Shi Shi, shi shi, shi shi shi shi.
Shi shishi shi shi shi shi.
Shi shi, shi shi shi shi shi.
Shi shi, shi Shi Shi shi shi.
Shi shi shi shi shi, shi shi shi, shi shi shi shi shishi.
Shi shi shi shi shi shi, shi shishi.
Shishi shi, Shi shi shi shi shishi.
Shishi shi, Shi shi shi shi shi shi shi.
Shi shi, shi shi shi shi shi, shi shi shi shi shi.
Shi shi shi shi.

“A Chicken Is a Noble Beast”

William Topaz McGonagall is renowned as the worst poet in the English language. Sample:

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay!
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember’d for a very long time.

He didn’t even get the facts right here — 75 died.

In the opening to his Poetic Gems, McGonagall wrote, “The most startling incident in my life was the time I discovered myself to be a poet.” Millions agreed. Stephen Pile, in The Book of Heroic Failures, calls him “so giftedly bad he backed unwittingly into genius”; his temperance speeches were wildly popular with “poet-baiters” in Dundee, who pelted him with eggs and vegetables, and he was allowed to play Macbeth only if he paid in advance.

When Tennyson died, McGonagall visited Balmoral to ask if he might become poet laureate. He was told the queen was not at home.