How hard, when those who do not wish
To lend–that’s lose–their books,
Are snared by anglers–folks that fish
With literary hooks;

Who call and take some favorite tome,
But never read it through;
They thus complete their sett at home,
By making one of you.

I, of my Spenser quite bereft,
Last winter sore was shaken;
Of Lamb I’ve but a quarter left,
Nor could I save my Bacon.

They picked my Locke, to me far more
Than Bramah’s patent worth;
And now my losses I deplore,
Without a Home on earth.

Even Glover’s works I cannot put
My frozen hands upon;
Though ever since I lost my Foote,
My Bunyan has been gone.

My life is wasting fast away;
I suffer from these shocks;
And though I’ve fixed a lock on Gray,
There’s gray upon my locks.

They still have made me slight returns,
And thus my grief divide;
For oh! they’ve cured me of my Burns,
And eased my Akenside.

But all I think I shall not say,
Nor let my anger burn;
For as they have not found me Gay,
They have not left me Sterne.

“Sir Walter Scott said that some of his friends were bad accountants, but excellent book-keepers.”

— Charles Carroll Bombaugh, Gleanings for the Curious From the Harvest-Fields of Literature, 1890


In 1925 New York poet Eli Siegel composed the shortest poem in the English language. He called it “One Question”:


The former record holder was an anonymous verse titled “On the Condition of the United States After Several Years of Prohibition”:


“The Pig”


It was an evening in November,
As I very well remember,
I was strolling down the street in drunken pride,
But my knees were all a-flutter,
And I landed in the gutter
And a pig came up and lay down by my side.

Yes, I lay there in the gutter
Thinking thoughts I could not utter,
When a colleen passing by did softly say
“You can tell a man who boozes
By the company he chooses” —
And the pig got up and slowly walked away.

— Anonymous

“A Sigh for a Cipher”

U 0 a 0 but I 0 U,
O 0 no 0 but O 0 me;
O let not my 0 a 0 go,
But give 0 0 I 0 U so.

You sigh for a cipher but I sigh for you,
O sigh for no cipher, but O sigh for me;
O let not my sigh for a cipher go,
But give sigh for sigh, for I sigh for you so.

Bizarre Notes and Queries, 1891

Waste Not, Want Not


Here’s Wordsworth’s “Upon Westminster Bridge”:

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth like a garment wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

Why start over? Wayne Carlson rearranged the words to make a new poem:

A city is lying still, asleep in the dull morning;
A steep hill towers more unto the smokeless sky,
Touching the heart and soul of God.
Bare fields doth lie in the valley,
Like ships that glideth, all silent in the river.
I saw all His own houses, now temples to the sun;
Sight at first has never felt more dear.
Who would not wear His gament, open to the calm air?
Could anything be so beautifully bright and glittering?
He will never show its theatres and domes;
Or pass by this fair Earth; a mighty rock,
Of very deep beauty, splendour, and majesty
Ne’er did seem so sweet!

All Aboard


What’s odd about this sonnet, composed in 1936 by David Shulman?

A hard, howling, tossing water scene.
Strong tide was washing hero clean.
“How cold!” Weather stings as in anger.
O Silent night shows war ace danger!

The cold waters swashing on in rage.
Redcoats warn slow his hint engage.
When star general’s action wish’d “Go!”
He saw his ragged continentals row.

Ah, he stands – sailor crew went going.
And so this general watches rowing.
He hastens – winter again grows cold.
A wet crew gain Hessian stronghold.

George can’t lose war with’s hand in;
He’s astern – so go alight, crew, and win!

Each line is an anagram of WASHINGTON CROSSING THE DELAWARE.


There was a young lady named Psyche
Who was heard to ejaculate, “Pcryche!”
For, riding her pbych,
She ran over a ptych,
And fell on some rails that were pspyche.