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LITERARY LIFE

The limerick is furtive and mean;
You must keep her in close quarantine,
Or she sneaks to the slums
And promptly becomes
Disorderly, drunk and obscene.
Morris Bishop

The limerick packs laughs anatomical
Into space that is quite economical.
But the good ones I've seen
So seldom are clean--
And the clean ones so seldom are comical.

What frenzy has of late possess’d the brain!
Though few can write, yet fewer can refrain.
---Samuel Garth

A GREAT POEM
Gavin Ewart (1916--1995)
This is a great poem.

How I suffer!
How I suffer!
How I suffer!

This is a great poem.
Full of true emotion.

A STRIKE AMONG THE POETS
Anonymous
In his chamber, weak and dying,
While the Norman Baron lay,
Loud, without, his men were crying,
'Shorter hours and better pay.'

Know you why the ploughman, fretting,
Homeward plods his weary way
Ere his time? He's after getting
Shorter hours and better pay.

See! the Hesperus is swinging
Idle in the wintry bay,
And the skipper's daughter's singing,
'Shorter hours and better pay.'

Where's the minstrel boy? I've found him
Joining in the labour fray
With his placards slung about him,
'Shorter hours and better pay.'

Oh, young Lochinvar is coming;
Though his hair is getting grey,
Yet I'm glad to hear him humming,
'Shorter hours and better pay.'

E'en the boy upon the burning
Deck has got a word to say,
Something rather cross concerning
Shorter hours and better pay.

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make as much as they,
Work no more, until they find us
Shorter hours and better pay.

Hail to thee, blithe spirit! (Shelley)
Wilt thou be a blackleg? Nay.
Soaring, sing above the melée,
'Shorter hours and better pay.'

AFTER GRAVE DELIBERATION
Elizabeth Flynn
When I Go
it should be by cremation,
my ashes slipped into
an 8x10 manila envelope
with a second (stamped and self-addressed)
inside, posted to God
in His capacity as editor
of Everything.

I stand a better than even chance
of being returned to myself,
along with a neat note
acknowledging my insight and my craft,
regretting that I do not not,
at that time, fit
His divine needs,
wishing me luck in placing myself
elsewhere.

AFTER SHAKESPEARE
Alex Comfort (1920- )
At the end of the third act, poetry gutters down--
at eleven, the best pentameters drag their feet;
Tragedy sinks to some old pother
and we find ourselves holding hands in the street,
suddenly tired of eloquence overdone
and wondering why we went, who have each other
in flesh and no pretence. We'll let the great dead stay dead.

That first act of our own
is still the best act left. Let's go to bed.

AN ATTEMPT AT UNRHYMED VERSE
Wendy Cope
People tell you all the time,
Poems do not have to rhyme.
It's often better if they don't
And I'm determined this one won't.

                 Oh dear.

Never mind, I'll start again.
Busy, busy with my pen...cil.
I can do it if I try--
Easy, peasy, pudding and gherkins.

Writing verse is so much fun,
Cheering as the summer weather,
Makes you feel alert and bright,
'Specially when you get it more or
     less the way you want it.

ANTI-HEROINE
Judith Viorst (1931--)
I'd planned to be Heathcliff's Cathy,
Lady Brett, Nicole or Dominique or Scarlett O'Hara.
I hadn't planned to be folding up the laundry
In uncombed hair and last night's smudged mascara,
An expert on buying Fritos, cleaning the cat box,
Finding lost sneakers, playing hide and seek.
And other things unknown to Heathcliff's
Cathy, Scarlett, Lady Brett, and Dominique.
Why am I never running through the heather?
Why am I never used by Howard Roark?
Why am I never going to Pamplona
Instead of Philadelphia and Newark?
How did I ever wind up with an Irving
When what I'd always had in mind was Rhett,
Or someone more appropriate to
Cathy, Dominique, Nicole, or Lady Brett?
I saw myself as heedless, heartless, headstrong,
An untamed woman searching for her mate.
And there he is -- with charcoal, fork, and apron,
Prepared to broil some hot dogs on the grate.
I haven't wrecked his life or his digestion
With unrequited love or jealous wrath.
He Doesn't know that secretly
I'm Scarlett, Dominique, Nicole, or Brett, or Cathy.
Why am I never cracking up in Zurich?
Why am I never languishing on moors?
Why am I never spoiled by faithful servants
Instead of spraying ant spray on the floors?
The tricycles are cluttering my foyer,
The Pop Tart crumbs are sprinkled on my soul.
And every year it's harder to be
Cathy, Dominique, Brett, Scarlett, and Nicole.

ARCHY CONFESSES
Don Marquis (1878-1937)
coarse
jocasity
catches the crowd
shakespeare
and i
are often
low browed
the fish wife
curse
and the laugh
of the horse
shakespeare
and i
are frequently
coarse
aesthetic
excuses
in bill's behalf
are adduced
to refine
big bills
coarse laugh
he would chuckle
to hear such guff
he pulled
rough stuff
cause he liked
rough stuff
hoping you are the same
archy

A STUDY OF WRITING HABITS
Philip Larkin (1922- )
When getting my nose in a book
Cured most things short of school,
It was worth ruining my eyes
To know that I could still keep cool
And deal out the old right hook
To dirty dogs twice my age.

Later, with inch-thick specs,
Evil was just my lark;
Me and my cloak and fangs
Had ripping times in the dark.
The women I clubbed with sex!
I broke them up like merinques.

Don't read much now: the dude
Who lets the girl down before
The hero arrives, the chap
Who's yellow and keeps the store
Seems far too familiar. Get stewed;
Books are a load of crap.

AUTHORSHIP
James Ball Naylor
King David and King Solomon
      Led merry, merry lives,
With many, many lady friends,
     And many, many wives;
But when old age crept over them,
      With many, many qualms,
King Solomon wrote the Proverbs
     And King David wrote the Psalms.

BUY ONE NOW
D.J. Enright
This is a new sort of Poem,
It is Biological.
It contains a special Ingredient
(Pat. pend.) which makes it different
From other brands of poem on the market.

This new Poem does the work for you.
Just drop your mind into it
And leave it to soak
While you relax with the telly
Or go out to the pub
Or (if that's what you like)
You read a book.

It does the work for you.
While (if that is what you like)
You sleep. For it is Biological
(Pat. pend.), it penetrates
Into the darkest recesses.
It remains the understains
Which it is difficult for us
Even to speak of.

Its action is so gentle
That the most delicate mind is unharmed.
This new sort of Poem
Contains an exclusive new Ingredient
(Known only to every jackass in the trade)
And can be found in practically any magazine
You care to mention.

CALIBAN AT SUNSET
P.G. Wodehouse
I stood with a man
Watching the sun go down.
The air was full of murmurous summer scents
And a brave breeze sang like a bugle
From a sky that smouldered in the west,
A sky of crimson, amethyst, gold and sepia
And blue as blue were the eyes of Helen
When she sat
Gazing from some high tower in Ilium
Upon the Grecian tents darkling below.
And he,
This man who stood beside me,
Gaped like some dull, half-witted animal
And said,
"I say,
Doesn't that sunset remind you
Of a slice
Of underdone roast beef?"

CHILDE ROLAND, ETC.
Elder Olson
Certainly there was something to their stories;
Something had been at the fields, the pond was shaped
Like an enormous footprint; there were the usual signs,
Small herds, snapped trees.
I sat astride my horse in the autumn twilight,
Conscious of looking well; they crowded about me,
Jabbering, gesticulating, spilling out of the straw-thatched huts.
Later, outside the tavern, I was shown
A number of women—all, it was said, deflowered.

Well, I set out at once: the approach was sinister,
Full of the usual obstacles; suddenly,
There was the castle. I was just about to knock
--Thunderously, of course—when the door opened.
I think I have never met a more charming person.
True, he was ugly, and—large; but he had a manner.
You know how personality makes up for so much!
He gave me cocktails, followed by an excellent supper;
I felt ridiculously clumsy in my clanking armor.
Later, with coffee and brandy, I had the facts.
Land and cattle were his; the people were squatters.
He did not resent the trespassing and depredation,
But thought it a pity they felt so possessive.
He ready me his poems, humbly took my suggestions,
Played some things of Chopin’s rather well.
I left quite late, rather reluctantly.

And went back with the thought of punishing the villagers,
But they had already begun their singing and dancing;
My ears rang with it several miles beyond.
Later, “he had eaten six men”; that very day
I had a little note from him—half invitation,
Half begging the name of a competent lawyer.

My armor stands in the hall; I often think of my ancestors.
Was it different for them?
Nowadays, I observe, poetry is chiefly lyrical.

CONSCRIPTED!
Laryalee Fraser
Hup two, three, four!
Okay, words -- now hit the floor!
Fifty push-ups, each of you --
no one leaves until we're through!

Adjectives, line up in rows...
jumping jacks and touch-your-toes;
stretch those sinews, bend those knees --
I want flexibility!
Attention, nouns! You have your space,
so let's achieve a steady pace,
sounding out those treadmill blues!
Verbs will form in barbell queues,
work on building muscle tone.

Hustle now! No wimpy groans
will let you off. There's no escape --
I'm gonna get you words in shape!

CUCKOO SONG
Summer is icumen in,
Lhude sing cuccu!
Growth sed and bloweth med
And springth the wode nu.
Sing cuccu!

Awe bleteth after lomb
Lhouth after calve cu,
Bulluc sterteth, buck verteth.
Murie sing cuccu!
Cuccu, cuccu,
Wel singes thu, cuccu.
Ne swik thu naver nu!

Sing cuccu mu, Sing cuccu!
Sing cuccu, Sing cuccu nu!

DISILLUSIONMENT, WORDSWORTH
Tony Buzan
I lay as did Will,
half-asleep and quite still,
in the song of the birds a-delighting.

I opened my eyes,
And to my surprise,
I found that the bastards were fighting.

EGOISM
W. Craddle
I am anxious after praise.
I sometimes wish it were not so:
I hate to think I spend my days
Waiting for what I'll never know.

I even hope that when I'm dead
The worms won't find me wholly vicious
But, as they masticate my head,
Will smack their lips and cry "Delicious!"

ENGINEERS CORNER
Wendy Cope (1945--)
From: Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis
Why isn't there an Engineers' Corner in Westminster Abbey?
In Britain we've always made more fuss of a ballad than a blueprint...
How many schoolchildren dream of becoming great engineers?
-- advertisement placed in The Times by the Engineering Council

We make more fuss of ballads than of blueprints--
That's why so many poets end up rich,
While engineers scrape by in cheerless garrets.
Who needs a bridge or dam? Who needs a ditch?
Whereas the person who can write a sonnet
Has got it made. It's always been the way,
For everybody knows that we need poems
And everybody reads them every day.

Yes, life is hard if you choose engineering --
You're sure to need another job as well;
You'll have to plan your projects in the evenings
Instead of going out. It must be hell.

While well-heeled poets ride around in Daimlers,
You'll burn the midnight oil to earn a crust,
With no hope of a statue in the Abbey,
With no hope, even, of a modest bust.

No wonder small boys dream of writing couplets
And spurn the bike, the lorry and the train.
There's far too much encouragement for poets --
That's why this country's going down the drain.

EPIGRAM
Martial
You puff the poets of other days,
The living you deplore.
Spare me the accolade: your praise
Is not worth dying for.

EVERYTHING IN ITS PLACE
Arthur Guiterman
The skeleton is hiding in the closet as it should,
The needle's in the hatstack and the trees are in the wood,
The fly is in the ointment and the froth is on the beer,
The bee is in the bonnet and the flea is in the ear.

The meat is in the coconut, the cat is in the bag,
The dog is in the manger and the goat is on the crag.
The worm is in the apple and the clam is on the shore,
The birds are in the bushes and the wolf is at the door.

FABLE
James Facos
Frankilin sailed a key-hung kite
And watched the storm-strung flight of it.
Everyone seemed much impressed--
But Edison made light of it.

FORM
(Pete Winslow)
Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater
Is trochaic tetrameter.

‘FROM WITTY MEN AND MAD’
Thomas Randolph (1605-1635)
From witty men and mad
All poetry conception had.
No sires but these will poetry admit:
Madness or wit:
This definition poetry doth fit:
It is a witty madness or mad wit.
Only these two poetic heat admits:
A witty man, or one that’s out of’s wits.

GLOSS
David McCord
I know a little man both ept and ert.
An intro-? extro-? No, he’s just a vert.
Sheveled and couth and kempt, pecurious, ane,
His image trudes upon the captive brain.
When life turns sipid and the mind is traught,
The spirit soars as I would sist it ought.
Chalontly then, like any gainly goof,
My digent self is sertive, choate, loof.

HAD WE TWO MET
Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864)
Had we two met, blithe-hearted Burns,
          Tho’ water is my daily drink,
          May God forgive me but I think
We should have roared our toasts by turns.
Inquisitive low-whispering cares
          Had found no room in either pate,
          Until I asked thee, rather late,
Is there a hand-rail to the stairs?

HAMLET
Stanley J. Sharpless
Prince Hamlet thought Uncle a traitor,
For having it off with his Mater;
          Revenge Dad or not?
          That’s the gist of the plot,
And he did—-nine soliloquies later!

THE HEIGHT OF THE RIDICULOUS
Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894)
I WROTE some lines once on a time
In wondrous merry mood,
And thought, as usual, men would say
They were exceeding good.

They were so queer, so very queer,
I laughed as I would die;
Albeit, in the general way,
A sober man am I.

I called my servant, and he came;
How kind it was of him
To mind a slender man like me,
He of the mighty limb.

"These to the printer," I exclaimed,
And, in my humorous way,
I added, (as a trifling jest,)
"There'll be the devil to pay."

He took the paper, and I watched,
And saw him peep within;
At the first line he read, his face
Was all upon the grin.

He read the next; the grin grew broad,
And shot from ear to ear;
He read the third; a chuckling noise
I now began to hear.

The fourth; he broke into a roar;
The fifth; his waistband split;
The sixth; he burst five buttons off,
And tumbled in a fit.

Ten days and nights, with sleepless eye,
I watched that wretched man,
And since, I never dare to write
As funny as I can.

HISTORY OF EDUCATION
(David McCord)
The decent docent doesn't doze:
He teaches standing on his toes.
His student dassn't doze--and does,
And that's what teaching is and was.

I AM THE POET DAVIES, WILLIAM
W. H. Davies (1871—1940)
I am the poet Davies, William,
          I sit without a blush or blink;
I am a man that lives to eat;
          I am a man that lives to drink.

My face is large, my lips are thick,
          My skin is coarse and black almost;
But the ugliest feature is my verse,
          Which proves my soul is black and lost.

Thank heaven thou didst not marry me,
          A poet full of blackest evil;
For how to manage my damned soul
          Will puzzle many a flaming devil.

I LIKE TO QUOTE
Mitchell D. Follansbee
I like to quote the fragrant lines of Keats,
          And often I am caught by Shelley's tone,
And yet for clever thoughts and quaint conceits
          Give me some little lyric of my own.

INTRODUCTION TO POETRY
Billy Collins
I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

LEARN BY HEART THIS POEM OF MINE
George Faludy
Learn by heart this poem of mine;
books only last a little time
and this one will be borrowed, scarred,
burned by Hungarian border guards,
lost by the library, broken-backed,
its paper dried up, crisped and cracked,
worm-eaten, crumbling into dust,
or slowly brown and self-combust
when climbing Fahrenheit has got
to 451, for that's how hot
your town will be when it burns down.
Learn by heart this poem of mine.

Learn by heart this poem of mine.
Soon books will vanish and you'll find
there won't be any poets or verse
or gas for car or bus - or hearse -
no beer to cheer you till you're crocked,
the liquor stores torn down or locked,
cash only fit to throw away,
as you come closer to that day
when TV steadily transmits
death-rays instead of movie hits
and not a soul to lend a hand
and everything is at an end
but what you hold within your mind,
so find a space there for these lines
and learn by heart this poem of mine.

Learn by heart this poem of mine;
recite it when the putrid tides
that stink of lye break from their beds,
when industry's rank vomit spreads
and covers every patch of ground,
when they've killed every lake and pond,
Destruction humped upon its crutch,
black rotting leaves on every branch;
when gargling plague chokes Springtime's throat
and twilight's breeze is poison, put
your rubber gasmask on and line by line declaim this poem of mine.

Learn by heart this poem of mine
so, dead, I still will share the time
when you cannot endure a house
deprived of water, light, or gas,
and, stumbling out to find a cave,
roots, berries, nuts to stay alive,
get you a cudgel, find a well,
a bit of land, and, if it's held,
kill the owner, eat the corpse.
I'll trudge beside your faltering steps
between the ruins' broken stones,
whispering "You are dead; you're done!
Where would you go? That soul you own
froze solid when you left your town."
Learn by heart this poem of mine.

Maybe above you, on the earth,
there's nothing left and you, beneath,
deep in your bunker, ask how soon
before the poisoned air leaks down
through layers of lead and concrete. Can
there have been any point to Man
if this is how the thing must end?
What words of comfort can I send?
Shall I admit you've filled my mind
for countless years, through the blind
oppressive dark, the bitter light,
and, though long dead and gone, my hurt
and ancient eyes observe you still?
What else is there for me to tell
to you, who, facing time's design,
will find no use for life or time?
You must forget this poem of mine.

LINES ON AND FROM "BARTLETT'S FAMILIAR QUOTATIONS"
("Sir: For the first time in twenty-three years 'Bartlett's Familiar Quotations' has been revised and enlarged, and under a separate cover we are sending you a copy of the new edition. We would appreciate an expression of opinion from you of the value of this work after you have had an ample opportunity of examining it." --THE PUBLISHERS)

Franklin P. Adams
Of making many books there is no end--
       So Sancho Panza said, and so say I.
Thou wert my guide, philosopher and friend
       When only one is shining in the sky.

Books cannot always please, however good;
       The good is oft interred with their bones.
To be great is to be misunderstood,
       The anointed sovereign of sighs and groans.

The Moving Finger writes, and having writ,
       I never write as funny as I can.
Remote, unfriendly, studious let me sit
       And say to all the world, "This was a man!"

Go, lovely Rose, that lives its little hour!
       Go, little booke! and let who will be clever!
Roll on! From yonder ivy-mantled tower
       The moon and I could keep this up forever.

For an explanation of every literary reference, see The Wondering Minstrel

LONDON BELLS
Gay go up, and gay go down
To ring the bells of London town.

Bull’s eyes and targets,
Say the bells of St. Marg’rets.

Brickbats and tiles,
Say the bells of St. Giles.

Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement’s.

Pancakes and fritters
Say the bells of St. Peter’s.

Two sticks and an apple,
Say the bells at Whitechapel.

Old Father Baldpate,
Say the slow bells at Aldgate.

Maids in white aprons,
Say the bells of St. Cath’rine’s.

Pokers and tongs,
Say the bells at St. John’s.

Kettles and pans,
Say the bells at St. Anne’s.

You owe me ten shillings,
Say the bells at St. Helen’s.

When will you pay me?
Say the bells at Old Bailey.

When I grow rich,
Say the bells at Fleetditch!

When will that be?
Say the bells at Stepney.

I’m sure I don’t know,
Says the great bell at Bow.

When I am old,
Say the bells at St. Paul’s.

Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head.

MACBETH HAS MURDERED SLEEP?
or
DON’T MAKE ME LAUGH

Ogden Nash
The ravelled sleeve of care, O Sleep,
Knit up or not. I shall not weep.
Make up your mind, or leave it lay,
I’m fortified, whichever way.
Farewell, farewell to Morpheus’ arms!
Welcome excursions and alarms!
Murder will out, so will the night,
Far sooner than this bedside light.
When borogoves grow over-mimsy,
Destroy them with Lord Peter Wimsey;
When landlords lurk upon the morrow,
Sneer Gallicly with Hercule Poirot,
Or with your thumb in some forlorn dyke,
Refresh your soul with Doctor Thorndyke.
Let Strephon dream of merry maying,
I much prefer a ghastly slaying.
I find myself a sounder man
For Father Brown and Charlie Chan.
I hug myself and holler “Champion!”
When I encounter Albert Campion;
To me like the Golden Fleece to Jason
Are Inspector French and Perry Mason,
And blissful am I when a handler
Of anything by Raymond Chandler.
Indeed I’ll even take a chance
On Ellery Queen and Philo Vance,
Enduring barely in the latter
The mannerisms for the matter.
More soothing than the genial toddy
I hold a mutilated body.
I’ve watched with fascinated eyes
Detectives fall, detectives rise,
And racing through a thousand tomes,
Reflect, There’s no police like Holmes.

MACBETH.ZIP
Hermann-Joseph Rettig
Life is a candle.
Guilt is a spot.
The one goes out.
The other does not.

MY DADDY
Ogden Nash
I have a funny daddy
Who goes in and out with me
And everything that baby does
My daddy's sure to see,
And everything that baby says,
My daddy's sure to tell.
You must have read my daddy's verse.
I hope he fries in hell.

ON A PROFESSOR
One of 4500 brief lyrics from Meleager's THE GREEK ANTHOLOGY)
This pedagogue deserves the highest heaven;
          He never diced or drank or went with wenches.
His listeners are a small but loyal seven:
          The four walls of his school and three old benches.

OZYMANDIAS
Percy Bysshe Shelley
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half-sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

PANGUR BAN
Anon., (Irish, 8th century) Written by a student of the monastery of Carinthia on a copy of St Paul's Epistles.
I and Pangur Ban my cat,
'Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men
'Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill-will,
He too plies his simple skill.

'Tis a merry task to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur's way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

'Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
'Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den,
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our task we ply,
Pangur Ban, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.

PERCY SHELLEY
John Peale Bishop
The question, lords and ladies, is
With what did Percy Shelley piss?
Was light dissolved in star showers thrown
When Percy Shelley had a bone?

Transcendental love we know
Is packed, but has no place to go,
And Percy's love, as he has said,
Resembled roses when they're dead.

And rose leaves when the rose is dead
Are out of place, like crumbs in bed.
No letter yet has come to light
To say if Percy rose at night.

No lady for whom Percy pined
Has left a diary behind,
And so there still remains a doubt
What Percy's love was all about.

Though scholars search, no letters come
Written in a flurry home;
We ask and ask, till silence palls,
Did Percy Bysshe have any balls?

PHILANDER
Donald Hall (1928- )
Poetical Philander only thought to love;
He went to bed with what the girls were symbols of.

POETA FIT, NON NASCITUR
Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)
"How shall I be a poet?
How shall I write in rhyme?
You told me once 'the very wish
Partook of the sublime.'
Then tell me how! Don't put me off
With your 'another time'!"

The old man smiled to see him,
To hear his sudden sally;
He liked the lad to speak his mind
Enthusiastically;
And thought "There's no hum-drum in him,
Nor any shilly-shally."

"And would you be a poet
Before you've been to school?
Ah, well! I hardly thought you
So absolute a fool.
First learn to be spasmodic --
A very simple rule.

"For first you write a sentence,
And then you chop it small;
Then mix the bits, and sort them out
Just as they chance to fall:
The order of the phrases makes
No difference at all.

'Then, if you'd be impressive,
Remember what I say,
That abstract qualities begin
With capitals alway:
The True, the Good, the Beautiful --
Those are the things that pay!

"Next, when we are describing
A shape, or sound, or tint;
Don't state the matter plainly,
But put it in a hint;
And learn to look at all things
With a sort of mental squint."

"For instance, if I wished, Sir,
Of mutton-pies to tell,
Should I say 'dreams of fleecy flocks
Pent in a wheaten cell'?"
"Why, yes," the old man said: "that phrase
Would answer very well.

"Then fourthly, there are epithets
That suit with any word --
As well as Harvey's Reading Sauce
With fish, or flesh, or bird --
Of these, 'wild,' 'lonely,' 'weary,' 'strange,'
Are much to be preferred."

"And will it do, O will it do
To take them in a lump --
As 'the wild man went his weary way
To a strange and lonely pump'?"
"Nay, nay! You must not hastily
To such conclusions jump.

"Such epithets, like pepper,
Give zest to what you write;
And, if you strew them sparely,
They whet the appetite:
But if you lay them on too thick,
You spoil the matter quite!

"Last, as to the arrangement:
Your reader, you should show him,
Must take what information he
Can get, and look for no im
mature disclosure of the drift
And purpose of your poem.

"Therefore to test his patience --
How much he can endure --
Mention no places, names, or dates,
And evermore be sure
Throughout the poem to be found
Consistently obscure.

"First fix upon the limit
To which it shall extend:
Then fill it up with 'Padding'
(Beg some of any friend)
Your great SENSATION-STANZA
You place towards the end."

"And what is a Sensation,
Grandfather, tell me, pray?
I think I never heard the word
So used before to-day:
Be kind enough to mention one
'Exempli gratiâ'"

And the old man, looking sadly
Across the garden-lawn,
Where here and there a dew-drop
Yet glittered in the dawn,
Said "Go to the Adelphi,
And see the 'Colleen Bawn.'

"The word is due to Boucicault --
The theory is his,
Where Life becomes a Spasm,
And History a Whiz:
If that is not Sensation,
I don't know what it is,

"Now try your hand, ere Fancy
Have lost its present glow --"
"And then," his grandson added,
"We'll publish it, you know:
Green cloth -- gold-lettered at the back --
In duodecimo!"

Then proudly smiled that old man
To see the eager lad
Rush madly for his pen and ink
And for his blotting-pad --
But, when he thought of publishing,
His face grew stern and sad.

PRETTY WORDS
Eleanor Wylie
Poets make pets of pretty, docile words:
I love smooth words, like gold-enameled fish
Which circle slowly with a silken swish,
And tender ones, like downy-feathered birds:
Words shy and dappled, deep-eyed deer in herds,
Come to my hand, and playful if I wish,
Or purring softly at a silver disk,
Blue Persian kittens, fed on cream and curds.

I love bright words, words up and singing early;
Words that are luminous in the dark, and sing;
Warm lazy words, white cattle under trees;
I love words opalescent, cool, and pearly,
Like midsummer moths, and honied words like bees,
Gilded and sticky, with a little sting.

PROVERBS FROM PURGATORY
Lloyd Schwartz, b. 1941
It was déjà vu all over again.
I know this town like the back of my head.
People who live in glass houses are worth two in the bush.
One hand scratches the other.
A friend in need is worth two in the bush.
A bird in the hand makes waste.
Life isn’t all it’s crapped up to be.
It’s like finding a needle in the eye of the beholder.
It’s like killing one bird with two stones.
My motto in life has always been: Get It Over With.
Two heads are better than none.
A rolling stone deserves another.
All things wait for those who come.
A friend in need deserves another.
I’d trust him as long as I could throw him.
He smokes like a fish.
He’s just a chip off the old tooth.
I’ll have him eating out of my lap.
A friend in need opens a can of worms.
Too many cooks spoil the child.
An ill wind keeps the doctor away.
The wolf at the door keeps the doctor away.
People who live in glass houses keep the doctor away.
A friend in need shouldn’t throw stones.
A friend in need washes the other.
A friend in need keeps the doctor away.
A stitch in time is only skin deep.
A verbal agreement isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.
A cat may look like a king.
Know which side of the bed your butter is on.
Nothing is cut and dried in stone.
You can eat more flies with honey than with vinegar.
Don’t let the cat out of the barn.
Let’s burn that bridge when we get to it.
When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
Don’t cross your chickens before they hatch.
DO NOT READ THIS SIGN.
Throw discretion to the wolves.
After the twig is bent, the barn door is locked.
After the barn door is locked, you can come in out of the rain.
A friend in need locks the barn door.
There’s no fool like a friend in need.
We’ve passed a lot of water since then.
At least we got home in two pieces.
All’s well that ends.
It ain’t over till it’s over.
There’s always one step further down you can go.
It’s a milestone hanging around my neck.
Include me out.
It was déjà vu all over again.

REFLECTION
Kurt M.
There is an ode in every swaying tree
And as for sonnets, every flower incites them.
An epic roars from crested waves at sea,
And always there is some damn fool who writes them.

SELECTING A READER
Ted Kooser
First, I would have her be beautiful,
and walking carefully up on my poetry
at the loneliest moment of an afternoon,
her hair still damp at the neck
from washing it. She should be wearing
a raincoat, an old one, dirty
from not having money enough for the cleaners.
She will take out her glasses, and there
in the bookstore, she will thumb
over my poems, then put the book back
up on its shelf. She will say to herself,
"For that kind of money, I can get
my raincoat cleaned." And she will.

SONNET
Billy Collins
All we need is fourteen lines, well, thirteen now,
and after this one just a dozen
to launch a little ship on love's storm-tossed seas,
then only ten more left like rows of beans.
How easily it goes unless you get Elizabethan
and insist the iambic bongos must be played
and rhymes positioned at the ends of lines,
one for every station of the cross.
But hang on here wile we make the turn
into the final six where all will be resolved,
where longing and heartache will find an end,
where Laura will tell Petrarch to put down his pen,
take off those crazy medieval tights,
blow out the lights, and come at last to bed.

SONNET ON BEING RICH
(Sonnet 34)
Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953)
Would that I had 300,000 (Pounds)
     Invested in some strong security;
A Midland Country House with formal grounds,
     A Town House, and a House beside the sea,
And one in Spain, and one in Normandy,
     And Friends innumerable at my call
And youth serene--and underneath it all
     One steadfast, passionate flame to nurture me.

Then would I chuck for good my stinking trade
     Of writing tosh at 1s. 6d. a quire!
And soar like young Bellerophon arrayed
     High to the filmy Heavens of my desire ....
           But that's all over. Here's the world again.
            Bring me the Blotter. Fill the fountain-pen.

SURVEY OF LITERATURE
John Crowe Ransom
In all the good Greek of Plato
I lack my roast beef and potato.

A better man was Aristotle,
Pulling steady on the bottle.

I dip my hat to Chaucer,
Swilling soup from his saucer.

And to Master Shakespeare
Who wrote big on small beer.

The abstemious Wordsworth
Subsisted on a curd's-worth,

But the slick one was Tennyson,
Putting gravy on his venison.

What these men had to eat and drink,
Is what we say and what we think.

The influence of Milton
Came wry out of Stilton.

Sing a song for Percy Shelley
Drowned in pale lemon jelly,

And for precious John Keats,
Dripping blood of pickled beets.

Then there was poor Willie Blake,
He foundered on sweet cake.

God have mercy on the sinner
Who must write with no dinner.

No gravy and no grub,
No pewter and no pub,

No belly and no bowels,
Only consonants and vowels.

TERENCE, THIS IS STUPID STUFF
A.E. Housman (1859-1936)
"Terence, this is stupid stuff;
You eat your victuals fast enough;
There can't be much amiss, 'tis clear,
To see the rate you drink your beer.
But oh, good Lord, the verse you make,
It gives a chap the belly-ache.
The cow, the old cow, she is dead;
It sleeps well, the horned head:
We poor lads, 'tis our turn now
To hear such tunes as killed the cow.
Pretty friendship 'tis to rhyme
Your friends to death before their time.
Moping melancholy mad:
Come, pipe a tune to dance to, lad."

Why, if 'tis dancing you would be,
There's brisker pipes than poetry.
Say, for what were hop-yards meant,
Or why was Burton built on Trent?
Oh, many a peer of England brews
Livelier liquor than the Muse,
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to man.
Ale, man, ale's the stuff to drink
For fellows whom it hurts to think:
Look into the pewter pot
To see the world as the world's not.
And faith, 'tis pleasant 'till 'tis past:
The mischief is that 'twill not last.
Oh, I have been to Ludlow fair
And left my necktie God knows where,
And carried half-way home, or near,
Pints and quarts of Ludlow beer:
Then the world seemed none so bad,
And I myself a sterling lad;
And down in lovely much I've lain,
Happy till I woke again.
Then I saw the morning sky:
Heigh-ho, the tale was all a lie;
The world, it was the old world yet,
I was I, my things were wet,
And nothing now remained to do
But begin the game anew.

Therefore, since the world has still
Much good, but much less good than ill,
And while the sun and moon endure
Luck's a chance, but trouble's sure.
I'd face it as a wise man would,
And train for ill and not for good.
'Tis true, the stuff I bring for sale
Is not so brisk a brew as ale:
Out of a stem that scored the hand,
I wrung it in a weary land.
But take it: if the smack is sour,
The better for the embittered hour;
It should do good to heart and head
When your soul is in my soul's stead;
And I will friend you, if I may,
In the dark and cloudy day.

There was a king reigned in the East:
There, when kings will sit to feast
They get their fill before they think
With poisoned meat and poisoned drink.
He gathered all that springs to birth
From the many venomed earth;
First a little, thence to more,
He sampled all her killing store;
And easy, smiling, seasoned sound,
Sate the king when healths went round.
They put arsenic in his meat
And stared aghast to watch him eat;
They poured strychnine in his cup
And shook to see him drink it up:
They shook, they stared as white's their shirt:
Them it was their poison hurt.
--I tell the tale that I heard told--
Mithridates, he died old.

THEOLOGICAL
Clifton Fadiman
Said Descartes, "I extol
Myself because I have a soul
And beasts do not." (Of course,
He had to put Descartes before the horse.)

THE AUTHOR TO HER BOOK
Anne Bradstreet (abt 1612--1672)
Thou ill-form'd offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth didst by my side remain
Till snatcht from thence by friends less wise than true
Who thee abroad expos'd to publick view,
Made thee in rags, halting to th'press to trudge
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge)
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call.
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
Thy Visage was so irksome in my sight;
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could:
I wash'd thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw.
I stretcht thy joints to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run'st more hobbling than is meet;
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save home-spun Cloth i'th'house I find.
In this array 'mongst Vulgars mayst thou roam,
In Criticks hands beware thou dost not come,
And take thy way where yet thou art not known.
If for thy Father askt, say, thou hadst none:
And for thy Mother, she alas is poor,
Which caus'd her thus to send thee out of door.

THE COMPLAINT OF CHAUCER TO HIS PURSE
[editor's note: The king addressed in the 'Lenvoy' is probably Henry IV]

Geoffrey Chaucer
TO you, my purse, and to none other wight
Complain I, for you be my lady dear!
I am so sorry, now that you be light;
For certain, but you make me heavy cheer,
Me were as lief be laid upon my bier;
For which unto your mercy thus I cry:
Be heavy again, or else might I die!
Now voucheth safe this day, or be it night,
That I of you the blissful sound may hear,
Or see your colour like the sun bright,
That of yellowness had never peer.
You be my life, you be mine heart's steer,
Queen of comfort and of good company:
Be heavy again, or else might I die!
Now, purse, that be to me my life's light
And saviour, as done in this world here,
Out of this town help me through your might,
Since that you will not be my treasurer;
For I am shaved as nigh as any friar.
But yet I pray unto your courtesy:
Be heavy again, or else might I die!

     Lenvoy de Chaucer
O conqueror of Brute's Albion,
Which that by line and free election
Be very king, this song to you I send;
And you, that may all our harms amend,
Have mind upon my supplication!

THE CURSE
To a sister of an enemy who disapproved of his ‘Playboy of the Western World’

J.M. Synge
Lord, confound this surly sister,
Blight her brow with blotch and blister,
Cramp her larynx, lung, and liver,
In her guts a galling give her.

Let her live to earn her dinners
In Mountjoy with seedy sinners:
Lord, this judgement quickly bring,
And I’m your servant, J.M. Synge.

THEOLOGICAL
Clifton Fadiman
Said Descartes, “I extol
Myself because I have a soul
And beasts do not.” (Of course,
He had to put Descartes before the horse.)

THE LAZY WRITER
Bert Leston Taylor
In summer I'm disposed to shirk,
As summer is no time to work.

In winter, inspiritation dies
For lack of out-door exercise.

In spring I'm seldom in the mood,
Because of vernal lassitude

The fall remains. But such a fall!
We've really had no fall at all.

THE POET'S REQUEST
7th century, translated by John Montague
I demand a thatched house,
swept spick and span;
not a hut for dogs or cattle
but dignified in welcome;
I demand a high chair
cushioned with down.

THE SECRET OF POETRY
Jon Anderson
When I was lonely, I thought of death.
When I thought of death I was lonely.

I suppose this error will continue.
I shall enter each gray morning

Delighted by frost, which is death,
& the trees that stand alone in mist.

When I met my wife I was lonely.
Our child in her body is lonely.

I suppose this error will go on & on.
Morning I kiss my wife's cold lips,

Nights her body, dripping with mist.
This is the error that fascinates.

I suppose you are secretly lonely,
Thinking of death, thinking of love.


I'd like, please, to leave on your sill
Just one cold flower, whose beauty

Would leave you inconsolable all day.
The secret of poetry is cruelty.

TO MINERVA
(from the Greek)

Thomas Hood
My temples throb, my pulses boil,
          I’m sick of Song and Ode, and Ballad—-
So, Thyrisis, take the Midnight Oil
          And pour it on a lobster salad.

My brain is dull, my sight is foul,
          I cannot write a verse, or read—-
Then, Pallas, take away thine Owl,
          And let us have a lark instead.

TREES
Joyce Kilmer
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain,
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

US POTES
Franklin P. Adams
Swift was sweet on Stella;
Poe had his Lenore;
Burns' fancy turned to Nancy
And a dozen more.
Poe was quite a trifler;
Goldsmith was a case;
Byron'd flirt with any skirt
From Liverpool to Thrace.
Sheridan philandered;
Shelley, Keats, and Moore
All were there with some affair
Far from lit'rachoor.
Fickle is the heart of
Each immortal bard.
Mine alone is made of stone--
Gotta work too hard.

VERY LIKE A WHALE
Ogden Nash
One thing that literature would be greatly the better for
Would be a more restricted employment by authors of simile and metaphor.
Authors of all races, be they Greeks, Romans, Teutons or Celts,
Can'ts seem just to say that anything is the thing it is but have
to go out
      of their way to say that it is like something else.
What foes it mean when we are told
That the Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold?
In the first place, George Gordon Byron had had enough experience
To know that it probably wasn't just one Assyrian, it was a lot
of Assyrians.
However, as too many arguments are apt to induce apoplexy and thus
      hinder longevity,
We'll let it pass as one Assyrian for the sake of brevity.
Now then, this particular Assyrian, the one whose cohorts were gleaming
      in purple and gold,
Just what does the poet mean when he says he came down like a wolf
on
      the fold?
In heaven and earth more than is dreamed of in our philosophy there
are
      a great many things,
But i don't imagine that among then there is a wolf with purple
and gold
      cohorts or purple and gold anythings.
No, no, Lord Byron, before I'll believe that this Assyrian was actually
      like a wolf I must have some kind of proof;
Did he run on all fours and did he have a hairy tail and a big red
mouth and
big white teeth and did he say Woof woof?
Frankly I think it very unlikely, and all you were entitled to say,
at the
      very most,
Was that the Assyrian cohorts came down like a lot of Assyrian cohorts
about to destroy the Hebrew host.
But that wasn't fancy enough for Lord Byron, oh dear me no, he had
to
      invent a lot of figures of speech and then interpolate
them,
With the result that whenever you mention Old Testament soldiers
to
      people they say Oh yes, they're the ones that a lot
of wolves dressed
      up in gold and purple ate them.
That's the kind of thing that's being done all the time by poets,
from Homer
to Tennyson;
They're always comparing ladies to lilies and veal to venison,
And they always say things like that the snow is a white blanket
after a
winter storm.
Oh it is, is it, all right then, you sleep under a six-inch blanket
of snow and
I'll sleep under a half-inch blanket of unpoetical
blanket material and
we'll see which one keeps warm,
And after that maybe you'll begin to comprehend dimly,
What I mean by too much metaphor and simile.

VISITING POET
(John Frederick Nims)
"The famous bard, he comes! the Vision nears!

Now heaven protect your booze. Your wife. Your ears.

WELL, WHY NOT?
(L.T.)
Rhymer Byron was a rake--
      Shakespeare often hit the bottle;
Burns was always on the slake,
      Pouring liquor down his throttle;
Poe was pickled night and day;
      "Oh, you kid!" was Villon's warning;
Take the list across the way,
      And the same was not a far cry.
Goldsmith never had a cent,
      Shelley jumped his boarded lodging;
Homer never paid his rent,
      Up and down the highway dodging;
Same old bunch across the slope,
      Little coin--but game to blow it--
Seems to me, from all this dope,
      I too ought to be a poet.

WRITING
William Allingham (1824-1889)
A man who keeps a diary, pays
Due toll to many tedious days;
But life becomes eventful--then
His busy hand forgets the pen.
Most books, indeed, are records less
Of fulness than of emptiness.

YOUNG POETS
Nicanor Parra (1914- )
Write as you will
In whatever style you like
Too much blood has run under the bridge
To go on believing
That only one road is right.

In poetry everything is permitted.

With only this condition of course,
You have to improve the blank page.

Open your heart to some poetic views of love, lust, and all kinds of fun..

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