Archive for ‘Humour’

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Lecture I from “The Pleader’s Guide” by John Anstey

This is from The Pleader’s Guide, a Didactic Poem in Two Parts: Containing Mr. Surrebutter’s Political Lectures on the Conduct of a Suit at Law, including the Arguments of Counsellor Bother’um, and Counsellor Bore’um, in an Action for Assault and Battery, betwixt John-a-Gull and John-a-Gudgeon.

Of legal Fictions, Quirks, and Glosses,
Attorneys’ gains, and Clients’ losses,
Of Suits created, lost, and won,
How to undo, and be undone;
Whether by Common Law, or Civil,
A man goes sooner to the Devil,;
Things which few mortals can disclose
In Verse, or comprehend in Prose,
I sing—do thou, bright Phoebus, deign
To shine for once in Chanc’ry-lane;
And, Clio, if your pipe you’ll lend
To Mercury, the Lawyer’s friend,
That Usher of the golden rod,
Of Gain and Eloquence the God,
Shall lead my steps with guidance sure,
Safe through the” palpable obscure,
And take my parchments for his labour
To cover your harmonious tabour.
“Pindus to wit“—or where you chuse,—
At Lincoln’s Inn, or Arethuse,
For Bards and Lawyers, both with ease,
May place the Venue where they please;
No matter where an action’s laid,
A Contract or a Poem made:
Is there a proud o’erbearing wight
Who tramples on his neighbour’s right,
Superior in his own opinion
To Lawyers, and the Law’s dominion?
Say, what compulsive mode of action .
Must give the injur’d, satisfaction;
What forms, what fictions must combine
To make the parties Issue join;
And better may enable those
Who draw their Pleas, or Briefs compose,
To hold the balance of success
With such precision and address,
That both the combat may sustain,
And neither the advantage gain;
But when ’tis o’er and judgment given,
The scales may prove so just and even,
That each may venture to make oath
The Law’s impartial to them both;
When both in rags their folly rue,
The Victor and the Vanquish’d too?

Hear then, and deign to be my readers,
Attorneys, Barristers, and Pleaders,
Shrieves, Justices, and Civil Doctors,
Surrogates, Delegates, and Proctors,
Grave Judges too, with smiles peruse
The sallies of a Lawyer’s Muse.
A buxom lass, who fain would make
Your sober sides with laughter shake;
And, good my Lords, be kind and gracious,
And, though You deem her contumacious,
Ne’er to the Fleet, or Bridewell send her,
But spare a ludicrous offender,
Who longs to make your muscles play,
And give your cheeks a holiday.

Hear me, ye Wits, and critics too,
And learned Dames in Stocking blue,
And you, ye Bards, my book who dip in,
In hopes to catch its Author tripping,
Some Mercy still, and Justice shew him,
And purchase ere you damn his Poem.

But chiefly thou, dear Job, my friend,
My kinsman to my verse attend;
By education form’d to shine
Conspicuous in the pleading line,
For you, from five years old to twenty,
Were cramm’d with Latin words in plenty,
Were bound apprentice to the Muses,
And forc’d with hard words, blows, and bruises,
To labour on Poetic ground,
Dactyls and Spondees to confound,
And when become in Fictions wise,
In Pagan histories and lies;
Were sent to dive at Granta’s cells,
For Truth in Dialectic wells,
There duly bound for four years more
To ply the Philosophic oar,
Points metaphysical to moot,
Chop logic, wrangle, and dispute;
And now, by far the most ambitious
Of all the sons of Begersdicius,
Present the Law with all the knowledge
You gather’d both at School and College.
Still bent on adding to your store
The graces of a Pleader’s lore;
And, better to improve your taste,
Are by your Parent’s fondness plac’d
Among the blest, the chosen few,
(BIest, if their happiness they knew,)
Who for three hundred guineas paid
To some great Master of the Trade,
Have, at his rooms, by special favour,
His leave to use their best endeavour
By drawing Pleas, from nine till four,
To earn him twice three hundred more;
And, after dinner, may repair
To ‘foresaid rooms, and then and there
Have ‘foresaid leave, from five till ten,
To draw th’ aforesaid Pleas again;
While thus your blissful hours run on
Till three improving years are gone,
Permit me, with these rhymes, awhile,
Your leisure moments to beguile,
And guide your bold advent’rous ways
Safe through that wide and pathless maze
Where Law and Custom, Truth and Fiction,
Craft, Justice, Strife, and Contradiction,
With every blessing of Confusion,
Quirk, Error, Quibble, and Delusion;
Are all, if rightly understood,
Conspiring for the public Good,
Like jarring Ministers of State,
‘Mid Anger, Jealousy, and Hate,
In friendly Coalition join’d,
To harmonize and bless mankind.

From: Anstey, John, The Pleader’s Guide, a Didactic Poem in Two Parts: Containing Mr. Surrebutter’s Political Lectures on the Conduct of a Suit at Law, including the Arguments of Counsellor Bother’um, and Counsellor Bore’um, in an Action for Assault and Battery, betwixt John-a-Gull and John-a-Gudgeon, the Seventh Edition, 1815, T. Cadell and W. Davies: London, pp. 3-12.

Date: 1796

By: John Anstey (17??-1819)

Saturday, 21 April 2018

In Promptu, written in 1779 by Christopher Anstey

You say, my Friend, that every day
Your company forsaking,
In quest of news I haste away,
The Morning Post to take in:

But if nor news nor sense it boast,
Which all the world agree in,
I don’t take in the Morning Post,
The Morning Post takes me in.

From: Anstey, Christopher and Anstey, John, The Poetical Works of the Late Christopher Anstey, Esq.; with Some Account of the Life and Writings of the Author, by his Son, John Anstey, Esq., 1808, T. Caddell and W. Davies: London, p. 361.

Date: 1779

By: Christopher Anstey (1724-1805)

Monday, 16 April 2018

Epigram 419 by Marcus Argentarius

Hetero-sex is best for the man of a serious turn of mind,
But here’s a hint, if you should fancy the other:
Turn Menophila round in bed, address her peachy behind.
And it’s easy to pretend you’re screwing her brother.

From: Jay, Peter (ed.), The Greek Anthology and Other Ancient Greek Epigrams: A Selection in Modern Verse Translations, 1973, Allen Lane: London, p. 201.

Date: c1st century (original in Greek); 1973 (translation in English)

By: Marcus Argentarius (c1st century)

Translated by: Fleur Adcock (1934- )

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Ode to Chocolate by Barbara Crooker

I hate milk chocolate, don’t want clouds
of cream diluting the dark night sky,
don’t want pralines or raisins, rubble
in this smooth plateau. I like my coffee
black, my beer from Germany, wine
from Burgundy, the darker, the better.
I like my heroes complicated and brooding,
James Dean in oiled leather, leaning
on a motorcycle. You know the color.

Oh, chocolate! From the spice bazaars
of Africa, hulled in mills, beaten,
pressed in bars. The cold slab of a cave’s
interior, when all the stars
have gone to sleep.

Chocolate strolls up to the microphone
and plays jazz at midnight, the low slow
notes of a bass clarinet. Chocolate saunters
down the runway, slouches in quaint
boutiques; its style is je ne sais quoi.
Chocolate stays up late and gambles,
likes roulette. Always bets
on the noir.


Date: 2010

By: Barbara Crooker (1945- )

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Listen Mr Oxford Don by John Agard

Me not no Oxford don
me a simple immigrant
from Clapham Common
I didn’t graduate
I immigrate

But listen Mr Oxford don
I’m a man on de run
and a man on de run
is a dangerous one

I ent have no gun
I ent have no knife
but mugging de Queen’s English
is the story of my life

I don’t need no axe
to split/ up yu syntax
I don’t need no hammer
to mash/ up yu grammar

I warning you Mr. Oxford don
I’m a wanted man
and a wanted man
is a dangerous one

Dem accuse me of assault
on de Oxford dictionary/
imagine a concise peaceful man like me/
dem want me serve time
for inciting rhyme to riot
but I tekking it quiet
down here in Clapham Common

I’m not violent man Mr. Oxford don
I only armed wit mih human breath
but human breath
is a dangerous weapon

So mek dem send one big word after me
I ent serving no jail sentence
I slashing suffix in self-defence
I bashing future wit present tense
and if necessary

I making de Queen’s English accessory/ to my offence

From: Agard, John, “Listen Mr Oxford Don” in Index on Censorship, Volume 35, 2006 – Issue 2, p. 100.

Date: 1985

By: John Agard (1949- )

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Waiting for the Dentist by Henry Thomas Mackenzie Bell

Though many dismal years I’ve been
To dull old Care apprenticed,
The worst of the small woes I’ve seen
Is — waiting for the dentist!

How dreary is the cheerless room
In which you bide his pleasure,
The very chairs seemed steeped in gloom,
And sorrow without measure.

As if so wild mute-molar grief,
So uncontrolled its swelling, —
That its fierce tide had sought relief
By deluging the dwelling.

What though of literature a store
Is lying on the table,
You only think the books a bore;
To read you are unable.

What from the window, though, perchance,
You see forms full of graces.
They merely make you look askance,
And think how sore your face is.

On many chairs and sofas, too,
More martyrs round you languish.
You glance at them, they glance at you,
And give a groan of anguish.

You deem it hard, their turn arrives
Before you in rotation.
Or they wax wroth that your’s deprives
Their case of consolation.

You muse upon the ruthless wrench
Which buys a tooth’s departing —
Or how the stopping-pangs to quench,
In which you may be starting;

Or haply on these ivory chips
Harsh Nature may deny you, —
But which the ‘golden key’ equips
Man’s genius to supply you.

No words your mood of mind express,
‘Tis a state devoid of quiet, —
In which pain, pleasure, and distress
Mingle in hopeless riot.

Yes, though much sorrow one must know.
While to old Care apprenticed,
The greatest unheroic woe
Is — waiting for the dentist.

From: Bell, H. T. Mackenzie, Verses of Varied Life, 1882, Elliot Stock: London, pp. 19-21.

Date: 1882

By: Henry Thomas Mackenzie Bell (1856-1930)

Thursday, 22 March 2018

A Farewel to Wine by Richard Ames

By a Quondam Friend to the Bottle

Tempt me no more, I swear I will not go;
As soon you may in Winters deepest Snow,
Perswade me Tenariff to climb,
Or into Aetna’s scorching flame,
My Mortal Carcass throw,
As to a Tavern go—I hate the Name.
There was indeed my Friend, there was a time,
When to avoid the hurry, noise, and strife,
With the tumultuous Cares of Life,
We in an Evening o’re a Bottle met,
And while the tempting flowing Glass,
Did round about in order pass,
Conferr’d we Notes of Pleasure, Love and Wit,
The Wine then was—would a dull Muse inspire,
Make Blockheads witty, Cowards bold;
And in the bloodless, wither’d, old
Men of Threescore blow up a youthful fire.

But now—with what regret the Now I name,
The Wine we drink is now no more the same,
In former happy days it was,
Than can a Man of Ninety Nine be said,
With Withered Limbs and hoary Head,
To be the self-same Creature as,
He was at Fourteen Years of Age.
No, no, the vigorous Heat, the Spirit’s gone:
The Wine with which we now engage,
Has not that body, taste, or age,
It had before the War began,
It either chills the blood—or puts it in a flame.

What arts my friend you have? What tricks you use?
My easy Temper to seduce.
Methinks a Tavern Door I enter in,
With such unwillingness as when a Maid,
By Oaths and Promises betraid,
Does venture on the Pleasing Sin.
But here most solemnly I vow,
Not to exceed a Glass or two:
No Bumpers shall your Friendship fill me,
One Glass, if Aqua fortis, would not kill me.

Some Claret Boy—Indeed Sir we have none.
Claret Sir—Lord there’s not a Drop in Town;
But we’ve the best Red Port—What’s that you call
Red Port?—a Wine Sir comes from Portugal,
I’ll fetch a Pint Sir,—Do make haste you Slave,
In things of sence what mighty faith some have,
To give their healths up to a Vintners Boy,
Who with one Dash perhaps can it destroy:
And when the threatning Gout or Fever comes,
To Quack in Velvet Coat,
Who all his Learning has by roat,
To purchase Health again give lib’ral Sums.

Pray taste your Wine Sir,—Sir, by your good favor,
I’ll view it first, and nose its flavor;
Is this the Wine you so commend?
Pray look upon’t my dearest Friend,
It looks almost as brown and yellow,
As is the face of warlike Fellow,
Who has for seven Campaigns in Flanders lain,
Observe, observe it once again;
See how Ten Thousand Attoms dance about the Glass;
Of Eggs, and Lime, and Iseinglass:
Mark how it smells, methinks a real pain,
Is by its odor thrown upon my brain.
I’ve tasted it—’tis spiritless and flat,
And has as many different tastes,
As can be found in Compound pastes,
In Lumber Pye, or soporifrous Methridate.

Sir, If you please, I’ll a fresh Hogshead peirce.
Peirce your own head you Dog—which now contains,
Maggots and Lies, instead of Brains.
What other Wines you brewing Ass,
Have you, you would for Clarets pass?
Speak quickly come their names rehearse.
Sir, We defy all London to compare,
A Glass of Wine with our Navarre,
And then for Barcelona, Syracuse,
Or Carcavella now so much in use,
With rich Gallicia Wine a mighty Store,
Florence and—hold you prating Whelp, no more,
But fetch us up a Pint of any sort,
Navarre, Galicia, any thing but Port.
Yes Sir—These nimble Rogues of Flippant Talk,
How merrily their Tongues can walk.
As sure as Moral Certainty,
The Vintners have some needy Spark in Fee,
T’ invent hard names for all their Wines, that so,
They off more quick, and currantly may go.

Come Boy the Wine—I hope ’twill please you Sir,
No question on’t—Come of all Saints to th’ Mother,
A Health—Pox take it, this is worse than t’ other:
From this Floors Center may I never stir,
If ’tis not sweet, and sowre, and hot, and smells
Of Brimstone, or of something else.
Wine do you call this poys’nous Drink,
They’r quite besides their wits I think;
‘Tis Florence, Port, Navarre, and all together,
For Bacchus Boys, is not this lovely weather?
Here, take your Money for your (Stuff call’d) Wine,
Which from this time I utterly decline.

You see my Friend, these Rogues by their pretences,
How they impose upon our very Sences:
And we a Price extravagant allow,
For that Damn’d Stuff which in their Vaults they brew,
Which Mystery if we but throughly knew,
Sooner we’d leap into the Thames or Severn,
Than Venture on the Wine in any Tavern.

From: Ames, Richard, The bacchanalian sessions, or, The contention of liquors with a farewel to wine / by the author of the Search after claret, &c. ; to which is added, a satyrical poem on one who had injur’d his memory, by a friend, 2005, Text Creation Partnership: Ann Arbor, Michigan and Oxford, pp. [unnumbered].

Date: 1693

By: Richard Ames (c1660-1693)

Saturday, 3 March 2018

La Belle Dame Sans Merci by Pelham Grenville Wodehouse

Whene’er I take my PHYLLIS out
For moonlight walks, I like to stroll;
It gives me – I am rather stout –
More chance of laying bare my soul.
My tender pleading, I reflect,
Is robbed of all the charm that’s in it
If my remarks are rudely checked
By gasps and puffing every minute.

Yet nothing less is now my fate;
Each night we wonder to and fro:
Our normal pace has been of late
A good six miles an hour or so.
Sadly the moments flit away:
No rays of joy my burdens lighten;
My PHYLLIS, I regret to say,
Is training for a walk to Brighton.

When I let fall a gentle hint
That I’m no devotee of pace,
She answers, “Now, suppose we sprint?
I must get fit before the race.
Unless I exercise my limbs
I feel my chances wane, diminish;
And I should die if that MISS SIMS
Arrived before me at the finish.”

So off we go. No more her ears
May I enchant with honeyed phrase;
No more I win her smiles and tears,
As once I could – in happier days.
We don’t fall out; we’ve have no tiff;
My passion glows without cessation;
But still, I’d love her better if
She’d choose some calmer recreation.


Date: 1903

By: Pelham Grenville Wodehouse (1881-1975)

Friday, 2 March 2018

Honesty by George Henry Borrow

No wonder honesty’s a lasting article,
Seeing that people seldom use a particle.

From: Borrow, George, Grimmer and Kamper, The End of Sivard Snarenswayne and Other Ballads, 1913, Private Circulation: London, p. 27.

Date: 1913 (published)

By: George Henry Borrow (1803-1881)

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

The Contented Cuckold by George Colman

First printed in the St. JAMES’s CHRONICLE, Saturday, March 28, 1767.

Harry with Johnny’s wife intrigues,
And all the world perceives it:
John forms with Harry such close leagues,
Who’d think that he believes it?

Contented Cuckold! but, alas,
This is poor Johnny’s curse:
If he don’t see it, he’s an Ass;
And if he does, he’s worse.

From: Colman, George, Prose on Several Occasions: Accompanied with Some Pieces in Verse, 2011, University of Michigan Library: Ann Arbor, Michigan, p. 316.

Date: 1767

By: George Colman (1732-1794)