Archive for ‘Humour’

Sunday, 22 October 2017

The Lay of the Trilobite by May Kendall (Emma Goldworth Kendall)

A mountain’s giddy height I sought,
Because I could not find
Sufficient vague and mighty thought
To fill my mighty mind;
And as I wandered ill at ease,
There chanced upon my sight
A native of Silurian seas,
An ancient Trilobite.

So calm, so peacefully he lay,
I watched him even with tears:
I thought of Monads far away
In the forgotten years.
How wonderful it seemed and right,
The providential plan,
That he should be a Trilobite,
And I should be a Man!

And then, quite natural and free
Out of his rocky bed,
That Trilobite he spoke to me
And this is what he said:
‘I don’t know how the thing was done,
Although I cannot doubt it;
But Huxley – he if anyone
Can tell you all about it;

‘How all your faiths are ghosts and dreams,
How in the silent sea
Your ancestors were Monotremes –
Whatever these may be;
How you evolved your shining lights
Of wisdom and perfection
From Jelly-Fish and Trilobites
By Natural Selection.

‘You’ve Kant to make your brains go round,
Hegel you have to clear them,
You’ve Mr Browning to confound,
And Mr Punch to cheer them!
The native of an alien land
You call a man and brother,
And greet with hymn-book in one hand
And pistol in the other!

‘You’ve Politics to make you fight
As if you were possessed:
You’ve cannon and you’ve dynamite
To give the nations rest:
The side that makes the loudest din
Is surest to be right,
And oh, a pretty fix you’re in!’
Remarked the Trilobite.

‘But gentle, stupid, free from woe
I lived among my nation,
I didn’t care – I didn’t know
That I was a Crustacean.*
I didn’t grumble, didn’t steal,
I never took to rhyme:
Salt water was my frugal meal,
And carbonate of lime.’

Reluctantly I turned away,
No other word he said;
An ancient Trilobite, he lay
Within his rocky bed.
I did not answer him, for that
Would have annoyed my pride:
I merely bowed, and raised my hat,
But in my heart I cried: –

‘I wish our brains were not so good,
I wish our skulls were thicker,
I wish that Evolution could
Have stopped a little quicker;
For oh, it was a happy plight,
Of liberty and ease,
To be a simple Trilobite
In the Silurian seas!’

*He was not a Crustacean. He has since discovered he was an Arachnid, or something similar. But he says it does not matter. He says they told him wrong once, and they may again.


Date: 1885

By: May Kendall (Emma Goldworth Kendall) (1861-1943)

Thursday, 12 October 2017

To the Terrestrial Globe by William Schwenck Gilbert

by A Miserable Wretch

Roll on, thou ball, roll on!
Through pathless realms of Space
Roll on!
What though I’m in a sorry case?
What though I cannot meet my bills?
What though I suffer toothache’s ills?
What though I swallow countless pills?
Never you mind!
Roll On!

Roll on, thou ball, roll on!
Through seas of inky air
Roll on!
It’s true I have no shirts to wear;
It’s true my butcher’s bill is due;
It’s true my prospects all look blue —
But don’t let that unsettle you:
Never you mind!
Roll on!

                                                     [It rolls on.

From: Gilbert, W.S. and Taylor, Deems, Plays & Poems of W.S. Gilbert, including the complete texts of the fourteen Gilbert & Sullivan operas, three other Gilbert plays and all The Bab Ballads. Illustrations by the Author, 1932, Random House, New York, p. 1179-1180.

Date: 1868

By: William Schwenck Gilbert (1836-1911)

Thursday, 5 October 2017

A Ballad of Insanity by Robert Ervin Howard

Adam was my ball-and-chain,
A tall short mule,
A walking red olay tennis court
In Eden’s judgment pool.

He tore the dubious petticoat
From Eve’s sequestered hips,
Oh, Adam was my elephant
Upon the sea in ships.


Date: 1928

By: Robert Ervin Howard (1906-1936)

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Uffia by Harriet R. White

When sporgles spanned the floreate mead
And cogwogs gleet upon the lea,
Uffia gopped to meet her love
Who smeeged upon the equat sea.

Dately she walked aglost the sand;
The boreal wind seet in her face;
The moggling waves yalped at her feet;
Pangwangling was her pace.


Date: ?1877

By: Harriet R. White (?-?)

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Excerpt from “Academia; or The Humours of the University of Oxford” by Alicia Clarke D’Anvers

I intend to give you a Relation,
As prime as any is in the Nation:
The Name of th’ place is—let me see,
Call’d most an end the ‘Versity;
In which same place, as Story tells,
Liv’d once Nine handsome bonny Girls,
Highly in olden Time reputed,
Tho’ now so thawct’d and persecuted;
Schollars belike now can’t abide ‘um,
So that they’re fain to scout and hide ‘um,
Or’s sure as you’re alive they’d beat ‘um;
Out of the place they’d chose to seat ‘um
And they who won’t be seen to maul ‘um,
Revile, bespatter ‘um, or becall ‘um.
E’ne these sly Curs would Strumpets make ‘um,
When e’re they catch ‘um can, or take ‘um,
And pinch ‘um, till they’ve made ‘um sing ye,
The filthy’st stuff as one can bring ye,
The end of all such Rascals wooing,
Proves many a heedless ‘Girle’s undoing:
All these, and twenty more Abuses,
Are daily offer’d to the Muses.
You may perceive, I’me mightily
Disturb’d, they’re us’d so spitefully;
And must confess, where’s no denying,
That I can hardly hold from crying;
But that I mayn’t be seen to bellow,
Like ‘Girl forsaken by a Fellow,
Roar, throw my Snot about, and blubber,
Like School-Boys, or an am’rous Lubber,
I’le lay aside my Bowels yearning,
And talk of Schollars, and their Learning.

From: D’Anvers, Mrs. Alicia, Academia: or, The Humours of the University of Oxford. In Burlesque Verse, 1691, Randal Taylor: London, pp. 1-3.

Date: 1691

By: Alicia Clarke D’Anvers (1668-1725)

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Spring by John Gardiner Calkins Brainard

TO MISS — —.

Other poets may muse on thy beauties, and sing
Of thy birds, and thy flowers, and thy perfumes, sweet Spring!
They may wander enraptured by hills and by mountains,
Or pensively pore by thy fresh gushing fountains;
Or sleep in the moonlight by favorite streams,
Inspired by the whispering sylphs in their dreams,
And awake from their slumbers to hail the bright sun,
When shining in dew the fresh morning comes on.

But I’ve wet shoes and stockings, a cold in my throat,
The head-ache, and tooth-ache, and quinsy to boot;
No dew from the cups of the flow’rets I sip, —
‘T is nothing but boneset that moistens my lip;
Not a cress from the spring or the brook can be had:
At morn, noon, and night, I get nothing but shad;
My whispering sylph is a broad-shouldered lass,
And my bright sun — a warming-pan made out o brass!

Then be thou my genius; for what can I do,
When I cannot see nature, but copy from you?
If Spring be the season of beauty and youth,
Of hope and of loveliness, kindness, and truth;
Of all that’s inspiring, and all that is bright,
And all that is what we call just about right—
Why need I expose my sick muse to the weather,
When by going to you she would find all together?

From: Brainard, John, Poems of John Brainard, 1996, University of Michigan Humanities Text Initiative: Ann Arbor, Michigan, pp. 26-27.

Date: 1825

By: John Gardiner Calkins Brainard (1796-1828)

Friday, 8 September 2017

A Receipt to Make a Tragedy by William Hayley

Take a virgin from Asia, from Afric, or Greece,
At least a king’s daughter, or emperor’s niece:
Take an elderly miss for her kind confidante,
Still ready with pity or terror to pant,
While she faints and revives like the sensitive plant:
Take a hero thought buried some ten years or more,
But with life enough left him to rattle and roar;
Take a horrid old brute who deserves to be rack’d,
And call him a tyrant ten times in each act:
Take a priest of cold blood, and a warrior of hot,
And let them alternately bluster and plot:
Then throw in of soldiers and slaves quantum suff.
Let them march, and stand still, fight, and halloo enough.
Now stir all together these separate parts,
And season them well with Ohs! faintings, and starts:
Squeeze in, while they’re stirring, a potent infusion
Of rage, and of horror, of love and illusion;
With madness and murder complete the conclusion.
Let your princess, tho’ dead by the murderous dagger,
In a wanton bold epilogue ogle and swagger:
Prove her past scenes of virtue are vapour and smoke,
And the stage’s morality merely a joke;
Let her tell with what follies our country is curst,
And wisely conclude that play-writing’s the worst.
Now serve to the public this olio complete,
And puff in the papers your delicate treat.

From: Hayley, William, Poems: consisting of odes, sonnets, songs, and occasional verses, 2008, University of Michigan Library: Ann Arbor, Michigan, pp. 47-48.

Date: 1786

By: William Hayley (1745-1820)

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Liberty Preserved, or Love Destroyed by Alexander Robertson of Struan

At length the bondage I have broke
Which gave me so much pain.
I’ve slipped my heart out of the yoke,
Never to drudge again;
And, conscious of my long disgrace,
Have thrown my chain at Cupid’s face.

If ever he attempt again
My freedom to enslave,
I’ll court the godhead of champagne
Which makes the coward brave,
And, when that deity has healed my soul,
I’ll drown the little bastard in my bowl.

From: MacLachlan, Christopher (ed.), Before Burns: Eighteenth-Century Scottish Poetry, 2010, Canongate Classics: Edinburgh, p. 14.
( )

Date: c1720

By: Alexander Robertson of Struan (1667-1749)

Monday, 21 August 2017

The Inventarie of the Gabions, in M. George his Cabinet by Henry Adamson

Of uncouth formes, and wondrous shapes,
Like Peacoks, and like Indian apes,
Like Leopards, and beasts spoted,
Of clubs curiously knoted,
Of wondrous workmanships, and rare,
Like Eagles flying in the air,
Like Centaurs, Maremaids in the Seas,
Like Dolphins, and like honie bees,
Some carv’d in timber, some in stone,
Of the wonder of Albion;
Which this close cabine doth include;
Some portends ill, some presage good:
What sprite Daedalian hath forth brought them,
Yee Gods assist, I thinke yee wrought them,
Your influences did conspire
This comelie cabine to attire

Neptune gave first his awfull trident,
And Pan the hornes gave of a bident,
Triton his trumpet of a buckie,
Propin’d to him, was large and luckie:
Mars gave the glistring sword and dagger,
Wherewith some time he wont to swagger,
Cyclopean armour of Achilles,
Fair Venus purtrayed by Apelles,
The valiant Hectors weightie spear,
Wherewith he fought the Trojan war,
The fatall sword and seven fold shield
Of Ajax, who could never yeeld:
Yea more the great Herculean club
Brusde Hydra in the Lernè dub.

Hote Vulcan with his crooked heele
Bestow’d on him a tempred steele,
Cyclophes were the brethren Allans,
Who swore they swet more then ten gallons
In framing it upon their forge,
And tempring it for Master George:
But Aesculapius taught the lesson
How he should us’d in goodly fashion,
And bad extinguis’t in his ale,
When that he thought it pure and stale,
With a pugill of polypodium:
And Ceres brought a manufodium:
And will’d him tost it at his fire
And of such bread never to tyre;
Then Podalirius did conclude
That for his melt was soverainge good.

Gold hair’d Apollo did bestow
His mightie-sounding silver bow,
With musick instruments great store,
His harp, his cithar, and mandore,
His peircing arrowes and his quiver:
But Cupid shot him through the liver
And set him all up in à flame,
To follow à Peneïan Dame:
But being once repudiate
Did lurk within this Cabinet,
And there with many a sigh and groane,
Fierce Cupids wrong he did bemoane,
But this deep passion to rebet
Venus bestow’d her Amulet,
The firie flame for to beare downe,
Cold lactuce and pupuleum;
And thenceforth will’d the poplar tree
To him should consecrated be.

With twentie thousand pretious things,
Mercurius gave his staffe and wings:
And more this Cabine to decore,
Of curious staffs he gave fourescore,
Of clubs and cudgels contortized:
Some plaine worke, others crispe and frized,
Like Satyrs, dragons, flying fowles,
Like fishes, serpents, cats, and owles,
Like winged-horses, strange Chimaeraes,
Like Unicorns and fierce Pantheraes,
So livelike that a man would doubt,
If art or nature brought them out.

The monstrous branched great hart-horne,
Which on Acteon’s front was borne:
On which doth hing his velvet knapsca.
A scimitare cut like an haksaw,
Great bukies, partans, toes of lapstares,
Oster shells, ensignes for tapsters,
Gadie beeds and crystall glasses,
Stones, and ornaments for lasses,
Garlands made of summer flowres,
Propin’d him by his paramoürs,
With many other pretious thing,
Which all upon its branches hing:
So that it doth excell but scorne
The wealthie Amalthean horne.

This Cabine containes what you wish,
No place his ornaments doth misse,
For there is such varietie,
Looking breeds no sacietie.
In one nooke stands Loquhabrian axes,
And in another nooke the glaxe is.
Heere lyes a book they call the dennet,
There lyes the head of old Brown Kennet,
Here lyes a turkasse, and a hammer,
There lyes a Greek and Latine Grammer,
Heere hings an auncient mantua bannet,
There hings a Robin and a Iannet,
Upon a cord that’s strangular
A buffet stoole sexangular:
A foole muting in his owne hand;
Soft, soft my Muse, sound not this sand,
What ever matter come athorter,
Touch not I pray the iron morter.
His cougs, his dishes, and his caps,
A Totum, and some bairnes taps;
A gadareilie, and a whisle,
A trumpe, an Abercome mussell,
His hats, his hoods, his bels, his bones,
His allay bowles, and curling stones,
The sacred games to celebrat,
Which to the Gods are consecrat.

And more, this cabine to adorne,
Diana gave her hunting horne,
And that there should be no defect,
God Momus gift did not inlake:
Only * * * was to blame,
Who would bestow nothing for shame;
This Cabine was so cram’d with store
She could not enter at the doore.

This prettie want for to supplie
A privie parlour stands neere by,
In which there is in order plac’t
Phoebus with the nine Muses grac’t,
In compasse, siting like a crown.
This is the place of great renown:
Heere all good learning is inschrynd,
And all grave wisedome is confin’d,
Clio with stories ancient times,
Melpomené with Tragick lines,
Wanton Thalia’s comedies,
Euterpe’s sweetest harmonies,
Terpsichore’s heart-moving cithar,
Lovely Erato’s numbring meeter,
Caliope’s heroick songs,
Vranias heavenly motions;
Polymnia in various musick
Paints all with flowres of Rhetorick,
Amidst sits Phoebus laureat,
Crown’d with the whole Pierian State.
Here’s Galene and Hippocrates,
Divine Plato and Socrates,
Th’ Arabian skill and exccellence,
The Greek and Romane eloquence,
With manie worthie worke and storie
Within this place inaccessorie.

These models, in this Cabine plac’d,
Are with the world’s whole wonders grac’d:
What curious art or nature framd,
What monster hath beene taught or tamd,
What Polycletus in his time,
What Archimedes rich ingine,
Who taught the Art of menadrie
The Syracusan synedrie.
What Gods or mortals did forth bring
It in this cabinet doth hing,
Whose famous relicts are all flowr’d,
And all with precious pouldar stowr’d:
And richly deckt with curious hingers,
Wrought by Arachne’s nimble fingers.

This is his store-house and his treasure,
This is his Paradise of pleasure,
This is the Arcenall of Gods,
Of all the world this is the oddes:
This is the place Apollo chuses,
This is the residence of Muses:
And to conclude all this in one,
This is the Romaine Pantheon.

From: Adamson, Henry, The muses threnodie, or, mirthfull mournings, on the death of Master Gall Containing varietie of pleasant poëticall descriptions, morall instructions, historiall narrations, and divine observations, with the most remarkable antiquities of Scotland, especially at Perth, 2003, Text Creation Partnership: Ann Arbor, Michigan and Oxford, pp. [unnumbered].

Date: 1638

By: Henry Adamson (1581-1639)

Friday, 18 August 2017

I.47 by Marcus Valerius Martialis

Doctor Diaulus has changed his trade:
He now is a mortician,
With the same results he got before
As a practicing physician.

From: Wender, Dorothea (transl. and ed.), Roman Poetry from the Republic to the Silver Age, 1991, Southern Illinois University Press: Carbondale and Edwardsville, p. 124.

Date: 86 (original in Latin); 1980 (translation in English)

By: Marcus Valerius Martialis (c39-c103)

Translated by: Dorothea Schmidt Wender (1934-2003)