Archive for ‘Nonsense’

Thursday, 16 August 2018

In the Gloaming by James Copper Bayles

The twilight twiles in the vernal vale,
In adumbration of azure awe,
And I listlessly list in my swallow-tail
To the limpet licking his limber jaw.
And it’s O for the sound of the daffodil,
For the dry distillings of prawn and prout,
When hope hops high and a heather hill
Is a dear delight and a darksome doubt.
The snagwap sits in the bosky brae
And sings to the gumplet in accents sweet;
The gibwink hasn’t a word to say,
But pensively smiles at the fair keeweet.
And it’s O for the jungles of Boorabul.
For the jingling jungles to jangle in,
With a moony maze of mellado mull,
And a protoplasm for next of kin.
O’ sweet is the note of the shagreen shard
And mellow the mew of the mastodon,
When the soboliferous Somminard
Is scenting the shadows at set of sun.
And it’s O for the timorous tamarind
In the murky meadows of Maroboo,
For the suave sirocco of Sazerkind,
And the pimpernell pellets of Pangipoo.

From: Lecercle, Jean-Jacques, Philosophy of Nonsense: The Intuitions of Victorian Nonsense Literature, 1994, Routledge: London and New York, pp. [unnumbered].

Date: 1903 (published)

By: James Copper Bayles (1845-1913)

Monday, 13 August 2018

Slipstream by Tony Towle

If you still have charm
you have been underutilized;

but tell us, which do you love more,
your dagger or the moon?

Now withdraw the question and the dagger both
from the eye of the beholder

and return to the symposium
being held on a rock

somewhere in the sea. Do not allow
the dark impending shapes

to obscure the presentations completely,
and take in the wisdom of the supervising mermaid:

It is only the false penguin that will seek
to count your fish rather than eat them.


Date: 2014

By: Tony Towle (1939- )

Thursday, 5 July 2018

A Nautical Ballad by Charles Edward Carryl

A capital ship for an ocean trip
Was “The Walloping Window-blind;”
No gale that blew dismayed her crew
Or troubled the captain’s mind.
The man at the wheel was taught to feel
Contempt for the wildest blow,
And it often appeared, when the weather had cleared,
That he’d been in his bunk below.

The boatswain’s mate was very sedate,
Yet fond of amusement, too;
And he played hop-scotch with the starboard watch
While the captain tickled the crew.
And the gunner we had was apparently mad,
For he sat on the after-rail,
And fired salutes with the captain’s boots,
In the teeth of the booming gale.

The captain sat in a commodore’s hat,
And dined, in a royal way,
On toasted pigs and pickles and figs
And gummery bread, each day.
But the cook was Dutch, and behaved as such;
For the food that he gave the crew
Was a number of tons of hot-cross buns,
Chopped up with sugar and glue.

And we all felt ill as mariners will,
On a diet that’s cheap and rude;
And we shivered and shook as we dipped the cook
In a tub of his gluesome food.
Then nautical pride we laid aside,
And we cast the vessel ashore
On the Gulliby Isles, where the Poohpooh smiles,
And the Anagazanders roar.

Composed of sand was that favored land,
And trimmed with cinnamon straws;
And pink and blue was the pleasing hue
Of the Tickletoeteaser’s claws.
And we sat on the edge of a sandy ledge
And shot at the whistling bee;
And the Binnacle-bats wore water-proof hats
As they danced in the sounding sea.

On rubagub bark, from dawn to dark,
We fed, till we all had grown
Uncommonly shrunk,—when a Chinese junk
Came by from the torriby zone.
She was stubby and square, but we didn’t much care,
And we cheerily put to sea;
And we left the crew of the junk to chew
The bark of the rubagub tree.

From: Carryl, Charles E., Davy and the Goblin; or, What Followed Reading “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, 2008, Project Gutenberg: Chicago, pp. 89-90.

Date: 1884

By: Charles Edward Carryl (1841-1920)

Alternative Titles: The Walloping Window Blind, A Capital Ship

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Lunar Stanzas by Henry Cogswell Knight

Night saw the crew, like pedlers with their packs
Altho’ it were too dear to pay for eggs;
Walk crank along, with coffins on their backs,
While in their arms they bore their weary legs.

And yet ’twas strange, and scarce can one suppose,
That a brown buzzard-fly should steal, and wear
His white-jean breeches, and black woollen hose,
But thence that flies have souls is very clear.

But, holy Father! what shall save the soul,
When cobblers ask three dollars for their shoes?
When cooks their biscuits with a shot-tower roll,
And farmers rake their hay-cocks with their hoes?

Yet ’twere profuse, to see, for pendant light,
A tea-pot dangle in a lady’s ear;
And ’twere indelicate, although she might,
Swallow two whales, and yet the moon shine clear.

But what to me are woven clouds? or what,
If dames from spiders learn to warp their looms?
If coal-black ghosts turn soldiers for the state,
With wooden eyes, and lightning-rods for plumes.

O too, too shocking! barbarous, savage taste!
To eat one’s mother ere itself was born!
And gripe the tall town-steeple by the waist,
And scoop it out to be his drinking-horn.

No more! no more! I’m sick, and dead, and gone;
Box’d in a coffin; stifled six feet deep;
Worms, fat and fearless, pick my skin and bone,
And revel o’er me, like a soulless sheep.

From: Knight, Henry C., Poems. In Two Volumes, Volume II, Second Edition, 1821, Wells and Lilly: Boston, pp. 159-160.

Date: 1815

By: Henry Cogswell Knight (1789-1835)

Thursday, 7 December 2017

A Riddle-Song for Duke Ellington by Craig Williamson

Ten tall ballerinas of bone
Danced on a table of ivory stone––
Clothed like blackbirds warbling home––
And their shoes were like windows,
And their shoes were like bone.

From: Williamson, Craig, “A Riddle-Song for Duke Ellington”, College English, Volume 36, Issue 1, 1974, p. 74.

Date: 1974

By: Craig Williamson (1943- )

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, 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 (?-?)

Monday, 27 June 2016

Beneath the Sea by Maud Keary

Were I a fish beneath the sea,
Shell‐paved and pearl‐brocaded,
Would you come down and live with me,
In groves by coral shaded?

No washing would we have to do;
Our cushions should be sponges—
And many a great ship’s envious crew
Should watch our merry plunges!

From: Keary, Maud, Enchanted Tulips and Other Verses for Children, 1914, Macmillan and Co: London, p. 6.

Date: 1914

By: Maud Keary (18??-19??)

Sunday, 19 June 2016

To Emily at Her Own Home, from the Cat by Anna Maria (Annie) Keary

Dear Emily, your letter came
Directed right to me,
And when John took it at the door,
A puzzled man was he—

“A letter for the Cat!—why, such
A thing was never heard!”
Then Jane came out and looked, and long
The two together purred.

I do not think they were quite pleased
Such honour should be done
To me—for Jane laughed loud and said,
“It’s just Miss Emmie’s fun;

“I’ll take it to her Grandmama,”
And then—though right before
Her feet I stood—she hurried on,
And shut the parlour door

Right in my face—I could have scratched
And torn the parlour mat,
Only that would have been too like
A common, vulgar cat,

Which I am not—as well you know.
I waited patiently,
And soon I heard dear Grandmama
Calling aloud for me.

“Open the door for Puss,” said she;
I sprang upon her knee;
Then, quite out loud, she kindly read
Your lovely note to me.

And all the while I purred and purred,
Or softly said, “Mew, mew”;
With grown‐up people in the room
’Twas all that I could do

To show how, at each friendly word,
My cat’s heart swelled with pride;
And yet some sadness came therewith,
The news that you had cried.

I did not cry—in Cat‐dom we
Don’t think it etiquette
To wash our faces when we grieve,
And make our whiskers wet.

Yet none the less I truly shared
The sadness of the house;
I think ’twas a whole week before
I’d heart to catch a mouse.

I even thought the cream was sour,
I lost my appetite,
I caterwauled upon the roof
So dismally at night

That spiteful neighbour Green sent in
(He’s a low taste for dogs)—
And begged that Grandmama would put
My feet in walnut clogs!

I grew morose, I spat at John,
Put up my back at Jane,
But your kind letter makes me feel
A happy cat again.

When you come back in Spring, I’ll learn
To count my paws, and you
Perhaps might condescend to try
A few things I can do.

Your way of climbing up a wall
Strikes me as not—the thing,
And though you’re nimble, you might take
A lesson how to spring.

What’s more, if you are not above
Hearing a cat’s advice,
In time you might be brought to feel
More justly about mice.

You’ve hurt my feelings now and then,
But I forgive you that—
So—count among your warmest friends
Your Grandmama’s

Grey Cat.

From: Keary, Maud, Enchanted Tulips and Other Verses for Children, 1914, Macmillan and Co: London, pp. 52-55.

Date: c1865

By: Anna Maria (Annie) Keary (1825-1879)