WinterBranch's post (and by the way, welcome! ), a fairy tale on the subject of the ideal woman, reminded me of a poem on the same subject by my favorite author of humorous poetry. At the risk of being longwinded, how about sharing some of our favorites in the genre?
Once on a time, long year ago / (Just when I quite forget),
Two maidens lived beside the Po, / One blonde and one brunette.
The blonde one's character was mild,
From morning until night she smiled,
Whereas the one whose hair was brown
Did little else than pine and frown.
(I think one ought to draw the line / At girls who always frown and pine!)
The blonde one learned to play the harp, / Like all accomplished dames,
And trained her voice to take C sharp / As well as Emma Eames;
Made baskets out of scented grass,
And paper-weights of hammered brass,
And lots of other odds and ends
For gentleman and lady friends.
(I think it takes a deal of sense / To manufacture gifts for gents!)
The dark one wore an air of gloom, / Proclaimed the world a bore,
And took her breakfast in her room / Three mornings out of four.
With crankiness she seemed imbued,
And everything she said was rude:
She sniffed, and sneered, and, what is more,
When very much provoked, she swore!
(I think that I could never care / For any girl who'd learned to swear!)
One day the blonde was striding past / A forest, all alone,
When all at once her eyes she cast / Upon a wrinkled crone,
Who tottered near with shaking knees,
And said: "A penny, if you please"
And you will learn with some surprise
This was a fairy in disguise!
(I think it must be hard to know / A fairy who's incognito!)
The maiden filled her trembling palms / With coinage of the realm.
The fairy said: "Take back your alms! / My heart they overwhelm
Henceforth at every word shall slip
A pearl or ruby from your lip!"
And, when the girl got home that night, --
She found the fairy's words were right!
(I think there are not many girls / Whose words are worth their weight in pearls!)
It happened that the cross brunette, / Ten minutes later, came
Along the self-same road, and met / That bent and wrinkled dame,
Who asked her humbly for a sou.
The girl replied: "Get out with you!"
The fairy cried: "Each word you drop,
A toad from out your mouth shall hop!"
(I think that nothing incommodes / One's speech like uninvited toads!)
And so it was, the cheerful blonde / Lived on in joy and bliss,
And grew pecunious, beyond / The dreams of avarice!
And to a nice young man was wed,
And I have often heard it said
No other man who ever walked
Most loved his wife when most she talked!
(I think this very fact, forsooth, / Goes far to prove I tell the truth!)
The cross brunette the fairy's joke / By hook or crook survived,
But still at every word she spoke / An ugly toad arrived,
Until at last she had to come
To feigning she was wholly dumb,
Whereat the suitors swarmed around,
And soon a wealthy mate she found.
(I think nobody ever knew / The happier husband of the two!)
The Moral of this tale is: Bah!
Nous avons changé tout celà.
No clear idea I hope to strike
Of what your nicest girl is like,
But she whose best young man I am
Is not an oyster, nor a clam!
[This message was edited by Hic et ubique on Sun Aug 24th, 2003 at 12:47.]
How Rudeness and Kindness Were Justly Rewarded
by Guy Wetmore Carryl, 1873–1904
(hope this isn't spoiling your fun)
[This message was edited by haberdasher on Sun Aug 24th, 2003 at 13:50.]
If you're a fellow Carrylian (as well as Carrollian) I'll eat my hat, haberdasher.
No, on second thought my hat's off to you.
No, he's brand new to me, and thanks for the introduction. I lookes up the verse on Google and found him. It's strange; I find echoes ("prechoes"?) of A A Milne in some of the phrases and even thoughts.
Well, if there are echoes of Milne, I will like him! I always used to bring this Milne poem to my classes on communicating with patients--regarding listening. It's one of my favorites, though I believe I have posted it before in the "Verses" thread.
Hic, ol' buddy, ol' pal! You're a Guy Wetmore Carryl fan! I could have guessed that!
Any chance of finding "The Synchophantic Fox and the Gullible Raven" somewhere and transferring it to this thread? That's been a favorite of mine since pre-teen days and it still makes me smile, particularly "We'll make it any type you please. In all events, it was a cheese." which, coming from memory only, I hope is correct. The moral/punchline is also a great play on words made somewhat out of date, sadly, by the fact that most people no longer serve cheese as the final course of a meal.
The Sycophantic Fox and the Gullible Raven
A raven sat upon a tree,
And not a word he spoke, for
His beak contained a piece of Brie.
Or, maybe it was Roquefort.
We'll make it any kind you please --
At all events it was a cheese.
Beneath the tree's umbrageous limb
A hungry fox sat smiling;
He saw the raven watching him,
And spoke in words beguiling:
"J'admire," said he, "ton beau plumage!"
(The which was simply persiflage.)
Two things there are, no doubt you know,
To which a fox is used:
A rooster that is bound to crow,
A crow that's bound to roost;
And whichsoever he espies
He tells the most unblushing lies.
"Sweet fowl," he said, "I understand
You're more than merely natty;
I hear you sing to beat the band
And Adelina Patti.
Pray render with your liquid tongue
A bit from Gotterdammerung."
This subtle speech was aimed to please
The crow, and it succeeded;
He thought no bird in all the trees
Could sing as well as he did.
In flattery completely doused,
He gave the "Jewel Song" from Faust.
But gravitation's law, of course,
As Isaac Newton showed it,
Exerted on the cheese its force,
And elsewhere soon bestowed it.
In fact, there is no need to tell
What happened when to earth it fell.
I blush to add that when the bird
Took in the situation
He said one brief, emphatic word,
Unfit for publication.
The fox was greatly startled, but
He only sighed and answered, "Tut."
The Moral is: A fox is bound
To be a shameless sinner.
And also: When the cheese comes round
You know it's after dinner.
But (what is only known to few)
The fox is after dinner, too.
-- Guy Wetmore Carryl
I found it at http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/137.html
The Embarrassing Episode of Little Miss Muffet
Little Miss Muffet discovered a tuffet,
(Which never occurred to the rest of us)
And, as 'twas a June day, and just about noonday,
She wanted to eat - like the best of us:
Her diet was whey, and I hasten to say
It is wholesome and people grow fat on it.
The spot being lonely, the lady not only
Discovered the tuffet, but sat on it.
A rivulet gabbled beside her and babbled,
As rivulets always are thought to do,
And dragon flies sported around and cavorted,
As poets say dragon flies ought to do;
When, glancing aside for a moment, she spied
A horrible sight that brought fear to her,
A hideous spider was sitting beside her,
And most unavoidably near to her!
Albeit unsightly, this creature politely said:
"Madam, I earnestly vow to you,
I'm penitent that I did not bring my hat.
I should otherwise certainly bow to you."
Though anxious to please, he was so ill at ease
That he lost all his sense of propriety,
And grew so inept that he clumsily stept
In her plate - which is barred in Society.
This curious error completed her terror;
She shuddered, and growing much paler, not
Only left tuffet, but dealt him a buffet
Which doubled him up in a sailor knot.
It should be explained that at this he was pained:
He cried: "I have vexed you, no doubt of it!
Your fists's like a truncheon." "You're still in my luncheon,"
Was all that she answered. "Get out of it!"
And the Moral is this: Be it madam or miss
To whom you have something to say,
You are only absurd when you get in the curd
But you're rude when you get in the whey.
-- Guy Wetmore Carryl
m. is right. It's VERY Gilbertian. Same rhythm as The Nightmare Song and even the Duke-and-Duchess' duet from Gondoliers Act II, right down to Propriety ["doubtful propriety"!].
Carryl (1872-1903) published three books of "take-offs" in poetry. Here are the bests links I can find to his poems based on Grimm's Fairy Tales (incomplete; you'll notice that the table of contents is itself in rhyme) and on Aesop's Fables (inconvenient format). I find no link to his poems based on Mother Goose.
Hab's site offers one more Carryl poem, which is not one of my favorites but is filled with puns.
Some years ago, in the days before the web, I got myself a reprint of the first book and photocopies of the other two. Anyone interested can PM me, and I'll be glad to share.
One of my favourites (and much quoted)
Of all the Knights in Appledore,
The wisest was Sir Thomas Tom.
He multiplied as far as four,
And knew what nine was taken from
To make eleven. He could write
A letter to another Knight.
No other Knight in all the land
Could do the things which he could do.
Not only did he understand
The way to polish swords, but knew
What remedy a Knight should seek
Whose armour had begun to squeak.
And if he didn't fight too much,
It wasn't that he did not care
For blips and buffetings and such,
But felt that it was hardly fair
To risk, by frequent injuries,
A brain as delicate as his.
His castle (Castle Tom) was set
Conveniently on a hill,
And daily (when it wasn't wet)
He paced the battlements until
Some smaller Knight, who couldn't swim,
Should reach the moat and challenge him.
Or sometimes, feeling full of fight,
He hurried out to scour the plain,
And, seeing some approaching Knight,
He either scurried home again,
Or hid, and when the foe was past,
Blew a triumphant trumpet blast.
One day, when good Sir Thomas Tom
Was resting in a handy ditch,
The noises he was hiding from,
Though very much the noises which
He'd always hidden from before,
Were somehow less. Or was it more?
The trotting horse, the trumpet's blast,
The whistling sound, the armour's squeak -
These, and especially the last,
Had clattered by him all the week.
Was this the same, or was it not?
Something was different. But what?
Sir Thomas raised a cautious ear
And listened as Sir Hugh went by,
And suddenly he seemed to hear
(Or not to hear) the reason why
The stranger made a nicer sound
Than other Knights who lived around.
Sir Thomas watched the way he went -
His rage was such, he couldn't speak.
For years they'd called him, down in Kent,
The Knight Whose Armour Didn't Squeak.
Yet here and now, he looked upon
Another Knight whose squeak had gone!
He rushed to where his horse was tied,
He spurred it to a rapid trot.
The only fear he felt inside
About his enemy was not
How sharp his sword, how strong his heart,
But "Has he got too long a start?"
Sir Hugh was singing, hand on hip,
When something sudden came along
And caught him a terrific blip,
Right in the middle of his song.
"A thunderstorm!" he thought. "Of course",
And toppled gently off his horse.
Then said the good Sir Thomas Tom,
Dismounting with a friendly air,
"Allow me to extract you from
The heavy armour which you wear.
At times like these, the bravest Knight
May find his armour much too tight."
A hundred yards or so beyond
The scene of brave Sir Hugh's defeat,
Sir Thomas found a useful pond,
And, careful not to wet his feet,
He brought the armour to the brink
And flung it in, and watched it sink.
So ever after, more and more,
The men of Kent would proudly speak
Of Thomas Tom of Appledore,
The Knight Whose Armour Didn't Squeak.
While Hugh, the Knight who gave him best,
Squeaks just as badly as the rest!
A A Milne
Thank you, Hab, for your effort. It was a pleasure to read "The Sycophantic Fox and the Gullible Raven" again. I'll get to the rest of Wetmore's work when time permits which, considering how highly I value it, should be pretty damn soon.
While I'm pleased to see that I got the "in all events" line pretty much correct after all these years, I did botch the title. As pleasant a meter as this poem does have, the fox could not be described as "synchophantic." My bad.
Those old enough to remember Richard Nixon's 1972 re-election may recall that his funding organization was CREP: Committe to Re-Elect the President.
This 1973 song about Watergate was penned by CREEP, Committe to Rip-off Each and Every Politician, and was sung barbershop-quartet style.
whoops, that was a double post!
I'm looking forward to reading more of these poets' work. One of my favorite humorous poets is Don Marquis. Though his work isn't always funny, it's just great. This poem is just kind of touching but the last two lines are simple and profound. (Don Marquis was a newspaper columnist most famous for his writings by 'archy' a cockroach whose soul was that of a vers libre poet. You can read about him here. )
Pity the Poor Spiders
i have just been reading
an advertisement of a certain
the human race little knows
all the sadness it
causes in the insect world
i remember some weeks ago
meeting a middle aged spider
she was weeping
what is the trouble i asked
her it is these cursed
fly swatters she replied
they kill of all the flies
and my family and i are starving
to death it struck me as
so pathetic that i made
a little song about it
as follows to wit
twas an elderly mother spider
grown gaunt and fierce and gray
with her little ones crouched beside her
who wept as she sang this lay
curses on these here swatters
what kills off all the flies
for me and my little daughters
unless we eats we dies
swattin and swattin and swattin
tis little else you hear
and we ll soon be dead and forgotten
with the cost of living so dear
my husband he up and left me
lured off by a centipede
and he says as he bereft me
tis wrong but i ll get a feed
and me a working and working
scouring the streets for food
faithful and never shirking
doing the best i could
curses on these here swatters
what kills off all the flies
me and my poor little daughters
unless we eats we dies
only a withered spider
feeble and worn and old
and this is what
you do when you swat
you swatters cruel and cold
i will admit that some
of the insects do not lead
noble lives but is every
man s hand to be against them
yours for less justice
and more charity
For a much funnier column, though not really a poem, go here. It's about Shakespeare, too!
Oh, my husband and I love Archie and Mehitabel!
How can we have a humorous poetry thread without Ogden?! He is one of my favorites.
The one-l lama,
He's a preist.
The two-l llama,
He's a beast.
And I will bet
A silk pajama
There isn't any
*The author's attention has been called to a type of conflagration known as a three-alarmer. Pooh.
I decided it was time to revive this thread, and in looking on the Web for a humorous poem, I found this URL about the the humorous haiku. I didn't know that the humorous haiku was so popular. The author does make a good point.
[I do think he'd be impressed with our double dactyls! ]
A Word to Husbands
To keep your marriage brimming
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you're wrong, admit it;
Whenever you're right, shut up.
~ Ogden Nash
[It works for wives, too! ]
I'm sure it would do.