Cool Verse and Hot Doggerel

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Limericks are probably the best known form of nonsense verse, although they tend nowadays to be used for straightforward humour, rather than having a nonsensical effect. Seuss , and Spike Milligan. The Martian Poets and Ivor Cutler are considered by some to be in the nonsense tradition. In some cases, the humor of nonsense verse is based on the incompatibility of phrases which make grammatical sense but semantic nonsense at least in certain interpretations, as in the traditional:.

Other nonsense verse makes use of nonsense words —words without a clear meaning or any meaning at all. Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear both made good use of this type of nonsense in some of their verse. These poems are well formed in terms of grammar and syntax, and each nonsense word is of a clear part of speech. The first verse of Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky illustrates this nonsense technique, despite Humpty Dumpty 's later clear explanation of some of the unclear words within it:.

Other nonsense verse uses muddled or ambiguous grammar as well as invented words, as in John Lennon 's "The Faulty Bagnose":. The Mungle pilgriffs far awoy Religeorge too thee worled. Sam fells on the waysock-side And somforbe on a gurled, With all her faulty bagnose! Here, awoy fills the place of "away" in the expression "far away", but also suggests the exclamation "ahoy", suitable to a voyage.


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Likewise, worled and gurled suggest "world" and "girl" but have the -ed form of a past-tense verb. In the sense that it is a slurred verb, it could be the word "stumbled", as in Sam fell onto the drunk side and stumbled on a girl. However, not all nonsense verse relies on word play. Some simply illustrate nonsensical situations. For instance, Edward Lear's poem, The Jumblies has a comprehensible chorus:. Far and few, far and few, Are the lands where the Jumblies live; Their heads are green, and their hands are blue And they went to sea in a sieve.

However, the significance of the color of their heads and hands is not apparent and the verse appears to be nonsense. Some nonsense verse simply presents contradictory or impossible scenarios in a matter-of-fact tone, like this example from Brian P. One tall midget reached up high, Touched the ground above the sky, Tied his loafers, licked his tongue, And told about the bee he stung. He painted, then, an oval square The color of the bald man's hair, And in the painting you could hear What's undetected by the ear.

The common cormorant or shag Lays eggs inside a paper bag The reason you will see no doubt It is to keep the lightning out But what these unobservant birds Have failed to notice is that herds Of wandering bears may come with buns And steal the bags to hold the crumbs. More contemporary examples of nonsense verse are Vogon poetry , found in Douglas Adams 's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or the song ' Prisencolinensinainciusol ' by Italian multi-talent Adriano Celentano. There is a long tradition of nonsense verse in English.

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The Anglo-Saxon riddles are an early form. For instance:. Though focusing on the indignities of old age, his poems are really the vigorous offshoots of a strong constitution, a contented temperament, and an unsinkable joie de vivre. Very little light verse deals with matters as grave as those explored by Fenton and Hudgins or as embarrassingly physical as those evoked by Milder.

At the other extreme, much of it gravitates towards nonsense, which was how the Victorian Edward Lear described his own poetry and drawings. Light verse is often not about anything, instead evincing an exhilaration with language itself, whether as a challenging game or a playful exploration of the resources of man as a language animal.

This links it more closely with verses for children rather than with the free verse that holds sway in contemporary poetry. Light verse is musical and mnemonic in an old-fashioned way.


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Such compressed forms include the epigram, the mock-biographical clerihew, the venerable limerick, and the more recent double dactyl. Schooled in the classics, eighteenth-century English writers wrote brilliant epigrams. The whole style of Augustan writers like Pope is epigrammatic, but an epigram per se is typically an individual rhymed couplet, such as the brutal lines Pope had engraved on the collar of a dog he gave to the Prince of Wales:.

Here Belloc somehow combines religion, ambition, and witty wordplay into an epitaph for himself. As brevity is the heart of the epigram, stringently prescriptive forms like the limerick and the double dactyl showcase the light verse writer as miniaturist. Far from being nonsensical, these poems are monuments to English eccentricity.

Lear, like Lewis Carroll and J. Barrie, was one of those bachelor eccentrics, probably stunted in his emotional growth, who was able to keep in touch with something ineffably childlike in himself. Though he spent much of his life abroad, he undoubtedly found most foreigners and foreign words strange, and therefore threatening, though also delightful. Each poem is illustrated by a line-drawing as explosively energetic as the poem is buttoned up. The Old Person of Hyde and his bonneted bride look hysterical as they face a crab about four times their size.

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The Old Person of Rimini seems almost to be skiing down a very steep slope. The much-elongated Young Lady of Corsica is leaning at an impossible angle to minister tenderly to her little black mutt. Both the poems and the drawings portray a timeless world that, despite its little social markers, has no context and no history. Their manner is fussy, their values quaint, but their spare technique is self-conscious, reflexive, and curiously modern. If the rolling anapestic meter of limericks sounds comical in English, so does its opposite, the dactyl, and its sing-song effect is only heightened in the double dactyl, which begins with a nonsense line and is composed of two quatrains.

In Hecht and Hollander gathered an initial harvest of these poems in Jiggery-Pokery. Like all such impacted forms, the double dactyl encourages a play of wit, but the result is often a polysyllabic tongue-twister. But its sound is as irresistible as its small, definite lexical challenge. It was Byron who, in Beppo and Don Juan , showed how feminine endings, ubiquitous in Italian, generally sound comic in English—an effect that has made them a permanent resource for light verse writers and serious comic poets.

As long as the iambic foot remains the default unit for English meter, verse written in three-beat feet, using anapests or dactyls, and verse deploying feminine rhymes, dragging extra syllables with a dying fall, will always have a slightly subversive feeling. Even Nash, who had his own rhythm, not as prosaic as it looked, sometimes aspired to the pure lilt of nonsense, with its touches of surrealism and derangement, its potential for music unbound from meaning. The rest of this longish poem offers nonstop musical variations on these lines and syllables.

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In doing so, he also brings back a silly and endearing social world, thirty years past, not by describing but by enacting it, sounding it out. This is light verse no longer on holiday but on the job. Vigilance Theme by The Theme Foundry. Morris Dickstein. I tell you whawt, Things were different when I was a tawdling tawt. All you hear is who behaved scandalously at the club dance and how hard it is to get a new car into an old garage.

Cool Verse and Hot Doggerel

The maxim, the apothegm, yea, even the aphorism, die like echoes in the distance, Overwhelmed by such provocative topics as clothes, beauticians, taxes and the scarcity of competent domestic assistants. Eve falls; Adam bawls, Falls too. What to do? Stole fruit; Ate loot. Man bad, God mad.

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No hope? How cope? Saints in gestures of forgiveness or what not, which is what Thayer is playing off of. But as we mentioned before, the theater was huge back then; hence, this is quite theatrical. Casey is a batter-cum-MC. It has always put me in baseball-friendly stitches that he gestures to the pitcher to resume pitching activities. They are just not here, right now. They might not be encountered for a fortnight, a year, a decade, maybe not in this place, maybe not this town, this city, this time zone, this country.

Maybe not this world? No, no, no—we must not go there. That is only the case when there is no more chance of games to be played, rather than the next game, the next result, to look forward to. When we read a short story, we often like a definitive timeline. This could be the first game of the season, with new hopes for that campaign, or it could be the rubber match of the local playoffs in early November.

Personally, I like it all the different ways at once.

Our People. Your cart is empty. But this was high-level doggerel, if the term ever fit. Anything pre we generally associate with the Olympics, with Greeks, Romans—in short, with people of yore. Discuses were hurled, races were won, wrestling matches were had. But team sports? Except, around the time of the Civil War, baseball started to become massive in this country, and by , when Thayer wrote his poem, it was part of the mighty triumvirate of entertainment of its day.

You had the theater, you had reading, you had baseball. People dug music, but it could be harder to come by depending upon where you lived.