You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Light verse’ category.

He’ll hear no tone
      Of the maiden he loves so well!
No telephone
      Communicates with his cell!

The most frivolous compositions may have deep roots. In a letter (circa 1897) to his stepmother Lucy Housman, A. E. Housman muses,

Perhaps I myself may write a Hymn-book for use in the Salvation Army:

There is Hallelujah Hannah
    Walking backwards down the lane,
And I hear the loud Hosanna
    Of regenerated Jane;
And Lieutenant Isabella
    In the centre of them comes,
Dealing blows with her umbrella
    On the trumpets and the drums.

Or again:

“Hallelujah!” was the only observation
That escaped Lieutenant-Colonel Mary Jane,
When she tumbled off the platform in the station,
And was cut in little pieces by the train.
    Mary Jane, the train is through yer:
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah!
We will gather up the fragments that remain.

It seems to come quite easy.

The last line of the second hymn will be recognized as quoting John 6.12, where the (first) miracle of the loaves and fishes is treated. After the feast, Jesus “said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.” Similar language is found in the other gospels. But there is a far more ancient source for the two hymns together, namely the Bacchae of Euripides. In what follows I will give references (not exhaustive) by line numbers of that play.

Read the rest of this entry »

Highly rates,

Freely grates.

In Mackail’s Select Epigrams from the Greek Anthology is the following one, of Demodocus.

Πάντες μὲν Κίλικες κακοὶ ἀνέρες· ἐν δὲ Κίλιξιν
     εἶς ἀγαθὸς Κίνυρης, καὶ Κινύρης δὲ Κίλιξ.

All the Cilicians are bad men; but among the Cilicians
     there’s one good one, Cinyras; but Cinyras too is a Cilician.

(My translation.) Mackail thinks it is imitated from similar epigrams of Phocylides, among which is this, which begins with attribution to the author.

Read the rest of this entry »

Finally, in this last part, the lame Meter.

It was on the 4th of Messidor in the year VII that the standard meter, and with it the standard kilogram, were presented to the legislature. —What, Messidor? VII? Yes, the Republic had been inaugurated on September 22, 1792, and on that day (it was eventually decided) began Year I. Years of the Republic had twelve months of 30 days each, plus some festival days; and the months, each beginning around the 20th of an English month, were Vendémiaire (Vintage-y), Brumaire (Misty), Frimaire (Frosty), Nivôse (Snowy), Pluviôse (Rainy), Ventôse (Windy), Germinal (Bud-y), Floréal (Flowery), Prairial (Meadowy), Messidor (Harvest-giver), Thermidor (Heat-giver), Fructidor (Fruit-giver). These names, bestowed by Fabre d’Églantine, whose head was cut off for his pains, were probably thought more dignified and poetical than those contrived by Sir Gregory Gander for the English calendar:

Snowy, Flowy, Blowy,
Showery, Flowery, Bowery,
Hoppy, Croppy, Droppy,
Breezy, Sneezy, Freezy.

But they were hardly more exact. Besides, Sir Gregory kept his head. —Messidor began on June 20th, so the big day must have been June 23, 1799.

Read the rest of this entry »

As far as I know, this literary sub-genre, or sub-literary genre, is new.

A thrifty young thinker named Blaise
Took pains to preserve his pensées,
     But ere the fond hoarder
     Could set them in order,
He’d thoughtlessly spent all his days!

Read the rest of this entry »