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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Humorous Poetry

I have posted poetry from time to time.   Today, I am posting three of my favorite humorous poems.  We can all use a chuckle, I’m sure.  Especially remembering twelve years ago today.

I recite this one regularly, sometimes even in company.  Some of us may remember memorizing poetry for school. The nuns in the school I attended in 8th grade – I was 13 years old – had us memorize poems.  This was not one of them, but thanks to our reading I can identify eight poems whose fragments appear in Robert’s recital. 

They don’t teach elocution any more, but you must imagine someone speaking these lines with extravagant, stylized gestures to show anger, courage, grief, hope, yearning…


"An Overworked Elocutionist."

Elocution guide
Once there was a little boy whose name was Robert Reese,
And every Friday afternoon he had to speak a piece.
So many poems thus he learned, that soon he had a store
Of recitations in his head and still kept learning more.

And so this is what happened! He was called upon one week,
And totally forgot the piece he was about to speak.
His brain he cudgeled, not a word remained within his head
And so he spoke at random, and this is what he said!

My beautiful, my beautiful, who standeth proudly by…
It was the schooner Hesperus and the breaking waves dashed high?
Why is this forum crowded? What means this stir in Rome?
Under the spreading chestnut tree, there is no place like home.

When freedom from her mountain heights cried "Twinkle little star!
Shoot if you must this old gray head, King Henry of Navarre!
Roll on, thou deep and dark blue-chasmed crag at Drachenfels –
My name is Norwald – On the Grampian hills Ring out Wild Bells!"

If you’re waking call me early.  To be or not to be?
The curfew shall not ring tonight! O woodman spare that tree!
Charge Chester, Charge!  On Stanley, On! And let who will be clever.
The boy stood on the burning deck, but I go on forever!

His elocution was superb, his voice and gestures fine;
His schoolmates all applauded as he finished the last line.
"I see it doesn't matter," Robert thought, "what words I say,
So long as I declaim with oratorical display." 

-          by Carolyn Wells 

This gem is said to have been written during pioneer days, perhaps because it referred to preserved (dried) fruit.  Until the advent of refrigeration, many things were preserved in such a way, and that method was not limited to those crossing the Great American Plains in covered wagons.  In any event, it’s a favorite of mine. 

Dried Apple Pies
I loathe, abhor, detest, despise

Abominate dried apple pies!
I like good food, I like good meat –
Or anything that’s fit to eat! –
But of all poor grub beneath the skies,
The poorest is Dried Apple Pies! 

The farmer takes his gnarliest fruit –
T’is wormy, bitter and hard to boot –
He leaves the hulls to make us cough
And don’t take half the peeling off.
Then on a dirty string t’is strung
And in a garret window hung,
Where it serves as roost for flies
Until it’s made up into pies. 

So tread on my corns or tell me lies –
But don’t pass me dried apple pies!

-          Unknown


…and then we have Hotspur’s comment (addressed to Owen Glendower in Shakespeare’s Henry IV) on the subject of poetry.  In this speech he is responding to Glendower’s remark that he had set many an English ballad to harp music, a talent that no one had accused Hotspur of having. 

Hotspur replies:

And I am glad of it with all my heart:
I had rather be a kitten and cry mew
Than one of these same metre ballad-mongers;
I had rather hear a brazen canstick turn'd,
Or a dry wheel grate on the axle-tree;
And that would set my teeth nothing on edge,
Nothing so much as mincing poetry:
'Tis like the forced gait of a shuffling nag.


I hope some of you have enjoyed a chuckle.  I'm going back to jotting notes in notebooks...


  1. I love the first poem! I've long believed that it's not what you say, so much as how you say it :)

    1. You put me in mind of the old description of a diplomat: One who tells you to go to hell in such a way that you find yourself looking forward to the trip.

  2. Hi Diana .. interesting choices ... I've never been able to remember poems, probably the odd first line - but the rest .. Love your thoughts and so pleased you could remember ..

    The picture is lovely - a real writer .. cheers Hilary

    1. If we were to depict you, Hilary, in that final picture, it would have to show guide books, encyclopedias, a stack of photos and a wide smile.

  3. Thank you for this light-hearted post Diana! Yesterday's anniversary is always a tricky day for me. Thanks for making me smile today! :)

  4. It is a hard anniversary. Just a month ago I learned that a friend I’d lost touch with (and was trying to look up, to reconnect perhaps) had died in Tower 1. He’d have loved the poems.

  5. Hi Diana,
    It's nice to see another kindered spirit who enjoys humorous poetry. May I recommend two humorous poets I discovered while I was in the UK:
    Take care!
    Kelly L.