08 June 2015


Nonsense and Some Sense Verse Writers Smackdown!!!

As some of you know, I started a new job last month. While it's a really great gig, it's also kind of the worst thing to happen to my blogging in years. LOL! And that's why, after several hours of trying (and failing) to put together a tournament bracket based on a vague idea I had at the end of last year's successful smackdown, I decided to let this year's Giveaway Month go by without one.

Well, that was before my blog turned into a virtual ghost town! Now, the most rational reason for this is that those who are eligible to enter the giveaway just can't think of anything to say about the latest two books that have entered the Giveaway pool; but I prefer to go with the superstitious reason. Not having a smackdown has clearly cursed me. And now I must now reverse the curse with the new idea that came to me during Corpus Christi Mass. (Yes, truly.)

I like to say of every smackdown I do that I'm only really ready to start it after I've finished it--but it has never been truer than for this one. And I almost gave up twice before coming up with compromises that I could live with. For instance, since I hadn't actually "met" several of the contenders until today, there is no way that I can properly introduce them to others. But (or so it took me an hour to reason) if I give everyone the same "handicap," at least things will still be fair. (Right???) Anyway, that first handicap is . . . ANIMALS.

Round 1
The Silly Sixteen

Lewis Carroll vs. Edward Lear

At least I can begin with two writers I'm decently familiar with! Lewis Carroll is most famous for his novels Alice in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking Glass, and it is from the latter that I lift his strange, dark poem about a walrus and a carpenter taking advantage of some innocent oysters. Edward Lear, on the other hand, published several books full of nothing but "nonsense verse"--the most enduring of which have been assorted limericks and the following longer piece about the elopement of an owl and cat.

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
"O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!"

Pussy said to the Owl, "You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?"
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-Tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

"Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?" Said the Piggy, "I will."
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.
The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright--
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done--
"It's very rude of him," she said,
"To come and spoil the fun!"

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead--
There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
"If this were only cleared away,"
They said, "it would be grand!"

"If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose," the Walrus said,
"That they could get it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

"O Oysters, come and walk with us!"
The Walrus did beseech.
"A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each."

The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head--
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat--
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn't any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more--
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."

"But wait a bit," the Oysters cried,
"Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!"
"No hurry!" said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.

"A loaf of bread," the Walrus said,
"Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed--
Now if you're ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed."

"But not on us!" the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
"After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!"
"The night is fine," the Walrus said.
"Do you admire the view?

"It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf--
I've had to ask you twice!"

"It seems a shame," the Walrus said,
"To play them such a trick,
After we've brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"The butter's spread too thick!"

"I weep for you," the Walrus said:
"I deeply sympathize."
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

"O Oysters," said the Carpenter,
"You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
But answer came there none--
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.

A.A. Milne vs. Dr. Seuss

Another thing I'm winging is the pairings. I'm not 100% sure of which writers to pair off, so I'm mostly going on gut feel. But when one writer is most famous for a talking stuffed bear and another for a magical cat that comes out of nowhere, they seem like they'd make decent partners. But which characters would you rather see move on to the next bracket: A.A. Milne's sentimental animals, like Pooh in Teddy Bear, or Dr. Seuss's crazily fantastic creatures, like that Morality Play devil in The Cat in the Hat?

The sun did not shine.
It was too wet to play.
So we sat in the house
all that cold, cold, wet day.

I sat there with Sally.
We sat there, we two.
And I said, "How I wish
we had something to do!"

Too wet to go out
and too cold to play ball.
So we sat in the house.
We did nothing at all.

So all we could do was to
And we did not like it.
Not one little bit.

And then something went BUMP!
How that bump made us jump!
We looked!
Then we saw him step in on the mat!
We looked!
And we saw him!
The cat in the hat!
And he said to us,
"Why do you sit there like that?
I know it is wet
and the sun is not sunny.
But we can have
lots of good fun that is funny!"

"I know some good games we could play,"
said the cat.
"I know some new tricks,"
said the cat in the hat.
"A lot of good tricks.
I will show them to you.
Your mother will not mind at all if I do."

Then sally and I
did not know what to say.
our mother was out of the house
for the day.

But our fish said, 'No! No!
Make that cat go away!
Tell that cat in the hat
you do NOT want to play.
He should not be here.
He should not be about.
He should not be here
when your mother is out!'

"Now! Now! Have no fear.
Have no fear!' said the cat.
"My tricks are not bad,"
said the cat in the hat.
"Why, we can have
lots of good fun, if you wish,
with a game that I call
up-up-up with a fish!"

"Put me down!' said the fish.
"This is no fun at all!
Put me down!" said the fish.
"I do NOT wish to fall!"

"Have no fear!" said the cat.
"I will not let you fall.
I will hold you up high
as I stand on a ball.
With a book one one hand!
And a cup on my hat!
But that is not ALL I can do!
said the cat . . .

"Look at me!
Look at me now!" said the cat.
"With a cup and a cake
on the top of my hat!
I can hold up TWO books!
I can hold up the fish!
And a little toy ship!
And some milk on a dish!
And look!
I can hop up and down on the ball!
But that is not all!
Oh, no.
That is not all . . .

"Look at me!
Look at me!
Look at me NOW!
It is fun to have fun
but you have to know how.
I can hold up the cup
and the milk and the cake!
I can hold up these books!
And the fish on a rake!
I can hold the toy ship
and a little toy man!
And look! With my tail
I can hold a red fan!
I can fan with the fan
as I hop on the ball!
but that is not all.
oh, no.
That is not all . . ."

That is what the cat said . . .
then he fell on his head!
He came down with a bump
from up there on the ball.
And sally and I,
we saw ALL the things fall!

And our fish came down, too.
He fell into a pot!
He said, "Do I like this?
Oh, no! I do not.
This is not a good game,"
said our fish as he lit.
"No, I do not like it,
not one little bit!"

"Now look what you did!"
said the fish to the cat.
"Now look at this house!
Look at this! Look at that!
You sank our toy ship,
sank it deep in the cake.
You shook up our house
and you bent our new rake.
You SHOULD NOT be here
when our mother is not.
You get out of this house!"
said the fish in the pot.

"But I like to be here.
oh, I like it a lot!"
said the cat in the hat
to the fish in the pot.
"I will NOT go away.
I do NOT wish to go!
and so," said the cat in the hat,
So . . .
I will show you
another good game that I know!"

And then he ran out.
And, then, fast as a fox,
the cat in the hat
came back in with a box.
A big red wood box.
It was shut with a hook.
"Now look at this trick,"
said the cat.
"Take a look!"

Then he got up on top
with a tip of his hat.
"I call this game Fun-in-a-box,"
said the cat.
"In this box are two things
I will show to you now.
You will like these two things,"
said the cat with a bow.

"I will pick up the hook.
You will see something new.
Two things. And I call them
Thing One and Thing Two.
These Things will not bite you.
They want to have fun."
Then, out of the box
came Thing Two and Thing One!
And they ran to us fast.
They said, "How do you do?
Would you like to shake hands
with Thing One and Thing Two?"

And Sally and I
did not know what to do.
So we had to shake hands
with Thing One and Thing Two.
We shook their two hands.
But our fish said, "No! no!
Those Things should not be
in this house! Make them go!
They should not be here
when your mother is not!
Put them out! Put them out!"
said the fish in the pot.

"Have no fear, little fish,"
said the cat in the hat.
"These Things are good Things."
And he gave them a pat.
"They are tame. Oh, so tame!
They have come here to play.
They will give you some fun
on this wet, wet, wet day."

"Now, here is a game that they like,"
said the cat.
"They like to fly kites,"
said the cat in the hat.

"No! Not in the house!"
said the fish in the pot.
"They should not fly kites
in a house! They should not.
Oh, the things they will bump!
Oh, the things they will hit!
Oh, I do not like it!
Not one little bit!"

Then Sally and I
saw them run down the hall.
We saw those two Things
bump their kites on the wall!
Bump! Thump! Thump! Bump!
Down the wall in the hall.

Thing Two and Thing One!
They ran up! They ran down!
on the string of one kite
we saw mother's new gown!
Her gown with the dots
that are pink, white and red.
Then we saw one kite bump
on the head of her bed!

Then those things ran about
with big bumps, jumps and kicks
and with hops and big thumps
and all kinds of bad tricks.
And I said,
"I do NOT like the way that they play!
If mother could see this,
oh, what would she say!'

Then our fish said, "Look! Look!"
and our fish shook with fear.
"Your mother is on her way home!
Do you hear?
Oh, what will she do to us?
What will she say?
Oh, she will not like it
to find us this way!"

"So DO something! Fast!" said the fish.
"Do you hear!
I saw her. Your mother!
Your mother is near!
So, as fast as you can,
Think of something to do!
You will have to get rid of
Thing One and Thing Two!"

So, as fast as I could,
I went after my net.
And I said, "With my net
I can get them I bet.
I bet, with my net,
I can get those things yet!"

Then I let down my net.
It came down with a PLOP!
and I had them! At last!
Those two things had to stop.
Then I said to the cat,
"Now you do as I say.
You pack up those Things
and you take them away!"

"Oh dear!" said the cat.
"You did not like our game . . .
Oh dear.
What a shame!
What a shame!
What a shame!'

Then he shut up the things
in the box with the hook.
And the cat went away
with a sad kind of look.

"That is good," said the fish.
"He has gone away. Yes.
But your mother will come.
She will find this big mess!
And this mess is so big
and so deep and so tall,
we can not pick it up.
There is no way at all!"

Who was back in the house?
Why, the cat!
"Have no fear of this mess,"
said the cat in the hat.
"I always pick up all my playthings
and so . . .
I will show you another
good trick that i know!"

Then we saw him pick up all the things that were down.
He picked up the cake,
and the rake, and the gown,
and the milk, and the strings,
and the books, and the dish,
and the fan, and the cup,
and the ship, and the fish.
And he put them away.
Then he said, "That is that."
And then he was gone
with a tip of his hat.

Then our mother came in
and she said to us two,
"Did you have any fun?
Tell me. What did you do?"

And sally and I did not know
what to say.
Should we tell her
the things that went on there that day?

Should we tell her about it?
Now, what SHOULD we do?
Well . . .
What would YOU do
if your mother asked YOU?
A bear, however hard he tries,
Grows tubby without exercise.
Our Teddy Bear is short and fat
Which is not to be wondered at;
He gets what exercise he can
By falling off the ottoman,
But generally seems to lack
The energy to clamber back.

Now tubbiness is just the thing
Which gets a fellow wondering;
And Teddy worried lots about
The fact that he was rather stout.
He thought: "If only I were thin!
But how does anyone begin?"
He thought: "It really isn't fair
To grudge me exercise and air."

For many weeks he pressed in vain
His nose against the window-pane,
And envied those who walked about
Reducing their unwanted stout.
None of the people he could see
"Is quite" (he said) "as fat as me!"
Then, with a still more moving sigh,
"I mean" (he said) "as fat as I!"

Now Teddy, as was only right,
Slept in the ottoman at night,
And with him crowded in as well
More animals than I can tell;
Not only these, but books and things,
Such as a kind relation brings--
Old tales of "Once upon a time,"
And history retold in rhyme.

One night it happened that he took
A peep at an old picture-book,
Wherein he came across by chance
The picture of a King of France
(A stoutish man) and, down below,
These words: "King Louis So and So,
Nicknamed 'The Handsome'"! There he sat,
And (think of it!) the man was fat!

Our bear rejoiced like anything
To read about this famous King,
Nicknamed "The Handsome." There he sat,
And certainly the man was fat.
Nicknamed "The Handsome." Not a doubt
The man was definitely stout.
Why then, a bear (for all his tub)
Might yet be named "The Handsome Cub!"

"Might yet be named." Or did he mean
That years ago he "Might have been"?
For now he felt a slight misgiving:
"Is Louis So and So still living?
Fashions in beauty have a way
Of altering from day to day.
Is "Handsome Louis" with us yet?
Unfortunately I forget."

Next morning (nose to window-pane)
The doubt occurred to him again.
One question hammered in his head:
"Is he alive or is he dead?"
Thus, nose to pane, he pondered; but
The lattice window, loosely shut,
Swung open. With one startled "Oh!"
Our Teddy disappeared below.

There happened to be passing by
A plump man with a twinkling eye,
Who, seeing Teddy in the street,
Raised him politely to his feet,
And murmured kindly in his ear
Soft words of comfort and of cheer:
"Well, well!" "Allow me!" "Not at all."
"Tut tut! A very nasty fall."

Our teddy answered not a word;
It’'s doubtful if he even heard.
Our bear could only look and look:
The stout man in the picture-book!
That "handsome" King—could this be he,
This man of adiposity?
"Impossible," he thought. "But still,
No harm in asking. Yes I will!"

"Are you," he said, "by any chance
His Majesty the King of France?"
The other answered, "I am that,"
Bowed stiffly, and removed his hat;
Then said, "Excuse me," with an air,
"But is it Mr. Edward Bear?"
And Teddy, bending very low,
Replied politely, "Even so!"

They stood beneath the window there,
The King and Mr. Edward Bear,
And, handsome, if a trifle fat,
Talked carelessly of this and that . . .
Then said His Majesty, "Well, well,
I must get on," and rang the bell.
"Your bear, I think," he smiled. "Good-day!"
And turned, and went upon his way.

A bear, however hard he tries,
Grows tubby without exercise.
Our Teddy Bear is short and fat,
Which is not to be wondered at.
But do you think it worries him
To know that he is far from slim?
No, just the other way about—
He's proud of being short and stout.

Rudyard Kipling vs. Ogden Nash

As for these two writers, they are together because I was lucky enough to find comparable poems from each of them. Having already featured Carnival of the Animals -- Part 2 in an earlier smackdown (Can you remember which one without clicking the link?), I'm happy to give its playful predecessor by Nash some love as well. And what better answer to a carnival than a parade? The beasts of burden in Kipling's Parade-song of the Camp Animals may not be as carefree as their cousins in the former poem but the martial air of the whole is just as fun its own way.


Camille Saint-Saëns
Was wracked with pains,
When people addressed him,
As Saint Sanes.
He held the human race to blame,
Because it could not pronounce his name.
So, he turned with metronome and fife,
To glorify other kinds of life.
Be quiet please--for here begins
His salute to feathers, fur, and fins.

Royal March of the Lion

The lion is the king of beasts,
And husband of the lioness.
Gazelles and things on which he feasts
Address him as your highoness.
There are those that admire that roar of his,
In the African jungles and velds,
But, I think that wherever the lion is,
I'd rather be somewhere else.

Hens and Roosters

The rooster is a roistering hoodlum,
His battle cry is "cock-a-doodleum".
Hands in pockets, cap over eye,
He whistles at pullets, passing by.

Wild Asses

Have ever you harked to the jackass wild,
Which scientists call the onager?
It sounds like the laugh of an idiot child,
Or a hepcat on a harmoniger.
But do not sneer at the jackass wild,
There is a method in his heehaw.
For with maidenly blush and accent mild
The jenny-ass answers shee-haw.


Come crown my brow with leaves of myrtle,
I know the tortoise is a turtle,
Come carve my name in stone immortal,
I know the turtoise is a tortle.
I know to my profound despair,
I bet on one to beat a hare.
I also know I'm now a pauper,
Because of its tortley, turtley, torper.

The Elephant

Elephants are useful friends,
Equipped with handles at both ends.
They have a wrinkled moth-proof hide.
Their teeth are upside down, outside.
If you think the elephant preposterous,
You've probably never seen a rhinosterous.


The kangaroo can jump incredible,
He has to jump because he is edible.
I could not eat a kangaroo,
But many fine Australians do.
Those with cookbooks as well as boomerangs,
Prefer him in tasty kangaroomeringues.


Some fish are minnows,
Some are whales.
People like dimples,
Fish like scales,
Some fish are slim,
And some are round,
They don't get cold,
They don't get drowned.
But every fishwife
Fears for her fish.
What we call mermaids
They call merfish.

People With Long Ears

In the world of mules
There are no rules.

The Cuckoo in the Middle of the Wood

Cuckoos lead bohemian lives,
They fail as husbands and as wives,
Therefore, they cynically dispariage
Everybody else's marriage.


Puccini was Latin, and Wagner Teutonic,
And birds are incurably philharmonic,
Suburban yards and rural vistas
Are filled with avian Andrew Sisters.
The skylark sings a roundelay,
The crow sings "The Road to Mandalay,"
The nightingale sings a lullaby,
And the sea gull sings a gullaby.
That's what shepherds listened to in Arcadia
Before somebody invented the radia.


Some claim that pianists are human,
And quote the case of Mr Truman.
Saint Saëns, upon the other hand,
Considered them a scurvy band.
A blight they are, he said, and simian,
Instead of normal men and womian.


At midnight in the museum hall,
The fossils gathered for a ball.
There were no drums or saxophones,
But just the clatter of their bones,
A rolling, rattling carefree circus,
Of mammoth polkas and mazurkas.
Pterodactyls and brontosauruses
Sang ghostly prehistoric choruses.
Amid the mastodonic wassail
I caught the eye of one small fossil,
"Cheer up sad world," he said and winked,
"It's kind of fun to be extinct."

The Swan

The swan can swim while sitting down,
For pure conceit he takes the crown,
He looks in the mirror over and over,
And claims to have never heard of Pavlova.


Now we've reached the grand finale,
Animale carnivale.
Noises new to sea and land,
Issue from the skillful band.
All the strings contort their features,
Imitating crawly creatures.
All the brasses look like mumps
From blowing umpah, umpah, umps.
In outdoing Barnum and Bailey, and Ringling,
Saint-Saëns has done a miraculous thingling.
Elephants of the Gun Teams

We lent to Alexander the strength of Hercules,
The wisdom of our foreheads, the cunning of our knees.
We bowed our necks to service; they ne'er were loosed again,--
Make way there, way for the ten-foot teams
Of the Forty-Pounder train!


Those heroes in their harnesses avoid a cannon-ball,
And what they know of powder upsets them one and all;
Then we come into action and tug the guns again,--
Make way there, way for the twenty yoke
Of the Forty-Pounder train!

Calvary Horses

By the brand on my withers, the finest of tunes
Is played by the Lancers, Hussars, and Dragoons,
And it's sweeter than "Stables" or "Water" to me.
The Cavalry Canter of "Bonnie Dundee"!

Then feed us and break us and handle and groom,
And give us good riders and plenty of room,
And launch us in column of squadron and see
The Way of the War-horse to "Bonnie Dundee"!

Screw Gun Mules

As me and my companions were scrambling up a hill,
The path was lost in rolling stones, but we went forward still;
For we can wriggle and climb, my lads, and turn up everywhere,
And it's our delight on a mountain height, with a leg or two to spare!

Good luck to every sergeant, then, that lets us pick our road!
Bad luck to all the driver-men that cannot pack a load!
For we can wriggle and climb, my lads, and turn up everywhere,
And it's our delight on a mountain height, with a leg or two to spare!

Commissariat Camels

We haven't a camelty tune of our own
To help us trollop along,
But every neck is a hair-trombone
(Rtt-ta-ta-ta! is a hair-trombone!)
And this is our marching-song:
Can't! Don't! Shan't! Won't!
Pass it along the line!
Somebody's pack has slid from his back,
Wish it were only mine!
Somebody's load has tipped off in the road--
Cheer for a halt and a row!
Urrr! Yarrh! Grr! Arrh!
Somebody's catching it now!

All the Beasts Together

Children of the Camp are we,
Serving each in his degree;
Children of the yoke and goad,
Pack and harness, pad and load.
See our line across the plain.
Like a heel-rope bent again,
Beaching, writhing, rolling far.
Sweeping all away to war!
While the men that walk beside,
Dusty, silent, heavy-eyed,
Cannot tell why we or they
March and suffer day by day.
Children of the Camp are we,
Serving each in hiss degree;
Children of the yoke and goad,
Pack and harness, pad and load.

Guy Wetmore Carryl vs. Roald Dahl

Now we get to one of the writers whom I couldn't have picked out from a line up until last night. Guy Wetmore Carryl's Wikipedia page says that his rhyming parodies of faerie tales and fables (one of which I'm featuring today) are "still popular today;" but I'm going to guess that a fan among fans wrote that. =P On the other hand, Roald Dahl is still a familiar name and may remain so for many years yet. If I had to pick a genre for his verses, it would be Horror or Cautionary Tale (which are almost the same thing, aye?). But which one do you think gives the better moral: the exquisitely drawn out Sycophantic Fox and the Gullible Raven or the remorselessly blunt Pig?

In England once there lived a big
And wonderfully clever pig.
To everybody it was plain
That Piggy had a massive brain.
He worked out sums inside his head,
There was no book he hadn't read.
He knew what made an airplane fly,
He knew how engines worked and why.
He knew all this, but in the end
One question drove him round the bend:
He simply couldn't puzzle out
What LIFE was really all about.
What was the reason for his birth?
Why was he placed upon this earth?
His giant brain went round and round.
Alas, no answer could be found.
Till suddenly one wondrous night.
All in a flash he saw the light.
He jumped up like a ballet dancer
And yelled, "By gum, I've got the answer!"
"They want my bacon slice by slice
"To sell at a tremendous price!
"They want my tender juicy chops
"To put in all the butcher's shops!
"They want my pork to make a roast
"And that's the part'll cost the most!
"They want my sausages in strings!
"They even want my chitterlings!
"The butcher's shop! The carving knife!
"That is the reason for my life!"
Such thoughts as these are not designed
To give a pig great piece of mind.
Next morning, in comes Farmer Bland,
A pail of pigswill in his hand,
And piggy with a mighty roar,
Bashes the farmer to the floor . . .
Now comes the rather grisly bit
So let's not make too much of it,
Except that you must understand
That Piggy did eat Farmer Bland,
He ate him up from head to toe,
Chewing the pieces nice and slow.
It took an hour to reach the feet,
Because there was so much to eat,
And when he finished, Pig, of course,
Felt absolutely no remorse.
Slowly he scratched his brainy head
And with a little smile he said,
"I had a fairly powerful hunch
"That he might have me for his lunch.
"And so, because I feared the worst,
"I thought I'd better eat him first."
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 Götterdämmerung."

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.

Maurice Sendak vs. Shel Silverstein

These two writers are together now because they are both also illustrators! And because many of their poems have been set to music! Yet it's hard to make them face off properly with animal poems, because their intentions are so different. Take Maurice Sendak's Alligators All Around another old friend to this blog: it's a simple, but very charming alphabet poem that I myself have used to teach language. Shel Silverstein's People Zoo, on the other hand, wants to teach a very different kind of lesson. I'm not totally on board with Silverstein's ethics, but neither am I easy about zoos.

I got grabbed by the elk and the caribou.
They tied me up with a vine lassoo
And whisked me away to Animaloo,
Where they locked me up in the People Zoo.

Now I'm here in a cage that is small as can be
(You can't let wild people just run around free),
And I'm fed bread and tea at a quarter of three,
And the animals all come and gander at me.

They point and they giggle and sometimes they spit
(There's bars on my cage, so they can’t poke or hit),
And they scream, "Do a trick," but I stubbornly sit,
Not doin' nothin' . . . but thinkin' a bit.

So if you come visit, just howl, honk, or moo
And try to pretend you're an animal, too,
'Cause if you're a person, they’ll throw you into
Cage Two at the zoo here in Animaloo.
A - alligators all around
B - bursting balloons
C - catching colds
D - doing dishes
E - entertaining elephants
F - forever fooling
G - getting giggles
H - having headaches
I - imitating Indians
J - juggling jellybeans
K - keeping kangaroos
L - looking like lions
M - making macaroni
N - never napping
O - ordering oatmeal
P - pushing people
Q - quite quarrelsome
R - riding reindeer
S - shockingly spoiled
T - throwing tantrums
U - usually upside down
V - very vain
W - wearing wigs
X - x-ing x's
Y - yackety-yacking
Z - zippity zound
A - alligators ALL around!

Hilaire Belloc vs. Oliver Herford

According to the posh marketing experts whom I hired to investigate my readership, the typical Shredded Cheddar reader is already well acquainted with Hilaire Belloc, good friend to one of my favourite writers of all time. On the other hand, you may all need, as I did, a brief introduction to Oliver Herford, another humourist and illustrator who was once called "the American Oscar Wilde." But Herford does Wilde one better here, for the latter's poetry simply isn't funny enough to make this smackdown, either as a serious contender or as an intermission act. If you've been feeling taxed by some of the long poems you've had to read so far, I'm sure you'll be pleased with the short and sweet Frog by Belloc and Platypus by Herford.

My child, the Duck-billed Platypus
A sad example sets for us:
From him we learn how Indecision
Of character provokes Derision.
This vacillating Thing, you see,
Could not decide which he would be,
Fish, Flesh, or Fowl, and chose all three.
The scientists were sorely vexed
To classify him; so perplexed
Their brains, that they, with Rage at bay,
Called him a horrid name one day,--
A name that baffles, frights and shocks us,
Ornithorhynchus Paradoxus.
Be kind and tender to the Frog
And do not call him names,
As "Slimy skin," or "Polly-wog,"
Or likewise "Ugly James,"
Or "Gape-a-grin," or "Toad-gone-wrong,"
Or "Billy Bandy-knees":
The Frog is justly sensitive
To epithets like these.
No animal will more repay
A treatment kind and fair;
At least so lonely people say
Who keep a frog (and, by the way,
They are extremely rare).

Eugene Field vs. Laura E. Richards

Just when I thought it was going to be all Dead White Men (Not That There's Anything Wrong with That), I ran into a woman writer who actually deserved a chance in the bracket! So how about some made-up animals now? In The Dinky Bird, the sentimental and fanciful Eugene Field gives us a phantasia avis right out of a pseudo-Victorian dreamland; while in After a Visit to the History Museum, Laura E. Richards whips up three extinct species right out of a pseudo-Victorian exhibit. And I can tell you that Field's other stuff is more of the same, but Richards will be as much of a mystery box to me as to you. Vote wisely--which in a smackdown also means whimsically!

This is the Wiggledywasticus,
Very remarkable beast.
Nose to tail an eighth of a mile;
Took him an acre or two to smile;
Took him a quarter 'f an hour to wink;
Swallowed a pond for his morning drink
Oh! would it had been vouchsafed to us
Upon the Wiggledywasticus
Our wondering eyes to feast!

This is the Ptoodlecumtumpsydyl,
Rather unusual bird.
Hand a mouth before and behind;
Ate whichever way he'd a mind;
Spoiled his digestion, so they say,
Pindled and dwindled quite away,
Or else he might have been living still,
The singular Ptoodlecumtumpsydyl.
A pity, upon my word!

This is the Ichthyosnortoryx,
Truly astonishing fish.
Used to snort in a terrible way;
Scared the lobsters to death, they say;
Had a nose like a tea-kettle spout;
Broke it snorting, and so died out.
Sad! if he had n't got into this fix,
We might have made of the 'Snortoryx
A very acceptable dish.
In an ocean, 'way out
(As all sapient people know),
Is the land of Wonder-Wander,
Whither children love to go;
It's their playing, romping, swinging,
That give great joy to me
While the Dinkey-Bird goes singing
In the amfalula tree!

There the gum-drops grow like cherries,
And taffy's thick as peas---
Caramels you pick like berries
When, and where, and how you please;
Big red sugar-plums are clinging
To the cliffs beside that sea
Where the Dinkey-Bird is singing
In the amfalula tree.

So when children shout and scamper
And make merry all the day,
When there 's naught to put a damper
To the ardor of their play;
When I hear their laughter ringing,
Then I 'm sure as sure can be
That the Dinkey-Bird is singing
In the amfalula tree!

For the Dinkey-Bird's bravuras
And staccatos are so sweet---
His roulades, appoggiaturas,
And robustos so complete,
That the youth of every nation---
Be they near or far away---
Have especial delectation
In that gladsome roundelay.

Their eyes grow bright and brighter,
Their lungs begin to crow,
Their hearts get light and lighter,
And their cheeks are all aglow;
For an echo cometh bringing
The news to all and me,
That the Dinkey-Bird is singing
In the amfalula tree.

I'm sure you like to go there
To see your feathered friend---
And so many goodies grow there
You would like to comprehend!
Speed, little dreams, your winging
To that land across the sea
Where the Dinkey-Bird is singing
In the amfalula tree!

G.K. Chesterton vs. Spike Milligan

It's not too indulgent that G.K. Chesterton made it the smackdown, is it? No pressure to vote him into the next round! Spike Milligan is also worth getting to know, as you can see from his poem below. =) Now, Chesterton's Race Memory (By a Dazed Darwinian) isn't as much about animals as it is about poking fun at the idea that man is merely an animal--and to tell you the truth, it wasn't my first choice of "animal poem" by him. But it so perfectly complements Milligan's Look at All Those Monkeys that it brings out an edge that the latter, on its own, doesn't appear to have. To continue telling you the truth, I had worried about including poems about monkeys because of a possible racist subtext. But then I started wondering how in the world we can square a belief in evolution with the idea that individuals with significant physiological differences are all equal; and thought the safest place from which to ask would be between two poems. No need to answer . . . as long as you vote! ;-)

Look at all those monkeys
Jumping in their cage.
Why don't they all go out to work
And earn a decent wage?

How can you say such silly things,
And you a son of mine?
Imagine monkeys travelling on
The Morden-Edgware line!

But what about the Pekinese!
They have an allocation.
'Don't travel during Peke hour',
It says on every station.

My Gosh, you're right, my clever boy,
I never thought of that!
And so they left the monkey house,
While an elephant raised his hat.
I remember, I remember
Long before I was born,
The tree-tops where my racial self
Went dancing round at morn.

Green wavering archipelagos,
Great gusty bursts of blue,
In my race-memory I recall
(Or I am told I do).

In that green-turreted Monkeyville
(So I have often heard)
It seemed as if a Blue Baboon
Might soar like a Blue Bird.

Low crawling Fundamentalists
Glared up through the green mist,
I hung upon my tail in heaven
A Firmamentalist.

* * * * * * * * * * *

I am too fat to climb a tree,
There are no trees to climb;
Instead, the factory chimneys rise,
Unscaleable, sublime.

The past was bestial ignorance:
But I feel a little funky,
To think I'm further off from heaven
Than when I was a monkey.

* * * * *

Since it is Giveaway Month, every vote you cast in the smackdown will let you earn points on the Rafflecopter! And yes, it didn't escape me that the month I usually reserve exclusively for Philippine literature will now have to be shared with a bunch of English writers. =P

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If this post still doesn't get comments, I'm going to give up and turn Shredded Cheddar into a Eurovision blog. That's not a threat. It's a reflection of how crazy I get when deprived of food, water, sunlight, and comments.

As in previous years, tweeted votes are welcome. =) Make sure you address them to @Enbrethiliel!

A final note: this is the first time I've used scrolling text boxes in a post and I'm worried that the post won't show up properly on other people's browsers or mobile devices. If you're having trouble with my formatting, PLEASE let me know! I will be almost as grateful as I would be for a comment that is an actual ballot! =)

Image Sources: a) Lewis Carroll, b) Edward Lear, c) A.A. Milne, d) Dr. Seuss, e) Rudyard Kipling, f) Ogden Nash, g) Guy Wetmore Carryl, h) Roald Dahl, i) Maurice Sendak, j) Shel Silverstein, k) Hilaire Belloc, l) Oliver Herford, m) Eugene Field, n) Laura E. Richards, o) G.K. Chesterton, p) Spike Milligan


Itinérante said...

Hello! I feel too stupid! I really like the texts you picked but I did not quite understand what am I supposed to vote for (oops! but at least you will get a comment out of that!)
Am I supposed to say which text I prefer from the ones you posted? :)

Paul Stilwell said...

Oh boy, methinks this is the kind of smackdown that gets bloody.

1. Carrol

2. Milne

3. Nash. (Will future rounds be featuring different poems by the same writers? Was just wondering about all the better poems by Kipling.)

4. Carryl

5. Sendak

6. Belloc

7. Richards

8. Chesterton

Brandon said...

Please don't turn this into a Eurovision blog! That's a terrifying threat!

I think this is going to be a really good smackdown. My vote, with comments:

(1) Carroll -- It takes a lot to beat the Walrus and the Carpenter.

(2) Dr. Seuss -- I think it's the fish that really makes the poem.

(3) Kipling -- in part because I think it's quite a feat to make a humorous poem about animals that doesn't get silly.

(4) Carryl -- this was the one I found hardest, and I might have a different opinion tomorrow. But today it's Carryl, so that's what I'm voting.

(5) Silverstein

(6) Belloc -- by a hair

(7) Richards -- I don't think I've come across Richards before, but the poem does an excellent job of conveying the fun of a natural history museum.

(8) Chesterton

In general, I think one of the strengths of comic poetry is to make a point without having to preach it; reaching that level in comic poetry is extremely difficult -- one of the most difficult things in poetry, I think -- but when it happens, nothing makes a point better. So I think my vote on all of them has tended mostly to favor the ones that weren't, at least on first reading, just silly.

mrsdarwin said...

1. Carroll. I do like Lear, but The Owl and the Pussycat is never stronger than The Walrus and the Carpenter.

2. Milne for me, probably because I know The Cat and the Hat by heart, so it's unfresh at this point.

3. I know I'm supposed to vote Kipling, but I love Ogden Nash. I read somewhere that he would sacrifice everything for the rhyme, and it's very clear here. And I laughed out loud at several points, especially at the "radia".

4. Carryl. A) I like this poem, and B) I can't stand Roald Dahl.

5. I don't like either of these. Sendak, I guess.

6. I like both of these. Belloc. The Frog is an old friend here.

7. Richards. Field is just a bit too precious here.

8. Chesterton, for the last line.

Enbrethiliel said...


Itinerante -- You're really choosing between the poets, and as you can see, others have already chosen based on what else they know of the poets' oeuvres. =) I look forward to your second comment now. LOL! ;-)

Stilwell -- Yes, I'll be featuring other poems by the winners of this round. =) While drafting this post, I felt a little bad for the writers who had to play some not-so-great poems as their first hand! Kipling does have other fantastic stuff, but since this smackdown is for humourous verse, he'll need to win with the his silly output rather than his serious work. (That will mean more research on my part, so if you already have suggestions, I'd be happy to know about them!) Thanks for your ballot, too!

Brandon -- If I remember correctly, the fish doesn't return in The Cat in the Hat Comes Back--and the role of conscience is turned over to Sally, who isn't half as effective! =( Richards is new to me, too!

Your last paragraph describes perfectly what I like most about comic poetry! To be honest, I've never really been a "poetry person": which always made me feel a little bad because I do like poems, but have rarely felt that sense of connection with a poet that the most passionate poetry lovers seem to have. Indeed, the only poet who has ever made me feel was Chesterton--and he's hardly one of the greats! =P But while putting this post together, I found myself really, really loving what everyone was doing with the English language (and even what some were doing in German!); and I realised that I had finally found the happy spot from which I can appreciate poetry the way I had always wanted to. =) Thanks for voting!

Mrs. Darwin -- I like Lear, too, but it looks as if the smackdown is already, as Stilwell put it, getting bloody for him! Aside from the familiarity factor, Dr. Seuss's verses lose a lot of power without the illustrations to back them up. And there's an ugliness in Roald Dahl that puts me off a lot, too. =/ Thanks for participating!

mrsdarwin said...

E, I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels that way about Dahl. Sometimes people whose taste I often trust tell me how much they love Matilda or James and the Giant Peach, and I wonder if I'm the only who sees cheap, false notes in his children's books. I did once read some non-fiction of his that I enjoyed, however.

Enbrethiliel said...


I first noticed it when I was reading his first autobiography Boy. The way he wrote about his own childhood was so discordant! And then I learned about the original ending of The Witches. (Of course I had seen the movie first.) If I wanted to be really generous, I'd say that Dahl is so determined not to be sentimental and precious as a children's writer that he overshoots his mark and ends up some place just as bad on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Itinérante said...

1-Lewis Carroll
2-A.A. Milne
3-Rudyard Kipling
4-Guy Wetmore Carryl
5-Shel Silverstein
6-Oliver Herford
7-Laura E. Richards
8-G.K. Chesterton

I discovered a couple from here for the first time :) Thank you!
And I quite like the text in the boxes, that was cool!

Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks, Itinerante! I'm glad that you liked the scrolling text boxes. =)

cyurkanin said...

Simply put:

The Doctor.

I can't locate your giveaways page, the link in the entry box doesn't work for me!

Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks for telling me about the link! It's fixed now. =)

And what a nice contrarian ballot you have!

cyurkanin said...

I would have voted against Chesterton also but because he wrote Lepanto I have sworn to always vote for him when it comes to smackdowns.

Sheila said...

Why'd you have go and pit all my favorites against each other?

Carroll (so close. but I was reciting just this poem only the other day, how can I not vote for it?)

Milne -- because of the selections you chose. If you'd picked Seuss's The Sleep Book I don't know what I would have done!

Nash, for sure

Whichever one wrote the Fox and Crow one

Silverstein -- though this was another tough one




Re: evolution, our genetic material is much more similar across the species than it is different, and what we call "race" is a cultural construct, considering that blacks and whites are no more different than east and west Africans. I just have to call you on that, because I don't think it's fair to judge evolution by 19th century Eugenicists. They've made some progress there scientifically. And of course evolution can tell us nothing about the moral dimension.

Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks for your ballot, Sheila!

(Macro)evolution is one of my favourite things to pick on, so I end up throwing whatever is handy at it. Today, it just happened to be nineteenth century ideas. But I wouldn't do this if I didn't think it was, on the whole, a decent-enough hypothesis that got accepted as scientific dogma although we have no evidence for it. As I told you on your blog, I think we have far more evidence for the Resurrection than for one species turning into another. (I also think there is more evidence that astrology works!) Thankfully, this is one of the areas in which not knowing is not going to hurt us. Nobody really knows; but some believe and others don't, and it's only the extremists on both ends we really need to worry about.

Enbrethiliel said...


Amy was nice enough to break the tie between Maurice Sendak and Shel Silverstein on Twitter by choosing . . . Sendak!