15 June 2015


Nonsense and Some Sense Verse Smackdown, Round 2!
(Revisit Round 1)

This is late and backdated, so I'm going to be quick. But first, thanks to Amy, Brandon, Christopher, Itinerante, Mrs. Darwin, Stilwell, and Sheila for participating in Round 1! Here are your results . . .

Lewis Carroll vs. Edward Lear -- Winner: Lewis Carroll

A.A. Milne vs. Dr. Seuss -- Winner: A.A. Milne

Rudyard Kipling vs. Ogden Nash -- Winner: Ogden Nash

Guy Wetmore Carryl vs. Roald Dahl -- Winner: Guy Wetmore Carryl

Maurice Sendak vs. Shel Silverstein -- Winner: Maurice Sendak

Hilaire Belloc vs. Oliver Herford -- Winner: Hilaire Belloc

Eugene Field vs. Laura E. Richards -- Winner: Laura E. Richards

G.K. Chesterton vs. Spike Milligan -- Winner: G.K. Chesterton

I feel a little bad that Milligan got the dreaded null points (#EurovisionBlog), because it's clearly due to my putting him next to Chesterton. Not only was Milligan handicapped by having to fit the ANIMALS theme and to represent himself with a poem that complemented one by Chesterton, but also had to do it on a blog frequented by avowed Chesterton fans. It couldn't have ended any other way. To make it up to him a little, I'll let him show off a second poem now . . .

Have a Nice Day

"Help, help," said a man. "I'm drowning."
"Hang on," said a man from the shore.
"Help, help," said the man. "I'm not clowning."
"Yes, I know, I heard you before.
Be patient dear man who is drowning,
You, see I've got a disease.
I'm waiting for a Doctor J. Browning.
So do be patient please."
"How long," said the man who was drowning. "Will it take for the Doc to arrive?"
"Not very long," said the man with the disease. "Till then try staying alive."
"Very well," said the man who was drowning. "I'll try and stay afloat.
By reciting the poems of Browning
And other things he wrote."
"Help, help," said the man with the disease, "I suddenly feel quite ill."
"Keep calm." said the man who was drowning, "Breathe deeply and lie quite still."
"Oh dear," said the man with the awful disease. "I think I'm going to die."
"Farewell," said the man who was drowning.
Said the man with the disease, "Goodbye."
So the man who was drowning, drownded
And the man with the disease past away.
But apart from that,
And a fire in my flat,
It's been a very nice day.

* * * * *

And now it's time for our next round! This time, in keeping with tradition, I am choosing the winners. But I have also included some new poems by each of them, so we can share this reading journey together. This time, our theme is OLD AND YOUNG.

Round 2
The Amusing Eight

Lewis Carroll vs. A.A. Milne

Again, we begin with a face-off between two classic children's authors. So skilled were they at seeing the world through children's eyes that they can help us to remember what it was like to look up to--and perhaps, askance at--those giants who ruled our worlds. But is it the precocious "young man" in You Are Old Father William or the frustrated and imperial toddler in Disobedience who has the better view?

James James
Morrison Morrison
Weatherby George Dupree
Took great
Care of his Mother,
Though he was only three.
James James
Said to his Mother,
"Mother," he said, said he:
"You must never go down to the end of the town,
if you don’t go down with me."

James James
Morrison's Mother
Put on a golden gown,
James James
Morrison's Mother
Drove to the end of the town.
James James
Morrison's Mother
Said to herself, said she:
"I can get right down to the end of the town
and be back in time for tea."

King John
Put up a notice,

James James
Morrison Morrison
(Commonly known as Jim)
Told his
Other relations
Not to go blaming him.
James James
Said to his Mother,
"Mother," he said, said he:
"You must never go down to the end of the town
without consulting me."

James James
Morrison's mother
Hasn't been heard of since.
King John
Said he was sorry,
So did the Queen and Prince.
King John
(Somebody told me)
Said to a man he knew:
"If people go down to the end of the town, well,
what can anyone do?"

(Now then, very softly)

J. J.
M. M.
W. G. Du P.
Took great
C/o his M*****
Though he was only 3.
J. J.
Said to his M*****
"M*****," he said, said he:
if-you-don't-go-down-with ME!"
"You are old, Father William," the young man said,
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head—
Do you think, at your age, it is right?"

"In my youth," Father William replied to his son,
"I feared it might injure the brain;
But now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again."

"You are old," said the youth, "As I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door—
Pray, what is the reason of that?"

"In my youth," said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,
"I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment—one shilling the box—
Allow me to sell you a couple?"

"You are old," said the youth, "And your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak—
Pray, how did you manage to do it?"

"In my youth," said his father, "I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength which it gave to my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life."

"You are old," said the youth, "one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose—
What made you so awfully clever?"

"I have answered three questions, and that is enough,"
Said his father; "don't give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I'll kick you down stairs!"

Winner: Lewis Carroll--because his poem is simply the stronger one.

Hilaire Belloc vs. G.K. Chesterton

What? We can't have the entire Chesterbelloc in the Final Four: it would throw the whole smackdown off balance! So let's just tip the scales here. Belloc contributes one of his many "bad child" poems. (I chose Sarah, the one whom I thought book blog readers would dislike the most--LOL!) And Chesterton honours us with some moody thoughts on Second Childhood.

When all my days are ending
And I have no song to sing,
I think I shall not be too old
To stare at everything;
As I stared once at a nursery door
Or a tall tree and a swing.
Wherein God's ponderous mercy hangs
On all my sins and me,
Because He does not take away
The terror from the tree
And stones still shine along the road
That are and cannot be.

Men grow too old for love, my love,
Men grow too old for wine,
But I shall not grow too old to see
Unearthly daylight shine,
Changing my chamber's dust to snow
Till I doubt if it be mine.
Behold, the crowning mercies melt,
The first surprises stay;
And in my dross is dropped a gift
For which I dare not pray:
That a man grow used to grief and joy
But not to night and day.

Men grow too old for love, my love,
Men grow too old for lies;
But I shall not grow too old to see
Enormous night arise,
A cloud that is larger than the world
And a monster made of eyes.
Nor am I worthy to unloose
The latchet of my shoe;
Or shake the dust from off my feet
Or the staff that bears me through
On ground that is too good to last,
Too solid to be true.

Men grow too old to woo, my love,
Men grow too old to wed:
But I shall not grow too old to see
Hung crazily overhead
Incredible rafters when I wake
And find I am not dead.

A thrill of thunder in my hair:
Though blackening clouds be plain,
Still I am stung and startled
By the first drop of the rain:
Romance and pride and passion pass
And these are what remain.

Strange crawling carpets of the grass,
Wide windows of the sky:
So in this perilous grace of God
With all my sins go I:
And things grow new though I grow old,
Though I grow old and die.
Some years ago you heard me sing
My doubts on Alexander Byng.
His sister Sarah now inspires
My jaded Muse, my failing fires.
Of Sarah Byng the tale is told
How when the child was twelve years old
She could not read or write a line.
Her sister Jane, though barely nine,
Could spout the Catechism through
And parts of Matthew Arnold too,
While little Bill who came between
Was quite unnaturally keen
On 'Athalie', by Jean Racine.
But not so Sarah! Not so Sal!
She was a most uncultured girl
Who didn't care a pinch of snuff
For any literary stuff
And gave the classics all a miss.
Observe the consequence of this!
As she was walking home one day,
Upon the fields across her way
A gate, securely padlocked, stood,
And by its side a piece of wood
On which was painted plain and full,
Alas! The young illiterate
Went blindly forward to her fate,
And ignorantly climbed the gate!
Now happily the Bull that day
Was rather in the mood for play
Than goring people through and through
As Bulls so very often do;
He tossed her lightly with his horns
Into a prickly hedge of thorns,
And stood by laughing while she strode
And pushed and struggled to the road.
The lesson was not lost upon
The child, who since has always gone
A long way round to keep away
From signs, whatever they may say,
And leaves a padlocked gate alone.
Moreover she has wisely grown
Confirmed in her instinctive guess
That literature breeds distress.

Winner: Hilaire Belloc--because whether you we Chesterheads like it or not, Belloc's poems are just consistently funnier.

Guy Wetmore Carryl vs. Laura E. Richards

In the end there can only be One . . . That is, only one writer whom I am discovering for the first time. A decent Final Four takes a lot of research, you know! Below is another of Carryl's insightful parodies of well-known stories, which is both faithful to the source and startlingly new: How Jack Made the Giants Uncommonly Sore. I'm quite impressed that he shared my belief that the Giant is the "double" of Jack's father and turned the faerie tale into a satire of education. And I'm charmed by Richards's poem Master Jack's Views (After a Lesson in Astronomy), in which the fruits of learning are imagination, empathy, and joy in creation . . . just as things ought to be!

The merry old World goes round, goes round,
And round the old World does go;
Day in, day out, from west to east,
At a pace that is far from slow.
And he's never been known to change his pace,
Or swerve an inch from his course,
Though his journey so easily shortened might be,
By cutting his orbit across.
If I were you, you silly old World,
I know well what I 'd do:
Break loose from that tiresome orbit-track,
And go spinning the Universe through.
I'd startle the stars from their morning nap,
With a "How do you do to-day?"
And before any one could take off his night-cap,
I'd be millions of miles away.
I'd warm my hands at the gate of the Sun,
And cool them off at the Pole;
Then off and away down the Milky Way,
How merrily I would roll!
I'd steal from Saturn his golden rings,
From Mars his mantle of red;
And I'd borrow the sword of Orion the brave,
To cut off the Serpent's head.
I'd saddle the Bear, and ride on his back,
Nor dream of being afraid;
And maybe I'd stop at the Archer's shop,
To see how the rainbows are made.
I'd race with the comets, I'd flirt with the moon,
I'd waltz with the Northern Lights,
Till the whole Solar System should hold up its hands
And exclaim, "What remarkable sights!"
But stay! to all these delightful things
One slight objection I see;
For if the World should play these wonderful pranks.
Pray, what would become of me?
And what would become of papa and mamma?
And what would become of you?
And how should we like to go spinning about,
And careering the Universe through?
Well, the merry old World goes round, goes round,
And round the old World does go;
And a great deal better than you or I,
The wise old World must know!
Of all the ill-fated
Boys ever created
Young Jack was the wretchedest lad:
An emphatic, erratic,
Dogmatic fanatic
Was foisted upon him as dad!
From the time he could walk,
And before he could talk,
His wearisome training began,
On a highly barbarian,
Disciplinarian, Nearly Tartarean

He taught him some Raleigh,
And some of Macaulay,
Till all of "Horatius" he knew,
And the drastic, sarcastic,
Fantastic, scholastic
Philippics of "Junius," too.
He made him learn lots
Of the poems of Watts,
And frequently said he ignored,
On principle, any son's
Title to benisons
Till he'd learned Tennyson's

"For these are the giants
Of thought and of science,"
He said in his positive way:
"So weigh them, obey them,
Display them, and lay them
To heart in your infancy's day!"
Jack made no reply,
But he said on the sly
An eloquent word, that had come
From a quite indefensible,
Most reprehensible,
But indispensable

By the time he was twenty
Jack had such a plenty
Of books and paternal advice,
Though seedy and needy,
Indeed he was greedy
For vengeance, whatever the price!
In the editor's seat
Of a critical sheet
He found the revenge that he sought;
And, with sterling appliance of
Mind, wrote defiance of
All of the giants of

He'd thunder and grumble
At high and at humble
Until he became, in a while,
Mordacious, pugnacious,
Rapacious. Good gracious!
They called him the Yankee Carlyle!
But he never took rest
On his quarrelsome quest
Of the giants, both mighty and small.
He slated, distorted them,
Hanged them and quartered them,
Till he had slaughtered them

And this is The Moral that lies in the verse:
If you have a go farther, you're apt to fare
(When you turn it around it is different rather:--
You're not apt to go worse if you have a fair

Winner: Laura E. Richards--because I've got to go with my gut here.

Ogden Nash vs. Maurice Sendak

And now this is going to be . . . odd. I don't think OLD AND YOUNG is the best theme for either Nash or Sendak. The former's crusty message To A Small Boy Standing On My Shoes While I Am Wearing Them is the buzzkill of The Amusing Eight, while the latter's Pierre is probably his weakest children's book and reads like rewarmed Belloc. (Yikes!) Their legendary literary strengths lie in other areas, and I hope it's not too unfair to the other contenders that I considered those when deciding between these two.

There was once a boy named Pierre
Who only would say,"I don't care!"
Read his story, my friend, for you'll find
At the end that a suitable
Moral lies there

One day his mother said
When Pierre climbed out of bed
"Good morning, darling boy, you are my only joy"
Pierre said, "I don't care!"

"What would you like to eat?"
"I don't care!"
"Some lovely cream of wheat?"
"I don't care!"
"Don't sit backwards on your chair"
"I don't care!"
"Or pour syrup on your hair"
"I don't care!"

"You are acting like a clown"
"I don't care!"
"And we have to go to town"
"I don't care!"
"Don't you want to come, my dear?"
"I don't care!"
"Would you rather stay right here?"
"I don't care!"
So his mother left him there

His father said, "Get off your head
Or I will march you up to bed!"
Pierre said, "I don't care!"

"I would think that you could see"
"I don't care!"
"Your head is where your feet should be!"
"I don't care!"
"If you keep standing upside down"
"I don't care!"
"We'll never ever get to town"
"I don't care!"

"If only you would say, I care"
"I don't care!"
"I'd let you fold the folding chair"
"I don't care!"
So his parents left him there
They didn't take him anywhere

Now as the night began to fall
A hungry lion paid a call
He looked Pierre right in the eye
And asked him if he'd like to die
And Pierre said, "I don't care!"

"I can eat you, don't you see?"
"I don't care!"
"And you will be inside of me"
"I don't care!"
"Then you'll never have to bother"
"I don't care!"
"With a mother and a father"
"I don't care!"

"Is that all you have to say?"
"I don't care!"
"Then I'll eat you, if I may"
"I don't care!"
So the lion ate Pierre

Arriving home at six O'clock
His parents had a dreadful shock!
They found the lion sick in bed and cried
"Pierre is surely dead!"

They pulled the lion by the hair
They hit him with the folding chair
His mother asked, "Where is Pierre?"
And the lion answered "I don't care!"
His father said, "Pierre's in there!"

They rushed the lion into town
The doctor shook him up and down
And when the lion gave a roar
Pierre fell out upon the floor

He rubbed his eyes and scratched his head
And laughed because he wasn't dead
His mother cried and held him tight
His father asked, "Are you allright?"
Pierre said, "I am feeling fine
Please take me home, it's half past nine"

The lion said, "If you would care
To climb on me, I'll take you there"
Then everyone looked at Pierre
Who shouted "Yes, indeed, I care!"

The lion took them home to rest
And stayed on as a weekend guest
The moral of Pierre is, CARE.
Let's straighten this out, my little man,
And reach an agreement if we can.
I entered your door as an honored guest.
My shoes are shined and my trousers are pressed,
And I won't stretch out and read you the funnies
And I won't pretend that we're Easter bunnies.
If you must get somebody down on the floor,
What in the hell are your parents for?
I do not like the things that you say
And I hate the games that you want to play.
No matter how frightfully hard you try,
We've little in common, you and I.
The interest I take in my neighbor's nursery
Would have to grow, to be even cursory,
And I would that performing sons and nephews
Were carted away with the daily refuse,
And I hold that frolicsome daughters and nieces
Are ample excuse for breaking leases.
You may take a sock at your daddy's tummy
Or climb all over your doting mummy,
But keep your attentions to me in check,
Or, sonny boy, I will wring your neck.
A happier man today I'd be
Had someone wrung it ahead of me.

Winner: Ogden Nash--because while Sendak wins all the art, Nash wins all the rhymes.

* * * * *

Are you all ready for a mini face-off now? Here are two women now with a sense of humour who also wrote some verses.

Louisa May Alcott vs. Susan Coolidge

Although these two writers never became famous for their verse, their respective "signature" characters liked to use rhyme, meter, and metaphor to cheer their loved ones and to add to the comforts of home. And in their books, poetry was as much a domestic art as the baking of cookies and the knitting of socks. Since I'm featuring Alcott's Song of the Suds, written by Jo March to amuse her veteran father while he is in hospital far from home, I probably should pair it with one of the personalised Valentines that Coolidge's Katy Carr makes for each of her four siblings . . . but I've learned the lesson of Chesterton vs. Milligan and know I can't do that again. So what we have below is classic March against classic Carr. The latter's untitled poem is her contribution to the Word & Question game that she plays with friends at school and that has inspired our own!

The night was horribly dark,
The measles broke out in the Ark:
Little Japher, and Shem, and all the young Hams,
Were screaming at once for potatoes and clams.
And "What shall I do," said poor Mrs. Noah,
"All alone by myself in this terrible shower:
I know what I'll do: I'll step down in the hold,
And wake up a lioness grim and old,
And tie her close to the children's door,
And give her a ginger-cake to roar
At the top of her voice for an hour or more;
And I'll tell the children to cease their
Or I'll let that grim old party in,
To stop their squeazles and likewise their measles."--
She practised this with the greatest success.
She was every one's grandmother, I guess.
Queen of my tub, I merrily sing,
While the white foam raises high,
And sturdily wash, and rinse, and wring,
And fasten the clothes to dry;
Then out in the free fresh air they swing,
Under the sunny sky.

I wish we could wash from our hearts and our souls
The stains of the week away,
And let water and air by their magic make
Ourselves as pure as they;
Then on the earth there would be indeed
A glorious washing day!

Along the path of a useful life
Will heart's-ease ever bloom;
The busy mind has no time to think
Of sorrow, or care, or gloom;
And anxious thoughts may be swept away
As we busily wield a broom.

I am glad a task to me is given
To labor at day by day;
For it brings me health, and strength, and hope,
And I cheerfully learn to say--
'Head, you may think; heart, you may feel;
But hand, you shall work always!'

Tell me in the combox which one you like best and get a chance to win another entry in the Rafflecopter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Image Sources: a) Louisa May Alcott, b) Susan Coolidge


Paul Stilwell said...

That poem by Milligan really cracked me up.

I thought for sure that you were going to feature Chesterton's Song of Quoodle! Alas!

Maybe you'll bring him back for a mini face-off with one of T.S. Eliot's cats? :)

My vote is for The Song of Suds.

Paul Stilwell said...

Oh wait a minute, nevermind. I forgot that you changed the theme. Old and Young. Of course. Bleh.

mrsdarwin said...

Well, here are my votes anyway.

Chesterton -- I just liked it better.
I'm glad I don't have to choose here. I don't know.
Sendak -- because Nash is just being a jerk here.

And for the real voting:
Alcott -- the whole thing is a bit much for me, but I like the last stanza.

Brandon said...

I'd have voted the same as you for all the Round 2 votes. My vote for the Alcott vs. Coolidge face-off is:

Coolidge. It's the last line that makes the poem shine.

Enbrethiliel said...


Stilwell -- Song of Quoodle was one of the very first poems I thought of when I was putting this smackdown together! It's also one reason I made the first theme ANIMALS. But when the cards finally fell in pattern, it ended up not fitting. Awful, I know! =(

T.S. Eliot might show up later, but with a different contender! ;-)

Mrs. Darwin -- Carryl vs. Richards was definitely the hardest one. I strongly considered changing my usual way of doing Round 2 by making everyone vote again so that I wouldn't have to! But I'm really glad I went with my gut. =)

And the Nash poem is surprisingly mean! I wish I could have found another one by him to fit our theme, but the post was late enough as it was.

Brandon -- Funnily enough, when I picked the poems for Alcott and Coolidge, I remembered the featured two best and most fondly because of their endings! And I say "funnily enough," because you and Mrs. Darwin both remarked on the endings of your picks. The right last line or last stanza can totally save an otherwise so-so poem, aye?

cyurkanin said...

All Alcott all the time.