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Last updated: November 28, 2008

Light Verse: Limericks

The following light-verse poems are limericks or are longer poems made up of limericks. A few of them are not dirty:

Now They're Runaways On Hollywood Bolivar

There was once a young lover, Bolivian,
Who with warmth urged his sweetheart: "O Vivian!
Let us flee from La Paz
And our pas and our mas --
In our love let us live...or oblivion!"

The Case Of The Perried Thrust?

Perry Mason (by Erle Stanley Gardner)
Will exchange a soft kiss with his pardner --
His Gal Friday, Ms. Street --
But he never [delete
Expletive] or puts anything hard in her.

Spies To Despise

The one question for John LeCarré
Is "Peccare or non peccare?" -
As his spies probe for loopholes
Their public-school scruples
Under glass in forensic array.

[Note: Many of LeCarre's novels focus on spies with scruples who look for excuses to do the nasty things they feel their jobs or careers require. "Peccare" – to sin.]

Brotherly Justification And Incestance

The return to the womb, we are told,
Is our fate, for out here life's so cold!
Womb's entrance entrances
Me into your pants, Sis --
A lost lamb returned to the fold.

Cork Screws

An eccentric from old County Cork
Used a spoon to eat roast beef or pork,
Took a knife to his jello
And - IMPOSSIBLE fellow -
Sucked each drop of his soup from his fork!

A young damsel from old County Cork,
Asked to screw, said "I haven't the torque,
Nor the spiraling thread,
But I'll give you good head,
Or, if you've got the tine, a good fork."

Big Knell

"O! The Dickens with drear Little Nells!"
Cried Poe, "I'm immune to their spells.
And I won't have a whore -
Jaded flesh is a bore!
How I yearn for those sweet Southern belles belles belles belles
belles belles belles belles belles, for the tint and adulation of
the belles..."

[Note: "Little Nell" is the sweet, ill-used heroine of Dickens' "The Old Curiosity Shop". Poe preferred very young and pale and someone ill Southern girls and wrote "The Bells", which has a line similar to the long last line above, except it refers to bells, not belles and to "tintinabulation" (ringing), not "tint and adulation."]

Two Mo'e For Edgar Allan Poe

That finicky slapstick fan, Poe,
Laughed at Larry and poor Curly Joe;
For each gag of these knaves
Kudus, plaudits, and raves,
But for Moe none, no raving, never Moe!

O pity that poor poet, Poe,
Who cried, "When, Alas, when shall I know
Great sex? With my avarice
For damsels cadaverous,
O woe!" quoth he, raving, "Nevermoe!"

Peach Impediment

A young man with a mouthful of butter,
Peach jelly and bread tried to utter
A simple good day,
But, alas, what a spray!
Please don't talk while you chew...if you stutter.

A Buffette Of Fate

There's a bumper and grinder from Buffalo
Who greets all the guys with a gruff "hello!"
Then she struts ALL her stuff -
Which is more than enough -
In the buff above, in the buff 'alow.

Cincin Sensibility

A ship's officer from Cincinatti,
In his dress blues and smart ensign hat he
Would venture ashore
Just to booze, bet and whore -
Quoth this fop, "If you must sin, sin natty!"

[Note: The title is a pun on the title of a Jane Austen novel, "Sense and Sensibility", and the poem tries to convey the sensibility and lack of sense of its protagonist.]

Hits, Mrs. and Ms.teries

She says "Mrs." -- a warning a guy'll
Keep in mind, but a "Ms." is a trial!
What's amiss with a Ms.?
One can't tell WHAT she is,
While a "Miss" is as good as a smile.

Dilettante? A Silly Taunt!

Then there's Millicent, who is so militant,
If she sees a male ant, she will KILL that ant!
As for YOU, men - by Gloria!
She will utterly abhor ya!
You will find HER no dilettante militante!

["By Gloria" refers to feminist Gloria Steinem.]

Parent Thesis

What my mother called love felt like worry.
My Dad's ranged from scowling to fury.
The love of a parent
is seldom apparent,
At its best (parenthetically) blurry.

A Gutsy Poet - or BANG!...No Belly

A famed poet of tongue and pen aureate
Found the more he was honored, the more he ate,
Speeding up his slow swell
When he won the Nobel --
Then he burst on the scene as the Laureate.

He Just Doesn't Get It

"One must be quite deprived of one's wits
Who would wantonly eat what one shits,
While it's fitting and mete
That you shit what you eat...
Little dog, I'm NOT picking at nits!..."

Monica's Dress Addresses President Clinton

You've been blessed with a thriving economy,
But my mistress says "Dress, you're so chic on me!"
Sir, her income is limited!
Pride makes her too dimwitted
To take care, so I beg you, don't leak on me!

Skirting the "Issue"

Look how rumpled it is -- what a mess!
Well, they'll iron it out in the Press,
But if lab tests determine it
To be Clinton's sperm on it...
What's the State of the Union? A dress!

A Place for Serious Poetry in our National Life

Moaned the Pres, "How to sleep when Lewinski (Easy, teasy...)
Won't cool off? It's that sordid Buttinski (Queasy, sleasy...)
Fans the flames: Kenneth Starr
With his feathers and tar...
How to sleep?...I'll read something by Pinsky...(zzzz)"

[Note: Pinsky was U. S. Poet Laureate at the time.]

It Takes Cavalry to Take a Village

Giving head's so submissive -- would Hillary
Ever "stoop" to such stuff? Don't be sillary!
No, she mounts him -- but of course!
He cries out (a little hoarse):
"RODHAM, COWGAL!" and comes, Willie Nillary.

A Good Live-Scent Cigar

Every morning the papers regale
Us with every disgusting detail;
Those that really intrigue are
Concerning a CEEgar:
How long was it? And did he inhale?

Is it one of those "things" that are male?
Or do ALL the guys do it at Yale?
What he did with that stogie
(What a scamp! What a rogue he!) --
But I'm sure that he didn't inhale.

You who label it "beyond the pale" --
Come, you've heard of a "good piece of tail"?
All he wanted -- though brash --
Was a good piece of ash...
And besides, he would NEVER inhale!

[Note: For ye of brief memory, Clinton is said to have fondled Monica with a cigar. During his campaign for President, earlier, he admitted that he had smoked a joint, but said that he never inhaled.]

Beware of the Natural Selection

Mensa folk do their crosswords quite Mensaly --
That is, fill them with pen and not pencilly;
No trick questions will diddle
Them! They solve any riddle,
But do happiness, love and plain sense illy.

From Hungary

Once a lottery-winning old Magyar
Told his wife, "What a God-awful nag y' are!"
Then, as cool as an icicle,
He gave her his bicycle,
Zooming off to Paree in his Jaguar.

The Coffee-and-Cream Haitian of Dan McGee

"Quick...then slow, she fandangoes, rubato,
On my spine till I moan in vibrato!
Call me racist, a bigot,
But I burn -- can you dig it? --
For my hot-toed staccato Mulatto!"

[Note: The title refers to the Robert Service poem, "The Cremation of Dan McGee". A very politically incorrect poem, but I needed "mulatto" for the rhyme. I'll be punished for it: You do the rhyme, you do the time.]

Alas for a Lhassa Lass

There was once a bold girl from Tibet
Who took her tame wolf to the vet;
His shriek irked the beast
AND its mistress -- at least,
I've been told that she left in a pet.

Last Advice to a Niger Girl

Yes, my dear girl, to ride on a tiger'll
Give proof that your far from a shy girl,
That you're perky and bold...
All your friends, growing old,
Will remember you saying "Goodbye," girl.

A Dude With a 'Tude

From behind his black cauldron a Druid
advertised all the latest in fluid:
"Love, health, death -- name it, boys and
Girls: Potion or poison?
I'm the world's coolest Druid fluid duid!"

Trouble in Toid (Not Turd) Grade

A speech teacher in Newark lost poise: He
Cried, "JERSEY! It's JERsey, not JOIsey!"
Said a student, "You's nersey --
Dey can hear youse in Bersey,
Idaho!" Teacher screeched, "VERSA VOISEY!"

Amputated Limerick

A young lady who strolled through the high grass
Found herself tete a tete with a tigress --
Well, perhaps "tete a bete" --
Meat to met? Bait to pet?...--
Best foreshadows her fate -- but I digress....

[Note: "tete a tete" is head to head, "tete a bete" is head to beast. Of course, words need little lines or squiggles over some of their e's, but who's counting?]

Knocked Up, Knocked Down

When the mistress of Vasco da Gama
Screeched and threatened to go to her Gramma,
He said, "Don't tell all Portugal!
Just be cool -- I'll abort you, Gal...
Now where did I put that sledge hamma...?"

Getting Somewhere Atlas!

A young man from the town of Itasca
Met a girl from the state of Nebraska:
With a wench from Walla Walla
And a guy from Guatemala,
They ran off to the state of Alaska.

He Should Have Traveled by Yak, Kyuk Kyuk Kyuk!

A young sportsman embarking from Nyack
Tried to row round the world in a kayak.
When he made it to Borneo --
This is gory, I warneo --
He got hyacked by a head-hunting Dyak.

He Has Buffaloed Rome, So Let's Give Him a Home

Brutus pleaded with Cassius and Casca,
"Must we carry out this bloody task? Ah,
We don't need to stab him!
Just seize Caesar -- grab him
And bundle him off to Nebraska!"

Tourist Attraction

A young Swede touring Kenya went biking
In the wild country most to his liking.
Word went out, beast to beast,
"Meals on Wheels! Let us feast!"
Soon they recycled one cycling Viking.

Myrrhy Christmas to All

'Twas a cold winter's night, drizzly -- BRRR! --
And the dog in the manger said, "GRRR!"
But a cow and some sheep
Rose from wet shiv'ry sleep,
Tottered near, sniffed frankincense and mrrr.

Stunning...that is, Studying Kant

The professor, pretending to lecture us,
Was indulging in daydreams most lecherous,
For the blonde in the front
Crossed her legs -- cunning stunt!
Did this show help her grade? Oh, you betcheras!

UnKantianble Behavior

To his wench moaned a student of Kant,
"Oh I would if I could, but I can't!
For I'm mortally scared of
That Moral Imper'tive --
How could every prick fit in one cunt?

"And besides," he mulled, "which hole is best?
You've an anus, a mouth and that nest...
Now if oral is moral,
Who with anal be sore'll?...
While I ponder, may I suck your breast?"

Said the wench, "How I'm sick of your cants;
Sir, you'll never get into my pants
By critiquing pure reason,
For 'tis late in spring season,
When a wise man should know what he wants."

He, imbued with false courage by a prior rye,
Cried, "You're right! My prick knows it a priori!
See! It points at a posterior! Aye,
And I'll soon know a posteriori
If the best hole is...here...or...up...higher...AIEE!"

[Notes: Kant's "moral imperative" says that before acting, you should consider what would happen if everyone acted that way, and if that would be disastrous, don't act that way yourself. Our student ponders this, and wonders if it wouldn't be wrong to have sex with this lady, since it would be very crowded if everyone did it at once. The "wench" refers to "critiquing pure reason", referring to Kants' most famous work, "A Critique of Pure Reason" (or is it "...Reasoning" – I'm too lazy to check). Kant says we know certain things a priori (prior to experiencing them) and other things a posteriori (only after experiencing them).]

I Don't Know What To Say...But Since You Ask...

How I'd love to be asked for advice;
It would give me a chance to be nice,
To share all my knowledge
(Not taught in some college),
And be humble and wise and (as I'll now explicate in detail with several
brilliant examples) concise.

Sea Sick

To the rest it's a joke, though you're dying,
Try to smile through your moans...give up trying.
Not a good time to sup:
What goes down must come up...
Is that -- OOOGH! Christ, the stench of eggs frying!

Every swell, every lurch is like dying,
And your stomach, though empty, keeps trying,
With its writhing about,
To convulse inside out...
"A bit sea sick, eh?" (Wink!) No, just dying.

Where IS death? ANY end to this dying!
In the dark in your bunk, best be lying --
No more glare off the ocean,
Smell of -- oogh! -- sun tan lotion,
No more motion, lie still, simplifying.

The next morning you rise, death-defying.
Bright and breezy; from white caps, spray flying.
Yet -- though just a tad queasy --
You crave eggs over easy,
And when greeted by smiles, you're replying.

Ah, The Pathos of Porthos and Athos

When D'Artagnan, a swordsman from Gascony,
Met the Dauphine with His iron mask on, he,
With his dear old confreres,
Shed a few musketears,
As he loyally knelt on his Gascon knee.

Chilling Filling

Do not pity the flavorful Baskin-
Robbins in Nome, where a flask can
Warm hearts -- but ice cream
Is the filling supreme,
Dear to every hard-baked Alaskan!

Poi, Oh Poi!

If you're mad for a maiden from Maui,
Though her charms be more WOWIE! than cow-y,
You just want a good lei,
But with luau all dei,
Stuffed with taro and pork – you'll be saui!

If At First You Don't Suck Seed...
or Low Lowing
(Bill Instructs Monica?)

Please relax. This is not about haste.
At the end, let no drop go to waste:
Do not spit on a rag.
Swallow slowly – don't gag.
You're allowed one small MOO of distaste.

[Note: "MOO" puns "moue", a pouting grimace.]

Rue Wooing

Roués rue not their nights in the rue,
Where girls' lips aren't for just parlez vous,
For, perceiving male lust, O!
They'll give tete with gusto,
Cultivating a goût for the goo.

[Note: A "goût for the goo" means "a taste for the goo".]

Too-Loose Behavior

When Lautrec saw a girl, he "Touloused" her –
That is, being so tiny, he goosed her!
Were the ladies amused?
"What care I?" he enthused –
"I'm the cock of the walk – a real rue-ster!

Ginless Martinis -- in Five Lime Rickeys

There was once a young man in Duluth
Who was awfully fond of vermouth.
Calling for a martini,
He'd say, "Please, gin part TEENY!"
For he feared straight vermouth was uncouth.

Now his favorite bartender was Morton,
Who would hold back the gin -- very sportin'!
"One more moretini, Martin --
Don't be shtinting, you Shpartan --
One vermeeth, I moon; gin you can short on."

He was picked up one night, this spoiled youth,
By a dame rather long in the tooth;
She said, "Babe, let's vamoose,
But the boy was so loose
That they collapsed in the nearest phone booth.

In the darkness, they giggled and groped.
She was old, he was drunk, but they coped;
Given darkness and youth,
Vermouth made its own truth...
The next morning he learned they'd eloped.

Yes, there's wormwood, my friends, in vermouth.
Whether toping or tupping, forsooth,
Stir or shake it, but thin
Your sweet vermouth with gin...
What the hell! It's December. It's Duluth.

Why is Your Cult Culture?

So I've given my life to a cult?
Am I not a consenting adult?
To what have YOU given
Your life? Are you driven
By Christ? Elvis? Charles Kuralt?

On-And-Off Fast

When prescribed a juice fast to get rid
Of his fat, he returned perfervid,
"But," said Doc, "You're near dead!
"Did you do what I said?"
"Yes: 'Get on a fast Jewess'--I did!"

And Never Is Heard A Scourging Word

Have you heard of the unflagging flagellant
Who from fasting had grown quite flatulent?
As if to say, "My!
What a good boy am I!",
At each lash he'd let fly, self-congratulant.

An Ounce Of Pretention...

When the jet lost a wing, things looked real grim
For a tourist class penitent pilgrim:
His hot hirsute hairsuit,
It weighed down his parachute--
Not by much; he died just by a millgrim.

Some Other Trip, Whip

One fine day from my car I espied
A young man with a whip at the side
Of the road, his thumb out--
I passed by with a shout:
"Just be patient, you'll flagellator ride!"

Body Language

Bodies talk to themselves during sleep:
With a surly obstreperous beep
To the snout's sniffling snorts
The arse loudly retorts
While the gut gaily warbles "Cheep Cheep!"

Ernest Hemingway

Papa'd faced up to death at its sternest,
But the shrinks made his memory a mare-nest:
ECT soon taught Hemingway
(Who then went the lemming way)
The importance of not being Ernest.

Who is Sylvia

Ah the pity of Sylvia Plath,
Who exchanged all that pungence and wrath
For a snootful of gas
And a snooze 'neath the grass -
She was surely deficient in math.

And just what is the lesson of Sylvia?
That to kill a fine poet, you kill via
Her daddy, Ted Hughes,
ECT for a muse...
Will you then have her killed? You will've, Yah.

[Note: Sylvia Plath's suicide has been blamed on troubles with her husband, poet Ted Hughs, and earlier with her Dad, but I think the shrinks who gave her ECT were the ones who knew best how to derange a poet.]

William Faulkner--With a Nod to Yeats

His delirious prose makes you walk on air;
On quaint folk honor off he can talk an ear:
Thoughts all tangled unfold
Till the sentence can't hold--
Like a falcon that can't hear the falconer.

[Note: The poem describes the novels of Faulkner (falconer). The last two lines borrow from "The Second Coming" by Yeats.]

That Lovin' Feeling is Gonne Gonne Gonne

With Maud Gonne, fiercely Will Butler Yeats
Held debates - she'd rebut ALL her dates;
But, did he - as Zeus Leda -
Fill Gonne up with seed? Ah!
That riddle's for subtler pates.

[Note: Maud Gonne was an Irish beauty and muse for Yeats, a fierce patriot and debater, and, perhaps his lover for a time, but, generally pictured in his poems as too caught up in political ideology to have time for romance.]

Window of Opportunity or Getting Basic

In a poem by William Yeats,
Leda's coupling seals Ilium fates;
Then from that horny swan
She took world power on
And grew pregnant with William Gates.

[Note: In the myth and in Yeats' poem about Leda and the swan (Zeus), Leda, raped by Zeus, gives birth to, among others, Helen, who becomes Helen of Troy (or Ilium), whose actions lead to the destruction of Troy. In the poem, Yeats asks if Leda "put on his [Zeus'] knowledge with his power".]

Four For Alexander Pope

Just a dwarf of a man, Mr. Pope,
With whom never would damsel elope--
Wipe that smirk from your face!
Or else you'll find your place
In the "Dunciad", damned for a dope!

That hunched up dwarf-poet, A. Pope,
Ordered mankind to keep to its scope,
Stuck 'twixt angel and ape,
With no hope of escape--
Honing couplets may help one to cope.

A young poet replied to A. Pope,
"May we please try to broaden our scope?
"I know it's a lie,
"But a poet should fly!
"O! Please can't I soar?" Pope said "Nope."

Then another begged, "Please! Mr. Pope,
"Can we not at least venture to hope,
"If we all persevere,
"To climb out of our sphere..."
"Don't you DARE to presume," said this Pope!

[Note: Pope's short stature is factual. His tendency to skewer (with satire) anyone who crossed him in his long poem, "The Dunciad", is also well-known. The philosophical ideas about man's position in the universe, presumption, etc., are expressed in Pope's poem, "An Essay On Man".]

John Dryden

Though he had strong opinions, John Dryden
Didn't write that acclaimed novel, Pryden
Prejudice. That was Austen
Or someone from Boston.
John's a plain man -- no Jeckyllin' and Hyden.

Nor did John Dryden write the Poseiden
Adventure - that's prose; John's a died-in-
The-wool poet, lost in
His metrics and sauced in
His coffeehouse, loudly presidin'.

[Note: Dryden, top dog among late 17th Century English poets, was indeed expert at metrics and did "preside" at his coffeehouse [his warm dry den], and was quite plain-spoken in his more satirical pieces.]

Lord Tennyson

The sweet innocent maidens in Tennyson--
What they eat, be it lotus or venison,
Never turns into sh_t--
They've no holes where they sit,
Nor the least nook for putting a p_nis in!

Robert Browning

That puffed up old poet, R. Browning,
Is it praise, wine or speed he is downing?
For he's pert as a parrot--
Can Elizabeth Bear it?
The strutting, the crowing, the clowning?

[Note: Browning has been thus carricatured. In any case, it is suggested by a hectic energy in many of his poems. Elizabeth refers to his wife, Elizabeth Barrett (bear it) Browning.]

Walt Whitman

Old Walt's such a hardy and fit man,
Like a cheerleader OD'ed on Vitamen,
So that, borrowing from Tonto,
The reader may want to
Say "Whaddya mean 'Whee!', Mr. Whitman?"

Emily Dickinson

Sweet and light--with a bite--is Ms. Dickinson,
All that primness and passion--it sickens one!
Shall ever love's dam burst
For the maiden of Amherst?
What you'll find in the grave is slim pickin's, Hon.

Samuel Johnson

Dare one argue with old Samuel Johnson?
He says, "Sir!", having one where he wants one;
As his sentences roll,
One may feel on the whole
One would much rather be in Wisconsin.

James Boswell

Though a Scotsman eats oats as a hoss will,
Sam Johnson puts up with young Boswell,
For his life James devotes
Just to taking good notes
And to whore and booze well and learn laws well.

[Note: Boswell was Samuel Johnson's young friend and biographer. Johnson was notorious for his antipathy to Scots and the Scottish (perhaps more a cultivated mannerism than bigotry), but made an exception for Boswell. In his dictionary Johnson defines oats as a grain that in England is fed to horses, but that is the main staple of the Scottish diet. Boswell did have a flare for whoring and boozing while a law student in London.]

Christopher Smart

When they put away pious Kit Smart,
Bedlam couldn't keep him from his art:
From divinity grown dotty,
He'd sing "Jubilate!"
While his cat caterwauled the high part.

[Note: Smart was a late 18th Century English Poet who, for acting oddly – stopping people in the street in London and asking them to pray with him -- got committed to Bedlam, where he wrote his finest poems, including a long religious poem called "Jubilate Agno" (Rejoice in the Lamb), part of which is probably the finest poem about cats ever written, "For My Cat, Geoffrey"; Geoffrey lived with him in Bedlam and was his boon companion.]

Jonathan Swift

That funny old Jonathan Swift--
His humor sure gives me a lift!
But why he turned pale
When I said, "A great tale
For the kids!" I don't know--was he miffed?

[Note: Swift's most famous work, "Gulliver's Travels", is a fierce satire, but modern readers often miss this aspect of the work and read it as a classic children's story.]

Two For John Donne

One Sunday good Canon John Donne
Said, "No man's an island, not one!
So ask not for whom, man!
YOU, human, it's YOU, man!
We're in this together--what fun!"

He said, "Death, thou shalt die," did John Donne,
But then Donne died himself, so death won--
Or did he, for Donne,
Though quite done, was not done:
Death will never have done with that pun.

[Note: Most of us think of John Donne mainly as a poet. He was also Canon of St. Paul's Cathedral in London for several years, and some of Donne's most famous lines come, not from a poem, but from one of the sermons he delivered: That one sermon has probably produced the titles of dozens of novels, containing, for example, "No man is an island" and "Ask not for whom the bell tolls." The first limerick above summarizes that sermon. The second starts with the last words of one of Donne's "Holy Sonnets". The rest of the limerick alludes to one of Donne's last poem, which is based on his punning his name, saying that when God has forgiven all his sins, "Then hast thou done, for thou has Donne." He works that pun through several variations in a poem written rather close to death. Given a last second for speech, I'll probably slip away with a pun or two myself. ]

George Herbert

When Love, that insatiable pervert,
Showed all to sweet bashful George Herbert,
Saying, "Taste of my meat,"
George got red as a beet
And said, "Please, could I settle for sherbert?"

[Note: Herbert's devotional poem, "Love" does have Love (or Christ) saying "Taste of my meat" – referring to the Communion. Sounds like an awful poem, but it's a great poem. Check it out. See how he gets away with it.]

The Guest Who Would Not Go Gently (or Cogently)

We have given a party for Dylan,
Enamored of the warm glowing thrill in
His voice...but it's late!
LOOK! He's pissed on our grate!
Butts, burns, booze! Our poor carpet! The VILLAIN!

[Note: Dylan Thomas was hugely lionized for his poems and the rich voice in which he recited them, but towards the end, he became a pretty obnoxious drunk, and did, at one party, piss in the fireplace.]

Dylan Thomas

That poor poet sot, Dylan Thomas,
Didn't welsh on ONE part of his promise:
He said, "Don't go gently,"
Then went, permanently,
As drunk as a fish and as squamose.

William Wordsworth

One ten thousandth of a picture?--Not Wordsworth!
He who highly considered a bird's worth;
Daffodils he adored,
Leech-gatherers he'd hoard,
But for botanists gave not a turd's worth.

[Note: "I wandered lonely as a cloud" is one poem where Wordsworth is thrilled by daffodils. His poem "Resolution and Independence" has him listening at great length to the simple, weary, profound and rather boring utterances of an old leech gatherer (a poem beautifully parodied by Lewis Carroll in "Through the Looking Glass"). In another poem, Wordsworth scolds a scientific sort who "...would botanize o'er his mother's grave."]

Edgar Allen Wordsworth

William Wordsworth liked old mossy wells
Where he'd brood and indulge pensive spells.
He was solemn and gray,
But those bells made him gay -
That Tintern-Abbey-elation of the bells!

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

He would talk you to death, S. T. Coleridge,
Like that mariner with his weird goal or itch
To corral just one guest,
Tell his story, the pest!--
Till you'd wish you had hid in a hole or hedge!


What a subtle satorist was Basho,
Who, while watching a bullfrog, sneezed "Hasho!"
In frog and pond fashion,
These met with a splashin',
And "Ah So!" said Basho, "My gosh O!"

[Note: Wherein I turn a great haiku into a silly limerick.]

Moby Dick

Since Ahab's grown twisted and sick
And developed a Mobius dick,
He finds that just knowing
If he's coming or going
Is quite an impossible trick.

[Note: Refers to a Mobius (or Moebius) strip. You can make one by taking a strip of paper, a half inch wide and about 10 inches long, twisting it once, then taping or pasting the ends together. If you then begin on one side of this circular strip that twists over itself, and with your finger or a pencil, follow it around, you come out on the opposite side of the strip, and each time you go around it, you shift sides. In fact, it appears to be a two-sided strip, but in a sense has only one side.]

James Joyce

Once a whimsical jotter named Joyce
Poured out puns with oracular voice:
"Sure, some meaning must take
"Any sound I shall make--
"For your guess is as good as my choice."

[Note: This applies to Joyce in his later years, while working on "Finnegan's Wake". For example, one day he was dictating part of the book to his daughter (he was going blind, and needed her help), when there was a knock on the door, and Joyce said "Who's there?" Later, she read his dictation back to him, and it included the words "Who's there?" She was about to delete that when Joyce said, no, leave it in.]

Re Joyce (Wm. or James or Kilmer or...)

There was once a young writer named Joyce
Who wrote books in a bold fresh new voice,
Or so it seemed once;
Time's a terrible dunce,
Books, His sea shells for hearing white noise.

[Note: The title refers to James Joyce, Joyce Kilmer (author of "Trees" – the ones he thinks that he shall never see a poem as lovely as) and William Joyce, an old friend of mine and a lively poet, no relation to the William Joyce who would be infamous if anyone remembered that a British "Lord" who broadcast propaganda for Hitler (called Lord Haw Haw or something like that) was also named William Joyce).]

Gertrude Stein

Punctuationless old Gertrude Stein
Tossed out nonsense like pearls before swine:
a rose is a rose is a rose i suppose all the way
to the end of the line

Grandson Perhaps?

Percy Shelley was middle-named "Bysshe".
As a limerick writer, I wish
Bysshe had been his last name,
For it's surely a shame
One can't call him a son of a Bysshe.


There was once a pure person, poor Percy,
Whose drowning was surely a mercy,
For his birds never wert
And his plant sort of hurt
And when least he made sense then least terse he.

[Note: Percy Bysshe Shelley did drown. His Skylark poem begins "Hail to thee, blithe spirit,/ Bird thou never wert"; he wrote a poem called "The Sensitive Plant", and few would consider him terse.]

John Keats

Young John Keats turned and twisted till dawn,
Torn by lust for his lass, Fanny Braun;
With his last gasp, uncanny,
He reached for her fanny,
But ere he felt brawn, he was gone.

John Keats

There was once a young Cockney named Keats
Who said "Blimey! I ain't what I eats!
"I become what I see,
"Like that sparrow," said he;
Then he pecked at his worm and gave tweets.

[Note: The above limerick paraphrases a letter in which Keats explained his theory of poetics, what he called "negative capability" which was the ability to become what he saw (and he gave a sparrow pecking outside his window as an example).]

Henry James

One might say (yes! DO say it) of James
That his sentences curved from their aims
Toward the fraught, but unseen,
If you know what I mean,
Like a gossip ashamed to name names.

Ezra Pound

That poor heavy-weight poet, old Pound,
Should have always remained underground,
For when he talked plain,
He was judged quite insane,
While his gobbledygook--"Ah! Profound!"

[Note: He wrote rather difficult poems (his Cantos) which get tremendous respect in academia, probably because they create lots of work for graduate students and professors, who like to feel that if something needs explaining, it must be good. (Said I, explaining.) Pound's essays and broadcasts on his views of economics, fascism, democracy, etc., are relatively plain-spoken and understandable. He wasn't actually judged insane because of them. Rather he was judged to have committed treason against the United States (broadcasting for Mussolini during World War II), and rather than suffer the embarrassment of having to hang one of America's most admired poets and cultural icons – and keeping in mind that Pound was extremely eccentric, the U. S. Government instead allowed Pound to be declared insane and impounded for years in St. Elizabeth's Hospital near DC.]

T. S. Eliot

There once was a teller named Eliot
Whose poem-scapes were rancid and smelly, yet
Quite shabby-genteel,
With a wistful appeal:
"Shall I never? Or possibly shall I yet?"

[Note: Eliot tells us many things, but he also worked for a time as a bank teller. The last 4 lines fit several of his poems, but apply particularly to "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock".]

A Drama - Stern?...Silly, Yet or TS

Ah the pity of Thomas Stearns Eliot!
Even great poets - BAH! - must earn. "Sell he ought,
"Get a trade." How the promise
Turns sour for Thomas
Whose school tie at last - Ah! - must urn sully yet.

[Note: The TS, his initials (the S is for "Sternes" -- so "drama - stern...silly, yet" rhymes with "Thomas Sternes Eliot), is also colloquial for "tough shit". Like most poets, for many years Eliot had to keep his day jobs, and eventually, he had to die – his school tie sullied by the urn? Well, how many 6-syllable rhymes can YOU find for "Thomas Sternes Eliot? This limerick has four: In the title and in lines 1, 2 and 5.]

E. E. Cummings

Once an enfant terrible named Cummings
Treated visits to plain sense like slummings.
If subjects as predicates
Give you a headache, it's
Soon you won't know your to-ings from from-ings.

Two For Tolstoy

Once a guilt-ridden writer named Leo
Used his wife quite as ill as could be, O!
With 12 kids, he said "Honey,
"It's a sin to have money,"
Then he traded in Sophie for Theo.

There was once a deep thinker named Leo
Whose young muse got abducted by Clio.
'Twixt love scene and battle
On history he'd prattle
While his readers skipped pages con brio!

[Note: Leo Tolstoy did get in trouble with his family when he decided late in life that he should get rid of all his possessions, trading wife (Sophie) for his idea of God (or Theo). Clio is the muse of history, and in WAR AND PEACE, Tolstoy wanders from his story into long essays on his theory of history. But even that can't spoil the story – it's too good.]

Two For D. H. Lawrence

Once a young son & lover named Lawrence
Stood and stared at his girl with abhorrence:
He cried "You're not my mother!
"You're so UTTERLY OTHER!"
Then he penned purple prose in great torrents.

There was once a game writer named Lawrence
Whose game-keeper flaunts his abhorrence
Of lace, silk and satin
And dead things like Latin,
But spouts sperm and fine speeches in torrents.


A young maid who milked cows and fed fodder
At the sight of her breasts gave a shudder:
She glared at her bosom:
"O why can't I lose 'em!
"They're so utterly utterly udder!"

On The Pyramid

"Sly old serpent," Said dying Marc Antony,
"I would take you right here, but I can't Honey --
Did these huge stones come pre-chipped?"
"Save your breath, Dear," said Egypt;
"Iras, SONGS! For I find I can't chant any."

[Note: Being Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra is sometimes addressed as "Egypt" in Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra." In fact, Antony's dying words to her include "I am dying, Egypt, dying." Antony and others also refer to her as a serpent, "serpent of the Nile." Iras is one of Cleopatra's two maid servants who die with her, after Antony's death, all three partaking of poison from the same asp. They die, after taking refuge from Augustus and his troops, high up in a monument or pyramid.]

Hanging In There

When my love life was mainly vehicular,
My erections were proud, perpendicular.
Now my angle of lust
Is more dangle than thrust,
But we've learned not to be too particular.

We Are Old, But the Night is Young

Noshing deli treats, watching the telly,
She's grown ample of hip, bosom, belly,
But though breasts waistward sag,
Her plump tail yet doth wag --
She has lips, hands and -- yes! - K-Y Jelly!

The Dying of the Shrew

Time to untie the knot that's intrinsic, Kate –
I mean die (for you've never been mincy, Kate).
How you loosen that knot,
Leave that body to rot –
Poison? Knife? – these are matters forensic, Kate.

The Dying of the Shrew (alternate)

Time to untie the knot that's intrinsic, Kate –
I mean die (for you've never been mincy, Kate).
Once you're free from that knot,
You'll be all that you've got,
but not NOT. That's death's joke. Ever grins he, Kate

[Note: Kate is the "shrew" in Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew", but it's in "Antony and Cleopatra" that Shakespeare coins the word "intrinsicate", speaking of death as the unraveling of "the knot intrinsicate".]

Limerick Variations On:

There was once a young man so obscene,
He would smile at a word like "between"

[Note: One day long ago (1983) a poet dared me to come up with a limerick starting with the above two lines. It's not hard to find the rhymes. What's hard is to find a punch line for line 5, because line 2 (above) is already a good punch line, likely to upstage anything one can think of to come after it. But I gave it several tries, and perhaps one or two come close.]

There was once a young man so obscene
He would smile at a word like "between".
He would "Step to the Rear"
With a devilish leer
And thought eating bananas unclean.

There was once a young man so obscene
He would smile at a word like "between".
Such delight in his mind
He was able to find
That he never let flesh intervene.

There's a poet with mind so obscene
That he smiles at a word like "between'.
Dictionaries delight him,
Quaint old words so excite him--
Only God & he know what they mean.

There was once a young man so obscene
He would smile at a word like "between".
Well he might, for the WORD
Was in hand, a caught bird,
While his sex life -- sad words -- "might have been".

There was once a young man so obscene
He would smile at a word like "between".
Filthy words so abundant
Made women redundant
For this leering translating machine.

There was once an old gent so obscene
He would smile at a word like "between".
He'd go turgid at "tight",
Start to moan at "contrite",
And (vile man!) shoot his wad on "Sub-teen".

There was once was a young man so obscene
He would smile at a word like "between".
He heard "blowing" as "sucking"
And "knowing" as "fucking"
And at "peace" had a thought less serene.

There was once a young man so obscene
He would smile at a word like "between".
More gross things he could count
In the Sermon on the Mount
Than we'd find scrawled above the latrine.

There was once a young man so obscene
He would smile at a word like "between",
While his wife was a prude,
Never caught "in the mood"--
SHE would smile at the word "guillotine".

I have met a young man so obscene
That he smiles at a word like "between".
But when he grows rigid,
His wife turns so frigid
He can't think what the word's supposed to mean.

There was once a young man so obscene
He would smile at a word like "between",
But I swear on the Bible...
I'll sue you for libel!--
Don't you DARE say this man's name was Dean!

To K. H.

Bodies fade -- but must you die too, Kay --
Crisp and frail, an old pressed-dry bouquet?
Must your proud preppy pep burn
To ashes, Ms. Hepburn?
Can your flame flicker through Y2K?

Going Out on a Limerick

Oh I think that I never shall see
Any poem quite as lovely as a tree:
Each poem's made by a fool -- he
May look like yours truly --
And like God, this fool does it for free.

Tombstone Words?

There's a graying-pate poet named Dean
Whose verses grow bony and lean:
Like a scarecrow each word
Stands alone barely heard -
Silences, ripening, intervene.