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Most clever poem
Posted by: Satirical (
Date: July 14, 2005 01:41PM

What is your most clever poems? Also, how clever is too clever? Can you be so obscure and intcie the reader ala Poe, and to current extent Shakespeare? Are they clever or too clever now?

Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: Pam Adams (
Date: July 14, 2005 05:54PM

For cleverness, I think of writers like Ogden Nash and Dorothy Parker- clever and funny. I don't think of Shakespeare as clever in that way- it's not his fault that the language has changed in 400 years.


Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: Satirical (
Date: July 14, 2005 06:46PM

Any other takers, opinions are the spice of life.

Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: Veronika (
Date: July 15, 2005 05:43AM

I think there is a difference between clever and wise. I find S's work full of small gems of wisdom - like the quote about the special kind of providence. This sort of wisdom helps me to understand the world and myself better.

Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: Talia (
Date: July 15, 2005 08:23AM

T.S. Eliot: He is too wise (or clever) for the average reader. And we know it because we are still trying to get to the bottom of "The Waste Land". Otherwise we would have written him off long ago.

Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: Hugh Clary (
Date: July 15, 2005 02:05PM

Poetical Economy

What hours I spent of precious time,
What pints of ink I used to waste,
Attempting to secure a rhyme
To suit the public taste,
Until I found a simple plan
Which makes the tamest lyric scan!

When I've a syllable de trop,
I cut it off, without apol.:
This verbal sacrifice, I know,
May irritate the schol.;
But all must praise my dev'lish cunn.
Who realize that Time is Mon.

My sense remains as clear as cryst.,
My style as pure as any Duch.
Who does not boast a bar sinist.
Upon her fam. escutch.;
And I can treat with scornful pit.
The sneers of ev'ry captious crit.

I gladly publish to the pop.
A scheme of which I make no myst.,
And beg my fellow scribes. to cop.
This labor-saving syst.
I offer it to the consid.
Of ev'ry thoughtful individ.

The author, working like a beav.,
His readers' pleasure could redoub.
Did he but now and then abbrev.
The work he gives his pub.
(This view I most partic. suggest
To A. C. Bens. and G. K. Chest.)
-- Harry Graham (1874-1936)

Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: Hugh Clary (
Date: July 15, 2005 03:26PM

If you think this isn't clever, then perhaps you should endeavor
To see if you could ever write such lines
As these by Newman Levy, who makes stanzas interweavy,
And one cannot believe he so designs:


One time in Alexandria, in wicked Alexandria
Where nights were wild with revelry and life was but a game,
There lived, so the report is, an adventuress and courtesan
The pride of Alexandria, and Thais was her name.

Nearby, in peace and piety, avoiding all society
There dwelt a band of holy men who'd made their refuge there,
And in the desert's solitude, they spurned all earthly folly to
Devote their lives to holy works, to fasting and to prayer.

Now one monk whom I solely mention of this band of holy men
Was known as Athaneal, he was famous near and far.
At fasting bouts and prayer, with him, none other could compare with him,
At plain and fancy praying he could do the course in par.

One day while sleeping heavily, from wresting with the Devil he
Had gone to bed exhausted, though the sun was shining still
He had a vision Freudian, and though he was annoyed, he an-
Alyzed it in the well-known style of Doctors Jung and Brill.

He dreamed of Alexandria, of wicked Alexandria.
A crowd of men was cheering in a manner rather rude.
And Athaneal glancing there at THAIS, who was dancing there
Observed her do the shimmy, in what artists call The Nude!

Said he,"This dream fantastical disturbs my thoughts monastical,
Some unsuppressed desire, I fear, has found my monkish cell.
I blushed up to the hat o' me to view that girl's anatomy
I'll go to Alexandria and save her soul from Hell!"

So, pausing not to wonder where he'd put his winter underwear
He quickly packed his evening clothes, a toothbrush and a vest
To guard against exposure he threw in some woolen hosiery
And bidding all the boys Adieu, he started on his quest.

The monk, though warned and fortified was deeply shocked and mortified,
To find, on his arrival, wild debauchery in sway.
While some were in a stupor, sent by booze of more than two percent,
The rest were all behaving in a most immoral way.

Said he to Thais, "Pardon me. Although this job is hard on me,
I've got to put you straight to what I came out here to tell:
What's all this boozin' gettin' you? Cut out this pie-eyed retinue,
Let's hit the road together, kid, and save your soul from Hell!"

Although this bold admonishment caused Thais some astonishment,
She quickly answered,"Say! You said a heaping mouthful, Bo!
This burg's a frost, I'm telling you. The brand of hooch they're selling you
Ain't like the stuff you used to get, so let's pack up and go!"

So off from Alexandria, from wicked Alexandria
Across the desert sands they go, beneath the burning sun.
Till Thais, parched and sweltering, finds refuge in the sheltering
Seclusion of a convent in the habit of a nun.

And now the monk is terrified to find his fears are verified
His holy vows of chastity have cracked beneath the strain!
Like one who has a jag on, he cries out in grief and agony
"I'd sell my soul to see her do the shimmy once again!"

Alas! His pleadings amorous, though passionate and clamorous
Have come too late. The courtesan has danced her final dance.
Said he,"Now that's a joke on me, for that there dame to croak on me,
I never should have passed her up the time I had a chance!"

Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: Hugh Clary (
Date: July 16, 2005 05:15PM

I think I remember this moorland,
The tower on the tip of the tor;
I feel in the distance another existence;
I think I have been here before.

And I think you were sitting beside me
In a fold in the face of the fell;
For Time at its work'll go round in a circle,
And what is befalling, befell.

"I have been here before!" I asserted,
In a nook on a neck of the Nile.
I once in a crisis was punished by Isis,
And you smiled. I remember your smile.

I had the same sense of persistence
On the site of the seat of the Sioux;
I heard in the teepee the sound of a sleepy
Pleistocene grunt. It was you.

The past made a promise, before it
Began to begin to begone.
This limited gamut brings you again. Damn it,
How long has this got to go on?

-- Morris Bishop (1893-1973)

If memory serves, Bishop's is a take off from another work, but which one escapes me for the moment.

Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: Hugh Clary (
Date: July 16, 2005 05:20PM

Darwinity - Herman C. Merivale (1839 - 1906)

Power to thine elbow, thou newest of sciences,
All the old landmarks are ripe for decay;
Wars are but shadows, and so are alliances,
Darwin the great is the man of the day.

All other 'ologies want an apology;
Bread's a mistake - Science offers a stone;
Nothing is true but Anthropobiology -
Darwin the great understands it alone.

Mighty the great evolutionist teacher is
Licking Morphology clean into shape;
Lord! what an ape the Professor or Preacher is
Ever to doubt his descent from an ape.

Man's an Anthropoid - he cannot help that, you know -
First evoluted from Pongos of old;
He's but a branch of the catarrhine cat, you know -
Monkey I mean - that's an ape with a cold.

Fast dying out are man's later Appearances,
Cataclysmitic Geologies gone;
Now of Creation completed the clearance is,
Darwin alone you must anchor upon.

Primitive Life - Organisms were chemical,
Busting spontaneous under the sea;
Purely subaqueous, panaquademical,
Was the original Crystal of Me.

I'm the Apostle of mighty Darwinity,
Stands for Divinity - sounds much the same -
Only can doubt whence the lot of us came.

Down on your knees, Superstition and Flunkydom!
Won't you accept such plain doctrines instead?
What is so simple as primitive Monkeydom
Born in the sea with a cold in its head?

Extra credit for anyone guessing the verse form that scans like the above.

Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: Satirical (
Date: July 16, 2005 05:32PM

Been looking, enlighten me, what verse form is it? I love the poem bty, very clever.

Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: Veronika (
Date: July 16, 2005 05:50PM

A Greek poet Alkman comes to mind, he had a thing for dactyls.

To take "his winter underwear" for Alexandria. Clever.

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 07/16/2005 06:15PM by Veronika.

Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: LoMinang (
Date: July 16, 2005 06:17PM

As to the form of the poem above, it sounds a bit like a limmerick meter, but I get it to be dactylic quatrameter with slight variations (cut short every other line). Or perhaps that isn't what you meant?

As to the subject of clever poets: I think Martial is one of the best. He can be very witty, and I guess I judge cleverness on how well you can insult someone without them knowing it. smiling smiley


~{LoMinang}~ "We ought not to disregard the salivary reflex, but neither should be become obsessed with it." ~Emmanual Mounier

Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: Talia (
Date: July 17, 2005 01:32AM

I judge cleverness on how well you can insult someone without them knowing it.

William Blake wrote "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" (one of the furthest out there things I've read--especially for that era) which was quite non-Church of England, to say the least, yet he is buried at St.Paul's Cathedral. How'd he pull that off?

Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: Hugh Clary (
Date: July 17, 2005 12:34PM

Are you sure about St Paul's? I have also read he was buried in an unmarked grave at Bunhill Fields, London.

[] />

I feel sure Anthony Hecht (perhaps subconsiously) borrowed from the Merivale rime when creating the double dactyl:

Higgledy Piggeldy
Archangel Rafael,
Speaking of Satan's re-
Bellion from God:

"Chap was decidedly
Given to lewdness and

Here is another ditty by EDWARD ESTLIN. Reads something like a nursery rhyme, but each stanza exactly replicates his chosen rhythm with uncanny precision. And again, one notices lines periodically popping back into the forefront of memory. It's a happy-making poem, no?

if everything happens that can't be done
(and anything's righter
than books
could plan)
the stupidest teacher will almost guess
(with a run
around we go yes)
there's nothing as something as one

one hasn't a why or because or although
(and buds know better
than books
don't grow)
one's anything old being everything new
(with a what
around we go who)
one's everyanything so

so world is a leaf is a tree is a bough
(and birds sing sweeter
than books
tell how)
so here is away and so your is a my
(with a down
around again fly)
forever was never till now

now i love you and you love me
(and books are shutter
than books
can be)
and deep in the high that does nothing but fall
(with a shout
around we go all)
there's somebody calling who's we

we're everything brighter than even the sun
(we're everything greater
than books
might mean)
we're everyanything more than believe
(with a spin
alive we're alive)
we're wonderful one times one
-- E. E. Cummings

Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: Marty (
Date: July 17, 2005 01:50PM


Here is another ditty by EDWARD ESTLIN.

Were you talking about the ditty above, or below this comment? You have sited E.E. Cummings (his name does in in ...ings afterall) as the author of the one below and Anthony Hecht of the one above. No?

In any event, I've decided that poems such as this are pleasingly clever (not the sort of clever that LoMinang described >how well you can insult someone without them knowing it.

Isn't there a poem about a swing....authored by someone with the initial L.S. or S.L. Steven Louiston....Louis Stevenson (lol) which contains this element of cleverness?

an unmarked grave? Interesting.


Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: Marty (
Date: July 17, 2005 10:47PM

I thought it was Robert Louis Stevenson, a children's poem, and thought it started with Oh.........

When I finally got the brain storm to look for it in these archives, I see that many of his poems did start with O, but can't locate it. I thought the title had the word Swing in it and the body sure did. Now I'm thinking that it wasn't really of the "clever" variety, but it's got me going and I'd like to read it as an adult. Does anyone know what poem I'm talking about and who wrote it?

Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: Satirical (
Date: July 17, 2005 11:01PM

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside -

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown -
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down

Louis Stevenson

This it, not really that clever, unless its abstract, I guess.

Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: Marty (
Date: July 18, 2005 12:42AM

It very well could be and probably is. No, not clever at all. Maybe as a child, I just thought it was clever because it rhymed. It's s sweet, but doesn't have the same effect now. Seen one swing, you've seen 'em all. (lol)

Thanks Satirical.

Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: Satirical (
Date: July 18, 2005 01:03AM

Dont feel bad, I used to think(as a child) that My baby bumkin, daddy's gone a huntin', was cute.

Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: Talia (
Date: July 18, 2005 09:40AM

I visited The Crypt in March, and if Blake isn't buried there, somone has been fooled. [] />

Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: Hugh Clary (
Date: July 18, 2005 11:45AM

St Paul's search page yielded nothing that I could find, sorry. However, the find a grave site apparently notes he is buried in two places. Possibly that answers your query about how an enemy of the organized church managed to get himself interred in a church.

[] />
Back to clever. Felicia Lamport wrote several 'vice verses', such as:

Nothing gives rise to such wild surmise
As the peachable widow with consolate eyes.

The iquitous girl often loses her balance
When wooed by a man with unusual chalance.

Men often pursue in suitable style
The imical girl with the scrutable smile.

I am not sure if Felicia originated the 'un' concept herself, or pinched it from one of those below:

A SONG OF CREPANCIES - Leonard Rosenthal

Give me a lady, one that's couth,
Who putes the things I say;
Who's gainly in the eyes of man,
Who's imical to the things I plan,
Who parages me whenever she can,
Who's gruntled all the day.

Give me a girl whose hair is kempt,
Whose talk is always ane;
Who's ept at ridding home of dirt,
Who's iquitous and not a flirt,
Who's dignant, and whose mind is ert,
And I'll look on her with dain.

[] />

Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: Talia (
Date: July 18, 2005 04:40PM

Apparently there is a "disability acess" near his tomb, which is #23.

Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: Hugh Clary (
Date: July 19, 2005 11:39AM

Ah, here it is - the St Paul site is a 'memorial' to Blake by Henry Poole (1873-1928). The stone is hard to read, but it looks like it is the 'see the world in a grain of sand' quote.

[] />
More cleverness by Dame Lamport below. Not a poem, but quite fascinating (at least to me):

'The bass swam around the bass drum on the ocean floor' by Felicia Lamport

I was having lunch at the faculty club with a recent acquaintance when a young man approached my table, handed me a slip of paper, said "Two more" and walked away. My companion and I were just beginning to discuss the project that we had agreed to lunch about when another man came up, gave me another slip of paper, said "Three, maybe four" with an air of quiet triumph and left. A woman dropped off the next slip. "Only one this time," she said, "not a large number, but after awhile the mind tends to grow number."

"Would it be presumptuous to ask what this is all about?" my vis--vis said.

"Not at all," I said. "It's a kind of game--trying to find a word that has two separate pronunciations, two distinct meanings, but only one spelling. Word games used to be used more often, but it's a subject I didn't intend to subject you to since you're an economist." He looked slightly annoyed. "The last economist I tried it on got his wind up before I'd even had a chance to wind up," I explained. "This is more likely to appeal to literary people."

"Economists are not necessarily illiterate," he said. "Can you give me an example or two?"

I handed him the slip the first man had given me. He unfolded it and read aloud: "The bass swam around the bass drum on the ocean floor." He paused to blink, then continued: "The buck does odd things when the does are in heat... You sure this isn't some sort of a private code?"

"Something I'd only intimate to my most intimate friends?" I said. "By no means." I handed him the slip the woman had given me, sure that it would be a good one; her mind moves so supply that she had already added a dozen to the total supply.

"A crow can scatter wheat seeds, but can a sow sow corn?" he read, and laughed, but I signed because the example duplicated one that had already been given me by a physicist obsessed with the game. "Oh, sao-so!" my lunch companion said. "I get it. But what's the problem? There must be dozens of words that meet your three conditions."

"They're rather hard to find. Name one if you can."

His silence lasted quite awhile but his lips kept moving.

"Are you having dessert?" the waitress asked.

"After dessert she deserted..." he started off happily, but I interrupted with: "No good; the spelling must be the same."

"Oh." Then after a pause, "But suppose I said: 'She wished she could desert him in the desert'?"

"On the nose--same spelling, two meanings, two pronunciations."

"Give me a few more from your approved list," he said.

"A couple should be enough to present you with at present. First, a rather sweet one: 'After watching the seagull dive for a fish, the dove dove.'"

"Lovely," he said. "Go on."

"OK, a final example," I said. "'The town dump is so full that it may have to start to refuse refuse. And if that makes the mayor blow his fuse, who will refuse him?'"

"That's a double," he said accusingly, and then added on with sudden inspiration: "When my mother-in-law accompanied us on our honeymoon trip to Niagara, I nearly threw the old dam over the dam."

"Two-thirds OK, but the pronunciation is the same in both."

"Damn," he said. Then, after a pause: "How about: 'In trigonometry, the sine is a sine que non'?"

"Sorry," I said gently, "foreign languages don't count. Although one contribution, 'It's unwise to rub pt into one's pate,' struck me as so charming that I was tempted to give it a visa."

"Why not?" he said. "Must you be so intransigent?"

I sighed. "You make me feel that my sole object is to object. But I allow one great exception: 'Man's laughter can be crueler than manslaughter.'"

"That's really awe-inspiring. Do these things have a name?"

"Of course: heteronyms, logical relatives of synonyms, homonyms and antonyms."

The next morning's mail brought seven sound ones from my lunch companion--not a bit to my surprise. Heteronyms spread like happy rumors, perhaps because they're so useful in warding off insomnia, migraines or irritation with airplane delays. A two-page list came from a paleoanthropologist on the same day that a novelist swam up to me on Martha's Vineyard and said, "I saw the weirdest thing in town: a hand reaching up from a manhole wielding a threaded needle. It's the first time I ever came upon a sewer in a sewer."

We are, I think, coming close to a close with the contents of the master list, combining the inspirations of several score heteronymophiles for a 49-word total, including 16 you may or may not have spotted on this page.

Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: Hugh Clary (
Date: July 20, 2005 12:35PM

One by Marianne Moore may not appear overly clever on the surface, but you will notice the syllable count of the individual stanzas. I infer she must have had a specific reason for these numbers, but can only speculate why. The format does not paste here well, but Toronto has it well done:

[] />

Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: Veronika (
Date: July 20, 2005 12:53PM

Thank you for posting this one.

Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: Hugh Clary (
Date: July 26, 2005 01:25PM

Metaphors, by Sylvia Plath, seems particularly clever to me. Nine metaphoric lines of nine syllables each. The 81 total syllables possibly has no bearing, but its solution also has nine letters. Take a guess?

I'm a riddle in nine syllables,
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils.
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf's big with its yeasty rising.
Money's new-minted in this fat purse.
I'm a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I've eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there's no getting off.

Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: Desi (Moderator)
Date: July 26, 2005 01:44PM

a pregnant woman?

Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: Linda (
Date: July 26, 2005 02:19PM

To get the nine letters, pregnancy.

Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: Hugh Clary (
Date: July 26, 2005 07:43PM

with child?
antenatal? perinatal?

Naw, gotta be pregnancy.

Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: IanB (192.168.128.---)
Date: August 24, 2005 08:14AM

Cleverness is probably the main virtue of this one that appeared in the Wondering Minstrels recently:


"... marked males of the silkworm moth have been known to fly upwind seven
miles to a fragrant female of their kind ... the chemical compound with
which a female silkworm moth attracts mates is highly specific; no other
species seem aware of it. In 1959, the Nobel Laureate Adolph Butenandt of
the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Munich succeeded in analysing
it. He found it to be an alcohol with sixteen carbon atoms per molecule
...."       L. and M. Milne: The Senses of Animals and Men.

0 Chlo, have you heard it,
This news I sing to you?
It's true, my lovely bird, it
Is absolutely true!
A biochemist probing
Has caught without a doubt
The Queen of Love disrobing
And found her secret out.

What drives the Bombyx mori
To fly, intrepid male,
Lured by the old, old story
Six miles against the gale?
The formula, my Honey,
Is now in print to prove
What is, and no baloney,
The very stuff of love.

At Munich on the Isar
Those molecules were found
Which everyone agrees are
What makes the world go round;
What draws the male creation
To love, my darling doll,
Turns out, on trituration,
To be an alcohol.

A Nobel Laureatus
Called Adolph Butenandt
Contrived to isolate us
This strong intoxicant.
The boys are celebrating
And singing at the club:
Here's Bottoms up! to mating,
Since Venus keeps a pub!

My angel, 0, my angel,
What is it you suffuse,
What redolent evangel,
What nosegay of good news?
What draws me like a dragnet
And holds and keeps me tight?
What odds! my fragrant magnet,
I shall be drunk tonight!

-- A.D. Hope

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 09/24/2005 11:53AM by IanB.

Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: August 25, 2005 12:04AM

I Chop Some Parsley While Listening To Art Blakey's Version Of "Three Blind Mice"
---Billy Collins

And I start wondering how they came to be blind.
If it was congenital, they could be brothers and sister,
and I think of the poor mother
brooding over her sightless young triplets.

Or was it a common accident, all three caught
in a searing explosion, a firework perhaps?
If not,
if each came to his or her blindness separately,

how did they ever manage to find one another?
Would it not be difficult for a blind mouse
to locate even one fellow mouse with vision
let alone two other blind ones?

And how, in their tiny darkness,
could they possibly have run after a farmer's wife
or anyone else's wife for that matter?
Not to mention why.

Just so she could cut off their tails
with a carving knife, is the cynic's answer,
but the thought of them without eyes
and now without tails to trail through the moist grass

or slip around the corner of a baseboard
has the cynic who always lounges within me
up off his couch and at the window
trying to hide the rising softness that he feels.

By now I am on to dicing an onion
which might account for the wet stinging
in my own eyes, though Freddie Hubbard's
mournful trumpet on "Blue Moon,"

which happens to be the next cut,
cannot be said to be making matters any better.


Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: jessica sara (192.168.128.---)
Date: May 25, 2006 07:55AM

can you remember the words to Bye Baby Bunting? My mom used to read that to me as a child, and I would like to have the poem. Thank you.

Re: Most clever poem
Posted by: Hugh Clary (192.168.128.---)
Date: May 25, 2006 10:34AM

I can't, but Google can:

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