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satirical poets
Posted by: Andrew W (
Date: November 26, 2004 06:24AM

I wish to write a suite of satirical poems for English at school. First I need to learn the art of satire head to toe. Does anybody know any outstanding satirists (poets preferably)?

Re: satirical poets
Posted by: RJAllen (193.114.111.---)
Date: November 26, 2004 09:31AM

There aren't many poets that didn't write satirical verse at some time or other. If you need to learn the art head to toe before you start it'll be a long time- when you're greatgrandchildren leave school- before you write.
Pope, Johnson, Donne, Dryden, Rochester are classics. Most WWI poets- Sassoon, Owen Blunden Graves- were satirical. Frost, Cummings, Robinson, Jeffers....You'll tell by the tone.

Re: satirical poets
Posted by: joseph r. torelli (
Date: November 26, 2004 09:42AM


One of my favorite satirical poems is "The Fine Old English Gentleman" by Charles Dickens. I haven't been able to find Google it, but it is include in the anthology, "Victorian Verse," from Oxford Press (1990), edited by Christopher Ricks.


Posted by: ilza (
Date: November 26, 2004 09:51AM

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Dickens wrote this savagely satirical ballad for the Liberal journal The Examiner; it was published on Saturday, 7 August 1841, shortly after the Tories had taken over the government in a parliamentary election. The anachreontic song is a parody of a popular ditty about a Fine Old English Gentleman who, "while he feasted all the great,/ He ne'er forgot the small.")

I'll sing you a new ballad, and I'll warrant it first-rate,
Of the days of that old gentleman who had that old estate;
When they spent the public money at a bountiful old rate
On ev'ry mistress, pimp, and scamp, at ev'ry noble gate,
In the fine old English Tory times;
Soon may they come again!

The good old laws were garnished well with gibbets, whips, and chains,
With fine old English penalties, and fine old English pains,
With rebel heads, and seas of blood once hot in rebel veins;
For all these things were requisite to guard the rich old gains
Of the fine old English Tory times;
Soon may they come again!

This brave old code, like Argus, had a hundred watchful eyes,
And ev'ry English peasant had his good old English spies,
To tempt his starving discontent with fine old English lies,
Then call the good old Yeomanry to stop his peevish cries,
In the fine old English Tory times;
Soon may they come again!

The good old times for cutting throats that cried out in their need,
The good old times for hunting men who held their fathers' creed,
The good old times when William Pitt, as all good men agreed,
Came down direct from Paradise at more than railroad speed. . . .
Oh the fine old English Tory times;
When will they come again!

In those rare days, the press was seldom known to snarl or bark,
But sweetly sang of men in pow'r, like any tuneful lark;
Grave judges, too, to all their evil deeds were in the dark;
And not a man in twenty score knew how to make his mark.
Oh the fine old English Tory times;
Soon may they come again!

Those were the days for taxes, and for war's infernal din;
For scarcity of bread, that fine old dowagers might win;
For shutting men of letters up, through iron bars to grin,
Because they didn't think the Prince was altogether thin,
In the fine old English Tory times;
Soon may they come again!

But Tolerance, though slow in flight, is strong-wing'd in the main;
That night must come on these fine days, in course of time was plain;
The pure old spirit struggled, but Its struggles were in vain;
A nation's grip was on it, and it died in choking pain,
With the fine old English Tory days,
All of the olden time.

The bright old day now dawns again; the cry runs through the land,
In England there shall be dear bread -- in Ireland, sword and brand;
And poverty, and ignorance, shall swell the rich and grand,
So, rally round the rulers with the gentle iron hand,
Of the fine old English Tory days; Hail to the coming time!

(Written and published in 1841)

Re: satirical poets
Posted by: joseph r. torelli (
Date: November 26, 2004 10:01AM

Thank you, great is this website?


Re: satirical poets
Posted by: lg (
Date: November 26, 2004 12:54PM

Billy Collins has some great satirical pieces. If you don't find some satire here, you're not trying:

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Re: satirical poets
Posted by: IanB (
Date: November 27, 2004 05:13AM

Look up 'satire' in a thesaurus, and you'll realize what a wide range satirical poems can cover. For example, poems that are mocking, ridiculing, lampooning, deriding or insulting. They can range from affectionate send-ups to the cruelly sarcastic and malicious. Good satire is distinguished by wit, and sometimes by humour. The poetical equivalent of a cartoon.

If you want to write satire, you'll need to decide your targets. Then start formulating some satirical thoughts about them!

An anthology with many examples is 'I Have No Gun But I Can Spit', selected by Kenneth Baker (Methuen 1980).

In Australia. there's 'The Penguin Book of Australian Satirical Verse', edited by Philip Neilsen (Penguin 1986).

Of course satirists themselves can be the target, as can second-rate poets. These examples, respectively from those anthologies:


The Satirist
by Louis MacNeice

Who is that man with the handshake? Donít you know;
He is the pinprick master, he can dissect
All your moods and manners, he can discover
A selfish motive for anything Ė and collect
His royalties as recording angel. No
Reverence here for hero, saint or lover.

Who is that man so deftly filling his pipe
As if creating something? Thatís the reason:
He is not creative at all, his mind is dry
And bears no blossoms even in the season.
He is an onlooker, a heartless type,
Whose hobby is giving everyone else the lie.

Who is that man with eyes like a lonely dog?
Lonely is right. He knows that he has missed
What others miss unconsciously. Assigned
To a condemned ship he still must keep the log
And so fulfil the premises of his mind
Where large ideals have bred a satirist.

Colonial Poet
by Michael Dransfield

today he will write some verses. his schedule
allows for a poem on his travels, or
roses, or
a mythological topic.
the day is hot so he selects the past / waterfalls,
dryads, a god or two. from the filing cabinet
of his head, in which legends are filed, alphabetically,
he picks out Hylas and a springside of nymphs. these tiny people
come to life for him, obediently; the ingredients mix well
the beautiful youth / himself / the women / his / who take him
for their own. he makes of this an allegory, displaying his knowledge / minimal /
of psychology / referring to another file / and from the news,
a topical allusion. his measured cadences unfold, a page or two is covered;
he pauses, reviewing what is written. for him the parentheses ripple outward
pleasingly, and he sees in the still pool of his verse
a clear reflection of himself as god.
he rises, leaving the study, it has served its panelled purpose; switches off
his music machine. the record, labelled in flawless french
LíApres-midi etc / returns to yet another file, and his gods and little people
go home to their woods
as far now from his mind
as the toy soldiers of his childhood.

Re: satirical poets
Posted by: Andrew W (
Date: December 06, 2004 02:54AM

Thanks to all you guys who suggested works. Appreciate it!

Re: satirical poets
Posted by: joseph r. torelli (
Date: December 11, 2004 05:30PM

Another of the Victorians with an occasional satirical bent was Arthur Hugh Clough, as evidenced by this satire of The Ten Commandments. Clough was much more than a satirist, though. Among his best known works is "Say Not The Struggle Nought Availeth," which can be easily Googled.

The Latest Decalogue

Thou shalt have one God only; who
Would be at the expense of two?
No graven images may be
Worshipp'd, except the currency:
Swear not at all; for, for thy curse
Thine enemy is none the worse:
At church on Sunday to attend
Will serve to keep the world thy friend:
Honour thy parents; that is, all
From whom advancement may befall:
Thou shalt not kill; but need'st not strive
Officiously to keep alive:
Do not adultery commit;
Advantage rarely comes of it:
Thou shalt not steal; an empty feat,
When it's so lucrative to cheat:
Bear not false witness; let the lie
Have time on its own wings to fly:
Thou shalt not covet; but tradition
Approves all forms of competition.

-- Arthur Hugh Clough

Re: satirical poets
Posted by: IanB (
Date: December 12, 2004 09:25AM

Thanks for posting that one, Joe. Lines 11 and 12 have been quoted in legal textbooks as part of a summary of principles limiting the responsibility of people to render assistance to others in emergency situations. I didn't realize they were originally penned with satirical intent!


Post Edited (12-12-04 23:08)

Re: satirical poets
Posted by: drpeternsz (
Date: December 13, 2004 11:54AM

Kenneth Patchen is a modern Satirist you might look at...a poet.

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