Name Dropping

An Anthology of Biographical Verse

Collected by George Jelliss

Quick links: Adam, Henry Ward Beecher, Miss Bright, Johnny Carruther, Charles II, Miniver Cheevy, Richard Cory, Aleister Crowley, George Nathaniel Curzon, Dante Alighieri, Daphnis and Chloe, Sir Humphrey Davy, Cecil B. De Mille, Fidele, Mr Fisk, Flecknoe and Shadwell, Frederick, Prince of Wales, Freud & Krafft-Ebing, The Georges, God, Oliver St John Gogarty, Icarus, Samuel Johnson, Benjamin Jowett, Edward Lear, Annabel Lee, Little Blue Ribbons, Marlborough, John Stuart Mill, John Murray II, Phidias, Rosaline, Marquis de Sade & Genet, William Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, Sir Patrick Spens, Sylvia, Titian, Miss Molly Trefusis, John Wellington Wells, Sir Christopher Wren, The Grand Old Duke of York.

Colour coding: risqué real people fictional people legendary people abstractions disputed

Certain forms of verse are specifically devoted to anecdotes about particular Persons, whether real or imagined. These include the Clerihew [1], [2] [3] invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875 - 1956), who published his first collection in 1905. A similar type of four-line verse but more regular, the Balliol rhyme [1], originated by students at Balliol College, Oxford, dates back to 1880. Then of course there is the five-line Limerick which can be traced back to 1821 or earlier, although sometimes as in Edward Lear (1812 - 1888) the second and third lines are run on. I have limited myself to just a few favourites in these popular forms. In notes the reference marked [1] usually leads to a Wikipedia biography.


In the Garden of Eden lay Adam
Complacently stroking his madam,
And loud was his mirth
For he knew that on Earth
There were only two balls — and he had 'em.

William Stuart Baring-Gould (1913 - 1967) [1]
in The Lure of the Limerick (1968)

Henry Ward Beecher

The Reverend Henry Ward Beecher
Called a hen a most elegant creature,
The hen pleased with that,
Laid an egg in his hat—
And thus did the hen reward Beecher.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, senior (1809 - 94) [1]
quoted in Bennett Cerf Out on a Limerick
Henry Ward Beecher (1813 - 1887) [1]

Miss Bright

There was a young lady named Bright
Who could travel far faster than light
She went out one day
In a relative way
And returned on the previous night

Prof. A. H. Reginald Buller
in Punch date?
quoted in W. S. Baring-Gould
The Lure of the Limerick 1968
See also Mr Fisk

Johnny Carruther

The frustration of Johnny Carruther
Must stem from this fact and none other:
There just wasn't room
To return to the womb
Occupied, at the time by his brother.

J. D. Dunham
in letters column of Time 7 March 1935

Charles II

Here lies our mutton-loving king,
Whose word no man relies on;
Who never said a foolish thing,
And never did a wise one.

John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (1647 - 1680) [1]
on King Charles II (1630 - 1685) [1]

Miniver Cheevy

Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn,
Grew lean while he assailed the seasons;
He wept that he was ever born,
And he had reasons.

Miniver loved the days of old
When swords were bright and steeds were prancing;
The vision of a warrior bold
Would set him dancing.

Miniver sighed for what was not,
And dreamed, and rested from his labours;
He dreamed of Thebes and Camelot.
And Priam's neighbours.

Miniver mourned the ripe renown
That made so many a name so fragrant;
He mourned Romance, now on the town,
And Art, a vagrant.

Miniver loved the Medici,
Albeit he had never seen one;
He would have sinned incessantly
Could he have been one.

Miniver cursed the commonplace
And eyed a khaki suit with loathing;
He missed the mediaeval grace
Of iron clothing.

Miniver scorned the gold he sought,
But sore annoyed was he without it;
Miniver thought, and thought, and thought,
And thought about it.

Miniver Cheevy, born too late,
Scratched his head and kept on thinking;
Miniver coughed, and called it fate,
And kept on drinking.

Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869 - 1935) in The Town Down the River 1907.
Websites with commentary: [1]

Richard Cory

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich yes, richer than a king
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869 - 1935) in The Children of the Night 1897
Websites with commentary: [1] [2] [3]

Aleister Crowley

My name it is Aleister Crowley,
I'm a master of Magick unholy,
Of philtres and pentacles,
Covens, conventicles,
Of basil, nepenthe, and moly.

Aleister Crowley (1875 - 1947) [1]
(parody of John Wellington Wells)

George Nathaniel Curzon

My name is George Nathaniel Curzon
I am a most superior person.
My cheeks are pink, my hair is sleek,
I dine at Blenheim twice a week.

Anonymous The Masque of Balliol 1880.
George Nathaniel Curzon, Marquis of Kedleston (1859 - 1925) [1]
was Viceroy of India 1898-1905, and Foreign Secretary 1919-1924.

Dante Alighieri

Dante Alighieri
Seldom troubled a dairy.
He wrote the Inferno
On a bottle of Pernod.

E. C. Bentley

Daphnis and Chloe

For the tenth time, dull Daphnis, said Chloe,
You have told me my bosom is snowy;
You've made much verse on
Each part of my person
Now DO something – there's a good boy!
in W.S.Baring-Gould
The Lure of the Limerick 1968

Sir Humphrey Davy

Sir Humphrey Davy
Abominated gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium.

E. C. Bentley 1905

Cecil B. De Mille

Cecil B. De Mille
Rather against his will
Was persuaded to leave Moses
Out of "The Wars of the Roses".

Nicholas Bentley


Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy worldly task has done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

Fear no more the frown o' the great,
Thou art past the tyrant's stroke;
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The sceptre, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.

Fear no more the lightning-flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder-stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan:
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.

No exorciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing ill come near thee!
Quiet consummation have;
And renownèd be thy grave!
William Shakespeare

Mr Fisk

A Fencing instructor named Fisk
In duels was terribly brisk
So fast was his action
The Fitzgerald contraction
Foreshortened his foil to a disk.
in W. S. Baring-Gould
The Lure of the Limerick 1968
See also Miss Bright

Flecknoe and Shadwell

All human things are subject to decay
And when Fate summons, monarchs must obey.
This Flecknoe found, who, like Augustus, young
Was called to empire and had governed long,
In prose and verse was owned without dispute
Through all the realms of Nonsense absolute.
This aged prince, now flourishing in peace
And blessed with issue of a large increase,
Worn out with business, did at length debate
To settle the succession of the state;
And pondering which of all his sons was fit
To reign and wage immortal war with wit,
Cried, Tis resolved for Nature pleads that he
Should only rule who most resembles me.
Shadwell alone my perfect image bears,
Mature in dullness from his tender years.
Shadwell alone of all my sons is he
Who stands confirmed in all stupidity.
The rest to some faint meaning make pretence,
But Shadwell never deviates into sense.
Some beams of wit on other souls may fall,
Strike through and make a lucid interval;
But Shadwell's genuine night admits no ray,
His rising fogs prevail upon the day.

John Dryden (1631 - 1700)
from "Mac Flecknoe"

Richard Flecknoe (c.1600 - c.1678) poet and
Thomas Shadwell (c.1642 - 1692) dramatist
were rivals and political opponents of Dryden.

Frederick, Prince of Wales

Here lies Fred,
Who was alive and now is dead:
Had it been his father,
I had much rather;
Had it been his brother,
Better than another;
Had it been his sister,
No one would have missed her;
Had it been the whole generation,
Better for the nation:
But since 'tis only Fred,
Who was alive and is dead -
There's no more to be said.

Horace Walpole (1717 - 1797) [1]
on Frederick, Prince of Wales (1707-51)

Freud & Krafft-Ebing

There was a young girl of East Anglia
Whose loins were a tangle of ganglia
Her mind was a webbing
Of Freud and Krafft-Ebing
And all sorts of other new-fanglia.
Aldous Huxley? (1894-1963) [1]
part quoted in Eyeless in Gaza 1936
Sigmund Freud (1856 - 1939) [1] [2] [3]
Richard von Krafft-Ebing (1840 - 1902) [1]

The Georges

George the Third,
Ought never to have occurred.
One can only wonder
At so grotesque a blunder.

George the First was always reckoned
Vile, but viler George the Second;
And what mortal ever heard
Any good from George the Third?
When from Earth the Fourth descended
(God be praised!) the Georges ended.

Then, blow me down, in Nineteen Ten
The Georges started up again!
The Fifth and Sixth, sporting plus-fours,
Saw us through the two world wars.

The first verse here is one of the original Clerihews by Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875 - 1956).
The second verse, which probably inspired the first, is by Walter Savage Landor (1775 - 1864),
who also has an appropriate middle name. The third verse is my own embellishment.
You will find these among other right Royal Insults.
See also Charles II and Frederick, Prince of Wales.


There once was a man who said: “God
Must think it exceedingly odd
If he finds that this tree
Continues to be
When there's no-one about in the Quad”.

“Dear Sir, Your astonishment's odd;
I am always about in the Quad
And that's why the tree
Will continue to be
Since observed by, Yours faithfully, God”.

first verse by Monsignor Ronald Knox
second verse Anonymous
both quoted in W. S. Baring-Gould
The Lure of the Limerick 1968

The Lay of Oliver Gogarty

Come all ye bould Free Staters now and listen to my lay
And pay a close attention please to what I've got to say,
For 'tis the tale of a winter's night in last December drear
When Oliver St John Gogarty swam down the Salmon Weir.

As Oliver St John Gogarty one night sat in his home
A-writin' of prescriptions or composin' of a poem
Up rolled a gorgeous Rolls-Royce car and out a lady jumped
And at Oliver St John Gogarty's hall-door she loudly thumped.

'O! Oliver St John Gogarty', said she, 'Now please come quick
For in a house some miles away a man lies mighty sick.'
Yet Oliver St John Gogarty to her made no reply,
But with a dextrous facial twist he gently closed one eye.

'O! Oliver St John Gogarty, come let yourself be led.'
Cried a couple of maskéd ruffians puttin' guns up to his head.
'I'm with you, boys,' cried he, 'but first, give me my big fur coat
And also let me have a scarf - my special care's the throat.'

They shoved him in the Rolls-Royce car and swiftly sped away,
What route they followed Oliver St John Gogarty can't say,
But they reached a house at Island Bridge and locked him in a room,
And said, 'Oliver St John Gogarty, prepare to meet your doom.'

Said he, 'Give me some minutes first to settle my affairs,
And let me have some moments' grace to say my last night's prayers.'
To this appeal his brutal guard was unable to say nay,
He was so amazed that Oliver St John Gogarty could pray.

Said Oliver St John Gogarty, 'My coat I beg you hold.'
The half-bewildered scoundrel then did as he was told.
Before he twigged what game was up, the coat was round his head
And Oliver St John Gogarty into the night had fled.

The rain came down like bullets, and the bullets fell like rain,
As Oliver St John Gogarty the river bank did gain,
He plunged into the ragin' tide and swum with courage bold,
Like brave Horatius long ago in the fabled days of old.

Then landin' he proceeded through the famous Phaynix Park,
The night was bitter cold and what was worse, extremely dark,
But Oliver St John Gogarty to this paid no regard,
Till he found himself a target for our gallant Civic Guard.

Cried Oliver St John Gogarty, 'A Senator am I,
The rebels I've tricked, the Liffey I've swum, and sorra the word's a lie.'
As they clad and fed that hero bold, said the sergeant with a wink,
'Faith, then, Oliver St John Gogarty, ye've too much bounce to sink.'

William Dawson [1]
Oliver St John Gogarty (1878 - 1957) [1]

Sir Henry Rider Haggard

Sir Henry Rider Haggard
Was completely staggered
When his bride-to-be
Announced, "I am She!"

Wystan Hugh Auden (1907 - 1973) [1] [2] [3] [4] in Academic Graffiti 1971
(? several sources, probably copying Wikipedia, cite "Literary Graffitti")
Henry Rider Haggard (1856 - 1925) [1]


Love winged my Hopes and taught me how to fly
Far from base earth, but not to mount too high
For true pleasure
Lives in measure,
Which if men forsake,
Blinded they into folly run and grief for pleasure take.

But my vain Hopes, proud of their new-taught flight,
Enamoured sought to woo the sun's fair light,
Whose rich brightness
Moved their lightness
To aspire so high
That, all scorched and consumed with fire, now drowned in woe they lie.

And none but Love their woeful hap did rue,
For Love did know that their desires were true;
Though Fate frownèd,
And now drownèd
They in sorrow dwell,
It was the purest light of heaven for whose fair love they fell.

in Robert Jones
Second Book of Songs and Airs 1601

Samuel Johnson

Here Johnson is laid. Have a care how you walk;
If he stir in his sleep, in his sleep he will talk.
Ye gods! how he talked! What a torrent of sound,
His hearers invaded, encompassed and—drowned!
What a banquet of memory, fact, illustration,
In that innings-for-one that he called conversation!
Can't you hear his sonorous “Why no, Sir!” and “Stay, Sir!
Your premiss is wrong”, or “You don't see your way, Sir!”
How he silenced a prig, or a slip-shod romancer!
How he pounced on a fool with a knock-me-down answer!

But peace to his slumbers! Tho' rough in the rind,
The heart of the giant was gentle and kind:
What signifies now, if in bouts with a friend,
When his pistol missed fire, he would use the butt end?
If he trampled your flowers, like a bull in a garden,
What matter for that? He was sure to ask pardon;
And you felt on the whole, tho' he'd tossed you and gored you,
It was something, at least, that he had not ignored you.
Yes! the outside was rugged. But test him within,
You found he had nought of the bear but the skin;
And for bottom and base to his anfractuosity,
A fund of fine feeling, good taste, generosity.
He was true to his conscience, his King, and his duty;
And he hated the Whigs, and he softened to Beauty.

Turn now to his writings. I grant, in his tales,
That he made little fishes talk vastly like whales;
I grant that his language was rather emphatic,
Nay, even—to put the thing plainly—dogmatic;
But read him for Style,—and dismiss from your thoughts,
The crowd of compilers who copied his faults,—
Say, where is there English so full and so clear,
So weighty, so dignified, manly, sincere?
So strong in expression, conviction, persuasion?
So prompt to take colour from place and occasion?
So widely removed from the doubtful, the tentative;
So truly—and in the best sense—argumentative?

You may talk of your Burkes and your Gibbons so clever,
But I hark back to him with a “Johnson for ever!”
And I feel as I muse on his ponderous figure,
Tho' he's great in this age, in the next he'll grow bigger.

Henry Austin Dobson (1840 - 1921)
‘A Postscript to ‘Retaliation’ ’ in Collected Poems 1902.
Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784) [1]

Benjamin Jowett

First come I. My name is Jowett.
There's no knowledge but I know it.
I am Master of this College,
What I don't know isn't knowledge.

Anonymous The Masque of Balliol
Benjamin Jowett (1817 - 1893),
was Master of Balliol College and Vice Chancellor of Oxford University.

Edward Lear

How pleasant to know Mr. Lear!
Who has written such volumes of stuff!
Some think him ill-tempered and queer,
But a few think him pleasant enough

His mind is concrete and fastidious,
His nose is remarkably big;
His visage is more or less hideous,
His beard it resembles a wig.

He has ears, and two eyes, and ten fingers,
Leastways if you reckon two thumbs;
Long ago he was one of the singers,
But now he is one of the dumbs.

He sits in a beautiful parlour,
With hundreds of books on the wall;
He drinks a great deal of Marsala,
But never gets tipsy at all.

He has many friends, laymen and clerical;
Old Foss is the name of his cat;
His body is perfectly spherical,
He weareth a runcible hat.

When he walks in a waterproof white,
The children run after him so!
Calling out, 'He's come out in his night-
Gown, that crazy old Englishman, oh!'

He weeps by the side of the ocean,
He weeps on the top of the hill;
He purchases pancakes and lotion,
And chocolate shrimps from the mill.

He reads but he cannot speak Spanish,
He cannot abide ginger beer;
Ere the days of his pilgrimage vanish,
How pleasant to know Mr. Lear!

Edward Lear (1812 - 1888) [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

Annabel Lee

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-
Yes!- that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

Edgar Allan Poe (1809 - 1849)
Biographical: [1]
See also: Tamerlane.

Little Blue-Ribbons

‘Little Blue-Ribbons!’ We call her that
From the ribbons she wears in her favourite hat;
For may not a person be only five,
And yet have the neatest of taste alive?—
As a matter of fact, this one has views
Of the strictest sort as to frocks and shoes;
And we never object to a sash or bow,
When ‘Little Blue-Ribbons’ prefers it so.

‘Little Blue-Ribbons’ has eyes of blue,
And an arch little mouth, when the teeth peep through;
And her primitive look is wise and grave,
With a sense of the weight of the word ‘behave’;
Though now and again she may condescend
To a radiant smile for a private friend;
But to smile for ever is weak, you know,
And ‘Little Blue-Ribbons’ regards it so.

She's a staid little woman! And so as well
Is her ladyship's doll, ‘Miss Bonnibelle’;
But I think what at present most takes up
The thoughts of her heart is her newest cup;
For the object thereon,—be it understood,—
Is the ‘Robin that covered the Babes in the Wood’—
It is not in the least like a robin, though,
But ‘Little Blue-Ribbons’ declares it so.

‘Little Blue-Ribbons’ believes, I think,
That the rain comes down for the birds to drink,
Moreover, she holds, in a cab you'd get
To the spot where the suns of yesterday set;
And I know that she fully expects to meet
With a lion or wolf in Regent Street!
We may smile, and deny as we like—But, no,
For ‘Little Blue-Ribbons’ still dreams it so.

Dear ‘Little Blue-Ribbons’! She tells us all
That she never intends to be ‘great’ and ‘tall’;
(For how could she ever contrive to sit
In her ‘own, own, chair’, if she grew one bit!)
And, further, she says, she intends to stay
In her ‘darling home’ till she gets ‘quite grey’;
Alas! we are grey; and we doubt, you know,
But ‘Little Blue-Ribbons’ will have it so!

Henry Austin Dobson (1840 - 1921)
in Collected Poems 1902
Biographical: [1] [2] [3]


But, O, my Muse, what numbers will thou find
To sing the furious troops in battle join'd!
Methinks I hear the drum's tumultuous sound,
The victor's shouts and dying groans confound,
The dreadful burst of cannon rend the skies,
And all the thunder of the battle rise.
Twas then great Marlborough's mighty soul was prov'd
That, in the shock of charging hosts unmov'd,
Amidst confusion, horror, and despair,
Examin'd all the dreadful scenes of war;
In peaceful thought the field of death survey'd,
To fainting squadrons sent the timely aid,
Inspir'd repuls'd battalions to engage,
And taught the doubtful battle where to rage.
So, when an angel by divine command
With rising tempests shakes a guilty land,
Such as of late o'er pale Britannia past,
Calm and serene he drives the furious blast;
And, pleas'd th'Almighty's orders to perform,
Rides in the whirlwind, and directs the storm.

Joseph Addison (1672 - 1719)

on John Churchill, First Duke of Marlborough (1650 - 1722).

John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill,
By a mighty effort of will,
Overcame his natural bonhomie
And wrote "Principles of Political Economy"

Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875 - 1956)
John Stuart Mill (1806 - 1873), Philosopher. See websites: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

To Mr Murray

Strahan, Tonson, Lintot of the Times,
Patron and publisher of rhymes,
For thee the bard up Pindus climbs,
My Murray.

To thee, with hope and terror dumb,
The unfledged MS. authors come;
Thou printest all - and sellest some -
My Murray.

Upon thy table's baize so green
The last new Quarterly is seen, -
But where is thy new Magazine,
My Murray.

Along thy sprucest bookshelves shine
The works thou deemest most divine -
The 'Art of Cookery', and mine,
My Murray.

Tours, Travels, Essays, too, I wist,
And Sermons, to thy mill bring grist;
And then thou hast the 'Navy List',
My Murray.

And Heaven forbid I should conclude
Without 'The Board of Longitude',
Although this narrow paper would,
My Murray.

George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788 - 1824)
John Murray (1778 - 1843) Publisher,
the second of (at least) five of that name.


There once was a sculptor named Phidias
Whose manners in art were invidious
He carved Aphrodite
Without any nightie,
Which startled the ultrafastidious.

in W. S. Baring-Gould
The Lure of the Limerick 1968


Like to the clear in highest sphere
Where all imperial glory shines,
Of selfsame colour is her hair
Whether unfolded or in twines:
Heigh ho, fair Rosaline!

Her eyes are sapphires set in snow,
Resembling heaven by every wink;
The gods do fear whenas they glow,
And I do tremble when I think
Heigh ho, would she were mine!

Her cheeks are like the blushing cloud
That beautifies Aurora's face,
Or like the silver crimson shroud
That Phoebus' smiling looks doth grace.
Heigh ho, fair Rosaline!

Her lips are like two budded roses
Whom ranks of lilies neighbour nigh,
Within whose bounds she balm encloses
Apt to entice a deity:
Heigh ho, would she were mine!

Her neck like to a stately tower
Where Love himself imprisoned lies,
To watch for glances every hour
From her divine and sacred eyes:
Heigh ho, fair Rosaline!

Her paps are centres of delight,
Her breasts are orbs of heavenly frame,
Where Nature moulds the dew of light
To feed perfection with the same:
Heigh ho, would she were mine!

With orient pearl, with ruby red,
With marble white, with sapphire blue,
Her body every way is fed,
Yet soft to touch and sweet in view:
Heigh ho, fair Rosaline!

Nature herself her shape admires:
The gods are wounded in her sight;
And Love forsakes his heavenly fires
And at her eyes his brand doth light:
Heigh ho, would she were mine!

Then muse not, Nymphs, though I bemoan
The absence of fair Rosaline,
Since for a fair there's fairer none,
Nor for her virtues so divine:
Heigh ho, fair Rosaline!
Heigh ho, my heart!
Would God that she were mine!

Thomas Lodge c.1556 - 1625

Marquis de Sade & Genet

The Marquis de Sade and Genet
Are most highly thought of today;
But torture and treachery
Are not my sort of lechery,
So I've given my copies away.

W. H. Auden (1907 - 1973)
in The New York Review of Books (12 May 1966).
De Sade (1740 - 1814) [1]
Jean Genet (1910 - 1986) [1]

Wiliam Shakespeare

My Shakspeare rise! I will not lodge thee by
Chaucer, or Spenser, or bid Beaumont lie
A little further off, to make thee room:
Thou art a monument without a tomb,
And art alive still, while thy book doth live,
And we have wits to read, and praise to give.
That I not mix thee so, my brain excuses,
I mean with great but disproportion'd Muses:
For if I thought my judgment were of years,
I should commit thee surely with thy peers,
And tell how far thou did'st out Lyly outshine,
Or sorting Kyd or Marlowe's mighty line,
And though thou hadst small Latin and less Greek,
From thence to honour thee I will not seek
For names; but call forth thund'ring Aeschylus,
Euripides, and Sophocles to us,
Pacuvius, Accius, him of Cordova dead,
To live again, to hear thy buskin tread,
And shake a stage: or when they socks were on
Leave thee alone for the comparison
Of all that insolent Greece or haughty Rome
Sent forth, or since did from their ashes come.
Triumph, My Britain, thou hast one to show,
To whom all scenes of Europe homage owe,
He was not of an age, but for all time!
And all the Muses still were in their prime,
When, like Apollo, he came forth to warm
Our ears, or, like a Mercury, to charm!
Nature herself was proud of his designs,
And joy'd to wear the dressing of his lines!
Which were so richly spun, and woven so fit,
As, since, she will vouchsafe no other wit.

Ben Jonson (1573 - 1637)

1. "him of Cordova" refers to Seneca.
2. "buskin" refers to the high-heeled boot worn by tragedians,
while comedians wore the "sock" or slipper.

George Bernard Shaw

There was a young man of Moose Jaw
Who wanted to meet Bernard Shaw;
When they questioned him, “Why?”
He made no reply,
But sharpened an ax and a saw.

Anonymous in Punch 1918
George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950), playwright.
Biographical: [1] [2] [3] [4]

Sir Patrick Spens

Part 1—The Sailing

The king sits in Dunfermline town
Drinking the blude-red wine;
“O whare will I get a skeely skipper
To sail this new ship o' mine?”

O up and spak an eldern knight,
Sat at the king's right knee;
“Sir Patrick Spens is the best sailor
That ever sail'd the sea.”

Our king has written a braid letter,
And sealed it with his hand,
And sent it to Sir Patrick Spens,
Was walking on the strand.

“To Noroway, to Noroway,
To Noroway o'er the faem;
The king's daughter o' Noroway,
'Tis thou must bring her hame.”

The first word that Sir Patrick read
So loud, loud laughed he;
The neist word that Sir Patrick read
The tear blinded his e'e

“O wha has done this deed
And tauld the king o' me,
To send us out, at this time o' year,
To sail upon the sea?

Be it wind, be it weet, be it hail, be it sleet,
Our ship must sail the faem;
The king's daughter o' Noroway,
'Tis we must fetch her hame.”

They hoysed their sails on Monenday morn
Wi' a' the speed they may;
They hae landed in Noroway
Upon a Wodensday.

Part 2—The Return

“Mak ready, mak ready, my merry men a'!
Our gude ship sails the morn.”
“Now ever alack, my master dear,
I fear a deadly storm.

I saw the new moon late yestreen
Wi' the auld moon in her arm;
And if we gang to sea, Master,
I fear we'll come to harm.”

They hadna sailed a league, a league,
A league but barely three,
When the lift grew dark, and the wind blew loud,
And gurly grew the sea.

The ankers brak, and the topmast lap,
It was sic a deadly storm;
And the waves cam owre the broken ship
'Till a' her sides were torn.

“Go fetch a web o' the silken claith,
Another o' the twine,
And wap them into our ships's side,
And nae let the sea come in.”

They fetched a web o' the silken claith,
Another o' the twine,
And they wapped them round that gude ship's side,
But still the sea came in.

O laith, laith were our gude Scots lords
To wet their cork-heeled shoon!
But lang or a' the play was played
They wat their hats aboon.

And mony was the feather bed
That flattered on the faem;
And mony was the gude lord's son
That never mair cam hame.

O lang, lang may the ladies sit,
Wi' their fans into their hand,
Before they see Sir Patrick Spens
Come sailing to the strand!

And lang, lang may the maidens sit
Wi' their gowd cames in their hair,
A-waiting for their ain dear loves!
For them they'll see nae mair.

Half-owre, half-owre to Aberdour,
'Tis fifty fathoms deep;
And there lies gude Sir Patrick Spens,
Wi' the Scots lords at his feet!

Anonymous, c.1600?
Thomas Percy Reliques of Ancient English Poetry 1765
Francis James Child English and Scottish Popular Ballads 1882-98
Wikipedia on Sir Patrick Spens
Versions of the poem on other websites 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Audio: 1 Reading 2 Ewen MacColl 3 Fairport Convention
See also: Lord Ullin's Daughter


Who is Sylvia? What is she?
That all our swains commend her?
Holy, fair, and wise is she;
The heaven such grace did lend her,
That she might admirèd be.

Is she kind as she is fair?
For beauty lives with kindness:
Love doth to her eyes repair,
To help him of his blindness;
And, being helped, inhabits there.

Then to Sylvia let us sing,
That Sylvia is excelling;
She excels each mortal thing
Upon the dull earth dwelling:
To her let us garlands bring.

William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616)


While Titian was mixing rose madder
His model reclined on a ladder
Her position to Titian
Suggested coition
So he leapt up the ladder and had 'er.

in W.S.Baring-Gould
Lure of the Limerick 1968

Molly Trefusis

“Now the Graces are four and the Venuses two,
And ten is the number of Muses;
For a Muse and a Grace and a Venus are you,—
My dear little Molly Trefusis!”

So he wrote, the old bard of an ‘old Magazine’:
As a study it not without use is,
If we wonder a moment who she may have been,
This same ‘little Molly Trefusis!’

She was Cornish. We know that at once by the ‘Tre’
Then of guessing it scarce an abuse is
If we say that where Bude bellows back to the sea
Was the birthplace of Molly Trefusis.

And she lived in the era of patches and bows,
Not knowing what rouge or ceruse is;
For they needed (I trust) but her natural rose,
The lilies of Molly Trefusis.

And I somehow connect her (I frankly admit
That the evidence hard to produce is)
With Bath in its hey-day of Fashion and Wit,—
This dangerous Molly Trefusis.

I fancy her, radiant in ribbon and knot,
(How charming that old-fashioned puce is!)
All blooming in laces, fal-lals, and what not,
At the Pump Room,—Miss Molly Trefusis.

I fancy her reigning,—a Beauty,—a Toast,—
Where Bladud's medicinal cruse is;
And we know that at least of one Bard it could boast,—
The Court of Queen Molly Trefusis.

He says she was ‘Venus’. I doubt it. Beside,
(Your rhymer so hopelessly loose is!)
His ‘little’ could scarce be to Venus applied,
If fitly to Molly Trefusis.

No, no. It was Hebe he had in his mind;
And fresh as the handmaid of Zeus is,
And rosy, and rounded, and dimpled—you'll find—
Was certainly Molly Trefusis!

Then he calls her ‘a Muse’. To the charge I reply
That we all of us know what a Muse is;
It is something too awful,—too acid,—too dry,—
For sunny-eyed Molly Trefusis.

But ‘a Grace’. There I grant he was probably right;
(The rest but a verse-making ruse is)
It was all that was graceful,—intangible,—light,—
The beauty of Molly Trefusis!

Was she wooed? Who can hesitate much about that
Assuredly more than obtuse is;
For how could the poet have written so pat
My dear little Molly Trefusis!”

And was wed? That I think we must plainly infer,
Since of suitors the common excuse is
To take to them Wives. So it happened to her,
Of course,—‘little Molly Trefusis!’

To the Bard? 'Tis unlikely. Apollo, you see,
In practical matters a goose is;—
'Twas a Knight of the Shire, and a hunting J.P.,
Who carried off Molly Trefusis!

And you'll find, I conclude, in the ‘Gentleman's Mag.’,
At the end, where the pick of the news is,
On the (blank), at the ‘Bath’, to Sir Hilary Bragg,
With a Fortune, Miss Molly Trefusis

Thereupon ... But no farther the student may pry
Love's temple is dark as Eleusis;
So here, at the threshold we part, you and I,
From ‘dear little Molly Trefusis’.

Henry Austin Dobson (1840 - 1921)
in Collected Poems 1902
Bladud: father of King Lear and founder of Bath.

John Wellington Wells

Oh, my name is John Wellington Wells,
I'm a dealer in magic and spells,
In blessings and curses,
And ever-filled purses,
In prophecies, witches and knells.

If you want a proud foe to ‘make tracks’—
If you'd melt a rich uncle in wax—
You've but to look in
On our resident Djinn,
Number seventy, Simmery Axe.

William Schwenck Gilbert (1836 - 1911)
song in The Sorcerer
See also Aleister Crowley

Sir Christopher Wren

Sir Christopher Wren
Went to dine with some men
He said, "If anyone calls,
Say I'm designing St Paul's.

E. C. Bentley (1875 - 1956)
in Biography for Beginners 1905

The Grand Old Duke of York

The Grand old Duke of York he had ten thousand men
He marched them up to the top of the hill
And he marched them down again.
And when they were up, they were up
And when they were down, they were down
And when they were only halfway up
They were neither up nor down.

Nursery rhyme from a satirical song
To which Duke of York it refers is debated: [1] [2]
Sung by the Broadside Band.

This page last revised and expanded May 2012.