Various Verse

by George Jelliss


My first is in cymbal and also in baton
My second in screech but not ‘cat got sat on’
My third is in flautists but isn't in flute
My fourth is in trumpets but isn't in mute
My fifth is in ‘basso profundo’ and solo
My sixth is in ‘terrible row’ and in oboe
My seventh's in klaxon but isn't in horn
My eighth is in tenor and ‘trod on his corn’
My last, the penultimate line of the stave, sir
My whole is two words with a musical flavour
This puzzle was a juvenile piece.

The Expert View

An Astronomer Royal of renown
Once said, with a frown on his crown,
“To the Moon there's one track
We'll get there but not back
For whatever goes up won't come down.”

The Lancers

Pray, why were you dancing The Lancers
With those tall aspidistra-ous plants, Sirs?
Well, there's several reasons but we think that the best one's
Just so we can say: “Those who ask silly questions
Are certain to get silly answers.”


There was an Old Man in the Moon
Whose face shone out brightly at noon.
Was this insurrection?
In the light of reflection.
'Twas the Sun's fault for rising too soon.

Memory of a Doodlebug

That menacing, whistling rumble in the sky
Clearly heard across the cool, dank air.
Then silence.
That thick, suspenseful hush before the fall
When eyes turn up, entranced, enthralled
To see the black, hypnotic bug
To see it dawdle, hanging there
As if in thought it paused
And dreamt of death.

But still it slides relentless by
And dwindles in the bloodshot sky
And breath returns to those who stare
For death has passed elsewhere.


A piece of space, a lump of nought
Of utter blackness, full of light
An insubstantial dram
Of photon-fraught vibrating night


Exhausted, he leant against
The silvery glissom wall that held back the darkness.
The pressing black fullness of blank invisibility.
Far out, the piercing, pin-point brightnesses
Stared, straight and logical, through his bleak tired core.

But the darkness softened
To that familiar, friendly, blanket-rich blackness,
Studded with gems, bright and geometrical.
And the sounds came back, shuffling,
Singing a brown anharmonic symphony at the boundary.
And the inner silence intensified.


The magic word,
That with its peaceful black, starred cloth
Confounds the reasoned mind
Deceives the teeming brain
And stems the flood of thought.

Mankind has ever sought
For ends, but sought in vain
For ends are undefined;
Mere shadowplay of paradox,
Of formless shape,

From cell to ape
Though higher yet we strain
To scale perfection's peak
Before we end the human tale
Of ever-restless search

Fear not, no creed or church
Of truth or grace can hold the grail
For, ever though we seek,
For ever will remain
Some unsolved
This has appeared in various versions.

Against Specialisation

How can my mind stand stlll
When the world whirls around me?
Now pausing, then flashing, cascading, revolving.
How can a mind stand stable
When such vistas and contrasts are there?
Vertigo grips me.
How can one mind confine itself
To a corner
Just one dark corner
Of all this variability?


There's so much I could do
If I but knew the way
I feel it through and through
There's so much I could do
That's good and right and true
Must I always go astray?
There's so much I could do
If I but knew the way.

Rough Thoughts

The wind sloughed through the clough's deep trough
Where chough on bough hiccoughed his cough
The draught-horse brought his doughty hough
To force the well-wrought plough-share through
The doughy slough by drought-hit lough
Where once tough dread-nought soldiers fought
Who sought out foes as yeomen ought
Rough and thorough through the borough
Dear bought, yet nought of furlough thought
So slough off doubt, enough well-taught
By naughty thoughts so roughly wrought.
The lack of correspondence between spelling and pronunciation in English is well known.
This guide to "ough" words was published in LSS Newsletter Spring 2001.
I couldn't work in "brougham" alas!


The shades of black and white hold fast
As through the chessboard squares there pass
A pawn who bears before his piece
A banner with a strange device

'Try not to pass!' the White King warns,
'Dark forces lurk for careless pawns,
En passant capture lies in wait.'
But loud the pawn invokes his Fate

So moves he headstrong to the fourth
Determined to improve his worth
Meets he there his doppelganger
Cry they as they face the danger
Excelsior! Profundior!

'Beware the Bishop's baleful glance.'
Yet still the pawn seeks to advance.
Upon the fifth he catches breath
Diagonal dagger dealing death

'Beware the Castle's battlements.'
Where ghostly Danish Princes sense
The staging of the play's the thing
Wherein to catch the cursed King

'Beware the awful Knight's high jinks
That may with labyrinthine links
The world enmesh in magic guile.'
A voice echoes, far up the file

Dare not to retroanalyse!
For fear an Orphic fate applies,
And seeming force of will free-planned
Be set by some Composer's hand.

There on the eighth the pawn has gone
Like Enoch from the realms of men
But in his place in bright new sheen
Appears from space a brand new Queen!

Just one more move to prove the plan
And so at last they meet again.
Black and White transfigured be.
Fulfilled the rubric's prophecy
Excelsior! Profundior!
This verse was awarded a prize in a competition organised by the Hastings Writers' Group in 2009.

The New Genesis

In the beginning was the paradox
The time without yesterday
The space without extension
Singularity without multiplicity
Nonexistent existence
The unthinkable thought
The inconceivable concept
The creatorless creation
The something from nothing
The unanswerable question
Simple it was then
But potent with possibilities
This verse, originally intended to be part of a longer poem, is my take on modern cosmology as expounded by Stenger and Hawking, September 2010.