Thursday, July 13, 2006

Poetry Thursday: Humour

I find it easier to be humourous when responding to someone else's humour, rather than being funny straight out of nowhere. And it's certainly difficult to be funny on cue, just because someone asks you "be funny". I gather off duty comedians sometimes have trouble with this one. So I don't write humourous poems very often. I have one poem that would be perfect for this week, but it's being published at the end of August, so you will have to wait.

Instead I cast my mind back over some of the funny poems I've enjoyed over the years. Limericks, of course:

A peculiar bird is the pelican
His beak holds more than his belly can
He can take in his beak
Enough food for a week
I'm darned if I know how the hell- e -can

I think I learned that one somewhere around the age of ten.

And then in high school I discovered the verse of Ogden Nash. We were allowed to submit lists of books we'd like if we won prizes, so one year I asked for his complete works, which I still have on my bookshelf. This one, however, is by a far less well known poet. It came originally from another book of humourous verse that I discovered in high school, and whose name I have now forgotten. What it has in common with much humourous verse is its clever rhyming, which I always enjoy.

I Had a Hippopotamus

I had a hippopotamus; I kept him in a shed
And fed him upon vitamins and vegetable bread.
I made him my companion on many cheery walks,
And had his portrait done by a celebrity in chalks.

His charming eccentricities were known on every side.
The creature's popularity was wonderfully wide.
He frolicked with the Rector in a dozen friendly tussles,
Who could not but remark on his hippopotamuscles.

If he should be affected by depression or the dumps
By hippopotameasles or hippopotamumps
I never knew a particle of peace 'till it was plain
He was hippopotamasticating properly again.

I had a hippopotamus, I loved him as a friend
But beautiful relationships are bound to end.
Time takes, alas! our joys from us and robs us of our blisses.
My hippopotamus turned out to be a hippopotamissus.

My housekeeper regarded him with jaundice in her eye.
She did not want a colony of hippopotami.
She borrowed a machine gun from her soldier-nephew, Percy
And showed my hippopotamus no hippopotamercy.

My house now lacks the glamour that the charming creature gave.
The garage where I kept him is as silent as a grave.
No longer he displays among the motor-tires and spanners
His hippopotamastery of hippopotamanners.

No longer now he gambols in the orchard in the Spring;
No longer do I lead him through the village on a string;
No longer in the mornings does the neighborhood rejoice
To his hippopotamusically-modulated voice.

I had a hippopotamus, but nothing upon the earth
Is constant in its happiness or lasting in its mirth.
No joy that life can give me can be strong enough to smother
My sorrow for what might have been a hippopotamother.

-- Patrick Barrington

More Poetry Thursday here


Deb R said...

I've always loved Ogden Nash. :-)

I'd never read the hippo poem before and it had me giggling. I loved all the wordplay going on, although I was NOT happy with the outcome! Hmph!

Thanks for a fun post, Catherine.

Common Sense Beauty said...

I'd heard the pelican one, but not Mr. Hippo. How very cute. Here from Michele

paris parfait said...

Oh, these are such fun! I've always liked limericks.

mareymercy said...

I also love the wordplay! Thanks for posting!

Jim Brock said...

I mention Brautigan in my own posting today! Hippoatomic! Peli-can-do!

Anonymous said...

This is so very sad to me:

She borrowed a machine gun from her soldier-nephew, Percy
And showed my hippopotamus no hippopotamercy.

I mean it. I am all torn up. I have to go hug my Hello Kitty doll now. I might even suck my thumb.