Showing posts with label humor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label humor. Show all posts

Classic Poetry: John Gilpin (William Cowper, 1731-1800)

William Cowper (1731-1800); frontispiece in H.S. Milford, ed., The Complete Poetical Works of William Cowper, London: Oxford University Press, 1913. Described as being "From the picture in the National Portrait Gallery ascribed to George Romney."

John Gilpin was a citizen
-----Of credit and renown,
A train-band captain eke was he
-----Of famous London town.

John Gilpin's spouse said to her dear:
-----"Though wedded we have been
These twice ten tedious years, yet we
-----No holiday have seen.

The statue of John Gilpin's bell statue at Fore Street in Edmonton, London (Photo by "Northmepit"--released into the public domain)

"To-morrow is our wedding-day,
-----And we will then repair
Unto the Bell at Edmonton
-----All in a chaise and pair.

"My sister, and my sister's child,
-----Myself, and children three,
Will fill the chaise; so you must ride
-----On horseback after we."

He soon replied, "I do admire
-----Of womankind but one,
And you are she, my dearest dear,
-----Therefore it shall be done.

"I am a linendraper bold,
-----As all the world doth know,
And my good friend the calendrer
-----Will lend his horse to go."

Quoth Mrs. Gilpin, "That's well said;
-----And for that wine is dear,
We will be furnish'd with our own,
-----Which is both bright and clear."

John Gilpin kiss'd his loving wife;
-----O'erjoy'd was he to find,
That, though on pleasure she was bent,
-----She had a frugal mind.

The morning came, the chaise was brought,
-----But yet was not allow'd
To drive up to the door, lest all
-----Should say that she was proud.

So three doors off, the chaise was stay'd,
-----Where they did all get in;
Six precious souls, and all agog
-----To dash through thick and thin.

Smack went the whip, round went the wheels,
-----Were never folk so glad,
The stones did rattle underneath,
-----As if Cheapside were mad.

John Gilpin at his horse's side
-----Seized fast the flowing mane,
And up he got, in haste to ride,
-----But soon came down again;

For saddle-tree scarce reach'd had he,
-----His journey to begin,
When, turning round his head, he saw
-----Three customers come in.

So down he came; for loss of time,
-----Although it grieved him sore,
Yet loss of pence, full well he knew,
-----Would trouble him much more.

'Twas long before the customers
-----Were suited to their mind,
When Betty screaming came down stairs,
-----"The wine is left behind!"

"Good lack!" quoth he, "Yet bring it me,
-----My leathern belt likewise,
In which I bear my trusty sword
-----When I do exercise."

Now mistress Gilpin (careful soul!)
-----Had two stone bottles found,
To hold the liquor that she loved,
-----And keep it safe and sound.

Each bottle had a curling ear,
-----Through which the belt he drew,
And hung a bottle on each side,
-----To make his balance true.

Then over all, that he might be
-----Equipp'd from top to toe,
His long red cloak, well brush'd and neat,
-----He manfully did throw.

Now see him mounted once again
-----Upon his nimble steed,
Full slowly pacing o'er the stones,
-----With caution and good heed.

But finding soon a smoother road
-----Beneath his well-shod feet,
The snorting beast began to trot,
-----Which gall'd him in his seat.

So, "Fair and softly," John he cried,
-----But John he cried in vain;
That trot became a gallop soon,
-----In spite of curb and rein.

So stooping down, as needs he must
-----Who cannot sit upright,
He grasp'd the mane with both his hands,
-----And eke with all his might.

His horse, who never in that sort
-----Had handled been before,
What thing upon his back had got
-----Did wonder more and more.

Away went Gilpin, neck or nought;
-----Away went hat and wig;
He little dreamt, when he set out,
-----Of running such a rig.

The wind did blow, the cloak did fly,
-----Like streamer long and gay,
Till, loop and button failing both,
-----At last it flew away.

Then might all people well discern
-----The bottles he had slung;
A bottle swinging at each side,
-----As hath been said or sung.

The dogs did bark, the children scream'd,
-----Up flew the windows all;
And every soul cried out, "Well done!"
-----As loud as he could bawl.

Away went Gilpin - who but he?
-----His fame soon spread around,
"He carries weight! he rides a race!
-----Tis for a thousand pound!"

And still, as fast as he drew near,
-----'Twas wonderful to view,
How in a trice the turnpike men
-----Their gates wide open threw.

And now, as he went bowing down
-----His reeking head full low,
The bottles twain behind his back
-----Were shatter'd at a blow.

Down ran the wine into the road,
-----Most piteous to be seen,
Which made his horse's flanks to smoke,
-----As they had basted been.

But still he seem'd to carry weight,
-----With leathern girdle braced;
For all might see the bottlenecks
-----Still dangling at his waist.

Thus all through merry Islington
-----These gambols he did play,
Until he came unto the Wash
-----Of Edmonton so gay;

And there he threw the wash about
-----On both sides of the way,
Just like unto a trundling mop,
-----Or a wild goose at play.

At Edmonton, his loving wife
-----From the balcony spied
Her tender husband, wondering much
-----To see how he did ride.

"Stop, stop, John Gilpin! - Here's the house!"
-----They all at once did cry;
"The dinner waits, and we are tired":
-----Said Gilpin, "So am I!"

But yet his horse was not a whit
-----Inclined to tarry there;
For why?  his owner had a house
-----Full ten miles off, at Ware.

So like arrow swift he flew,
-----Shot by an archer strong?
So did he fly--which brings me to
-----The middle of my song.

Away went Gilpin out of breath,
-----And sore against his will,
Till at his friend the calendrer's
-----His horse at last stood still.

The Calend'rer, amazed to see
-----His neighbour in such trim,
Laid down his pipe, flew to the gate,
-----And thus accosted him:

"What news? what news? your tidings tell;
-----Tell me you must and shall -
Say why bareheaded you are come,
-----Or why you come at all?"

Now Gilpin had a pleasant wit,
-----And loved a timely joke!
And thus unto the calendrer
-----In merry guise he spoke:

"I came, because your horse would come,
-----And, if I well forebode,
My hat and wig will soon be here,
-----They are upon the road."

The Calendrer, right glad to find
-----His friend in merry pin,
Return'd him not a single word,
-----But to the house went in;

Whence straight he came with hat and wig;
-----A wig that flow'd behind,
A hat not much the worse for wear,
-----Each comely in its kind.

He held them up, and in his turn
-----Thus show'd his ready wit:
"My head is twice as big as yours,
-----They therefore needs must fit.

"But let me scrape the dirt away
-----That hangs upon your face;
And stop and eat, for well you may
-----Be in a hungry case."

Said John, "It is my wedding-day,
-----And all the world would stare,
If wife should dine at Edmonton,
-----And I should dine at Ware."

So turning to his horse, he said,
-----"I am in haste to dine;
'Twas for your pleasure you came here,
-----You shall go back for mine."

Ah, luckless speech, and bootless boast!
-----For which he paid full dear;
For, while he spake, a braying ass
-----Did sing most loud and clear;

Whereat his horse did snort, as he
-----Had heard a lion roar,
And gallop'd off with all his might,
-----As he had done before.

Away went Gilpin, and away
-----Went Gilpin's hat and wig:
He lost them sooner than at first,
-----For why? -- they were too big.

Now mistress Gilpin, when she saw
-----Her husband posting down
Into the country far away,
-----She pull'd out half-a-crown;

And thus unto the youth she said,
-----That drove them to the Bell,
"This shall be yours, when you bring back
-----My husband safe and well."

The youth did ride, and soon did meet
-----John coming back amain;
Whom in a trice he tried to stop,
-----By catching at his rein;

But not performing what he meant,
-----And gladly would have done,
The frighten'd steed he frighten'd more,
-----And made him faster run.

Away went Gilpin, and away
-----Went postboy at his heels,
The postboy's horse right glad to miss
-----The lumbering of the wheels.

Six gentlemen upon the road
-----Thus seeing Gilpin fly,
With postboy scampering in the rear,
-----They raised the hue and cry:

"Stop thief! stop thief! -- a highwayman!"
-----Not one of them was mute;
And all and each that pass'd that way
-----Did join in the pursuit.

And now the turnpike gates again
-----Flew open in short space;
The toll-men thinking as before,
-----That Gilpin rode a race.

And so he did, and won it too!
-----For he got first to town;
Nor stopp'd till where he had got up
-----He did again get down.

-- Now let us sing, Long live the King,
-----And Gilpin, long live he;
And when he next doth ride abroad,
-----May I be there to see!



"World Championship in Poem Criticism"

(The comment feature for this topic has been turned off and moved here. All comments have also been moved. To comment on the new forum, you will have to join the forum, which is fast, easy, and free.) v.!

Has anybody noticed it, but temperatures are rising in the PoBiz. There’s even a controversy raging over at, of all places--about Prosody! Indeed, the ivy on the walls of the Academy of American Poets is quivering, and some say bits of plaster are beginning to flake from the ceilings and the doors won’t stay shut.

Oh dear.

The question is, are the Rules of Metrical Analysis as laid out by the Schoolmasters and Prefects at The Academy’s own Forum going to be mandated as the sine qua non for Aspiring Writers to find Success in poetry today in America? Is that the Certificate every poet is going to need?

Well, there are two camps engaged in the dispute, the AAP 'Academicians' on the one hand, strict, self-righteous and undistracted by humor, and a small group of unwashed 'Irridescent Harlequins' led by the critic, Tom West--who also appears from time to time, you might have noticed, on this site.

The argument is about the role of Prosody today in the definition and evaluation of poetry. The AAP Academicians, whose livelihoods, needless to say, depend on teaching the stuff, want everybody to promise to agree that unless you know the AAP On-line Rules of Prosody, and apply them correctly, of course, any poem you write or critical pronouncement you make will be invalid--no "anacrusis" no line, no line no poetry, no poetry no poet, no poet no prize, no prize no job--as simple as that.

So that’s who the AAP Magister Ludis are, who are the Iridescent Harlequins? They’re essentially critical carpet baggers, which is certainly how they appear on the site, and they feel like most tent-show magicians that every trick in the critical bag is valid as long as it works. More than that, and much more threatening to the Magister Ludis, needless to say, the Harlequins feel that obsessively clinging to just one tool at a time is boring, that it's aesthetically extremely limited and wrong, and that it leads to cruelty, dictatorship, and bad poetry.

Needless to say, the Iridescent Harlequins are a scarcely tolerated intervention on a Forum based specifically on tool-control, and in the past weeks two close friends have been quietly banned from the discussion on the grounds they were someone called Christopher Woodman, based on his style, not his IP. Oh, and do take note that the thread on which all this is transpiring is called "On Aspiring Writers Becoming Successful Writers," a TomWest formulation, of course, but started by 'ACommoner'—another Harlequin who along with his wife, a doctor of traditional medicine, take note, has already been stripped of his AAP gown.

19,446 visits too!

Got it, then? You’re the AAP, so you make the tools essential to poetry, for reading it as well as for writing it, and you make it clear you actually own those tools. You've got them and you've patented them, and the Laws of Po-Land decree that without them no one can get certified as an SP (Successful Poet). Like lawyers, a whole gaggle of AAP Para-Critics control access to the Laws of Poetry by making them so complicated and abstruse, and expressed in foreign languages too, of course, that you have to get down on your knees before those same Para-Critics if you want them to pay attention to you, or to assure your security inside and outside the site, or to intimidate other uninitiated poets as you gradually work your way over their heads and all the way on up to the top of the field.

So that’s the Big Fight in progress over at might want to peak in and gawk at it. Here at we've got a circus as well, I mean, we've got the World Championship in Poem Criticism, ATHENA v. DLUX!--which cuts all the Gordian critical knots of control in one sweet, two-handed swoosh. Don’t miss this beautiful exchange, such a powerful example of Can There Be Poem Criticism without PoBiz Criticism, as it’s billed--which is, in case you hadn’t noticed it, the title of Matt Koeske’s essay that opens the eponymous thread. Indeed, this is the sort of criticism we model on as an alternative to the School-room Capitalist Criticism at"School-room Capitalist Criticism" because it functions like a modern Law School (Medieval Guild?) which owns the subject and then sells it to the highest bidder, so to speak--and then inducts that highest-bidder in turn into the Cartel that controls the Racket!

There have been a number of brilliant moments in the Non-Prize Fight on this thread, culminating in Athena's extraordinary evocation of a cracked recording of Edna St Vincent Millay reading her poetry as an example of..... well, we’re not quite sure of what, not being in the habit of defining other people’s feelings either, but certainly of something pretty "universal!" DLUX hotly proclaims it's "Performance Poetry" but Athena equally passionately proclaims "Performance Poetry doesn't exist." And what is so revolutionary about this irreconcilable amour is that it gives us an insight into the very heart of the critical process of activating a poem in such a way that it's no longer just a commodity, that a poem actually IS something and MEANS something of great value--which in poetry today is extremely rare.

Yes, these two very fine Royals, one semi-human (ATHENA) and the other semi-divine (DLUX), have played out for us the finest performance of "Poem Criticism" we’ve yet seen on any poetry site!

So stay tuned!


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On Parody and Satire...

Emperor "What-Me-Worry?" Dubya

Parody: any humorous, satirical, or burlesque imitation, as of a person, event, etc.

In satire, human or individual vices, follies, abuses, or shortcomings are held up to censure by means of ridicule, derision, burlesque, irony, or other methods, ideally with an intent to bring about improvement.

Although satire is usually meant to be funny, the purpose of satire is not primarily humor in itself so much as an attack on something of which the author strongly disapproves, using the weapon of wit.--Wikipedia

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