Monday, 3 January 2011

The Penguin Book of Comic and Curious Verse


The Penguin Book of Comic and Curious Verse isn’t exactly an attention grabbing title. Nor is the cover very exciting, although for we older readers the distinctive pattern does bring a waft of nostalgia. And if you ignore this book you won’t actually be in peril. But this collection of poems selected by J.M.Cohen, and its younger sister, Yet More Comic and Curious Verse, is a veritable treasure chest of chuckles, an Aladdin’s Cave of comicality, a cornucopia of pleasure and er… well… it’s full of good stuff, Much of it comic and the rest, well, at the very least, curious.

There are limericks:
There was a young lady from Wantage
Of whom the town clerk took advantage
Said the borough surveyor:
Indeed you must pay ’er.
You’ve totally altered her frontage!”

Treats from Ogden Nash:
I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree
Perhaps, unless the billboards fall,
I’ll never see a tree at all.
There are famous parodies such as Father William by Lewis Carroll:
“You are old, Father William,” the young man said,
“And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head –
Do you think at your age, it is right?”
So famous is this spoof, of course, that these days it is much better known than the original.

And poems by the Grandfather of the Pun, Thomas Hood (1789 – 1845):Ben Battle was a soldier bold,
And used to war’s alarms;

But a cannon-ball took off his legs,
So he laid down his arms.
The Penguin Book of Comic and Curious Verse lives on a shelf by my bed and I often dip into it before (never after) turning out the light. The book was published in 1952 – and my version reprinted in 1958. Next time you are passing a second hand book shop, pop in, see if you can find a copy and treat yourself. Mine cost a pound from just such an establishment which I think is amazing value.

5 comments:

Jinksy said...

That sounds like a book after my own heart - Amazon, here I come!

Roger Stevens said...

I am sure you won't be disappointed Jinksy.

wastedpapiers said...

I think I got my copy from a charity shop or jumble sale many years ago. Good stuff!

Russell 'C.J.' Duffy said...

I have just received a multitude of books for Christmas but, being the lucky devil I am, I have a birthday in March and it looks like this one will head that list. Good stuff!

Doc FTSE said...

HI there CJ! And a Happy New Year to you, too.
I have . . . or used to have . . . a copy of this book of treasures. I remember a beauty about "Dainty Mrs. Hargreaves" and the devastation she wrought up and down the local High Street as she did her shopping. She left the grocer "careless of weights, and hacking cheese regardless/Even the vicar shades his eyes and mutters 'O, Dea Certe!' " Can't remember the title.