Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. T. O. Mabbott), “Appendix II (Comic Rhymes),” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. I: Poems (1969), pp. 485-490 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 485:]


Discussing the works of John G. C. Brainard, Poe wrote in Graham’s Magazine for February 1842, “Of the merely humorous pieces we have little to say. Such things are not poetry ... Humor, with an exception to be made hereafter, is directly antagonistical to ... the soul of the Muse ... But it so happens that humor and ... imagination are both essentially aided ... by rhythm and ... rhyme.” The exception is made for humor combined with archness. In view of this, I have treated the playful poems in the main body of the present volume, and the early satires, too, since Poe probably thought of them as poems when he wrote them. In this appendix are given only the rhymes devoid of any serious purpose at all. Some of these were written and printed as prose, but there are so few items that subdivision seems needless. One scrap, number 21, is now printed for the first time. All are surely Poe’s except number 23, which is preserved only by anonymous tradition, but is rather probably authentic. (Two rhymes, still of uncertain origin, occur in Pinakidia, numbers 20 and 140, but that series contains almost nothing original, and there is little reason to think them composed by Poe; the present reference seems sufficient here.)

1.  In Poe’s story, “How to Write a Blackwood Article,” originally “The Psyche Zenobia,” Mr. Blackwood gives Miss Suky Snobbs — alias “Psyche Zenobia” — a number of scraps of learning with which to ornament her projected horror tale. He reads her a quatrain “from Cervantes,” actually an old rhyme quoted in Don Quixote (II, xxxviii) and quoted by Poe once before in “Pinakidia”:

Van muerte tan escondida,

Que no to sienta venir;

Porque el plazer del morir

No me torne à dar la vida.

In Miss Suky’s tale, “The Scythe of Time,” later called “A Predicament,” the authoress reproduces what she thinks she heard:

Vanny Buren tan escondida,

Query no to senty venny

Pork and pleasure, delly morry

Nommy, torny, darry widdy!

The third line seems to echo a bit from Dr. Johnson’s poem on “A Lady Coming of Age”: “Pride and pleasure, pomp and plenty.” References to the “pork barrel” in politics had not yet become familiar.

The tales were first published in the Baltimore American Museum for November 1838 (1:301-309, 310-317). The nonsense verses, without verbal changes, appear in all versions. [page 486:]

2.  Also in “The Scythe of Time” is the following line:

Andrew O’Phlegethon, you really make haste to fly.

This is Psyche Zenobia’s version of a line given her by her advisor as from the Greek of Demosthenes, ‘Ανὴρ ὁ φεὺγων καὶ πὰλιν μαχήσεται,’ which Poe transliterated “Aner o pheugon kai palin makesetai (sic).” It is literally “The man who flees will also fight again” and is proverbial in English as “He who fights and runs away.” There seems to be an allusion to Phlegethon, the fiery river of Hades, in Poe’s “For Annie.”

3.  In the same story Poe’s Psyche Zenobia made the two lines

Il pover hommy the non sera corty

And have a combat tenty erry morty;

out of “Il pover ‘huomo che non se’n era accorto, / Andava combattendo, e era morto.” This means “The poor man, who did not know he was slain, kept on fighting, although he was already dead.” Poe ascribes the lines here and in “Pinakidia” incorrectly to Ariosto.

4.  From the same sources also comes the following:

Unt stubby duk, so stubby dun

Duk she! duk she!

This is Psyche Zenobia’s version of Mr. Blackwood’s quotation “from Schiller,” thus, “Und sterb’ ich dock, so sterb’ ich denn / Durch sic — durch sic!” (“And if I die, at least I die for thee — for thee.”) The original is in Goethe’s ballad “Das Veilchen,” which Poe thus misquoted but correctly ascribed in “The Visionary.”

5.  The following occurs only in the first two versions of “A Predicament” in the American Museum and Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque

Is — is that the departed spirit, the shade, the ghost of my beloved puppy, which I perceive sitting with a grace and face so melancholy, in the corner?

6.  In his tale “Von Jung” in the American Monthly for June 1837 and in the Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque there is the following rhyming passage:

I have seen the college chapel bombarded — I have seen the college ramparts most distressingly placarded — I have seen the whole world by the ears — I have seen old Wertemuller in tears.

Later versions of the tale, called “Mystification,” are emended to omit this jingle. At Charlottesville Poe had a friend and fellow-student, the librarian, named William Wertenbaker.

7.  In all versions of “The Philosophy of Furniture” first printed in Burton’s for May 1840 is the following sentence:

We are violently enamoured of gas and of glass. [page 487:]

8.  Poe introduced rhyme into the account of a geologist in his story “Lionizing” in Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840):

There was a great geologist Feltzpar. He talked of internal fires and tertiary formations; of aëriforms, fluidiforms, and solidiforms; of quartz and marl; of schist and schorl; of gypsum, hornblende, mica-slate, and pudding-stone.

In the versions of the Tales (1845), the Broadway Journal, March 15, 1845, and that in the Griswold edition, the passage is much expanded:

There was Ferdinand Fitz-Fossillus Feltspar. He informed us all about internal fires and tertiary formations; about aëriforms, fluidiforms, and solidiforms; about quartz and marl; about schist and schorl; about gypsum and trap; about talc and calc; about blende and horn-blende; about mica-slate and pudding-stone; about cyanite and lepidolite; about haematite and tremolite; about antimony and calcedony; about manganese and whatever you please.

9.  In all versions of “Never Bet the Devil Your Head,” those in Graham’s for September 1841, in the Broadway Journal, August 16, 1845, and in the second volume of the Works (1850) there are three passages in rhymed prose. The first is:

I remonstrated — but to no purpose. I demonstrated — in vain.

In the first version we read “but in vain.”

10.  The second jingle now reads:

There was something ... in his manner of enunciation ... which Mr. Coleridge would have called mystical, Mr. Kant pantheistical, Mr. Carlyle twistical, and Mr. Emerson hyperquizzitistical.

In the first version “Emerson’s” term was “hyper-fizzitistical.”

11.  The third passage is:

The best pigeon-winger over all kinds of style, was my friend Mr. Carlyle.

12.  In a review of Rufus Dawes, probably written in 1839, but first published in Graham’s for October 1842, Poe parodies two lines of “Geraldine,” from the volume Geraldine, Athenia of Damascus and Miscellaneous Poems (1839), page 79: “... dare I tell! / ’Tis Alice! — curse us, Geraldine! — farewell!”. Poe says:

The whole passage, perhaps, would have read better thus —

“oh, my eye!

’Tis Alice! — d——n it, Geraldine! — good bye!”

Despite his cavalier treatment of “Geraldine,” its ending influenced the climactic scene of Poe’s “Premature Burial.”

13.  The following occurs in all versions of Poe’s tale “Three Sundays in [page 488:] a Week,” first published in the Philadelphia Saturday Evening Post, November 27, 1841:

“You hard-hearted, dunder-headed, obstinate rusty, crusty, musty, fusty, old savage!” said I in fancy, one afternoon, to my grand uncle Rumgudgeon.

There is a reflection here of Tennyson’s “To Christopher North” (1833): “Crusty ... Rusty ... Musty ... Fusty Christopher.”

14.  In Graham’s for August 1843, Poe reviewed the recently issued Poems of William Ellery Channing the younger with extreme severity. Channing was a Transcendentalist and a friend of Emerson. He bore the same name as his uncle, the famous Unitarian divine, and later dropped the first name. His romantic contempt for conventions included those of grammar. Poe thus discussed two lines from Channing’s “Thoughts,” II, 17-18:

Mr. Channing could never have meant to say: “Thou meetest a common man / With a delusive show of can;” for what is a delusive show of can? No doubt it should have been,

Thou meetest a little pup

With a delusive show of tin-cup.”

15.  In all versions of Poe’s tale “Diddling,” first published in the Philadelphia Saturday Courier, October 14, 1843, there is an account of an imaginary business firm:

Boggs, Hogs, Logs, Frogs, & Co.

No. 110 Dog Street.

In another of Poe’s stories, “Thou Art the Man,” there is a firm of similar name: “Hoggs, Frogs, Bogs & Co.” Compare also some of the rhymes from “X-ing a Paragrab,” number 22 below.

16.  In the several versions of Poe’s satire, “The Literary Life of Thingum Bob,” first published in the Southern Literary Messenger, December 1844, the hero begins his career as a magazinist by composing a “poem” inspired by a hair tonic invented by his father, the barber Thomas Bob. It reads:

To pen an Ode upon the “Oil-of-Bob”

Is all sorts of a job.

(Signed.) SNOB.

17.  In a review of William Wilberforce Lord’s Poems (New York, 1845), in the Broadway Journal, May 24, 1845, Poe ridicules a poem called “To a Lady about to take the Veil” and says:

Mr. Lord winds up a dissertation on the subject with the patronizing advice — “Ere thou, irrevocable, to that dark creed / Art yielded, think, Oh Lady, think again!” the whole of which would read better if it were

Ere thou, irrevocable, to this d—d doggrel

Art yielded, Lord, think! think! — ah think again. [page 489:]

For the poem castigated see The Complete Poetical Works of W. W. Lord (New York, 1938), p. 50.

18.  In all versions of the story called “The Spectacles,” first printed in the Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper, March 27, 1844, much is made of the rhyming names of the hero’s ancestors. One sentence will suffice:

Here, however, are Moissart, Voissart, Croissart, and Froissart, all in the direct line of descent.

19.  A brief nonsense rhyme is given in each text of “The 1002nd Tale of Scheherazade,” first published in Godey’s for February 1845. It is described as a specimen of what one of the “men-vermin” (the crew of a battleship) was “vain enough to denominate its language”:

Washish squashish squeak, Sinbad, hey-diddle diddle, grunt unt grumble, hiss, fiss, whiss.

The extreme rarity of intentional pure nonsense, even in Poe’s comic tales, should be observed.

20.  The following jingle is from the story “Mellonta Tauta,” written in 1848 and published in Godey’s for February 1849:

Mob ... set up a despotism, in comparison with which those of the fabulous Zeros and Hellofagabaluses were respectable and delectable.

The protagonist of this story of some thousand years in the future (A.D. 2848) is badly mixed up about history and refers to the Roman emperors Nero and Heliogabalus (more properly Elagabalus).

21.  In “The Living Writers of America,” a late manuscript in the Pierpont Morgan Library, there is the following passage on the credulity of the “Humanity party of Boston”:

Never saw one of them who is not at once Mesmerist, Phrenologist, Homœopathist, Priessnitzian, Swedenborgian, Fourierite, and Fanny Wright.

I expand the eleventh to fifteenth words from abbreviations, and supply punctuation. This scrap apparently has not been previously published. In the “Literati” sketch of Mrs. Gove, Poe attributed most of these “advanced” opinions to her.

22.  In Poe’s story “X-ing a Paragrab,” first published in the Boston Flag of Our Union, May 12, 1849, the hero, Touch-and-Go Bullet-head, an editor, reproached by John Smith, editor of a rival sheet, for too frequent use of the vowel o, composes the following defiant reply:

So, ho, John! how now? Told you so, you know. Don’t crow, another time, before you’re out of the woods! Does your mother know you’re out? Oh, no, no! — so go home at once, now, John, to your odious old woods of Concord! Go home to your woods, old owl, — go! You won’t? Oh, poh, poh, John, don’t do so! You’ve got to go, [page 490:] you know! So go at once, and don’t go slow; for nobody owns you here, you know. Oh, John, John, if you don’t go you’re no homo — no! You’re only a fowl, an owl; a cow, a sow; a doll, a Poll; a poor, old, good-for-nothing-to-nobody log, dog, hog, or frog, come out of a Concord bog. Cool, now — cool! Do be cool, you fool! None of your crowing, old cock! Don’t frown so — don’t! hollo, nor howl, nor growl, nor bow-wow-wow! Good Lord, John, how you do look! Told you so, you know — but stop rolling your goose of an old poll about so, and go and drown your sorrows in a bowl!

Smith apparently came from Concord, the great center of Transcendentalism. Compare the rhymes on “bogs” in item 15 above.

23.  In the New York Cosmopolitan Art Journal of December 1858 is a brief editorial article on Poe, which includes the following anecdote:

Poe was once dunned savagely for a grocer’s bill, long overdue. He immediately sat down, penned one of his most savage onslaughts upon one of “the literati,” and upon the strength of it borrowed the amount needed to free him from the grocer.

“There, sir!” said he, “grow, sir, you grocer puppy, into a dog, sir, and may you then be dogged sir, as you have dogged Poe, sir. Now, go sir, and be — to you.”

I am not sure of the identity of the editor of the rare periodical, but for various reasons suspect it was Prosper M. Wetmore. The magazine was friendly to Poe’s memory, and called for a monument to him. It is very hard to say whether the grocer story represents something Poe said (or said that he said) or not, but the rhymes are very like the doggerel from “X-ing a Paragrab” given above, and it seems to me to deserve inclusion with a caveat. I think the word “so” may have fallen out between “dogged” and “sir,” but refrain from emendation.




-p. 487, in item 10: hyper-fizzitistical / hyperfizzitistical [This typographical error is noted by Burton R. Pollin in his own copy of TOM’s edition of the Poems.]


[S:1 - TOM1P, 1969] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions-The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (T. O. Mabbott) (Appendix II (Comic Rhymes))