Coventry Patmore

Magna est Veritas

Here, in this little Bay,
Full of tumultuous life and great repose,
Where, twice a day,
The purposeless, glad ocean comes and goes,
Under high cliffs, and far from the huge town,
I sit me down.

For want of me the world’s course will not fail;
When all its work is done, the lie shall rot;
The truth is great, and shall prevail,
When none cares whether it prevail or not.

Arthur Guiterman

On the Vanity of Earthly Greatness

The tusks which clashed in mighty brawls
Of mastodons, are billiard balls.

The sword of Charlemagne the Just
Is Ferric Oxide, known as rust.

The grizzly bear, whose potent hug,
Was feared by all, is now a rug.

Great Caesar’s bust is on the shelf,
And I don’t feel so well myself.

Raymond Queneau


The woodman weighs up the oaks; the calendar, the years; the pamphlet, hatreds; the boxer, his teeth; the locksmith, bolts; the sweet maker, fondant bonbons; the jeweller, chalcedonies; the tamer, the elephams; the coiffeur, combs; the hatter, turbans; the impresario, new prodigies; the ridingmaster, white stallions; the juggler, full spheres; the conjurer, empty spheres. The weight of things requires attention, though it may be we feel little anxiety at the supposed law of matter’s ruin, for in the end all things re-unite: the years in the rings ofthe oaks, the look of hatred in the teeth, the fondant bonbons in the cakeholes of keyholes, the precious stones in the finery of the elephants, the combs beneath wound cloths, the hoarse prodigies in galloping fame, and the spheres with the spheres in topological bouquets.

Now everything is clear.

Diogenes of Sinope

Do not take from me what you cannot give.

Said to Alexander the Great who had gone to see Diogenes, who at time was lying in the sun. Standing in front of him, Alexander, the most powerful man in the world, made an offer to the philopsopher, saying “Whatever you ask of me, I will be pleased to give to you”. In response to this remarkable offer Diogeens requested that Alexander should stop blocking his sunlight before adding the statement above.

In reply Alexander stated that “If I was not Alexander, I would wish to be Diogenes”

Billy Collins

Introduction To Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

Henry Carey

A Lilliputian Ode on their Majesties Accession

Smile, smile,
Blest Isle!
Grief past,
(At last)
Comes on.
New King,
Bells ring;
New Queen,
Blest Scene!
And thrives.
Fear flies,
Stocks rise;
Wealth flows,
Art grows.
Strange Pack,
Sent back;
Own Folks
Crack Jokes.
Those out
May pout;
Those in
Will grin.

Great small,
Pleas’d all.

God send
No End,
To Line
Of George and Caroline!

on the coronation of George II in 1727

Wendy Cope

The sorrow of socks

Some socks are loners –
They can’t live in pairs.
On washdays they’ve shown us
They want to be loners
They puzzle their owners,
They hide in dark lairs.
Some socks are loners –
They won’t live in pairs.


Lavender’s Blue

Lavender’s blue, dilly dilly,
Lavender’s green
When you are King, dilly dilly,
I shall be Queen

Who told you so, dilly dilly,
Who told you so?
‘Twas my own heart, dilly dilly,
That told me so

Call up your friends, dilly, dilly
Set them to work
Some to the plough, dilly dilly,
Some to the fork

Some to the hay, dilly dilly,
Some to thresh corn
Whilst you and I, dilly dilly,
Keep ourselves warm

Lavender’s blue, dilly dilly,
Lavender’s green
When you are King, dilly dilly,
I shall be Queen

Who told you so, dilly dilly,
Who told you so?
‘Twas my own heart, dilly dilly,
That told me so