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Poems and Songs that Appeal to Me (Lighter Than Chaucer and Shakespeare)

For a little gravitas you’ll find a poem by Wilfred Owen, a victim, like my grandfather, of the barbarity of the First World War.

Light verse, to me, principally means the nonsense of Burl Ives and Lewis Carroll, Limericks for which we owe Edward Lear some considerable gratitude, the gentle satire of Michael Flanders and Donald Swann, The Elements by Tom Lehrer, and the utter awfulness of William McGonagall. I’ve added a few amusing place-fillers, too, a traditional song and a camp-fire song.

Burl Ives (1909 — 1995)

Burl Ives

Generally I don’t like American music, with the exception of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and...

I Know an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly

I know an old lady who swallowed a fly,
I don’t know why she swallowed the fly,
I guess she’ll die.
 

I know an old lady who swallowed a spider,
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly,
I don’t know why she swallowed the fly,
I guess she’ll die.
 

I know an old lady who swallowed a bird,
How absurd to swallow a bird!
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,

and so on...

I know an old lady who swallowed a cat,
Imagine that, to swallow a cat!
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,

and so on...

I know an old lady who swallowed a dog,
My, what a hog, to swallow a dog!
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat,

and so on...

I know an old lady who swallowed a goat,
Just opened her throat and swallowed a goat!
She swallowed the goat...

and so on...

I know an old lady who swallowed a cow,
I wonder how she swallowed a cow?!
She swallowed the cow to catch the goat,
She swallowed the goat to catch the dog,
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat,
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her,
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly,
I don’t know why she swallowed the fly,
I guess she’ll die.

I know an old lady who swallowed a horse,
She’s dead, of course!!


I also like his (and others’) song Foggy Foggy Dew.

Lewis Carroll (1832 — 1898)

Lewis Carroll

His real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. He is famous for the Alice books and his nonsense poem Jabberwocky.

Catalan flag Spanish flag

I should explain for non-English speakers that this type of poem is called Nonsense verse, so don’t expect to understand it! It’s the sound, the rhythm of the language that are important. Yet despite its nonsense, it does tell a story!

Jabberwocky

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
 

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”
 

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.
 

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!
 

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.
 

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.
 

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.


(I once put Jabberwocky through a spelling checker; it ‘corrected’ the first two words to ‘tea’s boiling’!)


There’s a Hole in my Bucket

Traditional Song

There’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza!
There’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, a hole!

Then mend it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry!
Then mend it dear Henry, dear Henry, mend it!

With what shall I mend it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
With what shall I mend it, dear Liza, with what?

With straw, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry!
With straw, dear Henry, dear Henry, a straw!

But the straw is too long, dear Liza, dear Liza!
But the straw is too long, dear Liza, too long!

Then cut it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry!
Then cut it, dear Henry, dear Henry, cut it!

With what shall I cut it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
With what shall I cut it, dear Liza, with what?

With a knife, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry!
With a knife, dear Henry, dear Henry, a knife!

But the knife is too dull, dear Liza, dear Liza!
But the knife is too dull, dear Liza, too dull!

Then sharpen it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry!
Then sharpen it, dear Henry, dear Henry, sharpen it!

With what shall I sharpen it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
With what shall I sharpen it, dear Liza, with what?

With a stone, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry!
With a stone, dear Henry, dear Henry, a stone!

But the stone is too dry, dear Liza, dear Liza!
But the stone is too dry, dear Liza, too dry!

Then wet it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry!
Then wet it, dear Henry, dear Henry, wet it!

With what shall I wet it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
With what shall I wet it, dear Liza, with what?

With water, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry!
With water, dear Henry, dear Henry, water!

But where shall I get it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
But where shall I get it, dear Liza, but where?

From the well, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry!
From the well, dear Henry, dear Henry, the well!

In what shall I carry it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
In what shall I carry it, dear Liza, in what?

In the bucket, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry!
In the bucket, dear Henry, dear Henry, the bucket!

But there’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza!
There’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, a hole!

 


YouTube has, among others, a 1960 version
by Harry Belafonte and Odetta Holmes.

Limericks — Some Typical Ones

The Complete Rhyming Dictionary states that the limerick is the only poetic form indigenous to the English language, appearing first in Mother Goose in 1719. It follows strict rhyme rules. In early forms, the last line was almost a repetition of the first. The first line usually begins “There was a...”. The verse is expected to be humorous, and many writers have taken this to be an invitation to vary the format, as exemplified in several of those on this web-site. Edward Lear (1812 — 1888) was the great exponent of this poetic form; it’s interesting how often Thermopylae appears in them. This collection includes non-standard limericks — extended limericks and limerick poems, etc. By the way, Limericks are frequently rather bawdy or ribald!

“There once was a man from Nantucket”

is the opening line for many limericks, in which the name of the island of Nantucket creates obscene rhymes and puns. The protagonist is typically portrayed as a well-endowed, hypersexualized persona.

The line is so well-known that it has been used as a stand-alone joke, implying upcoming obscenities or taboo language.

These may help explain more:

Writing a Limerick’s absurd,
Line one and line five rhyme in word,

And just as you’ve reckoned
They rhyme with the second;

The fourth line must rhyme with the third.

The limerick packs laughs anatomical
Into space that is quite economical.

But the good ones I’ve seen
So seldom are clean

And the clean ones so seldom are comical.

Some Nonsense Limericks
by Edward Lear

There was an old man of Thermopylae,
Who never did anything properly;
   But they said, “If you choose
   To boil eggs in your shoes,
You shall never remain in Thermopylae.”

 

There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, “It is just as I feared!—
   Two Owls and a Hen,
   Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!”

 

There was an Old Man in a tree,
Who was horribly bored by a bee;
   When they said, “Does it Buzz?”
   He replied, “Yes, it does!
It’s a regular brute of a bee!”

 


More Limericks (not Lear’s)

There was an old fellow from Lyme
Who married three wives at a time;
   His friends asked why the third?
   He replied “one’s absurd,
And bigamy, Sir, is a crime!”

 

An old classicist somewhat lupine,
Wed a latinist he thought divine.
   They would both conjugate,
   For she grew quite irate,
If he told her he wished to decline.

 

There was a young girl from Thermopylae
Who dressed so exceedingly slopylae
   There was no way of tracing
   Which way she was facing
Except by behaving impropylae.

 

There was a young man from Al Qa’eda
Who dive bombed his father’s hang glider,
   But ’twas not Jihad
   Killed the lad, said his Dad,
It was twelve pints of Olde Englishe cider!
 

And Yet More
(they go on and on...)

There was a young man of Brasilia
Whose hobby was gerontophilia,
   Till his partner dropped dead,
   “I guess now,” he said,
“I’ll have to take up necrophilia.”

 

There was a young parson named Perkins
Exceedingly fond of small gherkins.
   One summer at tea
   He ate forty-three,
Which pickled his internal workin’s.

 

There was a young man from Thermopylae
Who became expert at monopylae
   When he bought a hotel
   He always would yell
“There ain’t no-one that can topolae!”

 

There was a young curate of Kew
Who kept a tom-cat in a pew
   He tried to teach it to speak
   Alphabetical Greek
But it never got further than μ.

 

There was a young man from St Bees
Who was stung on the nose by a wasp
   When they asked, “Does it hurt?”
   He said, “Yes, it does
Thank goodness it wasn’t a hornet!”

 

There was a young lady from Wantage
Of whom the Town Clerk took advantage.
   Said the Borough Surveyor:
   “Of course you must pay her;
You’ve totally altered her frontage!”

 

A computer, to print out a fact,
Will divide, multiply, and subtract.
   But this output can be
   No more than debris,
If the input was short of exact.

There Was A Young Man Of A Famous Welsh Town (and others)

There was a young man of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch,
Who said: “If you can find
   A word with that to rhyme,
   You’re a better man than I’m!”

 

Said a mathematician to me:
“There’s a number that isn’t quite three
   That goes on forever,
   And if you are clever
You’ll know it, but what can it be?”
 
I said: “Obviously, it’s π”,
But I saw by the look in his eye,
   I was wrong — “It is e!”
   The old sod said with glee,
“You are not half as clever as I!”

 

There was a young man from Japan
Whose Limericks never did scan
   When they pointed this out
   In reply, he would shout,
“I like to get as many words into the last line as I possibly can.”

 

Said a molecule one ancient day:
“I’m so tired of this transient way,
   Existing, abating,
   Without replicating.”
And presto! So was DNA!

 


There was a young lady of Diss,
Who said, “Now I think skating bliss!”
   This no more will she state,
   For a wheel off her skate
!siht ekil gnihtemos pu hsinif reh edaM

 


There once was a writer named Wright
Who instructed his son to write right.
   He said, “son, write ‘Wright’ right.
   It’s not right to write Wright ‘rite’
Try to write ‘Wright’ all right!”

 

There was a young lady of Riga,      [...to rhyme with tiger]
Who rode with a smile on a tiger.
   They returned from the ride
   With the lady inside
And the smile on the face of the tiger.

Michael Flanders
Michael Flanders
(1922 – 1975)

Donald Swann
Donald Swann
(1923 – 1994)

Michael Flanders and Donald Swann

Flanders and Swann were a British duo who collaborated in writing and performing comic songs.

They performed in long-running two-man revues At the Drop of a Hat and At the Drop of Another Hat.

The Gas-Man Cometh, The Hippopotamus (“Mud, mud, glorious mud”), and The Gnu (“I’m a ga-noo”) are probably their best loved songs.

Various versions of their performances are on on YouTube including: Transport of Delight, The Slow Train and Last of the Line

Flanders and Swann: The Gas-Man Cometh

’Twas on a Monday morning the gas man came to call.
The gas tap wouldn’t turn — I wasn’t getting gas at all.
He tore out all the skirting boards to try and find the main
And I had to call a carpenter to put them back again.
 

Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do.
 

’Twas on a Tuesday morning the carpenter came round.
He hammered and he chiselled and he said:
“Look what I’ve found: your joists are full of dry rot
But I’ll put them all to rights”.
Then he nailed right through a cable and out went all the lights!
 

Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do.
 

’Twas on a Wednesday morning the electrician came.
He called me Mr. Sanderson, which isn’t quite the name.
He couldn’t reach the fuse box without standing on the bin
And his foot went through a window so I called the glazier in.
 

Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do.
 

’Twas on a Thursday morning the glazier came round
With his blow torch and his putty and his merry glazier’s song.
He put another pane in — it took no time at all
But I had to get a painter in to come and paint the wall.
 

Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do.
 

’Twas on a Friday morning the painter made a start.
With undercoats and overcoats he painted every part:
Every nook and every cranny — but I found when he was gone
He’d painted over the gas tap and I couldn’t turn it on!
 

Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do.
 

On Saturday and Sunday they do no work at all;
So ’twas on a Monday morning that the gasman came to call...
 

See it also on YouTube.

Flanders and Swann: Slow Train

This song was originally from the album At The Drop of Another Hat.

“No, I think I agree with the old lady who said, “if God had intended us to fly, He would never have given us the railways!” So we’ve written a song about the railways instead.
 

Unusual song this for us, perhaps, because it’s really quite a serious song, and it was suggested by all those marvelous old local railway stations with their wonderful evocative names, all due to be, you know, axed and done away with one by one, and these are stations that we shall no longer be seeing when we aren’t able to travel anymore on the Slow Train.

 
Miller’s Dale for Tideswell...
Kirby Muxloe...
Mow Cop and Scholar Green...

 
No more will I go to Blandford Forum and Mortehoe
On the slow train from Midsomer Norton and Mumby Road.
No churns, no porter, no cat on a seat
At Chorlton-cum-Hardy or Chester-le-Street.
We won’t be meeting again
On the Slow Train.

 
I’ll travel no more from Littleton Badsey to Openshaw.
At Long Stanton I’ll stand well clear of the doors no more.
No whitewashed pebbles, no Up and no Down
From Formby Four Crosses to Dunstable Town.
I won’t be going again
On the Slow Train.

 
On the Main Line and the Goods Siding
The grass grows high
At Dog Dyke, Tumby Woodside
And Trouble House Halt.

 
The Sleepers sleep at Audlem and Ambergate.
No passenger waits on Chittening platform or Cheslyn Hay.
No one departs, no one arrives
From Selby to Goole, from St Erth to St Ives.
They’ve all passed out of our lives
On the Slow Train, on the Slow Train.

 
Cockermouth for Buttermere... on the Slow Train,
Armley Moor Arram...
Pye Hill and Somercotes... on the Slow Train,
Windmill End.

Flanders and Swann: Last of the Line

This song was originally from the album And Then We Wrote... from 1975, though the last London tram ran in 1952. The song was written by Flanders and Swann for Airs on a Shoestring, a revue at the Royal Court in April 1953, sung by them with Julian Orchard. Several variations exist.

“As a writer, you learn to be a bit wary of very beautiful or funny scenery that holds the attention of the audience — the average revue song of that time only lasted about three or possibly four minutes, and people spent the first two or three minutes looking at the scenery, and your number was over before they really started listening. That’s why when Donald and I started doing our own show, we only had curtains — expense had absolutely nothing to do with it, I assure you. Have you ever wished you could invent a method of transport that carried crowds of people fairly quietly along its own track through the streets, without using petrol, or polluting the atmosphere? Well, if you did, you might think of calling it a tram. Long before we got involved with buses, Donald and I wrote a very moving song about the last tram to run in London. Another great cartoonist, Roland Emmett, designed the backcloth, and with Julian’s help, we’d like to sing it for you now.
Last of the Line.

 
When the busy streets are silent have you wondered at the sight
Of a little group outside the Terminus?
By the dark deserted London Transport Depot every night?
Don’t wonder any longer — ’cause it’s us!

 
Three broken-hearted tram-drivers with nothing else to do
But lift our weary heads to heaven above,
And sing for all to hear as we wipe away a tear
With the corner of an old tram-driver’s glove.

 
Good-bye old Tram!
No matter where
I am I’ll think of you until my memory fails.
We’d drive through fog or shower
At fifteen miles per hour
And yet you’d always keep us on the rails.

 
Now worn and scarred
Towards the Breaker’s Yard
You have journeyed where they issue no returns.
Old pal of mine,
They’ve started digging up the line:
Good-bye old Tram!

 
Diving down the Kingsway Tunnel like the gaping jaws of hell
To the river, where you’d give her all you’d got!
Oh, the sight of sparks a-flying! Oh, the jangling of the bell!
Oh, the scent of wooden brake-blocks running hot!

 
From Woolwich Park to Camberwell, from Highgate Hill to Bow,
On to Wapping, only stopping by request,
Down a hill or round a bend we would drive at either end
And we never knew which end we loved the best!

 
Good-bye old Tram!
In every traffic jam
You’d patiently endure your heavy load.
Where’er the tram wires led,
Drawing power from overhead,
You took us down the middle of life’s road!

 
L.P.T.B.
Has signed your R.I.P.,
And here we mourn
Your passing down the line,
Until some day
We drive you through the Milky Way:
Good-bye old Tram!
They won’t get us
To drive their ruddy trolley-bus!
Good-bye old Tram!

Anthem For Doomed Youth

Wilfred Owen (1893 – 1918)

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

In 1917 Owen suffered severe concussion and “trench-fever” whilst fighting on the Somme and spent a period recuperating at Craiglockart War Hospital, near Edinburgh. He was posted back to France in 1918 where he won the MC before being killed on 4 November 1918 on the Sambre Canal a week before the Armistice was signed.

His poetry owes its beauty to a deep ingrained sense of compassion coupled with grim realism. Owen is also acknowledged as a technically accomplished poet and master of metrical variety. Poems such as Dulce Decorum Est and Anthem for Doomed Youth have done much to influence our attitudes towards war.

Charles (Lord) Bowen (1835 — 1894)

Justice (or Just Wet?)

The rain it raineth on the just

And also on the unjust fella;

But chiefly on the just, because

The unjust steals the just’s umbrella.

Lord Bowen is also credited with coining the phrase “the man on the Clapham omnibus”.

Flanders and Swann: A Transport of Delight

This song was originally from the album At The Drop of a Hat. It was a cabaret style show, and there are several recordings.

This is the introduction by Michael Flanders to the 1959 recording:

“Good evening. Need I Introduce, at the piano, the well-known pianist, composer, linguist, also contains lanolin, Donald Swann.
 

I must be Michael Flanders. We write songs, Donald Swann here writes the music and I write the words. Some of these songs you may possibly have heard, in revues, at Glyndebourne and so on others you’ve less likely to have heard unless you’ve patronised this palace of culture before; they’re the ones we write that we like to sing ourselves. That’s what we’re still going to do.
 

We feel we’re following this trend towards simplification in the theatre as you know, there have been revues without scenery, there have been revues without costume. This is a revue without scenery, without costume, except what Moss Bros. has kindly lent to us, even without a cast, which makes everything much easier we find also cheaper. This up the back here I draw your attention to is not a curtain, It’s a photograph of a curtain by Tony Armstrong-Jones. Welcome from both of us to our farrago, eke out our imperfections with your thoughts, to coin a phrase, think when we talk of horses that you see them printing their proud hooves in the receiving earth. I don’t think we do actually talk of horses. This song isn’t about horses, it’s about buses. Well, buses we’ve all seen, great big red things rushing about; we had one outside here, about 20 minutes ago with ‘private’ on it, looking very lost. I can remember when it was a ‘general’. If you laugh and applaud it means you’re terribly old and we’ll have to go terribly slowly. Omnibus, my friend Mr. Swann informs me, comes from the Latin, Omnibus, meaning to or for by with or from everybody, which is a very good description. Well, this song is about a bus, it’s wittily subtitled — I thought of this — A transport of delight.”

And this is the introduction by Michael Flanders to the 1957 recording:

“Good evening. At the piano, the well-known pianist, composer, linguist, and general all-round egg-head, Donald Swann.
 

So obviously, I’m Michael Flanders. We write songs, for want of a better word; I write the words, actually, Donald Swann here writes the music. Some of these songs you may possibly have heard, in revues, at Covent Garden and so on; others you’re less likely to have heard; they’re the ones we write that we like to sing ourselves. And with your permission that’s what we’re going to do tonight. Well we’re going to do it even without your permission.
 

Welcome to our farrago, that’s a sort of Do It Yourself authors’ benefit, eke out our imperfections with your thoughts, to coin a phrase; think when we talk of horses that you see them printing their proud hooves... I don’t think we do actually talk of horses... The first song is about a bus; it’s a noisy, raucous, rather... vulgar? Yes, almost vulgar, I suppose, but we like it, and it helps us to get the pitch of the hall. It’s wittily subtitled A Transport of Delight.

Some talk of a Lagonda,
Some like a smart M.G.,
Or for Bonnie Army Lorry
They’d lay them doon and dee.
Such means of locomotion
Seem rather dull to us
The Driver and Conductor
Of a London Omnibus.

Hold very tight please, ting-ting!

When you are lost in London
And you don’t know where you are,
You’ll hear my voice a-calling:
“Pass further down the car!”
And very soon you’ll find yourself
Inside the Terminus
In a London Transport
Diesel-engined
Ninety-seven horse-power
Omnibus!

Along the Queen’s great highway
I drive my merry load
At twenty miles per hour
In the middle of the road;
We like to drive in convoys
We’re most gregarious;
The big six-wheeler
Scarlet-painted
London Transport
Diesel-engined
Ninety-seven horse-power
Omnibus!

Earth has not anything to show more fair!
Mind the stairs! Mind the stairs!
Earth has not anything to show more fair!
Any more fares? Any more fares?
When cabbies try to pass me,
Before they overtakes,
I sticks me flippin’ hand out
As I jams on all me brakes!
Them jackal taxi-drivers
Can only swear and cuss,
Behind that monarch of the road,
Observer of the Highway Code,
That big six-wheeler
Scarlet-painted London Transport
Diesel-engined
Ninety-seven horse-power
Omnibus!

I stops when I’m requested
Athough it spoils the ride,
So he can shout: “Get aht of it!
We’re full right up inside!”

We don’t ask much for wages,
We only want fair shares,
So cut down all the stages,
And stick up all the fares.
If tickets cost a pound a piece
Why should you make a fuss?
It’s worth it just to ride inside
That thirty-foot-long by ten-foot-wide,
Inside that monarch of the road,
Observer of the Highway Code,
That big six-wheeler
Scarlet-painted
London Transport
Diesel-engined
Ninety-seven horse-power
Omnibus!



Note: this song has numerous alternate lyrics. In the 1959 recording, the first two lines are:

Some people like a motorbike,
Some say a tram for me.

William McGonagall (1825 — 1902)

(He is arguably the worst British poet — he’s only here because I enjoy awful things!)

The Tay Bridge Disaster

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay!
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember’d for a very long time.

 

’Twas about seven o’clock at night,
And the wind it blew with all its might,
And the rain came pouring down,
And the dark clouds seem’d to frown,
And the Demon of the air seem’d to say —
“I’ll blow down the Bridge of Tay.”

 

When the train left Edinburgh
The passengers’ hearts were light and felt no sorrow,
But Boreas blew a terrific gale,
Which made their hearts for to quail,
And many of the passengers with fear did say —
“I hope God will send us safe across the Bridge of Tay.”

 

But when the train came near to Wormit Bay,
Boreas he did loud and angry bray,
And shook the central girders of the Bridge of Tay
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember’d for a very long time    ...and so on.

More of this drivel on the Official McGonagall web-site.

And see this recent video.

Shortest Poem?

The shortest couplet that forms a poem is perhaps this one. (There can’t be many poems with a title longer than the poem!)

Lines on the Antiquity of Microbes
by Strickland Gillilan (1869 — 1954)

Adam  
Had ’em.

The Elements

Written and Performed by Tom Lehrer (b. 1928)

(to the tune of the Major-General’s Song from the Pirates of Penzance)

There’s antimony[51], arsenic[33], alumin[i]um[13], selenium[34],
And hydrogen[1] and oxygen[8] and nitrogen[7] and rhenium[75],
And nickel[28], neodymium[60], neptunium[93], germanium[32],
And iron[26], americium[95], ruthenium[44], uranium[92],
Europium[63], zirconium[40], lutetium[71], vanadium[23],
And lanthanum[57] and osmium[76] and astatine[85] and radium[88],
And gold[79] and protactinium[91] and indium[49] and gallium[31],  [gasp]
And iodine[53] and thorium[90] and thulium[69] and thallium[81].

There’s yttrium[39], ytterbium[70], actinium[89], rubidium[37],
And boron[5], gadolinium[64], niobium[41], iridium[77],
And strontium[38] and silicon[14] and silver[47] and samarium[62],
And bismuth[83], bromine[35], lithium[3], beryllium[4], and barium[56].

There’s holmium[67] and helium[2] and hafnium[72] and erbium[68],
And phosphorus[15] and francium[87] and fluorine[9] and terbium[65],
And manganese[25] and mercury[80], molybdenum[42], magnesium[12],
Dysprosium[66] and scandium[21] and cerium[58] and c[a]esium[55].
And lead[82], praseodymium[59], and platinum[78], plutonium[94],
Palladium[46], promethium[61], potassium[19], polonium[84],
And tantalum[73], technetium[43], titanium[22], tellurium[52],  [gasp]
And cadmium[48] and calcium[20] and chromium[24] and curium[96].

★ There’s sulfur [sulphur][16], californium[98], and fermium[100], berkelium[97],
And also mendelevium[101], einsteinium[99], nobelium[102],
And argon[18], krypton[36], neon[10], radon[86], xenon[54], zinc[30], and rhodium[45],
And chlorine[17], carbon[6], cobalt[27], copper[29], tungsten[74], tin[50], and sodium[11].

These are the only ones of which the news has come to Harvard,
And there may be many others, but they haven’t been discovered.

The numbers in brackets [51] are the atomic numbers of the elements. UK/US spelling differences are shown. (See also atoms.)

★ But we haven’t quite finished there...

A new verse Blair Dale came up with in March 2012; he says:
   “So since everyone knows the lyrics are a little outdated, I took it upon myself to write in the elements discovered since that time, and slot them in without changing any of Lehrer’s work. I know it’s nowhere near as clever as Lehrer’s lyrics, but here is what I came up with; I placed it right before ‘there’s sulfur, californium,...’”

There’s Hassium[108], seaborgium[106], and also there’s darmstadium[110]
Flerovium[114] and dubnium[105], and also rutherfordium[104]
Lawrencium[103] and bohrium[107], as well as roentgenium[111]
And also Livermorium[116], copernicum[112], meitnerium[109]


Further elements with atomic numbers 113, 115, 117 and 118 have also been synthesized, but are unnamed, except for their ‘placeholder’ names (113 ununtrium for which the names japonium, rikenium or becquerelium have been proposed; 115 ununpentium; 117 ununseptium; 118 ununoctium, suggested name ghiorsium). Other elements may be synthesized in the future, but theoretical considerations suggest that 137 may be the limit; other scientists have suggested a higher limit of about 173. I wonder what Tom Lehrer would have made of all those!

Dates

Monday: Choosy Wendy; Thursday: Heidi.


In the Quatermaster’s Stores (My Eyes are Dim)

There was cheese, cheese, wafting on the breeze,
In the stores. In the stores.
There was ham, ham, mixed up with the jam,
In the Quartermaster’s Stores.

My eyes are dim I cannot see,
I have not brought my specs with me,
I have not brought my specs with me.

There was bread, bread, just like lumps of lead,
In the stores. In the stores.
There were buns, buns, and bullets for the guns,
In the Quartermaster’s Stores.

My eyes are dim I cannot see,
I have not brought my specs with me,
I have not brought my specs with me.

There were mice, mice, eating up the rice,
In the stores. In the stores.
There were rats, rats, big as blooming cats,
In the Quartermaster’s Stores.

My eyes are dim I cannot see,
I have not brought my specs with me,
I have not brought my specs with me.

There is meat, meat, meat you couldn’t eat,
In the stores. In the stores.
There were eggs, eggs, nearly growing legs,
In the Quartermaster’s Stores.

My eyes are dim I cannot see,
I have not brought my specs with me,
I have not brought my specs with me.

There is beer, beer, that you can’t get near,
In the stores. In the stores.
There is rum, rum, for the General’s tum,
In the Quartermaster’s Stores.

My eyes are dim I cannot see,
I have not brought my specs with me,
I have not brought my specs with me.

There was cake, cake, cake you couldn’t break,
In the stores. In the stores.
There were flies, flies, feeding on the pies,
In the Quartermaster’s Stores.

My eyes are dim I cannot see,
I have not brought my specs with me,
I have not brought my specs with me.


Another Version of this Song

There are snakes, snakes, snakes,
Big as garden rakes,
At the store! At the store!
There are snakes, snakes, snakes,
Big as garden rakes, at the Quartermaster’s store.

My eyes are dim I cannot see,
I have not got my specs with me,
I have HEY! Not HO! got my specs with me.

There are mice, mice, mice,
Running though the rice,
At the store! At the store!
There are mice, mice, mice,
Running through the rice, at the Quartermaster’s store.

My eyes are dim I cannot see,
I have not got my specs with me,
I have HEY! Not HO! got my specs with me.

Continue with each of the following:

3. lice – living on the mice;
4. rats – big as alley cats;
5. roaches – big as football coaches;
6. watches – big as sasquaches;
7. snakes – big as garden rakes;
8. bears – but no one really cares;
9. beavers – with little meat cleavers;
10. foxes – stuffed in little boxes.