Posts filed under “Poetry”


I sing of arms, and of a man
For whom the gods contrived a plan,
A man whose name, I think, was Stan;
And Stan had a terrific tan.
At breakfast time, he ate his bran,
And Venus was his biggest fan.
Muse, tell me how the strife began!
What caused the gods his plans to can?
Why did they send him halfway to Japan?
Sometimes it’s hard to make these stupid lines scan.

(The rest of the manuscript is filled with doodles of horses.)


When Mark Twain discovered Julia A. Moore, he knew he had found a pearl without price. The many admirers of William McGonagall will testify that their lives are incomparably richer for the poetry he has left us.

What then shall we say of Rebecca Maxwell Byllesby? When we have said that she is worthy to mingle in such exalted company, we have perhaps paid her the highest compliment we could pay to any poet.

Yet Byllesby is entirely unknown to the twenty-first century. Her one slim volume of poems—poems that ought to be as immortal as “The Tay Bridge Disaster” or “Temperance Reform Clubs”—has been stuffed in the back stacks of libraries and forgotten.

Well, that is about to change. Dr. Boli intends to do for Rebecca Maxwell Byllesby what Mark Twain and Bill Nye did for Julia A. Moore. Poets, after all, often must wait till many years after they have died to see any appreciation—a fact of which Mrs. Byllesby herself was all too well aware.

Why is it that the public will never realize
That a person is ever really great, ’til after he dies?
Then they will start and sing his praise,
And always with flowers they will strew his grave.

The one volume Mrs. Byllesby published during her lifetime was a collection of Patriotic Poems provoked by the First World War. Dr. Boli knew he had found a treasure with the first two lines of “Our Soldier Boys,” the first poem in the book:

Of our soldier boys we are mighty proud,
And in our praises for them we are always loud.

The poems only get better from there. Here is her tribute to “The Red Cross and Y. M. C. A.,” and if it does not make tears roll down your cheeks, you are made of stern stuff and are qualified for a job with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The Red Cross and Y. M. C. A.

In this war both the Red Cross and Y. M. C. A.
Are doing their part to help win the victory.
When you see an ambulance with a red cross on the side,
You may be sure they are doing good far and wide.

To the Y. M. C. A. the boys go, their letters home to write,
Their evenings are spent there nearly every night.
They are always waiting and receive them with joy,
For the Y. M. C. A. is the home of the soldier boy.

The cross is on the nurse’s arm, and the doctor’s over the heart,
Both of them are soldiers, doing a hero’s part.
Caring for the sick and wounded certainly is an art,
But you’ll find the Red Cross has been there from the start.

The Y. M. C. A. will keep them from many a strife,
While at the Red Cross they are always saving life,
For we know the home of the soldier boys, while they are away,
Is either the Red Cross or the Y. M. C. A.

— Rebecca Maxwell Byllesby.

(Each one of the poems in the book is signed that way, though no other poets are represented in the collection.)

After this introduction, you are doubtless panting for more of Rebecca Maxwell Byllesby. Run to the Internet Archive and open her book of Patriotic Poems. By the time you close it 28 pages later (it is not a large book), you will be changed.


A Vaudeville Patter.

The pit orchestra plays a lively melody, but the performer must recite everything in a dour monotone.

I’m the funniest man you know.
I’m a regular one-man show,
Cause I put ’em in stitches wherever I go.
I’m the funniest man you know.

(Music stops.)

Why did the chicken cross the road? Cause chickens are stupid, that’s why!

(Music resumes.)

I’m the funniest man in town.
Why, they simply can’t keep me down.
Say, at every swell party, I’m always the clown.
I’m the funniest man in town.

(Music stops.)

You know, my dog has no nose. How does he smell? I can’t figure it out!

(Music resumes.)

I’m the funniest man on earth.
I’ve been killin’ ’em dead since birth,
And my ma always said, for whatever it’s worth,
I’m the funniest man on earth.

(Music stops.)

What’s black and white and red all over? I’m askin’ cause it’s crawlin’ up my arm.

(Jazzy instrumental rideout chorus, during which the theater manager wrestles the performer off the stage.)