nonsense prose

Fool’s Gold Part 3

Where could it have led to? The king must surely know by now.

Sadly, not.

The strangest thing so far has been the disappearance of the cockroach’s money-sac and its subsequent reappearance in the blast furnace.

You’re aghast. Surely nothing’s happened?

It’s done – this morning! Down in the street towards the harbour! The black flag unfurled!

We were bundled out neck and heals – and so you see me now – licked and cheated.

The water-loon. It lays its eggs in early April.

Scarcely have I seen a more vacuous element. Do you mean to say this is watchulimina? I’d never have thought it.

Between times they flayed a little contrabass and simulated a pagenzo. It seemed to radidate from an indicular variation.

There’s lemons, tea and borage. If that’s not enough then deprive me of my sickle. Your need and all that.

Bagpipes, clearly and correctly.

Values, today, are somewhat different to when I was a young man. You’d scarcely believe it, but…

You resemble a coelocanth – it’s the truth – plain and simple. Just like.

Must we?

Don’t for one second think I care. I’ll prove to you what it is about him. I suppose you think you know him? Well you don’t. Take it from me. He puts on a show. He’s not like that. Underneath he’s different. Do you see?

You act so sad. What’s changed?

Only thrifty more sages shall pass. If they don’t they’ll suffer. Or not. I scarcely care. What about you?

Silkily and waxed over sideways.

Draining my giblet.

The most provocative whiskers I’ve seen since our childhood in the Punjab. If only you could find someone they’d fit.

I’ve been.

Has it any pockets?

Mysteriously slow approximations of a significant latitude proceeded at quite a rate. Until the aforementioned dovetail was eventually consumed and the apprentice bakers returned to their digs.

Sweet-smelling sedge, in handfuls. Do you want some? What for? Have you none of your own?

This is a bicycle. That’s a chain-saw. Do what you want with them.

Plunging parakeets…

Not sixteen this time.

Can you dance the polka?

Tiltly, love tiltly. Ah’d straighten it aht if I were you, love. Go on – it’d look be’er – ‘onest.

Scamp! Mischievous little rogue! If I catch you in here again I’ll bury you in the orchard – head down.

She’s the one wearing the kilt – over there.

Drums started to beat in all the houses. I was trying to get the stains off an old shirt when a ragged young urchin ran past me on the pavement. Where are you off I cried. He stopped and gave me the most pathetic look.

Such a universe – lah – it’s a one.

Meet me by the precipice.

I like them.

Winches at sea. Pots of plenty. Haul me in Sally my boy.

Here, look at the latest one. It’s the stuff isn’t it. Great job. What do you think, Castrox?

The weight buckled and he fell Splat! on the carpet. Before I knew where I was the poker was in my hand and I belted him one.

Coastguards have ranged up and down the shore all night – waving to the right, waving to the left.

Who mentioned dream-boats?

Meanwhile the moon had risen, milk-pregnant, serene in the ice-filled canopy of the sky.

Fish – filleted, please.

Don’t be stroppy, sarge.

I’ve rummaged in the garbage for 6 hours. Can’t I go home now?


Whisk me off to a Polynesian island. I think I’ve just wet myself again.

He drank it?

Angular man. A triumph for modern metaphysics.

Listen to this record – it’s one of my favourites. Do you like it? Shall we dance? Your hands – they’re so cold. Here – warm them on my shoulder-blades.

More lichen.

In the conical flask.

You must not betray your country. For what, after all, have you lived? Tell me that. Where’s the good in it?

It’s here.

Where is it?

I hate drama – of all the convulsive nightmares that might occur to a diseased, maggot-ridden brain it is surely the greatest and most prevalent these days.

Take your wristwatch off.

Administered by her own hand, they say.

There was a railway, with a train in the distance. We were out collecting ice. Hacking it up with pickaxes and filling our rucksacks. That’s all I remember. I’m going to sleep now. Will you turn off the light or shall I?

In a sense, that’s true.

Who did you say?

When you’ve bent your diaphragm in I’d like you to place all the pegs on this small table.

A still fermenting brew.

He’s a man of distinction by all accounts, but watch out for the ferret he keeps underneath his shirt – it’s called Graham and it packs a venomous snuffle.

Dingy exploit on raft adrift in weed-tangled nightmare
Decrepit governess dropped from eighteenth floor window
Contemptuous newspaper proprietor ripped to shreds by mistaken mob

He’s at the dentist’s.

Clichés are to a nation’s tongue what ivy is to a tree. And that’s why these things are dying. The new image is too contrived now… Are you listening?

You’ve pulled the bedclothes over your head, I can see. But it won’t do you any good. I intend to punish you. Severely. Severely punish you. Do you understand?

He kissed me. My two top buttons were undone. He kissed my bare shoulder. I can’t describe how it felt. I felt like an ice-lolly. And then he smiled at me.


Playfully so. I can’t deny it. …Will you accompany me to the tram terminus – I think I left my copy of Dirripinny’s Autobiography there.

There’s no need to feel proud that you’ve caught syphilis. Not even a sailor would be proud of that. I don’t care if she was a princess – it’s a filthy disease and I hope you suffer hard and long.

Ebeneezer Scrope, sir.

A witless witness, if you’ll excuse the pun.

In garages throughout the country where unseen mechanics gaze surreptitiously at glamour calendars and bored garage owners plan excursions to cricket matches and embarassed car owners loiter hopefully fingering nervous credit cards like atrocious hands in poker games.

I’ve never seen nothing like it. It’s terrific. Bit of a laugh anyway.

We the experts challenge you the laymen to a spot of digging. Any takers?

The epidemic’s started, the street is full of rotting brains that stink like burnt vegetables left to cook for all time itself. Time with a big T and innumerable little dots after it.

Once you start looking inwardly you’re lost and someone else had better start looking for you.

Dropped, spilt and spattered.


By the sea, in a chalet. Sheltered from the raging wind.

Whenever I look out of my window I see a public official sliding on the ice in the street – trying desperately to keep balance and maintain dignity. Here take a look. Is there anyone there? I wish – I do wish I was back at Tresthofs now when it is so cold and the gutters point their frozen fingers matching the pointed railings. There’s so much to do there. Here it may as well be… I don’t know what. There’s nothing to do except look out of windows at people sliding on ice.

What shall we play?

Who is this?

Are you afraid of me?

Don’t think I enjoy this. I don’t need your jealousy – it’s not as if I’m having a good time myself. I hate all this too.

Stop snivelling snail-features.

When will it stop raining?

Pass me by once more and I’ll shower you with pus.

The candyman’s here again. Shall I show him in?

This way, this way please.

So at last you’re here. I’ve been wanting to tell you for ages so listen now. You were related to me through my father’s brother. But that’s not all. Alas it’s a grim tale I have to tell.

She was hanging in a huge basket, strung from the four corners of the ceiling. I waved but she didn’t seem to see me.

What sort are you anyway?

Green and purple stripes with a crescent moon recumbent.

How deep is the dungeon – how sturdy is the oak – how effortless are all your attempts to transfigure the daylight.

Fascinatingly dull.

Someone’s left a dead shrew in my boots again. I’ll wring their bloody necks.

Waking up to a bird’s sonata – it beats everything.

Personally I prefer toboganning.

What sort of hat do you prefer – crumpled or twisted?

If you don’t pause temporarily I shall shake you by the collar-bone until your Adam’s apple comes loose in your throat and pops out of your mouth.

nonsense prose

Fool’s Gold Part 2

What are you writing?

An insoluble dilemma? Not quite. You see you are looking at it from the layman’s point of view. Your vision is restricted if you don’t mind me saying so.

Calamity’s hardly the word.

He flavoured distractedly towards the flickering coppice, grimly clutching the vertebrae of a small animal he had recently done away with. The writing here pangs towards the unexpected. It is what J.P.Mincripust has termed the indolent charge of a blind mammoth and who are we to gainsay him?

Ask me, please. I’ve been waiting a long time for this chance.

Once you’re in the air it is imperative that you keep a close eye on the temperature gauge. The target will appear at approximately 63.20 hours bicuspid.

Hola well. A Murphy if ever. Trap now. Be clever. Sap me sideways, gusset. Inner cloting, muddy inner. Sack me soppet and crarber me uppy.

How depressing…

Sane juice?

Be more precise.


At Shrovetide. There had been floods, at least half a dozen, all the villagers were worn out. They had toiled long wet weeks in their wellies. Their tragic fate was inscribed on the minds of all who passed through on the railway – when there were trains running, that is.

I’ve shoveled up the ground. Now it’s your turn to look for the bones.

Easy, easy there. Don’t treat a horse like that sonny. You’ve got to be more, how shall I put it, baroque? Is that the word I want.

Look at your blisters? I don’t want to see your dirty smelly feet, you loathsome scab.

And then it was flowing out faster than I could swallow and before long I was completely drenched in blood. It was some leech that.

I know I look like a person, but actually I’m a penguin that’s been turned into a person – and most unpleasant I find it too. Most distasteful and really rather boring once the initial novelty’s worn off.

Syphoning’s my only joy now.

I let him have it straight. Told him about us. That we’d been, er, sort of seeing each other. And he started crying. I never thought he’d do that. It was so funny.

Deep in the darkest depths of the forest is a cavern wherein you will find a huge coal-black chest. I think you’ll find it’s in there.

Alligators came at us from all directions, Lily. Foster was the first one to see them – he let out a gurgling snort and started cowering and squawking in the gunwhal. But they didn’t harm us. Just seemed curious. One of them started speaking to us – couldn’t really make it out – in some sort of foreign language they’d picked up from the Indians.

Simply ludicrous.

Won’t he? Well don’t you think he should? Am I to look after him like this? Always?

These beetroots shouldn’t be in here. They’ve no right here. Besides, they’d be better off outside. Don’t you think so, Hollicky Pollicky?

See where his hands wrestle with each other, plunged in the cauldron of boiling ginger beer. What does it portend for us village-folk? For many years we have lived in daily fear of our lives – we have been treated like dirt. And now this perverse ritual. What good will it do us?


An awful lot of juice.

Strappado’s so old-fashioned these days. We’ll have to think of something else to get the party really going with a swing. (Pause) You do want it to go with a swing, don’t you, Jully?

Mace… Cinnamon – oh and some of those brown sponges that I like to wash up with.

If anyone’s going to do any cleaving it’s going to be you. On your own.

Squadron after squadron. I was reminded of those lines, I think it was Housman,

Rank upon rank with glassy stare
Marching down to the Vole’s lair

Quip me crimson, if it isn’t old Salcerdonker.

Alleviate me I beg of you. I am but a weak woman, unworthy of the tasks set before me, but with your aid, your watchful eye, I could surely span the gap betwixt the sea and the sky and colour the trees with rainbow shadows that might please even the plunging astronaut, your brother.

No mention of the débacle in the evening newspaper, dear.

Have you ever been to Lake Constance in April? It’s an invigorating experience.

Quite the little gentleman aren’t we? Ever so hoity-toity – you coy little whippersnapper.

You must do it for Fluff. All the advances you’d have liked to have made – plus the crenellations on all the walled cities you’d ever visited. And then there was Fluff – a worm in a cask of rum.

First traverse this mountain, he says, then this one, as if it was as easy as saying. He’s never had to do what the likes of us has to.

My cousin isn’t a man who would wear a coat like that. You must have made some mistake. Wait – I’ll call him on the telephone. You can speak to him yourself.

Five, aye that’s right, five it was. And here’s me standing here in all my dang-blasted iggorance, thinking it was six! Six? Never. It’s five I say. Give me five.

The complete eunuch strode away from the tent.

Into the ears of the ever-wistful.

I’ve got warts on my bladder
And chilblains up my nose
My state of health grows sadder
I’ve even lost my toes

If the rope swings to the right then you must slacken it off on the left.

Dreary, as usual.

Have you ever heard a light-bulb crying?

Sanguine by all accounts.

I must. Please understand. I don’t hate you. But I owe something to my people – they’re my family. It’s for them that I exist. So just drink up and die.

Sing something – one of the old songs, if you can remember any of them.

A train whose engine is made of solid silver. It cost millions and is only used once a year when the king goes to his summer retreat.

Where are you staying?

I’ve reached a watershed in my life. A chance to look back and also to lie on my roundnesses and gaze up at the future. But in the last few days I’ve become aware of someone else watching with me, though I can’t find which boulder the eyes hide behind.


I’m amazed at your incorrigibility. Simply amazed.

Dungheap horrors flew at me in the dark.

Switch both horses. Give them something to think about.

I’ve drained the vase, gathered the hyacinths and now I’m here ready for your next instructions.


Each time I looked out of the window a new bird had rested on the window-arches, opposite my room. There was a ribbon tied round alternate legs – yellow or red. If yellow is taken to be dot and red dash then the birds spell out in Morse code the message Pass the salt.

Hoovering all afternoon and probably well into the evening. I’ll stop about 8 and we can go to the observatory then.

Like a greenish wart – gassed and sunken.

Have I found you out, Mr Persimmon, do you fall pathetically on the 1st steps of the ideal pyramid?

He has a dromedary fixation.

Like a bloated accordion.

Green lips suited him I would have said.

beyond the grave

Still manciples bequested a troth so steeped in mandrills as to be verily pertinacious. Incumbent postures so rapidly beset one might. Depraved or deprived – who cares!

I saw her in a pear-tree. She looked so omniflorous and underestimatedly serene. Another couple would have her disdained. But we… so coolly… dismissed… I’m a horror… what am I saying?…Aaagh!

Don’t ask me.

Criticisms I’ve heard before. But let me tell you this. It’s only… a statement of how I see things. I’m not saying it’s right – can’t you see, I could be wrong. I COULD BE WRONG!! But if I am right what then. Do you agree? Then hold my foot.

Intrepid as she may seem, I must warn you, Trapezier. Speak no word of the pastry-like oboist and you will be eventually rewarded – I swear it.

Sunday morning and nothing better than an execution.

My tooth I pledge to thee, O great one…

Where’s the porridge! By what paltry commotion do you waken me – pea-people? Is this a revolt or simply another scabby unworthiness? Where’s the porridge!

What I’m interested in is how people react in front of a canopy. Perhaps you can help me here.

From far-flung polnts on the glittering globe – salamanders have gathered to be counted. Pledging their lives for the good of the cause. By the way, what is the cause this time? Last century it was water-drainage. Very tedious.

It’s more and more difficult. I thought it would be easy.

This derringer, please. And a packet of cuckoo-spit.

Swabs…periscopes…not mute this time…only…farinaceous…oblong…

They were worn out by the time I reached them. They’d been all over the moors in the snow looking for her.


Scrubbing the floor all morning then washing clothes in the afternoon.

It was bad management from the start. He’d burnt himself out in the first few days.

Tropass – you’re divine – such a tricky one – and a snooper, too, they say.



When I was in the sixth form in school it was in Redcar in the North East. The only cool place you could go for a change of scene was the town library which was a brand new building and was certainly the only thing that came close to good modern architecture in the area. There was a lot of natural light, a cafe, some plants and possibly a water feature in the middle somewhere, my memories are vague. A few of us use to hang out there sometimes and whilst doing so we might look at some books. One of the books we found there became an obsession for us for a while. It was called Musrum and was produced by Eric Thacker and Anthony Earnshaw.

The eponymous hero is a mixture of Merlin, Mohammed and Julius Caesar. It is a satire of history and mythology which is also an ode to surrealism. Most of the words are by Thacker, who described the book in an interview once thus,

Musrum is a demi-God who is King of Intersol. He has a Garden of Eden and a Tree of Life and there is an Adversary called the Weedking, who naturally coverts it. There’s a Creation, a Death and a Resurrection, a Holy War, a Messianic Banquet.

Earnshaw did the graphics and you can a get impression of the guy from his website linked above. Rather than write about him here are a couple more images. Firstly one of several map-related pictures from the book.

And here’s one of the more macabre images which bear some similarity to themes from Gorey.

That’s all for now but some time later I will write a bit and show a few more images from Musrum’s sequel Wintersol.


A Second Edward

In my last Nonsense post I pondered briefly on a darker stream to the theme with the works of Alfred Jarry. Darker too are the works of the man who in my opinion is the greatest successor to Lear and Carroll to have appeared in the twentieth century, Edward Gorey. In fact Gorey was able to reveal that the darkness was already inherent in his earlier master, Lear. Take, for example, his interpretation of one of Lear’s great poems/songs/verses The Dong With The Luminous Nose.

Lear’s own drawing presents the Dong as rather a fun albeit anatomically impossible figure. As the character admits himself

What little sense I once possessed
Has quite gone out of my head

But what is eccentric quirkiness in Lear, is stretched by Gorey to a foreboding sense of manic obsession. Here the Dong has completed his luminous protuberance and prepares to try it on.

And here he wanders lovelorn lost in a dark bleak landscape under the black clouds of sadness and loneliness.

Much of Gorey’s own work is of course much darker still and I will consider some of that in a later post.


The Savage God Arrives

So far my forays into the world of nonsense have dealt with works directed at an audience of children. I selected Edward Lear‘s Book of Nonsense as a starting point although I think I tried to make clear that there were antecedents. Now I should like to glance at a different approach to Nonsense Literature – where the premise begins with a childish slant but which is led to dark, adult and inherently profound themes. Again it’s impossible to draw a line and say that one thing is the absolute starting point, but there is one event that seems to stand out.

In 1895 at the Théâtre de l’Oeuvre Alfred Jarry‘s play Ubu le Roi was presented to an audience. In terms of theatrical success it was a disaster, but its influence was enormous.

The play grew from the imaginations of a bunch of schoolboys in Rennes who sought amusement at the expense of a vulnerably inept schoolmaster by rendering him as a grotesque caricature with no redeeming characteristics. But there is more to Jarry than adolescent scatological anarchy and he was to construct a science of Nonsense, ‘Pataphysics, which ineffably defines itself on the plane where the rational and the irrational meet. It is principally a construct of language and anticipates many of the concerns of the 20th century such as psychology and semantics.

Perhaps more than anyone before (or even since) his life became an artwork. In fact it is not difficult to trace just about anything in art and culture since Jarry back to him.

Thanks to Wikimedia Commons for the images.


May the 35th

In 1932, 67 years after the publication of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, a German author, Erich Kästner published a book for children, Der 35 Mai (The 35th Of May). I can’t remember exactly when I first read the book, but it would have been sometime in the early 60s. I’m pretty sure that I had already read Emil And The Detectives, his most famous children’s book and possibly some of the others such as Emil And The Three Twins and The Flying Classroom, but The 35th Of May seemed like something different, evoking the world of Lewis Carroll.

In the Carroll books the fantasy world is one of dreams. Both of the Alice books are revealed in the end to be dreams although there are different doors to the dream world, falling down a rabbit-hole in one and passing through a mirror in the other. In Sylvie And Bruno the fantasy world echoes the real world and the transition from one to the other is connected with dreaming or day-dreaming. Similarly in The 35th Of May, there are devices to enter the realm of fantasy and nonsense. Firstly the fact that the date has drifted away from the calendar and then, as an actual portal, a wardrobe is the door to the fantastic lands. CS Lewis used the same device nearly 20 years later in The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe. As far as I am aware there is no evidence that Lewis copied this idea from Kästner although it seems likely that he did.

The book tells the story of an afternoon in the lives of schoolboy, Conrad Ringel, his uncle and a horse called Negro Caballo.

Conrad’s homework is to write an essay on The South Seas. Negro Caballo rings up the Big Horse from the Circus Horses’ Travel Agency who tells them that

All we have to do is step into the wardrobe and go straight on. Then in two hours we shall be at the South Seas.

The two hour journey takes them through a number of different realms or territories which allow the normal world to be distorted or upset. First of all, the Land of Cockayne, where all the inhabitants are fat and lazy. Anyone weighing less than twenty stone is deported. From there they pass on to the Castle of the Mighty Past, which is full of historical personnages. As luck would have it the Olympic Games are on and they stop for a while to watch some of the events. They get tickets for the stadium but then find that two of their seats are occupied.

Next, after passing through a toy wood where this is one of the scenes

they reach Topsy Turvy Country where the children are in charge and adults are sent to school for re-education. From there it is a short journey to Electropolis – The Automatic City. This allows Kästner to indulge in some futurology. For example,

What impressed them most was the following: a gentleman was travelling along the pavement in front of them, when suddenly he stepped off, took a telephone receiver from his pocket and called a number. ‘Listen Gertrude,’ he said, ‘I shall be about an hour late for lunch to-day. I have to look in at the laboratory. Good-bye, darling!’. Then he put away his pocket-telephone, stepped on to the moving band and rode off, reading a book.

Finally they reach the Indian Ocean where they travel along the equator which is a band of steel about six feet wide that ran out across the water and seemed to be as endless as the ocean itself. This leads them to the Western Gate of the South Seas, where they meet Little Parsley, daughter of a famous South Seas chieftain, who shows them around. Fortunately they meet another chieftain, Skunkadder, who manages to frighten off a whale that is chasing Parsley and who also conjures up Uncle Ringel’s wardrobe so that they can return home. Meanwhile Negro Caballo decides to stay in the South Seas, to give up the circus, to never talk again and to marry a white mare that he met there.

Illustrations by Walter Trier.


Triumphs of Nonsense

All this time the Guard was looking at her, first through a telescope, then through a microscope, and then through an opera-glass. At last he said, “You’re travelling the wrong way,” and shut up the window and went away.
“So young a child,” said the gentleman sitting opposite to her (he was dressed in white paper), “ought to know which way she’s going, even if she doesn’t know her own name!”
A Goat, that was sitting next to the gentleman in white, shut his eyes and said in a loud voice, “She ought to know her way to the ticket-office, even if she doesn’t know her alphabet!”
There was a Beetle sitting next to the Goat (it was a very queer carriage-full of passengers altogether), and, as the rule seemed to be that they should all speak in turn, HE went on with “She’ll have to go back from here as luggage!”
Alice couldn’t see who was sitting beyond the Beetle, but a hoarse voice spoke next. “Change engines—” it said, and was obliged to leave off.
“It sounds like a horse,” Alice thought to herself. And an extremely small voice, close to her ear, said, “You might make a joke on that—something about ‘horse’ and ‘hoarse,’ you know.”
Then a very gentle voice in the distance said, “She must be labelled ‘Lass, with care,’ you know—”

Nearly 20 years after Edward Lear’s Book of Nonsense, a book called Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published under the pen-name of Lewis Carroll. (The excerpt above is from Alice Through the Looking-Glass which came out 6 years later). Carroll’s 2 Alice books were extended Nonsense works that took the genre into new territory. Both books are based around games, the first one being cards and the second one chess. In addition there was a good deal of fantastical invention that normally wouldn’t be expected from a clergyman and tutor of Mathematics. Further inspiration was drawn from the world of Nursery Rhymes, for example in Through the Looking Glass, Humpty Dumpty, Tweedledum and Tweedledee and the Lion and the Unicorn. A lot of the verbal humour comes from wordplay as in the last 3 paragraphs quoted above. Of course, Shakespeare did this too in his comic moments nearly 300 years earlier and even today some of the more childish of the British newspapers still delight in it (actually they’re all to some extent childish it seems to me these days).

Carroll wrote a more sophisticated fantasy/nonsense book some 20 years later which is called Sylvie and Bruno. It’s not very well known today but is worth a look if you like the Alice books. You can download it at The Gutenberg Project.

In 1935 TE Lawrence publically published his book The Seven Pillars of Wisdom and on the title page he sub-titled the work A Triumph. And why not? Both of Carroll’s Alice books could be sub-titled similarly I think. A Triumph of Nonsense.

Finally the only direct reference I have in a song to these matters comes in a rather schizophrenic ditty of mine which was written in 2006 and appears on my disparue album. I include it below. Apart from myself it features Paul Wigens on drums and Jeff Spencer on bass guitar.

Middle Age Wonderland

music nonsense

Jars & their Anecdotes

There was an old man of Tobago,
Who lived on rice, gruel, and sago;
Till, much to his bliss,
His physician said this –
To a leg, sir, of mutton you may go

from Anecdotes and Adventures of Fifteen Gentleman (1822)

Long years ago, in the days when much of my time was passed in a country home, where children and mirth abounded, the lines beginning There was an old man of Tobago, were suggested to me by a valued friend, as a form of verse lending itself to limitless variety for Rhymes and Pictures; and thenceforth the greater part of the original drawings and verses for the first Book of Nonsense were struck off.

Edward Lear

The majority of nursery rhymes are not strictly speaking Nonsense except in that they are generally without point or purpose. For example,

what do you think
Of little Jack Jingle?
Before he was married
He used to live single;
But after he married
(To alter his life)
He left off living single
And lived with his wife


Robert Barnes, fellow fine
Can you shoe this horse of mine?
Yes, good sir, that I can,
As well as any other man.
There’s a nail, and there’s a prod,
And now, good sir, your horse is shod.

Others are nonsensical as,

I had a little hen,
The prettiest ever seen;
She washed up the dishes,
And kept the house clean.
She went to the mill
To fetch me some flour,
And always got home
In less than an hour.
She baked me my bread
She brewed me my ale,
She sat by the fire
And told a fine tale.

It is typical that the Nonsense element involves other creatures acting in a human manner. Sometimes even inanimate objects are personified,

The sow came in with the saddle
The little pig rocked the cradle
The dish jumped up on the table
To see the pot swallow the ladle
The spit that stood behind the door
Threw the pudding-stick on the floor
Odd’s bobs! says the gridiron
Can’t you agree?
I’m the head constable
Bring them to me

Most of these examples come from The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, Iona & Peter Opie’s book written not long before I was born. I grew up with this book on a bookshelf somewhere nearby but it wasn’t until early 2009 that I actually read the book from cover to cover. While doing so I had the idea of writing a song that would try to be a contemporary nursery rhyme. Then one night on my way home from the Bank Tavern in Broadmead, Bristol, after having played there and drunk strong cider and vodka I muttered a number of incoherent babblings into my mobile phone voice recorder. Next day or thereabouts I reworked the words possibly adding a couple of lines. In actual fact it’s nothing like a nursery rhyme, except maybe the chorus. This song is on the new neureille album amanogawa which I am just finalising and you can hear it below. Myself on guitar and vocals, Paul Wigens on drums, Laura Lambell on bass guitar and vocals.

In My Jar



Further to the recent recipe for quince syrup cordial I am following with another recipe – this time for Gosky Patties.

Take a Pig, three or four years of age, and tie him by the off hind leg to a post. Place 5 pounds of currants, 3 of sugar, 2 pecks of peas, 18 roast chestnuts, a candle, and 6 bushels of turnips, within his reach; if he eats these, constantly provide him with more.

Then procure some cream, some slices of Cheshire cheese, four squires of foolscap paper and a packet of black pins. Work the whole into a paste, and spread it out to dry on a sheet of clean brown waterproof linen.

When the paste is perfectly dry, but not before, proceed to beat the Pig violently, with the handle of a large broom. If he squeals, beat him again.

Visit the paste and beat the Pig alternately for some days, and ascertain if at the end of that period the whole is about to turn into Gosky Patties.

If it does not then, it never will; and in that case the Pig may be let loose, and the whole process may be considered as finished.

This is provided by one Edward Lear who certainly didn’t invent Nonsense, but managed to produce great quantities of it and called it such as in his

Book of Nonsense (1846)
Book of Nonsense and More Nonsense (1862)
Nonsense Songs and Stories (1871)
More Nonsense Songs, Pictures, etc (1872)
Nonsense Alphabets
Nonsense Botany (1888)

As long as people have dreamed then they have been aware of nonsense. Ancient literature teaches us that dreams to people of those times didn’t have no sense but rather they had hidden sense that could be unlocked by a gifted dream-diviner. It’s a question of belief. Most people these days accept that dreams or indeed real life can be nonsensical. We are well-trained to recognise and enjoy the trappings of Nonsense.

Finally an excerpt from Gelett Burgess’s The Burgess Nonsense Book (1914)

My House is Too Little to Live in;
Oh! What Would I do in a Flat?

With a Bore for a Caller
It Seems even Smaller;
There’s Nothing so Strange about That!


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