I was a Pogo fan as a child and remain one to this day; as far as I’m concerned, Walt Kelly was one of the great American humorists (and unlike most such, he did not lose his sense of humor when politics intruded). One of the things I’ve always loved is his gift for nonsense verse, and since Songdog has sent me a couple such from a book he borrowed from the library (I Go Pogo, 1952), I thought I’d share them with you. First, the palindromic:

Smile, wavering wings
Above rains pour,
While hopefully sings
Love of shorn shore
Shore shorn of love
Sings hopefully while
Pour rains above,
Wings wavering, smile.

Secondly, the mystical, à la Churchy LaFemme:

How pierceful grows the hazy yon!
How myrtle petaled thou!
For spring hath sprung the cyclotron,
How high browse thou, brown cow?

Addendum. An AskMeFi thread provides a couple of excellent jingles for Chooly Wummys (“They’re gristle to your mill!”), with pistol shots added by Albert Alligator.


  1. My favourite is the one that begins:
    The moon is a madness, a madness of mine;
    I made her of mustard and mulberry wine.

  2. Every year since I can remember, my father has sung various versions of ‘Deck us all with Boston Charlie’ …

  3. My fave:

    Once you were two, dear birthday friend,
    In spite of purple weather.
    But now you are three and near the end
    As we grewsome together.
    How fourthful thou, forsooth for you,
    For soon you will be more.
    But ‘fore one can be three be two;
    Before be five be four.

  4. Oh, roar a roar for Nora,
    Nora Alice in the night.
    For she has seen Aurora
    Borealis burning bright.
    A furore for our Nora!
    And applaud Aurora seen!
    Where, throughout the summer, has
    Our Borealis been?
    The Keen and the Quing were quirling at quoits
    In the meadow behind of the mere.
    Tho’ mainly the meadow was middled with mow,
    An heretical hitherto here.
    The Prince and the Princess were plaiting the plates
    And prating quite primly the peer.
    And that’s why the Duchess stuck ducks on the Duke
    For no one was over to seer.
    I could go on and on. Kelly was the greatest (well, OK, Herrimann too), and days like these he’s sorely missed, I think.

  5. Unfortunately I returned the book yesterday so I cannot easily provide an conrete example, but I Go Pogo is chock full of political fun. The two major US parties, socialist and communist rhetoric, organized labor, and soapbox campaigning all receive their share of satire. I’ll have to see whether they’ve got the next volume.

  6. I love his spring song: “When the bullrushes out / And the cowslips about…”

  7. How about the great Pogo poem:
    I was stirrin’ up a stirrup cup
    With a stolen sterling stein,
    When I chanced upon a ladle
    Who was once my Valentine …?
    Let me join the club and I will supply the rest of the poem.

  8. OK, you’re in. Supply!

  9. Here is the poem in its entirety, as best as I recall after memorizing it over fifty (!) years ago:
    I was stirrin’ up a stirrup cup
    With a stolen sterling stein,
    When I chanced upon a ladle
    Who was once my Valentine.
    “Oh, whence that wince,
    My wench?” quoth I.
    She sighed and said, “Oh Sir,
    My papa ain’t been stirrin’
    Since my mama’s been in stir.”
    Another favorite;
    One of the characters says,
    “How much wood could a woodchunk chunk, if a wookchunk could chunk wood?” and (probably) Albert says, “Great! Or how about: How much ground round could a hound dog hog if a ground hog were round ground?”

  10. [correct “wookchunk” to “woodchunk” in the above posting, please].

  11. One final correction, and the poem goes:
    I was stirrin’ up a stirrup cup
    With a stolen sterling stein,
    When I chanced upon a ladle
    Who was once my Valentine.
    (Natural, this was a ladle I used to spoon with.)
    “Oh, whence that wince,
    My wench?” quoth I.
    She sighed and said, “Oh Sir,
    My papa ain’t been stirrin’
    Since my mama’s been in stir.”

  12. An excellent addition to our little anthology — many thanks!

  13. One of my favorites is:
    ‘Do you herd sheep’ my grandpa said,
    my granma lept in fright!
    ‘The grammer’s wrong’, to me she sighed,
    ‘have you heard sheep’ is right.
    I think Churchy recited it, along with his banjo.

  14. Screnwriter says

    Kelly had his dark side too – as evidence by:
    “The gentle journey jars to stop,
    the drifting dream is done.
    The long gone goblins loom ahead,
    the deadly, that we thought were dead,
    stand waiting – every one.”
    There were other greats, like “The Prince of Pompadoodle” “Lines upon a tranquil brow” and many others.

  15. I remember this one but don’t know the name of it:
    A song not for now
    You need not put stay
    The tune for the was
    Can be sung for today
    The notes of the does not
    Will sound as the does
    Today you can sing for the will be that was

  16. Actually I memorized a whole bunch of these, as I used to sing them & play them on the clarinet, and still remember them 40+ yrs later. Frinstance:
    Have you ever, while pondering
    The ways of the morn
    Thought to stop just a bit, just a drop in the horn?
    To pour in the evening, or late afternoon,
    Or during the night when we’re shining the moon?
    Have you ever cried out, while counting the snow,
    Or watching the tomtit warble hello:
    “Break out the cigars, this life is for squir’ls;
    We’re off to the drugstore, to whistle at girls!”

  17. Stanley Telega says

    Deck us all with Boston Charlie
    Walla Walla Wash. and Kalamazoo
    Nora’s freezing on the trolley
    Can’t remember this line

  18. Swaller dollar cauliflower, alley garoo!

  19. Susan Carpenter says

    Deck the halls with Boston Charlie.
    Walla Walla wash and Kalamazoo
    Nora’s freezing in the trolley
    Lullaby Lilliaby Louisville Lou.
    Don us now archaic barrel…

    That’s all I remember.

  20. Susan Carpenter says

    Thirty days hath September
    April, June and no wonder
    All the rest eat peanut butter
    Except Grandmother who drives a Buick.

  21. David Marjanović says

    Deck the halls with Boston Charlie.

    O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
    die Oma sitzt im Kofferraum!
    Der Opa haut den Deckel zu,
    die Oma schreit: “Du blöde Kuh!”
    O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
    die Oma sitzt im Kofferraum.

    May sound better in the original dialect, but that doesn’t change the rhyme (as long as the first line is kept standard, at least) or the meter. Grandma’s sitting in the trunk of the car for (presumably) some reason, Grandpa slams the lid shut, Grandma shouts “you stupid cow” for the sake of the rhyme.

    Wir | protes|tie|ren
    auf | allen | vie|ren,
    denn | wir | wis|sen: die
    Schule | ist be|schis|sen!

    We protest on all fours (the things we do for the sake of the rhyme…) because we know school is crap. Sounds like it comes from elementary school, and indeed it does – except for its meter, which is one of two survivals of the meter of Old and Middle High German epic poetry: four feet per line (| I’ve | tried to | spell them | out |), each foot containing one heavy or two light syllables (stress on the first), optionally followed by a further unstressed syllable. Each foot has a falling tone, leading to a high tone on the first and a low tone on the second syllable or to a falling tone on the only syllable. All vowel reduction is undone, every -en is [ɛn]. Probably the whole thing only works if the long consonants are still long, so I’d be interested to know how far north this gem of poetry is known.

    The other survival is a downright boring rhyme for much smaller children.

  22. David Marjanović says

    Ein Wiesel
    saß auf einem Kiesel
    inmitten Bachgeriesel.
    Du fragst, weshalb?
    Das Mondkalb
    verriet es mir im Stillen:
    Das raffinier-
    te Tier
    tat’s um des Reimes willen.

    By Christian Morgenstern. A weasel sat on a pebble amid the sounds a stream makes. You ask why? The calf in the moon (associated with the man in the moon) secretly told me: the sophis-ticated beast did it for the sake of the rhyme.

    Müde Beine,
    Wurzeln, Steine,
    Aussicht: keine.
    – Heinrich Heine

    The author’s name as part of the poem. Well suited for writing into “summit books” on mountaintops: tired legs; roots, stones; view: none whatsoever.

  23. Don’t we know archaic barrel,
    Lullaby, lily boy, Louisville Lou!
    Trolley Molly don’t love Harold,
    Boola boola Pensacoola, hullabaloo!

  24. Dunk us all in bowls of barley!

  25. Trond Engen says

    My father used to tell that my parents got a telegram for their wedding (in 1967) with the words:


    (Bless the bride. Bless the groom. Signe Olsen.)

    I wouldn’t put it beyond him to make that up and stick to it. But I imagine the joke to be older and have been taken to the heart by someone actually named Signe Olsen.

  26. I’ll add, since nobody mentioned it, that Kelly did a songbook, “Songs of the Pogo,” setting his verses to music by Norman Monath (and a few by Kelly himself). With glorious color pictures, too. Some of the songs were also recorded, a couple with Kelly holding forth in his ripe whiskey baritone.

  27. Trond Engen says

    Still nothing to do with Walt Kelly, just another association to Heine. The master of the short, witty poem in Danish-Norwegian literary tradition is Johan Herman Wessel (1742-85). He also had a dark side, coming to show in his epigraphs.

    Her ligger Lieut’nants’ Stabel,
    O vee, heel miserabel
    I Veiret med sin Snabel,
    Og er ei nu capabel
    At bruge meer sin Sabel,
    Som var ham meest aimabel
    Næst Brændeviin og Fabel.

    Here lies leutenant Stabel / oh, my, all miserable / in the air with his schnuzzle / and is not now able / to use anymore his sabre / which he thought most favorable / after liquor and fable.

  28. Wessel on Wessel, epitaph:

    Han aad og drak, var aldrig glad,
    Hans Støvlehæle gik han skieve;
    Han ingen Ting bestille gad,
    Tilsidst han gad ei heller leve.

    (Støvlehæle um des Reimes willen).

    He ate and drank, was never happy / he wore his boot heels unevenly / he didn’t get around to doing a thing / in the end not even living

  29. (Støvlehæle um des Reimes willen).

    What’s the Reim?

  30. German for ‘rhyme’. The spelling “rhyme” in English is faux-Greek; the word is < OFr rime&lt L rithmus < Gr rhythmos, independently borrowed into German and English. So: “Boot-heel is rhyme-driven.” But in this case I think “rhythm-driven” is more like it, since it is not a rhyming word.

  31. German for ‘rhyme’.

    Well, duh. My question was where the Reim/rime/rhyme is for whose sake Støvlehæle was inserted.

  32. Yes, I meant that the bootheels are there to enable the skieve/leve rhyme, but of course it helps that the sentence fits the rhythm too.

    The comedic purpose would be served by any other sub-venial sin, like not polishing the buttons on his coat, the trick is to find one that rhymes (and scans).

    EDIT: gad is cognate with E got, but semantically has drifted to where gider ikke = ‘is too lazy/uninterested to’.

  33. Trond Engen says

    “cant be bothered to”.

    Lars: gad is cognate with E got

    I didn’t know that. That would mean that Norwegian gid(d)e ~ gad(d) is a Danish borrowing with reading pronunciation. It sounds far too colloquial for that. Also, I seem to remember that it’s seen as a *ga-prefigated form of the word found in Swedish the Swedish reflexive (“deponent”) verb idas with a similar meaning.

  34. Get is itself a borrowing: the native form would have been yett.

  35. Trond Engen says

    Yes, I forgot. I’ll have to pull Bjorvand & Lindeman down from the shelf… … All right!

    The strong verb gjete ~ gat is practically dead in Norwegian. Its original causative form gjete ~ gjette mostly means “herd” nowadays. A doublet gjette ~ gjetta (by way of Danish) now means “guess”. ‘Guess’, by the way, has a close correspondence in another derived form gisse “guess” (mainly in Nynorsk and Swedish), which Bjorvand & Lindeman do not mention. Without their help the actual mechanism of derivation is unclear to me.

    Bjorvand & LIndeman do confirm Lars’s assertion that gid(d)e is the Danish cognate of the strong verb. I don’t know where I got the other etymology from. But I still like it.

  36. Guess is the causative, I think: we “get” jokes in English and “guess” riddles. Apparently the sense-development is ’cause to get’ > ‘take aim at’ > ‘estimate’ > ‘hit on the right answer’.

    As King Heidrek says in reply to each riddle: Góð er gáta þín, Gestumblindi, getit er þessar ‘Good is your riddle, Gestumblindi; it is guessed.’

  37. Ah, my source (ODS) just gave E get as cognate (which it is, just not through PGer as I thought), whereas it only compares with (ver)gessen, (bi)gitan, (prae)hendere, χανδάνειν

    sjaldan liggjandi úlfr
    lær [bi] getr
    né sofandi maðr sigr

    The development to the current colloquial sense, employed with greatest flair by four year olds, is similar to ‘take’ in ‘I can’t take it’ (= ‘I can’t stand it’) — and then goes on to ‘I can’t be bothered’.

  38. I memorized a rhyme by Mr Kelly, but I dunno if he ever finished it.

    “Oh Mamie minded Mammie
    ’til one day in Singapore
    A sailor man from Turkistan
    Came knocking at the door.
    So Mamie grabbed a bucket and…”

    Was this ever finished?

  39. I think you may have added the bucket; here’s Kelly’s version (from Pogo’s Sunday Punch, 1957):


    O, Mamie minded Momma
    ‘Til one day in Singapore
    A Sailorman from Turkestan
    Came knocking at the Door.

    The way he knocked
    On knob and lock
    It shook her to the core.
    She eyed the clock
    Twixt tick and tock
    And sighed a snappy snore.

    “Raise Raise the Raisin!
    No Rising Ruse will reign
    With bitter pitter patter
    Upon My windowpane!

    “Oh, please no longer potter
    Upon my poppa’s pane.”
    Mamie mocked the Merchantman
    Who knocked with might and main.

  40. … languagehat, you have resolved decades of dilemma. I thank you.

    The bucket wasn’t my addition. IIRC Churchy was dancing with his accordion in the version I knew, and Howland Owl interrupted. The line actually went “So Mamie grabbed a *something” and a bucket full of”


    And I was pretty sure that wasn’t how it was supposed to go.

  41. “Mamie grabbed a ladder,” IIRC.

  42. Kelly was a whole Folk Process all by himself. “Authentic text” meant about as much to him as to your average Jonesboro storyteller. (Great festival, by the way; go if you can!)

  43. Probably the whole thing only works if the long consonants are still long, so I’d be interested to know how far north this gem of poetry is known.
    I’ve seen it here first, but it doesn’t strike me as strange from a Northern point of view. I don’t think long consonants are necessary for it to work. In my experience of German recreational and improvised poetry, rhythm and rhymes are important, not counting feet or heavy and light syllables.

  44. David Marjanović says

    I’ve now heard it at a big protest for the “exit from coal” here in Berlin, with Schule replaced by Kohle.

    In my experience of German recreational and improvised poetry, rhythm and rhymes are important, not counting feet or heavy and light syllables.

    Definitely; this is one of only two exceptions that I know.

    (The other is Hoppe, hoppe, Reiter.)

  45. Hoppe, hoppe, Reiter
    Now, that one I have sung so often that I can work with it. This is heavy – light all the way through, except for the last two lines, which both end in a bare heavy syllable (Sumpf – Plumps).
    I clearly have long consonants in both hoppe and fressen here, although in my normal speech the consonants are short. I guess that’s just the difference between poetical and everyday pronunciation.

  46. An illustrated rendition of “Hoppe Hoppe Reiter” is available here.

  47. 🙂

    That guy doesn’t seem to have long consonants in hoppe, so basically ignores the heavy – light distinction? I think I am hearing some kind of glottal stop at the end of the first syllable in some instances, but I am not good at this kind of thing.

  48. Meandering our way through the backroads in rural Arkansas on our way to our favorite café there is a spot of woods with tree boughs hanging down on either side. I never drive through it without reciting:

    Behold! Our way lies through a dark wood
    Whence in which weirdness may wallow.

  49. Mimi Menousek says

    What delightful memories you’ve resurrected.
    I came across an old (then!) Pogo piano book in 1965 when I was a CIT at a Maine summer camp. “Deck us all…”, “Many Harry Returns”, which I still recite to each of my grandchildren turning 4. (… But ‘fore one can be three, be two; before be five, be four”)
    One that I don’t see in these posts went something like,
    “Oh I may be your cup of tea,
    But baby don’t you sugar me.
    Don’t stir me, boy, not try to spoon;
    Don’t sugar me ‘cause us is throon.
    Oh I won’t sip a lip with you
    ‘Less you want a granulated lump or two.
    Just roll them eyes right out that door;
    Them saucer eyes ain’t round no more.
    All them things,
    Them diamond rings,
    Them stuff you promised me
    Were figments, Newton,
    Sure as shootin’,
    Shootin’ sure as AB see
    The teapot pouts that the kettle’s blue;
    It don’t turn out that spout is true.
    Just roil away boy, don’t sit and brew.
    Don’t sugar me ‘cause us is threw.”
    … Something like that.

  50. Delightful! Thanks for that; I’m always thrilled when someone discovers this post and adds their memories and quotes.

  51. Owlmirror says

    Like so much other paraphernalia, Songs of the Pogo has been added to the Internet Archive.

    Track samples.

    Liner notes.

  52. David Marjanović says

    An illustrated rendition of “Hoppe Hoppe Reiter” is available here.

    I finally listened. Long consonants everywhere, including in wenn er

  53. Betsy Ray says

    Many thanks to Mimi Menousek! I had forgotten all the boozy ribald glory of Mamie and her Sailor Man from Turkestan! I found this site because I was trying to reconstruct the last line of the mnemonic “Thirty days hath September/April, June and no wonder/All the rest have peanut butter…” I don’t remember exactly Mimi’s line about Grandmother having a Buick, but as has been noted, Walt Kelly wasn’t big on an Official Canon. (Although I’m sure he would immediately do something with an “Official Cannon”)

    I often think of the fearless swamp folk who traded stories of their revolutionary rhetoric – I think it was Albert who stated proudly “I hollered ‘Down with the gummint’ into a paper bag!” But the discussion that resonates with me to this day – and which I often quote while trying to put my chronic disorganization into context – is the disagreement between ?Churchy and ?Albert about where (not) to have their party: “My house is overrun by tigers”…”Well, mine is a little bit on fire!”

    I hope you’ll admit me to your exclusive company!

  54. Exclusive? Here?? Hardly!

    I don’t think Albert is much of a paragon, but I always liked him because how he is drawn.

  55. Welcome, Miz Betsy Ray! Of course you’re welcome here, and I’m glad you found this place with its ever-flowing taps and its loquacious habitués.

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