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Posts Tagged ‘When Grandmama Fell Off The Boat’
What brings a smile to the face of this cigar-toting stranger? Rubber feet, it turns out. Gangster Pete has rubber feet. If this sounds faintly ridiculous, you are at one with the judges of the Ruthless Rhyme competition. Some of the entries, they decided, while not ruthless, were memorable for their oddity or absurdity.
To celebrate the solstice and all things summery, head to the Riviera ‘And there upon the sunny sands’ relax with a good old laugh, courtesy of Harry Graham. We guarantee the health benefits of When Grandmama Fell Off The Boat. As luck would have it, it’s 50 per cent off this month.
If you admit that men should be permitted to be men, at least on one day of the year, we suggest a late lie-in for the head of the household and a politically incorrect gift: a volume of humorous verse by the charmingly callous Harry Graham.
The judges in the Ruthless Rhyme Competition were surprised to see illustrations accompanying some of the entries, including one of a man with knitting needles through his head. What could have led him to such a plight? Was this a case of true ruthlessness?
Are you a budding writer or a keen poet? Would you like to see your work published on-line? We are running a competition to find the best short poem in the style of a Ruthless Rhyme, a humorous verse form invented by Harry Graham.
For your entertainment, we have just posted sample couplets by Harry Graham in our Preview of When Grandmama Fell Off The Boat. Whether your subject is dining, dancing, motoring, bathing or bee-keeping, we believe you will find something here to trigger your schadenfreude. Try this:
When Mrs Gorm (Aunt Eloise)
Was stung to death by savage bees,
Her husband (Prebendary Gorm)
Put on his veil, and took the swarm.
He’s publishing a book, next May,
On “How to Make Bee-keeping Pay.”
The humorous verse of Harry Graham was an early hit with several 20th-century literary figures, including W. H. Auden, George Orwell and Agatha Christie. The hilarious rhymes they adored as children remained with them, popping up unexpectedly in their heads during their writing careers.
W. H. Auden
When asked by The Paris Review whether reading poetry had influenced his decision to write, Auden responded that as a child the only poetry he had been interested in was the ‘sick’ kind, including Harry Graham’s Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes. Here is his favourite:
Into the drinking well
The plumber built her
Aunt Maria fell;
We must buy a filter.
Orwell was struck by an anecdote in Salvador Dali’s autobiography which described how Dali had kicked his sister in the head as a child. This reminded him of something: ‘What was it?’ he asked himself. ‘Of course! Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes, by Harry Graham.’
Poor little Willy is crying so sore,
A sad little boy is he,
For he’s broken his little sister’s neck
And he’ll have no jam for tea.
A reader of murder mysteries asked Agatha Christie about the origin of four lines of poetry quoted by one of her characters. Had Christie written these herself? Christie admitted she had not, nor could she remember where she had heard them. The reader then started to investigate. She wrote to everyone she could think of to try to find out the source of the mystery rhyme but no one recognized it. Except, that is, for the crime writer Ruth Rendell. Yet she too struggled to recollect who had written the troublesome fragment.
The days passed slowly, one by one;
I fed the ducks, reproved my wife,
Played Handel’s Largo on the fife,
Or gave the dog a run.
Eventually, it was Miles Kington who saved the day. He discovered the lines in When Grandmama Fell Off The Boat and was able to solve the case of the missing rhyme.
When Grandmama Fell Off The Boat is the only comprehensive anthology of Graham’s humorous verse, compiled with the help of his daughter, Virginia. It contains not only the best of his Ruthless Rhymes but also a selection of longer poems, and it is in one of these, Creature Comforts, that Agatha Christie’s quotation can be found.
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