Rhymes of Philosophy

Ballade of Schopenhauer's Philosophy

Wishful to add to my mental power,
   Avid of knowledge and wisdom, I
Pondered the Essays of Schopenhauer,
   Taking his terrible hills on high.
Worried I was, and a trifle shy,
   Fearful I'd find him a bit opaque!
Thus does he say, with a soul-sick sigh:
   " The best you get is an even break. "

Life, he says, is awry and sour;
   Life, he adds, is sour and awry;
Love, he says, is a withered flower;
   Love, he adds, is a dragon-fly;
Love, he swears, is the Major Lie;
   Life, he vows, is the Great Mistake;
No one can beat it, and few can tie.
   The best you get is an even break.

Women, he says, are clouds that lower;
   Women dissemble and falsify.
(Those are things that The Conning Tower
   Cannot asseverate or deny.)
Futile to struggle, and strain, and try;
   Pleasure is freedom from pain and ache;
The greatest thing you can do is die—
   The best you get is an even break.

Gosh! I feel like a real good cry!
   Life, he says, is a cheat, a fake.
Well, I agree with the grouchy guy—
   The best you get is an even break.

       Franklin P. Adams
           Weights and Measures
           Doubleday, Page & Company, New York, 1917

Idealism, and A Reply

There once was a man who said: "God
Must think it exceedingly odd
   If he finds that this tree
   Continues to be
When there's no one about in the Quad."

       Father Ronald Knox
           The Complete Limerick Book
           ed. Langford Reed
           Harrolds Publishers, London, 1924

Dear Sir,
       Your astonishment's odd;
I am always about in the Quad;
   And that's why the tree
   Will continue to be,
Since observed by
                        Yours faithfully,

           The Faber Book of Comic Verse
           ed. Michael Roberts
           Faber and Faber, London, 1942.

Some Geese

Ev-er-y child who has the use
Of his sen-ses knows a goose.
See them un-der-neath the tree
Gath-er round the goose-girl's knee,
While she reads them by the hour
From the works of Scho-pen-hau-er.
How pa-tient-ly the geese at-tend!
But do they re-al-ly com-pre-hend
What Scho-pen-hau-er's driv-ing at?
Oh, not at all; but what of that?
Nei-ther do I; nei-ther does she;
And, for that mat-ter, nor does he.

       Oliver Herford
           A Child's Primer of Natural History
           Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1899

Point of View

Marcus Aurelius
Guiding his life by a
Stark rule of thumb,

Garnered the nicknme of
Meaning both "Stoic" and,
Possibly, "dumb."

       Anthony Hecht
            ed. Anthony Hecht and John Hollander
           Atheneum, New York, 1967


Said Descartes, "I extoll
Myself because I have a soul
And beasts do not." (Of course
He had to put Descartes before the horse.)

       Clifton Fadiman
           The Fireside Book of Humorous Poetry
           ed. William Cole
           Simon and Schuster, New York, 1959

Reason Has Moons

Reason has moons, but moons not hers
Lie mirror'd on her sea,
Confounding her astronomers,
But, O! delighting me.

       Ralph Hodgson
            Eve and Other Poems
           At the Sign of the Flying Flame, London, 1913


There once was a man who said: "Damn!
It is borne in upon me I am
   An engine that moves
   In predestinate grooves
I'm not even a bus, I'm a tram."

       Maurice Evan Hare
            A Century of Humorous Verse
            ed. Roger Lancelyn Green
            Dent, London, 1959

The image which may have led you to these rhymes of philosophy is a portrait of Arthur Schopenhauer. He is the subject of two of the rhymes, but it is not clear why he is particularly attractive to writers of light verse.

The rhyme "Theological" is a clerihew, a verse form named for its inventor, Edmund Clerihew Bentley. Bentley himself wrote a clerihew about Plato; see More Biography (1929). "Point of View" is a double dactyl, a form invented by Anthony Hecht and Paul Pascal.

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Last updated 08/16/2018