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Famous Nonsense Poems by Famous Poets

These are examples of famous Nonsense poems written by some of the greatest and most-well-known modern and classical poets. PoetrySoup is a great educational poetry resource of famous nonsense poems. These examples illustrate what a famous nonsense poem looks like and its form, scheme, or style (where appropriate).

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by Burns, Robert
...hen up gat fechtin Jamie Fleck,
 An’ he swoor by his conscience,
That he could saw hemp-seed a peck;
 For it was a’ but nonsense:
The auld guidman raught down the pock,
 An’ out a handfu’ gied him;
Syne bad him slip frae’ mang the folk,
 Sometime when nae ane see’d him,
 An’ try’t that night.

He marches thro’ amang the stacks,
 Tho’ he was something sturtin;
The graip he for a harrow taks,
 An’ haurls at his curpin:
And ev’ry now an’ then, he says,
 “Hemp-seed I saw the...Read more of this...

by Graves, Robert!..."

That one word was all he said,
That one word through all my sleep,
In monotonous mock despair.
Nonsense may be light as air,
But there's Nonsense that can keep
Horror bristling round the head,
When a voice cruel and flat
Says for ever, "Cat! ... Cat! ... Cat!..."

He had faded, he was gone
Years ago with Nursery Land,
When he leapt on me again
From the clank of a night train,
Overpowered me foot and head,
Lapped my ...Read more of this...

by Wilmot, John
...s make an old witch fly,
And bear a crippled carcass through the sky.
'Tis the exalted power whose business lies
In nonsense and impossibilities.
This made a whimsical philosopher
Before the spacious world his tub prefer,
And we have modern cloistered coxcombs, who
Retire to think 'cause they have nought to do.
But thoughts are given for action's government;
Where action ceases, thought's impertinent:
Our sphere of action is life's happiness,
And he that thinks be...Read more of this...

by Poe, Edgar Allan
...h a Naples bonnet- 
Trash of all trash!- how can a lady don it? 
Yet heavier far than your Petrarchan stuff- 
Owl-downy nonsense that the faintest puff 
Twirls into trunk-paper the while you con it." 
And, veritably, Sol is right enough. 
The general tuckermanities are arrant 
Bubbles- ephemeral and so transparent- 
But this is, now- you may depend upon it- 
Stable, opaque, immortal- all by dint 
Of the dear names that he concealed within 't....Read more of this...

by Pope, Alexander
...Judgment of their own,
But catch the spreading Notion of the Town;
They reason and conclude by Precedent,
And own stale Nonsense which they ne'er invent.
Some judge of Authors' Names, not Works, and then
Nor praise nor blame the Writings, but the Men.
Of all this Servile Herd the worst is He
That in proud Dulness joins with Quality,
A constant Critick at the Great-man's Board,
To fetch and carry Nonsense for my Lord.
What woful stuff this Madrigal wou'd be,
To som...Read more of this...

by Whitman, Walt
...ho are you, that wanted only to be told what you knew before? 
Who are you, that wanted only a book to join you in your nonsense? 

(With pangs and cries, as thine own, O bearer of many children! 
These clamors wild, to a race of pride I give.) 

O lands! would you be freer than all that has ever been before?
If you would be freer than all that has been before, come listen to me. 

Fear grace—Fear elegance, civilization, delicatesse, 
Fear the mellow sweet, the suckin...Read more of this...

by Browning, Robert
...of God 
(Which were my ample warrant for it all) 

His puff of hazy instinct, idle talk, 
"The State, that's I," quack-nonsense about crowns, 
And (when one beats the man to his last hold) 
A vague idea of setting things to rights, 
Policing people efficaciously, 
More to their profit, most of all to his own; 
The whole to end that dismallest of ends 
By an Austrian marriage, cant to us the Church, 
And resurrection of the old r?gime ? 
Would I, who hope to live a dozen year...Read more of this...

by Collins, Billy
...ow squirts
or going after the attention of the giants
way up there with their cocktails and bad breath
talking baritone nonsense to other giants,
waiting to call them names after thanking
them for the lovely party and hearing the door close.

The mature save their hothead invective
for things: an errant hammer, tire chains,
or receding trains missed by seconds,
though they know in their adult hearts,
even as they threaten to banish Timmy to bed
for his appalling behavior,...Read more of this...

by Robinson, Edwin Arlington
...ds you 
Far enough beyond the moment for a glance at the abyss?” 

“Will you tell me what intrinsic and amazing sort of nonsense 
You are crowding on the patience of the man who gives you—this?
Look around you and be sorry you’re not living in an attic, 
With a civet and a fish-net, and with you to pay the rent. 
I say words that you can spell without the use of all your letters; 
And I grant, if you insist, that I’ve a guess at what you meant.” 

“Have I told you, th...Read more of this...

by Collins, Billy
...m to say,
I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head.

Other comments are more offhand, dismissive -
"Nonsense." "Please!" "HA!!" -
that kind of thing.
I remember once looking up from my reading,
my thumb as a bookmark,
trying to imagine what the person must look like
why wrote "Don't be a ninny"
alongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson.

Students are more modest
needing to leave only their splayed footprints
along the shore of the pa...Read more of this...

by Schiller, Friedrich von
...hen, derive the destiny, great and gigantic,
Which raises man up on high, e'en when it grinds him to dust?"--
"All mere nonsense! Ourselves, our worthy acquaintances also,
And our sorrows and wants, seek we, and find we, too, here."
"But all this ye possess at home both apter and better,--
Wherefore, then, fly from yourselves, if 'tis yourselves that ye seek?"
"Be not offended, great hero, for that is a different question;
Ever is destiny blind,--ever is righteous the bar...Read more of this...

by Frost, Robert
What happens to him if it only takes
Some of the sanctimonious conceit
Out of one of those pious scalawags.”

“Nonsense to that! You want to see him safe.”

“You like the runt.”

“Don’t you a little?”

I don’t like what he’s doing, which is what
You like, and like him for.”

“Oh, yes you do.
You like your fun as well as anyone;
Only you women have to put these airs on
To impress men. You’ve got us so ashamed
Of being men we can’t look at a ...Read more of this...

by Robinson, Edwin Arlington
...for all he cared, 
The song that is in sculpture was not his, 
But only, to his God-forgotten eyes, 
One more immortal nonsense in a world
Where all was mortal, or had best be so, 
And so be done with. ‘Art,’ he would have said, 
‘Is not life, and must therefore be a lie;’ 
And with a few profundities like that 
He would have controverted and dismissed
The benefit of the Greeks. He had heard of them, 
As he had heard of his aspiring soul— 
Never to the perceptible ad...Read more of this...

by Lowell, Amy
...led, my Dear? I'll have a few
Puffs and a snooze before I eat my tea.
What do you say? That you were feared for me?
Nonsense, my child. Yes, kiss me, now don't talk.
I need a rest, the theatre's a long walk."
Her needles still, her hands upon her lap
Patiently laid, Charlotta Altgelt sat
And watched the rain-run window. In his nap
Her husband stirred and muttered. Seeing that,
Charlotta rose and softly, pit-a-pat,
Climbed up the stairs, and in her litt...Read more of this...

by Carroll, Lewis
...that sunlit shore
 Yet haunt my dreaming gaze!


If--and the thing is wildly possible--the charge of writing nonsense were ever brought against the author of this brief but instructive poem, it would be based, I feel convinced, on the line (in p.18) 

"Then the bowsprit got mixed with the rudder sometimes." 

In view of this painful possibility, I will not (as I might) appeal indignantly to my other writings as a proof that I am incapable of such a deed: I ...Read more of this...

by Kay, Jackie I wanted

So I watched my child grow
Always the first to hear her in the night
All this umbilical knot business is
Nonsense-the men can afford deeper sleeps
That's all. I listened to hear her talk
And when she did I heard my voice under hers
And now some of her mannerisms
Crack me up

All them stories could have really had me
Believing unless you are breast fed
You'll never be close and the rest
My daughter's warmth spills over me
Leaves a gap
When she's gone
I think...Read more of this...

by Pastan, Linda
...y life,
the serious ceremonies
of polish and paper
and pen, has come

this manic animal
whose innocent disruptions
make nonsense
of my old simplicities--

as if I needed him
to prove again that after
all the careful planning,
anything can happen....Read more of this...

by Eliot, T S (Thomas Stearns)
...hing the games on the river.
(The queen) was alone with Lord Robert and myself on the poop,
when they began to talk nonsense, and went so far that Lord Robert
at last said, as I was on the spot there was no reason why they
should not be married if the queen pleased."
293. Cf. Purgatorio, v. 133:
 "Ricorditi di me, che son la Pia;
 Siena mi fe', disfecemi Maremma."
307. V. St. Augustine's Confessions: "to Carthage
then I came,
where a cauldr...Read more of this...

by Miller, Alice Duer
...ountry squire—poor alas, 
But true to that English upper class 
That does not change and does not pass. 

ROSAMUND: Nonsense; it's come to an absolute stop.
Twenty years since we sat on top
Of the world, amusing ourselves and sneering
At other manners and customs, jeering
At other nations, living in clover—
Not any more. That's done and over.
No one nowadays cares a button
For the upper classes— they're dead as mutton.
Go home. SUSAN: I notice that you...Read more of this...

by Lehman, David> "Whereof one cannot 
speak, thereof one must be silent," one said.
Others spoke of his conception of important 
nonsense. But I liked best the answer John 
Wisdom gave: "His asking of the question 
`Can one play chess without the queen?'" 


Wittgenstein preferred American detective 
stories to British philosophy. He liked lunch 
and didn't care what it was, "so long as it was 
always the same," noted Professor Malcolm 
of Cornell, a former student, i...Read more of this...

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