Lipograms: five nursery rhymes reworked (Stuart Barnes)



Humpty Dumpty rocked on the well,
Humpty Dumpty tumbled to Hell.
The King’s twelve fledglings, the King’s four colts
couldn’t put Humpty together, the dolts.


‘Baa, baa, outcast,
own you any wool?’
Vâng sir, vâng sir,
ba boats full:

một for your Harpy,
một for your Fool,

and một for your vagrants
flailing in your Forty Rains.’


Fat Mary had an ugly Lamb,
Her fleece as bleached as snow,
and everywhere Fat Mary hammed
the Lamb was sure to go.
She chauffeured Her to school one day
and broke the teacher’s rule;
the persecutors stamped and brayed
to see that Lamb at school.
And when the teacher turned Her out
She sought the water fount,
then sadly sat upon Her rear –
Fat Mary – ‘Hallelujah!’ – appeared.
‘Why’s the Lamb love Fatty
M?’ the persecutors bleated.
‘Mary loves the Lamb, you sheep.’  
The teacher fetched her burlap sacks.


It’s raining, it’s teeming,
the white-haired Father’s wheezing
(He bumped His head beneath the bed);
He shan’t survive the evening.


‘Who killed Rockin’ Robin?’

‘I,’ said the Doctor

Bird. ‘With benzos and Propofol

I killed Rockin’ Robin.’
‘Who saw him die?’

‘I,’ said the Fly.

‘With my little eye

I saw him die.’
‘Who wiped his face?’

‘I,’ said the Fish.

‘With my tail’s swish

I wiped his face.’
‘Who’ll make the veil?’

‘I,’ said the Beetle.

‘With thread and needle

I’ll make the veil.’
‘Who’ll dig his grave?’

‘I,’ said the Owl.

‘With pick and trowel

I’ll dig his grave.’
‘Who’ll be the parson?’

‘I,’ said the Rook.

‘With my little book

I’ll be the parson.’
‘Who’ll be the clerk?’

‘I,’ said the Lark.

‘If not after dark,

I’ll be the clerk.’

‘Who’ll carry the glove?’

‘I,’ said the Linnet.

‘Give me a moment,

I’ll carry the glove.’
‘Who’ll be chief griever?’

‘I,’ said the Black Dove.

‘I weep the world’s love!

I’ll be chief griever.’

‘Who’ll carry the coffin?’

‘I,’ said the Kite.

‘If not by night,

I’ll carry the coffin.’
‘Who’ll bear the pall?’

‘We,’ said the Wren

(both cock and hen).

‘We’ll bear the pall.’
‘Who’ll sing a psalm?’

‘I,’ said the Tailor-

bird (from her diamond cradle).

‘I’ll sing a psalm.’
‘Who’ll toll the bell?’

‘I,’ said the Stag.

‘‘Cos I can drag,

I’ll toll the bell.’
And all the birds of the air

fell a-sighing and a-sobbing

when they heard the bell tolling for

poor Rockin’ Robin.


vâng: yes; ba: three; một: one (Vietnamese: English)