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Two dead boys got up to fight
May 8, 2006 2:50 PM   Subscribe

"One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night" An example of nonsense?
posted by ozomatli (56 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
1. One fine day in the middle of the night,
2. Two dead boys got up to fight,
3. Back to back they faced each other,
4. Drew their swords and shot each other,

5. One was blind and the other couldn't, see
6. So they chose a dummy for a referee.
7. A blind man went to see fair play,
8. A dumb man went to shout "hooray!"

9. A paralysed donkey passing by,
10. Kicked the blind man in the eye,
11. Knocked him through a nine inch wall,
12. Into a dry ditch and drowned them all,

13. A deaf policeman heard the noise,
14. And came to arrest the two dead boys,
15. If you don't believe this story’s true,
16. Ask the blind man he saw it too!

An example of a poem consisting of nothing but inconsistencies.
posted by ozomatli at 2:52 PM on May 8, 2006


'Twas a brillig post, ozomatli.
posted by matthewr at 2:54 PM on May 8, 2006


I haven't heard that phrase for years. Like 24 years.

One fine day in the middle of the night,
2 dead men got up to fight
back to back they faced each other
drew their swords and shot each other.

*checks to see if he remembers it correctly *
Wow. The memory is a remarkable thing.
posted by seanyboy at 2:54 PM on May 8, 2006


I outgrabe.
posted by The White Hat at 2:55 PM on May 8, 2006


And I just lost the game.
posted by seanyboy at 2:57 PM on May 8, 2006


'Twas a brillig post, ozomatli

It was a four in the afternoon post?
posted by easternblot at 2:59 PM on May 8, 2006


Upon a time, upon a stair,
I met a man who wasn't there

He wasn't there again today,
I wish I wish he'd go away.
posted by jazon at 3:01 PM on May 8, 2006


Ladies and jelly spoons, hobos and tramps,
Cross-eyed mosquitoes and bow-legged ants,
I stand before you to sit behind you
To tell you something I know nothing about.
Next Thursday, which is Good Friday,
There’s a Mother’s Day meeting for fathers only.
Wear your best clothes if you haven’t any.
Please come if you can’t; if you can, stay at home.
Admission is free; pay at the door.
Pull up a chair and sit on the floor.
It makes no difference where you sit;
The man in the gallery’s sure to spit.
The show is over, but before you go,
Let me tell you a story I don’t really know.
posted by jazon at 3:02 PM on May 8, 2006


Good point, easternblot. I never looked up the "meaning" of brillig, and always sort of assumed it was an adjective, rather like "brilliant". How wrong I was. YLSNED.
posted by matthewr at 3:04 PM on May 8, 2006


It was a four in the afternoon post?

Perhaps ozomatli is on Mountain time. [Checks profile] Traveling, oz?
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:04 PM on May 8, 2006


Nope, no mountains here...
posted by ozomatli at 3:07 PM on May 8, 2006


Whew, that was a flashback. We used to have to recite a version* of this at the middle school I went to, before we went to lunch. The entire 8th grade. En masse.

*One dark night, in the middle of the day,
Two dead boys went out to play...etc.
posted by cobaltnine at 3:13 PM on May 8, 2006


Mountain time can be quite useful. For those of us on Pacific time, it makes brillig = cocktail time.
posted by Cranberry at 3:21 PM on May 8, 2006


I had no idea that chortle was a Caroll invention, a combination of snort and chuckle. Frabjous.
posted by matthewr at 3:22 PM on May 8, 2006


One of the funniest, sweetest things I've seen since moving to NZ was an adorable group of local schoolkids singing "Oh Susannah" halfway around the world from its setting:
It rained all night
the day I left,
the weather it was dry.
The sun so hot,
I froze to death.
Susannah, don't you cry.
And their diction was so precise ("I'm going to Lou-ee-see-ana my true love for to see"), it was priceless.
posted by rob511 at 3:31 PM on May 8, 2006


riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.

et cetera
posted by effwerd at 3:57 PM on May 8, 2006


Those poor New Zealanders and they're crazy English. It's "Loo-zi-anna" of course. ;-)
posted by Lockjaw at 4:06 PM on May 8, 2006


Their. MY crazy English!
posted by Lockjaw at 4:06 PM on May 8, 2006


A Few Lines
by Groucho Marx


Did you ever sit and ponder as you walk along the strand,
That life's a bitter battle at the best;
And if you only knew it and would lend a helping hand,
Then every man can meet the final test.
The world is but a stage, my friend,
And life is but a game;
And how you play is all that matters in the end.
For whether a man is right or wrong,
A woman gets the blame;
And your mother is your dog's best friend.
Then up came mighty Casey and strode up to the bat,
And Sheridan was fifty miles away.
For it takes a heap of loving to make a home like that,
On the road where the flying fishes play.
So be a real-life Pagliacc' and laugh, clown, laugh.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 4:09 PM on May 8, 2006


This is great! Methinks I shall dive back in for more!....
posted by annieb at 4:16 PM on May 8, 2006


I'm having a hard time finding a full copy of either the medieval French original or an English translation, but perhaps Villon's "Ballad of Contradictions" (translated into German as "Die Ballade von den Vogelfreien") is an appropriate medieval ancestor of those sorts of poems:

Vor vollen Schüsseln muß ich Hungers sterben,
am heißen Ofen frier ich mich zu Tod,
wohin ich greife, fallen nichts als Scherben,
bis zu den Zähnen reicht mir schon der Kot.
Und wenn ich lache, dann habe ich geweint,
und wenn ich weine, bin ich froh,
daß mir zuweilen auch die Sonne scheint,
als könnte ich im Leben ebenso
zerknirscht wie in der Kirche niederknien...
ich, überall verehrt und angespien.

Nichts scheint mir sichrer als das nie Gewisse,
nichts sonnenklarer als die schwarze Nacht.
Nur das ist mein, was ich betrübt vermisse,
und was ich liebte, hab ich umgebracht.
Selbst wenn ich denk, daß ich schon gestern war,
bin ich erst heute Abend zugereist.
Von meinem Schädel ist das letzte Haar
zu einem blanken Mond vereist.
Ich habe kaum ein Feigenblatt, es anzuziehn ...
ich, überall verehrt und angespien.

Ich habe dennoch soviel Mut zu hoffen,
daß mir sehr bald die ganze Welt gehört,
und stehn mir wirklich alle Türen offen,
schlag ich sie wieder zu, weil es mich stört,
daß ich aus goldnen Schüsseln fressen soll.
Die Würmer sind schon toll nach meinem Bauch,
ich bin mit Unglück bis zum Halse voll.
Ich bleibe unter dem Holunderstrauch,
auf den noch nie ein Stern herunterschien,
François Villon, verehrt und angespien.

posted by ubersturm at 4:19 PM on May 8, 2006


Our version:
Early one day in the middle of the night,
Two dead boys got up to fight.
Back to back they faced each other,
Drew their swords and shot each other.
A deaf policeman heard the noise,
Came and shot the two dead boys.


Also, I can't believe no one has mentioned Edward Lear. My brother's favorite; The Jumblies.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 4:34 PM on May 8, 2006


What fun ozomatli! Callooh! Callay!
The Jabberwocky in Latin:

Coesper erat: tune lubriciles ultravia circum
Urgebant gyros gimbiculosque tophi;
Moestenui visae borogovides ire meatu;
Et profugi gemitus exgrabuere rathae.


I was always appalled by the horror of The Walrus and the Carpenter and prefer the charming, melancholic whimsy of Lear's sillibiz, like The Yonghy-bonghy-Bo.

And this is a longtime fav by May Swenson,

A Nosty Fright
The roldengod and the soneyhuckle,
the sack eyed blusan and the wistle theed
are all tangled with the oison pivy,
the fallen nine peedles and the wumbleteed.

A mipchunk caught in a wobceb tried
to hip and skide in a dandy sune
but a stobler put up a EEP KOFF sign.
Then the unfucky lellow met a phytoon

and was sept out to swea. He difted for drays
till a hassgropper flying happened to spot
the boolish feast all debraggled and wet,
covered with snears and tot.

Loonmight shone through the winey poods
where rushmooms grew among risted twoots.
Back blats flew between the twees
and orned howls hounded their soots.

A kumkpin stood with a tooked creeth
on the sindow will of a house
where a icked wold itch lived all alone
except for her stoombrick, a mitten and a kouse.

"Here we part," said hassgropper.
"Pere we hart," said mipchunk, too.
They purried away on opposite haths,
both scared of some "Bat!" or "Scoo!"

October was ending on a nosty fright
with scroans and greeches and chanking clains,
with oblins and gelfs, coaths and urses,
skinning grulls and stoodblains.

Will it ever be morning, Nofember virst,
skue bly and the sappy hun, our friend?
With light breaves of wall by the fayside?
I sope ho, so that this oem can pend.
posted by nickyskye at 4:45 PM on May 8, 2006


The boy stood on the burning deck,
Picking his nose like mad,
Rolling it into little balls,
And flicking them at his dad.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:52 PM on May 8, 2006


prefer the charming, melancholic whimsy of Lear's sillibiz, like The Yonghy-bonghy-Bo.

The Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo was always my favourite as well. For some reason, it's always reminded me of the Lady of Shallot

As does the Akond of Swat.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:57 PM on May 8, 2006


These bring back brilliant memories, especially The Akond of Swat:

At night if he suddenly screams and wakes,
Do they bring him only a few small cakes,
or a LOT,
For the Akond of Swat?

posted by patricio at 5:06 PM on May 8, 2006


There are holes in the sky
Where the rain gets in
But they're ever so small
That's why rain is thin



On the Ning Nang Nong
Where the Cows go Bong!
And the Monkeys all say Boo!
Theres a Nang Nong Ning
Where the trees go Ping!
And the tea pots Jibber Jabber Joo
On the Nong Ning Nang
All the Mice go Clang!
And you just cant catch 'em when they do!
So its Ning Nang Nong!
Cows go Bong!
Nong Nang Ning!
Trees go Ping!
Nong Ning Nang!
The mice go Clang!

What a noisy place to belong, Is the Ning Nang Ning Nang Nong!



In the land of the Bumbley Boo
The People are red white and blue,
They never blow noses,
Or ever wear closes,
What a sensible thing to do!


-- Spike Milligan (He told you he was ill).
posted by matthewr at 5:21 PM on May 8, 2006


...and if you think this story isn't true,
ask the blind man,
he saw too.
posted by destro at 5:44 PM on May 8, 2006


And I just lost the game.

Dammit.
posted by EarBucket at 5:44 PM on May 8, 2006


Come smoke a Coca Cola, Tomato Catsup cigarettes,
See Lillian Russel wrestle with a box of Oysterettes

Pork and Beans will meet tonight in a finish fight,

and Chauncy Q. will lecture on...Napolean was right

Bay Rum is good for horses, it is the best in town

Purina cures the measles, Just 5 Dollars down

Teeth removed without a pain, cost but half a dime

And overcoats are selling out a little at a time.
posted by Megafly at 6:05 PM on May 8, 2006


it's always reminded me of the Lady of Shallot

tee hee. Thanks for the better Akond of Swat link. I hadn't read it before, it's wonderful! Reminds me of Courage.
posted by nickyskye at 6:09 PM on May 8, 2006


Der Jammerwoch
Robert Scott

Es brillig war. Die schlichte Toven
Wirrten und wimmelten in Waben;
Und aller-mümsige Burggoven
Die mohmen Räth' ausgraben.

»Bewahre doch vor Jammerwoch!
Die Zähne knirschen, Krallen kratzen!
Bewahr' vor Jubjub-Vogel, vor
Frumiösen Banderschntzchen!«

Er griff sein vorpals Schwertchen zu,
Er suchte lang das manchsan' Ding;
Dann, stehend unterm Tumtum Baum,
Er an-zu-denken-fing.

Als stand er tief in Andacht auf,
Des Jammerwochen's Augen-feuer
Durch tulgen Wald mit Wiffek kam
Ein burbelnd Ungeheuer!

Eins, Zwei! Eins, Zwei! Und durch und durch
Sein vorpals Schwert zerschnifer-schnück,
Da blieb es todt! Er, Kopf in Hand,
Geläumfig zog zurück.

»Und schlugst Du ja den Jammerwoch?
Umarme mich, mien Böhm'sches Kind!
O Freuden-Tag! O Halloo-Schlag!«
Er schortelt froh-gesinnt.

Es brillig war. Die schlichte Toven
Wirrten und wimmelten in Waben;
Und aller-mümsige Burggoven
Die mohmen Räth' ausgraben.
posted by eriko at 6:21 PM on May 8, 2006


(I've always wanted to hear Mr. Football Movie Guy read that.)
posted by eriko at 6:22 PM on May 8, 2006


A modern example of the nonsense lyric: "The Singing Sea,", from Cowboy Bebop.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 6:29 PM on May 8, 2006


"I see!," said the blind man, as the deaf man listened to the mute man speak fluent Portugeuse.
posted by Mijo Bijo at 6:30 PM on May 8, 2006


One fine day in the middle of the night,
2 dead men got up to fight
back to back they faced each other
drew their swords and shot each other.


That's the version I knew from childhood. No matter how hard I try I cannot remember where I learned it. Great post, ozomatli.
posted by LeeJay at 7:32 PM on May 8, 2006


In our family, there was: "'I see!' said the blind man, as he picked up his hammer and saw."
posted by trip and a half at 8:02 PM on May 8, 2006


I love this link, and it's a great project, but the author is a little bit off in these assertions at the end:

One of the things to keep in mind about folk poetry is that it invariably rhymes. This is particularly true of the Two Dead Boys rhyme and readers should understand that variants that include verses with lines that do not rhyme are probably corrupt. Although they are nevertheless still variants, their main usefulness may be more in their component parts as analytical constituents rather than as definitive verses.

First, folk poetry doesn't invariably rhyme; there's little that's invariable about folk material of any kind. Actually, by presenting examples of remembered material that doesn't rhyme, he disproves that point neatly. Second, it's kind of unusual to call any variant 'corrupt' in folklore -- in literature scholarship, sure, but in folklore the idea of 'corruption' of a supposed pure, original text has generally been abandoned. There are no 'definitive' variants -- once material has entered the folk tradition and become disassociated with its original composer, defnitiveness is over. There are more elaborate and simpler variants, older and newer variants, and sometimes even an earliest appearance, but they're all equally useful as folk texts. There's no 'one true' version of the poem (or any folk song, or type of folk art, etc.)
posted by Miko at 8:56 PM on May 8, 2006


But, in case I sound too critical there, great find and great post. Thanks.
posted by Miko at 9:04 PM on May 8, 2006


Does anyone have full lyrics from whence this snippet:

"Lulu had a baby, she named it Tiny Tim,
She put it in the piss pot to see if he could swim.
Sank to the bottom, floated to the top,
Lulu got excited and grabbed it by the Cock-
tail, ginger ale, five cents a shot,
if you don't like it you can go to..."

And so on and so forth. This bit I remembered is from the middle. I think it likely goes on and on and on...
posted by five fresh fish at 11:34 PM on May 8, 2006


Also, I have memories of a series of stories in which some rotten child is repeatedly blown to smithereens due to his misdeeds. If I remember correctly, I associate some Edward Learish drawings with it, but I could easily be mistaking it for Lear's other morbid works.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:36 PM on May 8, 2006


There is a poem very similar to another nonsensical poem in German , one usually taught in kindergarten:

Finster war's, der Mond schien helle
Auf die grünbeschneite Flur,
Als ein Wagen blitzesschnelle
Langsam um die Ecke fuhr.
Drinnen saßen stehend Leute
Schweigend ins Gespräch vertieft,
Als ein totgeschossner Hase
Auf dem Wasser Schlittschuh lief
Und ein blondgelockter Knabe
Mit kohlrabenschwarzem Haar
Auf die grüne Bank sich setzte,
Die gelb angestrichen war.


Literally:
It was very dark, and the moon shone brightly
on the green-snowed meadow,
when a car drove, fast as lightning,
slowly around the corner.
Inside people sat standing,
conversing without making a sound,
when a hare, shot dead,
ice-skated on water.
And a boy with golden curls
who had raven black hair
sat down on a green bench
that was painted yellow.


Earliest date mentioned for a cite was 1898.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 1:34 AM on May 9, 2006


One from the schoolyard: "'I see' said the blind man to his deaf son as he pissed into the wind, 'it all comes back to me now.'"

What do you expect from fourth graders?
posted by Hactar at 1:57 AM on May 9, 2006


five fresh fish: Here's a site with British versions, Seedy Songs and Rotten Rhymes - the poetry of the playground. An American version. And another.
posted by nickyskye at 4:06 AM on May 9, 2006


one dark morning in the middle of the night
two dead boys began to fight
back to back they faced each other
with their knives they shot each other
the deaf policeman heard the noise
came a' runnin' to save the boys
don't believe my story's true?
go ask the blind man -- he saw it too.


from memory, as my mother taught it to me. happy early mother's day, mom!
posted by VulcanMike at 4:38 AM on May 9, 2006


I don't think line "15. If you don't believe this story’s true,"
is inconsistent.

So I guesss that makes the entire poem, inconsistently inconsistent.

What a bunch of nonsense.
posted by sfts2 at 6:01 AM on May 9, 2006


The "complete version":

The famous speaker who no one had heard of said:
Ladies and jellyspoons, hobos and tramps,
cross-eyed mosquitos and bow-legged ants,
I stand before you to sit behind you
to tell you something I know nothing about.
Next Thursday, which is Good Friday,
there's a Mother's Day meeting for fathers only;
wear your best clothes if you haven't any.
Please come if you can't; if you can, stay at home.
Admission is free, pay at the door;
pull up a chair and sit on the floor.
It makes no difference where you sit,
the man in the gallery's sure to spit.
The show is over, but before you go,
let me tell you a story I don't really know.
One bright day in the middle of the night,
two dead boys got up to fight.
(The blind man went to see fair play;
the mute man went to shout "hooray!")
Back to back they faced each other,
drew their swords and shot each other.
A deaf policeman heard the noise,
and came and killed the two dead boys.
A paralysed donkey passing by
kicked the blind man in the eye;
knocked him through a nine-inch wall,
into a dry ditch and drowned them all.
If you don't believe this lie is true,
ask the blind man; he saw it too,
through a knothole in a wooden brick wall.
And the man with no legs walked away.

Also don't forget Shel Silverstein's Runny Babbit.
posted by TedW at 7:16 AM on May 9, 2006


five fresh fish, just do a search on "Miss Lucy" and "rhyme". You'll find oodles. Children's folklore is rich, rich, rich and there's a lot of documentation out there (of varying scholarly quality).

But remember...there's no definitive version. Just the ones you grew up with and the ones other people grew up with.
posted by Miko at 7:50 AM on May 9, 2006


i remember this ending for the first poem:

the deaf policeman heard the noise
and came and got them two dead boys.
if you don't believe this lie is true,
ask the blind man -
he saw too.

heh. haven't thought of that in YEARS.
posted by ab3 at 8:33 AM on May 9, 2006


Miko, didn't you like the links I posted five fresh fish?

Thanks TedW. aww, I love Shel Silverstein, what a sweetie pie he was. Just listened to his "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take The Garbage Out" on that cool link you posted. That prompted me to Google silly songs and I found the ancient Rolf Harris' Tie Me Kangaroo Down and Alan Sherman's Hello Muddah Hello Faddah, which I loved as a kid. Does anyone remember that awful nonsense, stomach turning school bus song, "Great green globs of greasy grimy gopher guts"?

And then if one's going into absurd nonsense after plain old silly nonsense, there's Monty Python sounds.
posted by nickyskye at 8:39 AM on May 9, 2006


No wonder I had such a hard time finding the lyrics last time I tried! "Lucy," not "Lulu." Cool beans!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:27 AM on May 9, 2006


Miko, didn't you like the links I posted five fresh fish?

Sure I did! There's just a wealth of stuff out there. My thought was, if you give a man a fish....
posted by Miko at 10:13 AM on May 9, 2006


...you'll be eating salmon for supper?

...he'll put it in his pants?

...you should give him a salad to go with it?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:43 AM on May 9, 2006


...you wouldn't run red lights? :-)
posted by five fresh fish at 1:14 PM on May 9, 2006


... his hands will smell?
posted by Dunwitty at 1:46 AM on May 10, 2006


The one I know:

'Twas in the month of Liverpool
In the city of July
The snow was raining heavily,
The streets were very dry
The flowers were sweetly singing
The birds were in full bloom
As I went down the cellar
To sweep an upstairs room.
posted by ruelle at 11:28 AM on May 10, 2006


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