The Poetic Demise of Bottomley-Smythe


Why You Should Hide Your Light Verse Under a Bushel



A Cautionary Tale by David Garnett

Introductory comment

If you love language
Syntax and words
This tale won’t assuage
Your pedantic urge

To judge it as ghastly,
Grammatically wrong,
Pantswettingly nasty
And rather too long.

So if you’ve no stomach
For written outrage
Then shut up the book
And don’t turn the page.

Last chance to refuse
The sine qua non,
And avoid word abuse
By not reading on.

So you’ve decided to stay
Though twice you’ve been told,
So on with the play,
Let the story unfold.

The story
This is the story
Of Bottomley-Smythe
Who lived in a house
With a wide gravel drive

Hidden from view
By a long and strong hedge
Of sickly hued yew
As thick as a wedge.

In a darkly dim attic
He sat in the roof
Starkly dramatic,
Alone and aloof.

At an old wooden desk,
His cat at his side,
He penned poems grotesque
With pleasure and pride

Spinning out yarns
With rhymes quite perverse,
Devoid of all qualms
He wrote doggerel verse.

Largely unread
It has to be said
Most of his readers
Were mad or half dead.


Then word got about
Of some bardic offences-
He was writing without
Agreeing the tenses.

His spelling was poor,
Called Webster a fool,
And always ignored
The apostrophe rule.

Then the poetry police’s
Pedantic Patrol
Were warned by his niece
(A literary mole)

Of irrational rhymes
And a failure to scan,
And grammatical schisms
That ought to be banned.

In plain clothes disguise
Past all the yews
They swept up the drive
Looking for clues.

In the garden they found
A fork and two rakes,
An improper noun
And some spelling mistakes.

With no ‘by your leave’
They smashed down the door
And sought to retrieve
Several clues more

Appalled in the hall
To see what they saw –
Dropped aspirate haitches
All over the floor.

“Now ‘allo, ‘allo”
What ‘ave we ‘ere?”
The sergeant bell-owed
For all there to hear.

“I find it distressin’
This mess in the ‘all:
I’ll ‘ave some confessin’!”
He sneered with a drawl.

Then up on the stairs
Just lounging about
He spotted a pair
Of sullen umlauts.


In both of their beaks

Prose writing entwined,

With biting critiques
They forced it to rhyme.

And what is much worse
On the banister rail,
A ballad in verse
They’d hung by the tale.


“You will not ignore us,”
The sarge bellowed and boomed,
“Go fetch a thesaurus
And search every room!”

Thus armed with a wordbook
From Roget’s old granny,
No nook they forsook
And looked in each cranny.

Burst into the kitchen
They pitched in to see
An adverb enriching
A hyperbole.

The sergeant disgusted
To see such a bribe
Busted them both
And put them inside.

A bare-bottomed cupboard
Without any drawers
Was making a hubbub
In a subtle sub clause.

The cupboard was louvered
With posh poxy doors on,
Concealing a Hoover
And a cross oxymoron


Whilst searching the toilet
They cornered some slang,
And an infinitive split
With a sickening “twang”.

You’ve murdered this verb”,
The detective expressed
“Such invective we’ll curb –
You’re under arrest!”

The Denouement

Though the charge was contested,
The rhymer was sought;
Smythe was arrested
And taken to court.

With bracketed wrists
Unable to budge,
This absurd verbalist
Confronted the judge.

Guilty as charged

Guilty as charged

The jury was shaken
With fury enlarged
They found him mistaken
And guilty as charged.

Retribution was vicious,
Jaw-droppingly harsh,
So injudicious
Bottomley gasped.

To encourage repentance,
The judge sent him down
To a very long sentence
With no proper noun.


If you haven’t the talent
For criminal verse
It should now be apparent
That writing’s a curse.

So empty your mansion
Of dodgy diphthongs
And forget about scansion
And doggerel songs.

If you really must push all
Verse that is light,
Hide it under a bushel
Well out of sight.

The images used herein were obtained from IMSI’s Master Clips Collection, 1985 Francisco Blvd East San Rafael, CA 94901-5506, USA