Comic verse, writes editor John Gross, is verse that is designed to amuse--and perhaps that is as far as any attempt at a definition ought to go. In The Oxford Book of Comic Verse, Gross has combed the annals of literature in English from the middle ages to the present, gathering poems that provoke laughter, smiles, and even reflections on the human condition--but always poems that amuse. From limericks to social satire, The Oxford Book of Comic Verse offers a remarkable collection of outstanding light poetry. Gross has brought together the finest writers in the history of the English language--from Chaucer and Skelton to Shakespeare and Swift, Lord Byron to Robert Browning, Emily Dickinson to John Updike, as well as witty song lyrics from such artists as Irving Berlin and Cole Porter--offering delightful examples of their comic verse. Drawing on many different types of verse, including epigrams, street ballads, and advertising jingles, clerihew, music-hall lyrics, and the double-dactyl of the calypso, this highly entertaining collection offers an exceptionally wide range of comic pleasures. The poems are by turns subtle, down-to-earth, macabre, ingenious, acerbic, ribald, and cheerful; written to amuse, they call forth laughter and delight in equal measure. Whether it comes from anonymous popular culture or the icons of the literary canon, comic verse has been a source of pleasure and diversion through the ages--a combination of wit, verbal artistry, and even serious contemplation. This collection, compiled by one of our finest critics and anthologists, brings this tradition into the hands of today's readers, offering hours of delight.
About the Author
John Gross is the author of 'The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters' (1973) and editor of 'The Oxford Book of Aphorisms' (1983), among other publications. He was editor of the Times Literary Supplement from 1974 to 1981, and is currently theatre critic of the Sunday Telegraph.