Mervyn Peake, the Official Site

Nonsense poetry

These six poems are taken from “A Book of Nonsense” first published by Peter Owen in 1972 and re-issued in 1999.

A Book of Nonsense.
To be reissued in 2011

It was said during Mervyn Peake’s lifetime that his serious work was often full of humour, while his nonsense verse was full of philosophy



Of pygmies, palms and pirates,
Of islands and lagoons,
Of blood-bespotted frigates,
Of crags and octoroons,
Of whales and broken bottles,
Of quicksands cold and grey,
Of ullages and dottles,
I have no more to say.

Of barley, corn and furrows,
Of farms and turf that heaves
Above such ghostly burrows
As twitch on summer eves
Of fallow-land and pasture,
Of skies both pink and grey,
I made my statement last year
And have no more to say.


The trouble with geraniums
is that they’re much too red!
The trouble with my toast is that
it’s far too full of bread.

The trouble with a diamond
is that it’s much too bright.
The same applies to fish and stars
and the electric light.

The troubles with the stars I see
lies in the way they fly.
The trouble with myself is all
self-centred in the eye.

The trouble with my looking-glass
is that it shows me, me;
there’s trouble in all sorts of things
where it should never be.


I have my price - it's rather high
(about the level of your eye)
but if you're nice to me I'll try
to lower it for you -
To lower it!

To lower it!
Upon the rope they knit
from yellow grass in Paraguay
where knitting is taboo.

Some knit them purl, some knit them plain
some knit their brows of pearl in vain.
Some are so plain, they try again
to tease the wool of love!
O felony in Paraguay
there's not a soul in Paraguay who's worth the dreamingof.
They say,
who's worth the dreaming of.


I cannot give the reasons,
I only sing the tunes:
the sadness of the seasons
the madness of the moons.

I cannot be didactic
or lucid, but I can
be quite obscure and practic-
ally marzipan

In gorgery and gushness
and all that's squishified.
My voice has all the lushness
of what I can't abide

And yet it has a beauty
most proud and terrible
denied to those whose duty
is to be cerebral.

Among the antlered mountains
I make my viscous way
and watch the sepia mountains
throw up their lime-green spray.


She stared at him as hard as she
Could stare, but not a single blush
Suffused his face like dawn at sea
Or roses in a bush -

For crocodiles are very slow
At taking hints because their hide's
So thick it never feels de trop,
And tender like a bride's.


When Aunty Flo
Became a Crow
She had a bed put in a tree;
And there she lay
And read all day
Of ornithology.