Read PREFACE of Poems for Pale People A Volume of Verse , free online book, by Edwin C. Ranck, on

This little volume was written for no reason on earth and with no earthly reason. It just simply happened, on the principle, I suppose that “murder will out.” Murder is a bad thing and so are nonsense rhymes. There is often a valid excuse for murder; there is none for nonsense rhymes. They seem to be a necessary evil to be classed with smallpox, chicken-pox, yellow fever and other irruptive diseases. They are also on the order of the boomerang and eventually rebound and inflict much suffering on the unlucky verse-slinger. So you see nonsense, like a little learning is a dangerous thing and should be handled with as much care as the shotgun which is never known to be loaded.

A man who writes nonsense may become in time a big gun. But this is rare; more often he becomes a small bore. This appears paradoxical and will probably require thinking over, but the more you think it over the less you will understand. This is true of parlor magic. It is also true of the magazine poets. It really never pays to think. Thinking is too much like work. After reading these rhymes you will not think that the writer ever did think, which after all is the right way to think.

When Dryden wrote “Alexander’s Feast” he modestly stated that it was the grandest poem ever written. Mr. Dryden evidently believed this or he wouldn’t have said so. But then every one did not agree with Mr. Dryden. Now I am going one step further and will positively state that the writer of this volume is the greatest poetical genius who has not yet died in infancy.

This is an astounding statement but it can be corroborated by admiring friends, for the writer is like a certain brand of children’s food in that he is advertised by his loving friends.

Speaking of “Alexander’s Feast” it simply cannot be compared to any one of the finished, poetic gems in this collection because it is so utterly different. The difference is what made Dryden famous. But comparisons are odious, and Mr. Dryden has been dead several years.

"But what,” you may ask, “is the object of nonsense verse?” Most assuredly to make one laugh. That masterpiece of nonsense “Alice In Wonderland” and its companion volume “Through The Looking Class” are absurd books, but their very absurdity is what appeals to us most. Their author, Mr. Lewis Carroll was, in private life a very sober gentleman (at least we hope so). Nonsense is the salt of life with which we season the dry food of everyday cooking.

"A little nonsense now and then
Is relished by the wisest men."

Even serious old Longfellow had this feeling in his bones when he wrote the immortal lines which all of us recall from childhood:

"There was a little girl
And she had a little curl
Which hung way down on her forehead;
And when she was good,
She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad, she was horrid."

This is nonsense pure and simple and even the most ardent admirers of Mr. Longfellow must, when they try to make “forehead” and “horrid” rhyme, admit that it was very poor verse for the author of “Evangeline."

Bret Harte flew off at a tangent when he wrote about “Ah Sin, The Chinaman,” a nonsense poem that gave “Bill Nye” his pseudonym. Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote “The Wonderful One-Hoss Shay.” Rudyard Kipling is often “caught with the goods on him” and Mark Twain wrote an “Ode to Stephen Dowling Botts."

And Great Scott! I almost forgot that even such a gentle, domestic creature as the cow has been the unconscious inspiration of much nonsense and has doubtless often chewed the bitter cud of reflection in deploring her undesired popularity. First she was forced (very much against her will, no doubt) to jump over the moon to the undignified strains of “Hey Diddle, Diddle.” Then, just when beginning to breathe easily again after that astounding performance, Gelett Burgess came along and gave her more notoriety by raising the question as to whether there was such a thing as a “purple cow.” And even today in many of the rural districts there are old farmers who never heard of Burgess and his “purple cow” who will tell you solemnly that “there is a cow of a sort of purplish color.” Which goes to prove that after all nonsense is only sense plus NON.

The poems in this collection have appeared from time to time in The Kentucky Post, The Cincinnati Post, The Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, Humanity and The Valley Magazine.