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From Half-Hours With The Best Humorous Authors, selected and arranged by Charles Morris, Vol. II. American; J. B. Lippincott Company; Philadelphia; 1889, pp. 93-97.



Among the humorous productions of mankind the epigram ranks high, yielding sparkling fragments of versified wit that seems to glitter from every word as the diamond from every facet. The world’s literary museum is well stored with specimens of this condensed wisdom, of which we offer a few anonymous examples. What an epigram is, or should be, can be best told by an epigram:

THE qualities all in a bee that we meet:
     In an epigram never should fail:
The body should always be little and sweet,
     And a sting should be felt in the tail.

Or, as still more briefly photographed, —

What is an epigram? A dwarfish whole;
Its body brevity, and wit its soul.

The following on wit has the same application:

True wit is like the brilliant stone
     Dug from the Indian mine,
Which boasts two various powers in one, —
     To cut as well as shine.
Genius, like that, if polished right
     With the same gift abounds;
Appears at once both keen and bright,
     And sparkles while it wounds.

With these introductory examples we give a series of epigrams selected from the multitude afloat upon the stream of literature.

A fool does never changes his mind;
     But who can think that strange”
The reason’s clear, for fools, my friends,
     Have not a mind to change.


Your comedy I’ve read, my friend,
     And like the half you pilfered best;
But sure the piece you yet may mend;
     Take courage, man, and steal the rest.

I cannot praise the doctor’s eyes;
     I never saw his glance divine;
For when he prays he shuts his eyes,
     And when he preaches he shuts mine.

May never lady press his lips,
     His proffered love returning,
Who makes a furnace of his mouth
     And keeps its chimney burning.
May each true woman shun his sight
     For fear the fumes might choke her,
And none but those who smoke themselves
     Have kisses for a smoker.

With whiskers thick upon my face
     I went my fair to see;
She told me she could never love
     A bear-faced chap like me.
I shaved them clean, and called again,
     And thought my trouble o’er;
She laughted outright, and said I was
     More bare-faced than before.

“I cannot conceive,” said a lady one day,
“Why my hair all at once should be growing so gray;
Perhaps,” she continued, “the change may be due
To my daily cosmetic, the essence of rue.”
“That may be,” said a wag, “but I’ll really protest
The essence of Time (thyme) will account for it best.”


An album, prythee, what is it?
     A book I always shun;
Kept to be filled with others’ wit
     By people that have none.

What is the reason — can you guess? —
     Why men are poor, and women thinner?
So much do they for dinner dress,
     There’s nothing left to dress for dinner.

Vanity Fair is responsible for the following:

“Old dog Tray’s ever faithful,” they say,
But the old dog who is faithful can never be-Tray.

As Pat, an old joker, and Yankee more sly,
Once, riding together, a gallows passed by,
Said the Yankee to Pat, “If I don’t make too free,
Give the gallows its due, and pray where would you be?”
“Why, honey,” said Pat, “faith that’s easily known:
I’d be riding to town by myself all alone.”

He who a watch would keep,
     This he must do,
Pocket his watch
     And watch his pocket too.

The earliest incident in the history of the human race, as represented by Father Adam, is thus wittily epitomized:

He laid him down and slept, and from his side
     A woman in her magic beauty rose:
Dazzled and charmed, he called the woman bride,
     And his first sleep became his last repose.


“Is my wife out of spirits?” said Jones, with a sigh.
     As her voice of a tempest gave warning.
“Quite out, sir, indeed,” was the servant’s reply,
     “For she finished the bottle this morning.”

“Friend Ass,” said the Fox, as he met him one day,
“What can people mean? Do you know what they say?”
“No, I don’t,” said the Ass; “nor I don’t care, not I.”
Why, they say you’re a genius,” was Reynard’s reply.
“My stars!” muttered Jack, quite appalled by the word,
“What an I have done that’s so very absurd?”

A long way off Lucinda strikes the men;
               As she draws near,
               And one sees clear,
A long way off one wishes her again.

On a wife who beat her husband.

Come hither, Sir George, my picture is here;
     What think you, my love; does it strike you?”
“I can’t say it does just at present, my dear,
     But I think it soon will, it’s so like you.”


Two scraps of foundation, some fragments of lace,
A shower of French rose-buds to droop o’er the face;
Fine ribbons and feathers, with crape and illusion,
Then mix and derange them in graceful confusion;
Inveigle some fairy, out roaming for pleasure,
And beg the slight favor of taking her measure,
The length and the breadth of her dear little pate,
And hasten a miniature frame to create;
Then pour, as above, the bright mixture upon it,
And, lo! you possess “such a love of a bonnet!”



As my wife and I at the window one day
     Stood watching a man with a monkey,
A cart came by, with a “broth of a boy,”
     Who was driving a stout little donkey.
To my wife I then spoke, by way of a joke.
     ”There’s a relation of yours in that carriage;”
To which she replied, as the donkey she spied,
     ”Ah, yes, — a relation by marriage.


How comes it, this delightful weather,
That U and I can’t dine together?

My worthy friend, it cannot B:
U cannot come till after T.


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