(Poem #490) The Elements
There's antimony, arsenic, aluminum, selenium, And hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen and rhenium, And nickel, neodymium, neptunium, germanium, And iron, americium, ruthenium, uranium, Europium, zirconium, lutetium, vanadium, And lanthanum and osmium and astatine and radium, And gold, protactinium and indium and gallium, And iodine and thorium and thulium and thallium. There's yttrium, ytterbium, actinium, rubidium, And boron, gadolinium, niobium, iridium, And strontium and silicon and silver and samarium, And bismuth, bromine, lithium, beryllium, and barium. There's holmium and helium and hafnium and erbium, And phosphorus and francium and fluorine and terbium, And manganese and mercury, molybdenum, magnesium, Dysprosium and scandium and cerium and cesium. And lead, praseodymium, and platinum, plutonium, Palladium, promethium, potassium, polonium, And tantalum, technetium, titanium, tellurium, And cadmium and calcium and chromium and curium. There's sulfur, californium, and fermium, berkelium, And also mendelevium, einsteinium, nobelium, And argon, krypton, neon, radon, xenon, zinc, and rhodium, And chlorine, carbon, cobalt, copper, tungsten, tin, and sodium. These are the only ones of which the news has come to Ha'vard, And there may be many others, but they haven't been discavard.
An astonishing feat of ingenuity - a perfectly rhymed, perfectly metrical parody of 'The Major-General's Song' from Gilbert & Sullivan's 'Pirates of Penzance' . It's rather mild by Lehrer's standards (no serial killers, dope peddlers or mathematicians - indeed, no political incorrectness of any sort), but it's no less briliant for that, and who am I to complain? thomas.  For Gilbert's immortal original, see poem #88 [Web stuff] I found this in a Rhino records article about Tom Lehrer: "'The Elements' was an attempt to top the song 'Tschaikowsky', by Ira Gershwin and Kurt Weill. [Danny] Kaye sang it in the show Lady In The Dark, rattling off at lightning speed the names of 50 Russian composers." -- [broken link] http://www.rhino.com/features/liners/72776lin.html Other examples of poetic ingenuity abound on the Minstrels (no great surprise, given our fondness for the genre). Check out: 'Juggler, Magician, Fool: A Pantoum', by Peter Schaeffer, at poem #195 'Sonnet with a Different Letter at the End of Every Line', by George Starbuck, at poem #194 And then there's Mike Keith's home page, which I have to admit is the most mindblowingly amazing site I've come across in all my years of surfing the web: http://users.aol.com/s6sj7gt/mikehome.htm [More on Lehrer] "Tom Lehrer was one of comedy's great paradoxes -- a respected Harvard mathematics professor by day, he also ranked among the foremost song satirists of the postwar era, recording vicious, twisted parodies of popular musical trends which proved highly influential on the "sick comedy" revolution of the 1960s. Despite an aversion to the press and a relatively small recorded output, Lehrer became a star, although he remained an enigma to even his most ardent fans; he rarely toured, never allowed his photo to adorn album jackets, and essentially retired from performing in 1965, leaving behind a cult following which only continued to grow in his absence from the limelight." -- [broken link] http://www.allmusic.com [Still More on Lehrer] "Lehrer was born April 9, 1928; even as a child, he frequently parodied popular songs of the day, and also learned to play piano. In 1944, he left New York City to study math at Harvard, earning his master's degree within three years and remaining as a graduate student through 1953. During his student years Lehrer wrote The Physical Revue, a collection of academic song satires staged on campus in January, 1951; an updated performance followed in May of the next year. He also sang his parodies at coffeehouses and student gatherings throughout the Cambridge, Massachusetts area; as demand for an album of his songs increased, he spent $15 on studio time to cut Songs by Tom Lehrer, a ten-inch record privately pressed in an edition of 400 copies. The record sold out its entire run, and as the Harvard student body dispersed across the country for Christmas vacation, the disc spread ("like herpes," Lehrer joked) far beyond its intended local audience. Soon Lehrer was inundated with requests for copies from across the nation; after several re-pressings, Songs by Tom Lehrer sold an astounding 350, 000 copies on the strength of tracks like "I Hold Your Hand in Mine" (about a man who cut off his girlfriend's hand in order to nibble on her fingertips), "Irish Ballad" (a buoyant romp about a killing spree) and "My Home Town" (concerning a place where murderers teach school and old perverts operate the candy store). In 1955, Lehrer was inducted to serve in the Army, and was honorably discharged two years later. Finally, in 1959 he recorded a follow-up, More of Tom Lehrer, featuring "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park" and "The Masochism Tango; " the same collection of songs were also recorded during a live performance at Harvard, and issued simultaneously as An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer. A tour of Europe followed, resulting in another concert collection, Tom Lehrer Revisited, which constituted live renditions of the tracks from the debut LP. However, controversial reactions to his "sick" comedy during a series of Australian performances prompted Lehrer to retire, and he returned full-time to his first love, teaching." -- [broken link] http://www.allmusic.com