The Oxford Book of Comic Verse

John Gross, Editor
John Gross, Editor Oxford University Press, USA $35 (552p) ISBN 978-0-19-214207-8
Reviewed on: 10/31/1994
Release date: 11/01/1994
Paperback - 560 pages - 978-0-19-283207-8
Paperback - 558 pages - 978-0-19-284086-8
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In his introduction, Gross, also the editor of The Oxford Book of Essays, defines comic verse as primarily meant to amuse. From this bland definition he derives his principles of inclusion: funny poems that do not exceed the boundaries of good taste. No bawdy lyrics, no skewering satire here. Within these limits, he surveys the field from Chaucer to Glyn Maxwell (1962-), comforting readers with such old chestnuts as Tom Brown's ``Dr. Fell,'' the anonymous ``Elinor Glyn'' and Gellett Burgess's ``The Purple Cow,'' and delighting them with new suprises like Burgess's sequel, ``Cinq Ans Apres,'' Richard Wilbur's ``Prisoner of Zenda,'' C.S. Calverley's ``Flight,'' Virginia Graham's ``Ein Complaint'' and a host of others. Arguments could be made over the relative lack of American and, especially, female voices-where, for example, are Gertrude Stein, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Marianne Moore?-and over the inclusion of popular song lyrics, poems in French, or Burma shave ads. But this is, overall, an entertaining collection that updates and complements W.H. Auden's Oxford Book of Light Verse (1939, reprinted 1979) without in the least challenging Auden's more serious purposes. (Dec.)
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