Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I've never understood the tradition of having poetry at inaugurations. I'm not a big fan of poems in general. And I think I'm probably not alone. For one thing, poems at inaugurations never rhyme. Poems that don't rhyme make me feel sleepy and suspicious. I also confess to feeling a little dumb. I never have any idea what they're trying to say. I have to agree with the great Hengrim Olthian who once wrote: 

"That which is worth saying is worth saying normally. All else is poetry. In other words, poetry is stupid. Take the Itsy Bitsy Spider as an example. As I see it, it's much more efficient to tell the tale of this pitiful spider by stating that he crawled up a water spout and when the water came he fell and drowned. You see? That's much clearer than all that nonsense about 'down came the rain and washed the spider out.' Told my way the entire plight of this unenviable arachnid takes only 5 seconds. As a poem it's a useless waste of time and I'll kill anyone that thinks otherwise."

Anyway, I did a little research to find out where this tradition of the inaugural poem got started. The first president to have a poem at his inauguration was Benjamin Harrison. How it came to be is an interesting tale.

The night before his inauguration, Harrison was, in his words, "engaged in an excess of alcoholic potables with university alumnus Peter Teppeywhether. Ol Tepp and I got on quite a good drunk. Somewhere along the way he suggested that he should like to do a poem after my inaugural address. I liked the idea and bade him welcome without encumbrances to regale all gathered with his words of fancyness."

At the inauguration the next day, Harrison had forgotten all about the matter and, upon finishing his address, was surprised to see Teppeywhether wobble to the podium. Teppeywhether had never stopped drinking from the night before and was, in the words of one of those in attendance, "wreaking of urine and gin. But mostly urine."

When he got to the podium, Teppeywether collapsed to his knees and stayed that way throughout the poem. (Note the picture above which shows an inebriated Teppeywether performing his poem with only his head visible.)

Here is the poem Teppeywhether performed...

Daddy has a monkey
He sits it on his knee
And when the monkey's hungry
He feeds to it a flea.

Hungry little monkey
He never gets no bread
Then naughty monkey bites
Daddy hits him on the head

Angry little monkey
Attacks dear daddy's face
Daddy screams in pain
There is blood all or' the place

Daddy's deadly monkey
Goes a crazy on the man
Till Mama enters in
And hits the monkey with a pan.

With that, Teppeywhether collapsed and died five days later from extreme embarrassment. 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. "I'm not a big fan of poems in general."
    I seem to recall an epic poem by one Paul Rugg recanting the tale of "Ooey Gooey" who was in fact a worm. [Don't make me break out the youtube evidence].

    Speaking of Youtube, "and I'll kill anyone that thinks otherwise" many a youtube commenter has quoted the great Hengrim Olthian apparently. I didn't realize that until now.