Wortley Clutterbuck

Quarreling Academy

The art of quarreling, my friend,
is one with rules ye must perpend;
a chuff may simply slap a face
but, here in London, jeers have grace;
there's etiquette and precedent -
it's all done by the book, good gent;
now, for a fee, we can teach thee
the proper forms of raillery.
There's compliments that are insults
and preteritions hinting faults;
a backhand slander's de rigueur,
a subtle barb's most debonair;
the Reproof Valiant may serve,
but other taunts should fill thy oeuvre;
employ the Quip Coy and Squib Curt -
let knaves have kicking shins overt.
There's Lies Direct and Circumspect
and both have class if phrased correct;
you'll manage quarrels all by line,
your put-downs hit when they're condign;
humiliation is the goal
but show some suavity, thou troll;
you'll master charming axioms
calumniating thy victims;
you'll earn the praise of the bon ton
with your invective's lexicon;
you'll be the toast of the smart set,
a genius of the epithet.
This is the sport of the well-bred,
a wit's a bravo who's well-read;
so drub 'em strongly on the ear
with a quotation by Shakespeare;
society likes jibes espoused
by sparks who make their jests a joust;
it takes good taste to slay thy foes
with quarreling punctilios;
ye want to lay 'em low, trust us
with bon mot recumbentibus.


1. William Shakespeare, As You Like It , act V, sc. IV. (return)
2. Ben Jonson, The Alchemist , act II, sc. II. (return)

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Wortley Clutterbuck, at approximately three hundred years old, remembers the manly verses of John Wilmot and Charles Sedley, the enchanting lasses (and harlots) of Hogarth and Pope’s London, and that big buzzkill Robespierre in Paris. His latest masterwork is the rococo rap opera Poèmes Déplorables, available gratis at SoundCloud. Recent work at Litro (UK), Quadrant (Australia) and Spindrift (US).

>> Back to Issue 24, 2021-22

Published by Pen and Anvil Press


ISSN 2150-6795
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