Bloody Versicles: The Rhymes of Crime

Bloody Versicles: The Rhymes of Crime

Bloody Versicles: The Rhymes of Crime

Bloody Versicles: The Rhymes of Crime


An updated and enlarged edition of an annotated collection originally published more than 20 years ago. Bloody Versicles serves as two books in one: an anthology of ribald, moralistic, sad, yet amusing and entertaining verse relating to specific crimes; and a small encyclopaedia of select criminals and their wrongdoings.


Like its author, Bloody Versicles is an original.

It is an anthology of amusing, informative doggerel about true crimes committed in the United States and Great Britain over the last two centuries or so. As such, there is nothing quite like it. But its true distinction is in the canny contexts— really introductions-cum-commentaries—in which Goodman sets his "crhymes." They are so stamped with his unique authority as a collector and antiquarian and historian of crime that they become autonomous brief histories of the deeds themselves—as well as of the society they at once violated and expressed. And they are colorfully illustrated with precise word-pictures of the malefactors in all their vainglory. Bloody Versicles has something for every taste!

Readers with a primarily literary or anthropological interest will find a fresh store of folk art, part of a tradition reaching back to the broadsheet ballads that were the poor person's newspapers from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. One of my favorites, a theological couplet that might have been written by a Miltonized Larry Hart, was inspired by Isaac Sawtell's murder of his brother Hiram in the 1890s in New Hampshire:

Two brothers in our town did dwell;
Hiram sought heaven, but Isaac Sawtell.

Eminent literary names decorate the text as well, from Lamb and Dickens to Oscar Wilde and Cole Porter. And Goodman even salutes a disturbing notion raised by the weight of some of his entries—the possibility of a deeper link between poetry and murder than most poetry lovers (save, of course, the wives of certain poets) would care to think about.

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