Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What is Doggerel?

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

Ever heard of doggerel? Let's look it up.

From Dictionary.com: doggerel
1. a. comic verse, usually irregular in measure
  b. ( as modifier ): a doggerel rhythm
2. nonsense; drivel

From the Online Etymology Dictionary: doggerel
late 14c. (adj.); 1630s (n.), probably from dog + pejorative suffix -rel and applied to bad poetry perhaps with a suggestion of puppyish clumsiness, or being fit only for dogs. Attested as a surname from mid-13c., but the sense is not evident.

Basically, for us novelists, the poems and songs we write for our books are doggerel. Don't be offended that the definition of doggerel calls our stunning words "bad poetry." It's just that, for the most part, we aren't writing poems that will stagger the literary world. We're writing poems to add to our stories. And sometimes doggerel is done very well.

Here is one you may recognize:

Chip the glasses and crack the plates!
Blunt the knives and bend the forks!
That's what Bilbo Baggins hates—
Smash the bottles and burn the corks!

Cut the cloth and tread on the fat!
Pour the milk on the pantry floor!
Leave the bones on the bedroom mat!
Splash the wine on every door!

Dump the crocks in a boiling bowl;
Pound them up with a thumping pole;
And when you’ve finished if any are whole,
Send them down the hall to roll!

That's what Bilbo Baggins hates!
So, carefully! carefully with the plates!

I had a lot of fun writing doggerel for my Blood of Kings trilogy. Here are a few of my favorites.

A song Achan sings to distract himself from the lure of Darkness:

“Hail the piper, fiddle, fife,
The night is young and full of life.
The Corner teems with ale and song.
And we shall dance the whole night long.”

“Hear the pretty maiden sing,
Hair and ribbons all flowing.
She can take my heart away,
By her side I long to stay.”

And here is the song Achan learns in Berland, the one that Yumikak sang to him. I, pathetically, put this one to music. Click here to listen. Warning! It's not very good.

View Not My Face

View not my face, I am undone beside you
The beating of my heart will not cease
Whilst I am near you, whilst I am near you

Pity on my heart, from the day I first saw you
Your pleasing face burns my memories
Whenever we’re apart, whenever we’re apart

Though I am nothing to you, I love you, I do.

How shall I make it known, that I love you?

And a song from book three--with spoilers!--another that I put to music, that those who made the book trailer for From Darkness Won played much better than I. Click here to listen. Warning! It's really bad! LOL Seriously, listening to my two songs makes me laugh and laugh and laugh...

The Pawn Our King

He grew up here in Sitna Town,
The hand his life was dealt.
He milked the goats and fetched the wood
Or Poril gave him the belt.

The pawn our king, sing merry, merry, merry.
The pawn our servant king.
For he was once the lowest of all strays
And now claims to be king.

Then the Great Whitewolf took him up,
Taught him to use a sword.
He fought quite well, his blade struck true,
And blood from Esek poured.

Remember us, sing merry, merry, merry.
Remember us, O king.
For you were once the lowest of all strays
And now you’ll be our king.

Ever write doggerel for your books? Feel free to share some in the comments.


  1. So THAT's what it's called... cool. Maybe I can do this in my book!

    1. Cool, I got first comment! That's never happened to me before. I'm usually a bit of a late sleeper. :P

    2. Ha ha. Congrats on being the first comment!

  2. I want to write some doggerel, but I have yet to do so.

  3. That's really interesting. I'm very impatient, so I don't like reading it, but that seems like it would be a fun thing to try. Now, maybe if I start writing fantasy. Plus, it does have a cool sound....

    Thanks for the post! I learned something new today :)

    1. It's funny, but I don't like reading it, either. I usually skip it, and if it turns out to be important to the story, then I come back and read it.

  4. I'm not much of a poet, but many of my characters like to sing, and they insist on me writing songs for them to sing. So far I haven't had more than one or two a book, but I have one book where the FMC has a magic singing voice, and anything she sings happens ... I've written a few songs for her already, but there will be more ...

    1. That's fun, Kendra! I wrote about a girl with a magic voice once, but it wasn't a singing voice. Just a regular one. LOL

  5. I've written some doggerel before, and it actually did sound pretty good, but that was a long time ago. I suppose I should begin writing some songs, one of my characters is a singer/songwriter, so that will definitely come up. (By the way, I love the doggerel in The Hobbit.)

    1. It is fun, isn't it? I think he did a great job, even if poets might disagree.

  6. A little bit. And I plan to write more. :P

  7. I love The Hobbit's doggerel. Tolkien was so gifted in poetry, and sometimes I have fun (while I'm reading his books) setting the words to music :)

    1. Fun, Hannah! Do you play the music too? Or just sing it to yourself?

  8. From Amo Libros:
    I love the "Crack the Plates" song! It's one of my favorites from the Hobbit, right alongside "Far over the Misty Mountains" and Bilbo's anti-spider song. Actually, that's most of the songs in The Hobbit, now that I think of it.
    I've never tried doing any for my writing, but I would love to someday. I think having songs in a story adds a lot to, gives it extra dimension by showing there's a deeper culture there. Brian Jacques (Redwall series) did a lot of that, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    1. I still need to read some of those Redwall books. They're on my list!

  9. I love doggerel! I once did it for a story I'd started a long time ago. It was terrible. I hope to try it again some time soon.

  10. I love all the songs used in The Hunger Games. I like how it added to the story and how The Hanging Tree in particular was somewhat metaphorical. Beautiful Creatures also uses quite a bit of doggerel because Lena likes writing poetry. I haven't done any yet, but it might be fun in a future project :)

  11. Oh! So it's like the songs that the Oompa Loompas sing? :D

    I've written a doggerel for one of my stories before but I ended up editing it out. Maybe I'll try again with my WIP. I can see where it would fit now that I think about it...hmm.

  12. I've written doggerel a few times. 'Tis rather fun.

    I like those two songs, though. As in really, really like them.