The works of Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, are true classics of children’s literature, adored the world over for their inventive rhymes and imaginative illustrations. However, many people aren’t aware that, like Shakespeare, Geisel was a master cribber, lifting and remixing existing content to form his signature nonsense stories in verse. In fact, a cache of recently rediscovered manuscripts from the obscure 16th-century poet, playwright, and scholar Mervyn Kynan, Lord Mooneye, reveal that many of Geisel’s best-known books were lifted virtually whole cloth from that forgotten figure of Elizabethan literature. In the spirit of Dr. Seuss’s birthday, I present one of those below. Can you guess which work it inspired?
Lord Maroon Can Meow! Canst Thou?
O! The wonders of my lord Maroon do abound!
He’s a walking menagerie of wondrous sounds.
Like a rat-catching tom, my lord trills a “Meow! Meow!”
I tell you, my lord Maroon has it! Hast thou?
He can sound like an ape from the Barbary lands
Or the blood-frenzy’d howling of savage warbands.
Like a humble-bee, he makes a buzzing so horrid
Thou wouldst think he belongs in a bower all florid.
Like an ass, how he brays! Like a bull, how he loweth!
On the topic of sounds, Maroon’s cup overfloweth.
He can bark like a cur! He can snort like a swine!
His talents at mimicry far exceed thine.
Say, my Lord on my lord hath such blessings bestow’d
Thou wouldst distrust thine eyes that he were not a toad.
But these blessings beyond matters bestial extend;
He’ll to many odd whistles and knocks fain pretend.
When with great puffs of air porcine jowls he fattens,
He can sound like a bell calling pilgrims to matins.
And the sound that he makes when he rattles his jaw
Is not unlike the clattering of a coach-and-four.
And when the sky cracks, with deluges and levins,
Lord Maroon can play Jove, flinging bolts from the heavens.
And lest we forget Lord Maroon’s greatest power,
He can sound just like Westminster tolling the hour.
With cacophonous gurgles and squeaks, Lord Maroon
Does a cunning charade of an ill-tuned bassoon.
Lord Maroon can emit such a wondrous racket;
Now I put it to thee; durst THOU strive to attack it?
My lord’s skills so eclipse those of thee or of I,
I would wager thou hasn’t the mettle to try!