Balliol rhyme

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A Balliol rhyme is a doggerel verse form with a distinctive metre. It is a quatrain, having two pairs of rhyming couplets, each line having four beats. They are written in the voice of the named subject and elaborate on that person's character or exploits or predilections.

The form is associated with Balliol College, Oxford.[1][2] In 1880, seven undergraduates of Balliol published 40 quatrains of doggerel lampooning various members of the college under the title The Masque of B-ll--l, now better known as The Balliol Masque, in a format that came to be called Balliol Rhyme. The college authorities suppressed the publication fiercely.[3] The verses were inspired by the conventions of traditional mummers plays (at their peak of popularity in the late 19th century), in which the dialogue took the form of simple verses, and in which characters introduced themselves on first entrance with some such formula as: "Here comes I a Turkish Knight / Come from the Turkish land to fight".[4]


About Benjamin Jowett, Master of Balliol (from "The Masque of B-ll--l"):

First come I. My name is J-w-tt.
There's no knowledge but I know it.
I am Master of this College,
What I don't know isn't knowledge.

About George Nathaniel Curzon:

My name is George Nathaniel Curzon,
I am a most superior person.
My cheeks are pink, my hair is sleek,
I dine at Blenheim twice a week.[2]

About John William Mackail:

I am tall and rather stately
And I care not very greatly
What you say, or what you do.
I'm Mackail - and who are you?[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Balliol College Annual Record 2002, pp.30
  2. ^ a b c Ed. Kingsley Amis. The New Oxford Book of English Light Verse. OUP 1978
  3. ^ Walter Reid. Empire of Sand: How Britain Made the Middle East
  4. ^ Historical Database of Folk Play Scripts, compiled by Peter Millington.


  • Hiscock, Walter George, ed. (1939). The Balliol Rhymes. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Venn, J.A.; Bailey, Cyril (30 August 1954). "Balliol Rhymes [Letters to the Editor]". The Times. p. 7. Retrieved 17 January 2014. (subscription required)

External links[edit]