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Poetry Reading (Ants)

The cast:

Graham Chapman
Terry Jones
Terry Gilliam
Eric Idle

The sketch:

(Cut to a poetry reading. Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats and Tennyson are present. Chris stands quietly in the comer hoping not to be noticed.)

Old Lady: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, it's so nice to see such a large turnout this afternoon. And I'd like to start off by welcoming our guest speakers for this afternoon,... Mr. Wadsworth...

Wordsworth: Wordsworth!

Old Lady: Sorry, Wordsworth... Mr. John Koots, and Percy Bysshe.

Shelley: Shelley!

Old Lady: Just a little one, medium dry, (a dwarf assistant pours her a sherry) and Alfred Lorde.

Tennyson: Tennyson.

Old Lady: Tennis ball.

Tennyson: Son, son.

Old Lady: Sorry - Alfred Lord, who is evidently Lord Tennisball's son. And to start off I'm going to ask Mr. Wadsworth to read his latest offering, a little pram entitled 'I wandered lonely as a crab' and it's all about ants.

(Murmur of exalted anticipation. Wordsworth rises rather gloomily.)


I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high over vales and hills
When all at once I saw a crowd
A host of golden worker ants.

(Ripples of applause.)

Old Lady: Thank you, thank you, Mr. Bradlaugh. Now, 'Mr. Bysshe.

Shelley: Shelley.

Old Lady: Oh... (the dwarf refills her glass)... is going to read one of his latest psalms, entitled 'Ode to a crab'.

Shelley: (rising: and taking his place quietly) Well, it's not about crabs actually, it's called 'Ozymandias'. It's not an ode.

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said 'Six vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert
And on the pedestal these words appear
My name is Ozymandias, King of Ants
(oohs from his audience)
Look on my feelers, termites, and despair
I am the biggest ant you'll ever see
The ants of old weren't half as bold and big
And fierce as me'.

(Enormous applause.)

Old Lady: Thank you Mr. Amontillado. I'd like to ask one or two of you at the back not to soil the carpet, there is a restroom upstairs if you find the poems too exciting (she falls over) Good afternoon, next, Mr. Dennis Keat will recite his latest problem 'Ode to a glass of sherry'. (she falls off the podium)


My heart aches and a drowsy numbness pains
My senses, as though an anteater I'd seen
(panic spreads and the audience half rise)
A nasty long-nosed brute
(screams from the audience)
With furry legs and sticky darting tongue
I seem to feel its cruel jaws
Crunch crunch there go my legs
Snap snap my thorax too
(various screaming women faint)
My head's in a twain, there goes my brain
Swallow, swallow, swallow, slurp

(he loses control)

Old Lady: Mr. Keats, Mr. Keats, please leave immediately.

Keats: It's true. Don't you see. It's true. It happens.

Old Lady: (she bustles him out) Ladies and gentlemen, I do apologize for that last... well I hesitate to call it a pram ... but I had no idea ... and talking of filth... I have asked you once about the carpet ... Now, I do appreciate that last poem was very frightening... but please! Now before we move on to tea and pramwiches, I would like to ask Arthur Lord Tenniscourt to give us his latest little plum entitled 'The Charge of the Ant Brigade'.

Tennyson: Half an inch, half an inch...

(Enter Queen Victoria with a fanfare, followed by Albert's coffin.)

All: The Queen, the Queen. (they all bow and scrape)

Queen Victoria: My loyal subjects, we are here today on a matter of national import. My late husband and we are increasingly concerned by recent developments in literary style (developing a German accent) that have taken place here in Germany ... er England. There seems to be an increasing tendency for ze ent... the ent... the ant... to become the dominant ... was is der dentaches Entwiddungsbund...

Attendant: Theme.

Queen Victoria: Theme ... of modern poetry here in Germany. We are not ... amusiert? (an attendant whispers) Entertained. From now on, ants is verboten. Instead it's skylarks, daffodils, nightingales, light brigades and ... was ist das schreckliche Gepong ... es schmecke wie ein Scheisshaus... und so weiter. Well, we must away now or we shall be late for the races. God bless you alles.

(Chris leaves. We cut to him outside a door with a sign saying 'Electric Kettles '.)

Voice: Psst! Electric kettles over here, Sir.

(A hand holding a sign saying 'Toupees' beckons him. He goes over to door and is ushered through. There are pictures of famous bald world figures with toupees on the walls... Continued...)

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