RNDAMBO of the fabled lost race of Kirilifif, ascended the sacred orange mountain of Ostralith to leave the last record of his civilisation in ultra-dense Neutron Letters on the ancient tablets of Futh, before the great Supernova of the Crab Nebula destroyed the planet forever.
These tablets, thirteen in total, are all that survive of this great civilisation and comprise an astonishingly diverse record of the wisdom and arts of this people. Tablet number nine deals with, amongst other things, extra-terrestial poetry. In the opening paragraph a statement is to be found which reads as follows: "I would rather share a life-support capsule with a Vogon than be part of a Vl'hurg extra-terrestial poetry evening.". Although apparently discouraging, we think that in fact this is a reasonable commendation, since "Vogon" in their language means (we think) "very attractive Kirilififian of the opposite sex" (though it has to be said that this interpretation raises a few problems since, as far as we know, there was only one Kirilififian sex). Anyway, leaving the various minor problems to one side we shall assume that the point of this is to say that Vl'hurg extra-terrestial poetry evenings are a good thing. Having established this fact, I should now explain what is required.
"Poetry" is, in the most general sense, a set of acoustic wave patterns, or optically communicated codes which cause spontaneous dialysis of t-RNA molecules in the nervous systems of various kinds of life-forms which contain their enzyme production codes in the double helix. Although it is often understood that "poetry" is only possible for primates, recent research has shown that almost anything advanced enough to replicate its own DNA is capable of this. A recent research paper of the University of Kugg on Santraginius IV has illuminated the matter considerably. Their research consisted of studying the electrical pulses emitted from a male Santraginian plankton to a female Santraginian plankton in a glass beaker. The pulses could be monitored and converted into codes, which we denote by the letters A-D, and these in turn could be tianslated into (vaguely) intelligible phrases. The first group was
AAB AAB CAB DDB CCD ABD CDB ADB CDB BBD CBD DAC CCA BBA DDA ACB DDA CCD CAC CCD AAC DCD ABD BBB DBB ACD BDA ADC DCB ABD CAP BDA CDB BDC AAD BCC AAA DBB AAD CCC DBB DBB AAA DBB DBB AAA DBB.
This translates as follows: -
Woo-ee baby, I love you so,
Woo-ee baby, you're the most,
Woo-ee baby, you're the one, you re my girl,
You're my one and only you-oo.
The second group followed a somewhat different pattern:
DDA DDA CCA CCA DCB BCD BDD BDC AAA ABB CBD DCCCCA BDA CDA CDA DDD BDC BDC CCB DCC DCC ADC DBC CAA CAC CCC BAC DDC AAD AAC ABC BCD ADC ACD ADD BCD BBC DCA DAC DDA CCD BBC CCC CAC CDC BDC ACD BDB CAC CCA AAD ADC BAC DCB ACD BCD ACD DCA BCD.
This translates as: -
'Having said all of that, it is really only fair that I should point out that it is only about ten million years since we plankton were just odd groups of Amino acids floating around in the seas of Santraginius, waiting for lightning bolts to make us into longer Carbon chains, so you ought to be aware of the following:
'(1). When I say that you are "the one" and "my girl" this must be taken with a pinch of salt, because to be perfectly frank, I would not be able to tell the difference between you and any other female plankton. In fact the electrical signal that you send which really gets me going feels exactly the same as the one that a sperm whale emits when it is picking its gums and boy has that got me into trouble! Why, only last week I escaped being part of a mid-morning snack for a pre-pubescent male sperm whale only because it had a cold and coughed me out before I was swallowed completely! WOW! What a life?! Who'd be a plankton on Santraginius! - or, come to that, any other planet!? Still, I suppose that you've got to have a decent Food Chain.
'(2). The words in the first bit - don't you think there's something there - rhythmic - if you see what I mean. Not that it matters - not much anyway - but I wonder if the effect couldn't be improved by banging my head against a rock or kicking my lower tentacles in time with the words? I'll think about it.'
Clearly, this is at a fairly primitive level, but the point to be noted is the rhythmic nature of the first group (although the second group does not possess this quality). The plankton evidently uses this to accentuate the emotions conveyed by the words, thus elevating the piece above mere straightforward communication, and so, as the Professors at the University of Kugg explain in their conclusion, one could designate such impulses by the term "poetry". The purpose of all this is simply to remind the reader of the generality of the term "poetry".
Obviously, the kind of poetry which would be required for a Vl'hurg extra-terrestial poetry evening must necessarily be at a much higher level. To help with inspiration let us consider samples of some of our great masters: for example that of the Cosmic Mega-Bard Jonk of Spica III whose masterpiece "Ode to a Nocturnal Ngawng Bird" has been translated into 325,601 different languages:
'My heart aches and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thy happiness
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.
O for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cooled a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm south,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim
And purple-stained mouth,
That I might drink and leave the world unseen,
And plastered lie, while speeding past the outer rim.
Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget:
Pop packets of purple pep pills and trip out all alone
With brain all viscid Gazpacho but seeing yet
Green and pink striped dolphins in the treacle sea of yellow tone,
Where house-size toadstools waltz with orange bears.
Ah Cool! O Groovy! What a smash, eh Guys?
These country trips are it! Who cares about tomorrow,
Or waking life's affairs?
Oh, Wow! Look: some Airfix in litre size!
Breathe in deep! Ah, snorting is such sweet sorrow!
But wait! Some Coke have I on me!
In a plastic bag 'twixt my Credit Cards!
Thus found I'll sniff my way to ecstasy!
Though my luckless brain corrodes and retards.
My spirit's free! Through azure worlds in flight.
Scooting, soaring, climbing or falling like a stone!
I'll suck LSD for this next phase:
I might as well do this right!
Whoops! My body's expired with a final groan!
Being a Poet's too tough. In my next life I'll work at Barclays.'
This delicate piece, at once gay vivacity and tragic disillusionment has been an inspiration to versifyers throughout the Local Group: even on the spiral arms of the unregarded Milky Way. Yet more delicate is I wandered lonely as a Korell-Irok by the esteemed Urdz-Urt of the lesser Magellanic cloud. The first two stanzas run as follows:
'I wandered lonely as a Korell-Irok
That floats on high o'er enzigrammas and urtribengrodoons
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of karramangaderrafichia engadagarurdellifonts.
Beside the eetanurchatwalluk. beneath the foodoowandud
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the lekkalekkamurfrues that shine
And twinkle on the Urg.
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of the eetanurchatwalleroon:
6,561 saw I at a glance.
Tossing their engadagarurdellifontembegdoes in sprightly dance.'
Unfortunately, this piece loses a lot in translation. It tends to destroy the natural rhythm that this poem has in its native tongue. Also, in the Magellanic clouds they have nine fingers and count in base nine, and it is suspected that the number 6,561 (= 10,000 in base 9) is actually by no means this definite - i.e. it is there for poetic "effect" rather than as a precise statement of the number of engadagarurdellifonts that the poet observed.
Last, and by any means least, if all else fails the reader may be inspired (or rather the opposite of inspired - whatever that is) by Vogon poetry. The following is a poignant love lament by the Vogon poet McVogannal:
A VOGON LOVE LAMENT.
Love? A word that aliens use.
Though I've never been sure just what it means.
Leastways, it's not the word I'd choose
To describe what I felt for you.
But all the same I can't see why
You put an end to our little fling
Since I'm no worse a guy
Than any other young Vogon you might pick up.
I threw up over you on your bed
(It was the jar of Brylcream on top of that beer)
What a night that was! though my head
Next day felt as though it had been stewed.
And as I lie in my Goulash bath,
And rub Margarine on my shoulder blades
I imagine my finger seeking a path
Up the ridges of skin around your waist
Then I stroke myself with a brush of wire:
The thought of beating you with my running spikes
Turns me on something dire.
But I suppose I'll have to get someone else now.