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The Codex Magniloquens

Codex Magniloquens (preserved and arranged by Geoff Butler)

Editor's note: each of these delightful quartets obfuscate a common English expression or proverb. To get you started, the answer to the first is "a rolling stone gathers no moss". Don't worry, the answers are given below.

1. A lithoid form whose onward course
Is shaped by gravitational force
Can scarce enjoy the consolation
Of bryophytic aggregation.


2. Of little value, his compunctions,
Who arrogates clavigerous functions,
When once from circumscribing pen
Is fled its equine denizen.


3. What keeps the avian species warm?
It's decorations pinniform!
When these impress, their owners' pride
Is comparably fortified.


4. For none who claims to represent
The Homo species sapient
Will loiter Einstein's fourth dimension
Or sea's quotidian declension.


5. Conducting to a watering-place
A quadruped of equine race
Is simple, but he may not care
To practise imbibition there.


6. That unit of the avian tribe,
Whose movements one can circumscribe
"In manu", as a pair will rate,
Subarboreally situate.


7. Faced with material esculent
As source of liquid nourishment,
Avoid excess, 'twill but displease,
Of culinary expertise.


8. Observed the coroner: "Perpend,
"The death of this, our feline friend,
"Reflects preoccupation shown
"With business other than his own."


9. To carry haulm of cereal growth
The tylopod is nothing loath.
But just one haulm too many means
That dorsal fracture supervenes.


10. When, nimbus-free, Sol marches by
The circumambient sky,
To graminiferous meads repair -
Your instant task awaits you there!


11. What's purveyed by the bakery,
And oft partaken of at tea,
Is some temptation to ingest,
But cannot then be repossessed.


12. The first arrival hirundine
Should not be taken as a sign
That it is time to aestivate.
Hang on until you get a spate.


13. To offer cranial inclination
Serves as well as nictitation
If equine quadruped intent
Is ocularly impotent.


14. Observe the avifaunal nations
Eschewing random aggregations,
Respecting taxonomic border
Arrange themselves in Wetmore order


15. The topologic reconnection
Of fabricated garb in section
Is efficacious for preventing
An ennead of like cementing


16. The gallon's aliquot divisions
By eight and four have no provisions
To compass in the former's hulk
The liquid of the latter's bulk


17. Rhetoric art quite fails to turn
The lactic oils within the churn
And (though its hearers stand amazed)
Leaves pastinaceous roots unglazed.


18. The felon who purloins the hart
Reserved for mighty Nimrod's dart
Will, in exchange for coin or kind,
With utmost skill preserve the hind.


19. Omitted from one's cerebration
Midst periods of isolation--
Forsooth one ne'er doth ideate
One's amative consociate!


20. No matter how he pelf acquires--
Through moil or braving Satan's fires,
Delict or battle uncontested--
Erelong an ament is divested.


21. However bleak the sight may be
Of nimbused tenebrosity
Remember that each vapour floating
Has within an argent coating.


22. The pond in some deserted mead
Is home of bedstead, boot and weed.
Quiescent surface does not show
The range of hypogeal flow.


23. She who attends the bain-marie
With diligent expectancy
Will quit this sphere from inanition
Before it reaches ebullition.


24. To Hymen's altar ne'er proceed
With rash and unconsidered speed;
For swift espousals oft beget
Protracted eons of regret.


25. By Tiber's side what's social law
Would much offend in Arkansas.
The wisest custom's to conform,
In manners, to the local norm.


26. The whiskered Nimrod now departs.
Roll out the cheese! Lift up your hearts!
The murine nation's on a spree:
Ailurophobic revelry.


27. See Cavall, Gelert, and the rest
Whose dormant state is manifest.
Ignore their cynophonic snores;
Do not alert these carnivores.


28. Careful observation shows
That, when resisting viscous flows,
The living fluid in the veins
Beats that which gathers when it rains.


29. The bony herald does not spell
For martial veterans their knell;
Translucently their fate is that
They emulate the Cheshire Cat.


30. When glazing's used for every tile
And panel in a domicile,
We warn the dwellers in these modules
Against projecting petrous nodules.


31. A rule regarding cock and hen
Learned by successful husbandmen:
Do not commence enumerating
Ere they have finished incubating.


32. Those of the fairer sex will find
Advances from the other kind
Will not come forth in their direction
Adorned with ocular correction


33. A porcine choral education
Is not a worthwhile occupation.
You won't account it time well used,
And hog or sow will feel abused.


34. The power over the demesne
Whose lords and serfs have never seen
(Though you may think it jocular)
Is held by him monocular


35. In the set with every human being
Arranged by faculty of seeing
The minimal elements are those
Who purposely their eyes do close.


36. Among the threefold classification
Of methods of prevarication
Are falsehoods simple and accursed
And those with means and graphs--the worst.


37. The set of meals served at midday
Whose cost is such that none need pay,
Though many advertise it, still,
Its cardinality is nil.


38. If wistful thinking wanders on
To Suffolk Punch or Percheron
No mendicant shows hesitation
In espousing equitation.


39. A Yorkish gate, or ginnel, can
Have finite length Euclidian,
Yet seem to fail to terminate
If pathologically straight.


40. Corporeal punishment
With dermal lesions evident
Is inappropriate if linked
To eohippus that's extinct.


Numbers 1 to 10 by Hubert Phillips, 1943.
Numbers 11 and 12 by Hugh Darwen, 1987.
Number 13 by Geoff Butler, 1988.
Numbers 14 to 18 by John Bennett, 1988.
Numbers 19 and 20 by Paul Cohen, 1988.
Numbers 21 and 22 by Christine Wood, 1990.
Numbers 23 to 26 by Amy Varin, 1990-91.
Numbers 27 to 30 by John Bennett, 1991-92.
Numbers 31 to 37 by Evan Kirschenbaum, 2000.
Number 38 to 40 by Geoff Butler, 2000.


1. A rolling stone gathers no moss.

2. It's no use locking the stable door after the horse has bolted.

3. Fine feathers make fine birds.

4. Time and tide wait for no man.

5. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.

6. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

7. Too many cooks spoil the broth.

8. Curiosity killed the cat.

9. It's the last straw that breaks the camel's back.

10. Make hay while the sun shines.

11. You can't eat your cake and have it.

12. One swallow doesn't make a summer.

13. A nod's as good as a wink to a blind horse.

14. Birds of a feather flock together.

15. A stitch in time saves nine.

16. You can't get a quart into a pint pot.

17. Fine words butter no parsnips.

18. Poachers make the best gamekeepers.

19. Out of sight, out of mind.

20. A fool and his money are soon parted.

21. Every cloud has a silver lining.

22. Still waters run deep.

23. A watched pot never boils.

24. Marry in haste, repent at leisure.

25. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

26. When the cat's away the mice will play.

27. Let sleeping dogs lie.

28. Blood is thicker than water.

29. Old warriors never die, they simply fade away.

30. People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

31. Don't count your chickens before they're hatched.

32. Early to be, early to rise, Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.

32. Men don't make passes at women with glasses.

33. Don't teach a pig to sing: it's a waste of time and it annoys the pig.

34. In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king

35. There's none so blind as those who will not see

36. There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.

37. There's no such thing as a free lunch.

38. If wishes were horses then beggars would ride.

39. It's a long lane that has no turning.

40. It's no use flogging a dead horse





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