Soviet communist poster from Russia, 1924. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Things Worth Remembering: Making Fun of Marxism

A limerick about Stalin and Lenin, written by a former communist, wittily punctures their politics.

Welcome back to Douglas Murray’s Sunday column, Things Worth Remembering, where he presents passages from great poets he has committed to memory—and explains why you should, too. To listen to Douglas read two great limericks by Robert Conquest, click below:

I’m well aware that most of the poems I have summoned by heart are not amusing—far from it. In this series, we’ve explored the horrors of World War I and the Gulag, man’s confrontation with mortality, and many of the great philosophical questions—like Why am I here? and Will it matter that I lived? 

I have never been drawn to light verse. In fact, I was given a book of light verse years ago, and even though it was edited by the wonderful writer Kingsley Amis, I still look at it with a slight contempt.

Of course, there are funny poems. Take, for example, P.G. Wodehouse’s poem that curses sloppy publishers, “Printers Error,” in which the subject of the poem, a writer, contemplates murder after spotting a now that has been transformed into a not.

Or the Australian critic Clive James’s “The Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaindered,” which I wrote about earlier. (For some reason, quite a lot of the funniest poems, or at least quite a lot of the funniest poems that stick in my head, are literary inside jokes, like James’s.)

The modern master of the comic poem was Robert Conquest—who was born in the monumentally consequential year of 1917, the year of the Russian Revolution, and died nearly a century later in 2015. 

This post is for paying subscribers only


Already have an account? Log in

our Comments

Use common sense here: disagree, debate, but don't be a .

the fp logo
comment bg

Welcome to The FP Community!

Our comments are an editorial product for our readers to have smart, thoughtful conversations and debates — the sort we need more of in America today. The sort of debate we love.   

We have standards in our comments section just as we do in our journalism. If you’re being a jerk, we might delete that one. And if you’re being a jerk for a long time, we might remove you from the comments section. 

Common Sense was our original name, so please use some when posting. Here are some guidelines:

  • We have a simple rule for all Free Press staff: act online the way you act in real life. We think that’s a good rule for everyone.
  • We drop an occasional F-bomb ourselves, but try to keep your profanities in check. We’re proud to have Free Press readers of every age, and we want to model good behavior for them. (Hello to Intern Julia!)
  • Speaking of obscenities, don’t hurl them at each other. Harassment, threats, and derogatory comments that derail productive conversation are a hard no.
  • Criticizing and wrestling with what you read here is great. Our rule of thumb is that smart people debate ideas, dumb people debate identity. So keep it classy. 
  • Don’t spam, solicit, or advertise here. Submit your recommendations to if you really think our audience needs to hear about it.
Close Guidelines