Poems about schadenfreude

11 July 2020

9:00 AM

11 July 2020

9:00 AM

In Competition No. 3156 you were invited to supply a piece of verse or prose on the subject of schadenfreude, a challenge inspired by the late great Clive James’s glorious poem ‘The Book of my Enemy Has Been Remaindered’, of which he said: ‘Not my most worthy moment, but somehow I had more fun writing that one than anything I ever wrote.’

Poetry outshone prose this week. Nick MacKinnon’s riff on ‘That’s Amore’ and F. Shardlow’s clever haiku both caught my eye, but they were eclipsed by the winners below who take £25.

Because young Norman often smiled
He seemed to be a pleasant child.
But sad to say, his joy arose
From contemplating others’ woes.
Their disappointments, great or slight,
Would cause him undisguised delight:
Should someone’s pet plan fail to work
He made no effort not to smirk;
And when one boy got stage-fright jitters
The clearest sound was Norman’s titters.
Then growing, while not wiser, older,
He made his mockery much bolder
Until at last a vast guffaw
To wide amusement locked his jaw.
Moral: Uncharitable thoughts are best
Kept silent, not made manifest.
W.J. Webster

Caught Red-Handed is the show
To thrill the schadenfreude buff.
It gives me such an inner glow
I simply cannot get enough.


The nasty neighbour monstering
The vulnerable folk next door!
The builder’s scam! The online sting!
The puppy thief, and many more!


I celebrate when handcuffs close
On scumbags captured bang to rights,
Rejoice when nemesis meets those
Who live by such amoral lights.


You see the panic in their eyes,
The degradation and regret.
I want to pray that they’ll revise
Their wicked ways — and yet, and yet…
Basil Ransome-Davies

I’m sorry that you got divorced, your wedding cost a mill,
your dress was on the front of Vogue; the guests were dressed to kill.
You’ll have to sell the Paris flat. Who gets to keep the yacht?
My heart is breaking for you, oh, it hurts an awful lot.
A shame about the tabloid pics, you really look like hell.
Who would have dreamed the nanny and the chef would kiss and tell?
We’ll all respect your privacy; we’ll hide the four-page spread.
I’m trying hard to empathise, why would I smile instead?
I hope you keep the diamond ring, and move on with regret,
You poor beleaguered celeb, weeping in your private jet.
I’m sorry that you got divorced, it makes me shed a tear.
You’re human like the rest of us, oh dear oh dear oh dear.
Janine Beacham

He did not wear his scarlet coat
When faced with trial and shame;
He eloquently praised the love
That dare not speak its name.
Then lesser artists envious
Of his exalted station
Enjoyed the splendid spectacle
Of his humiliation.
They met the news of prison life
With smiles, for after all
The man had got what he deserved,
A catastrophic fall.
But few today feel schadenfreude
On hearing Oscar’s tale;
It’s pity they have for the Happy Prince
Disgraced in Reading Gaol.
Frank McDonald

The English teacher odiously smiled.
‘Swallowed a dictionary, dear?’ she said.
‘Yes, showing off to classmates, silly child,
Using long words, calling yourself well-read?’


On Parents’ Day she got completely soused,
Said man descended from the chimpanzee,
And that she just adored the writer ‘Prowst’.
(I must look up the Greek for tee-hee-hee.)


She mentioned schadenfreude once or twice,
Implied she thought it stood for something rude;
In accents loud and clear and quite precise
She rhymed it carefully with ‘shade and food’.


And best of all, in condescending tone
She sneered, and (pleasure hell-or-heaven-sent!)
She made it clear that she had never known
What epicaricacity had meant.
Dominica Roberts

Let’s get it straight: it isn’t the done thing
(as British ultra-decency makes plain)
to smirk when someone else feels failure’s sting
or gloat over another human’s pain.


Suppose some over-eager politician
manoeuvring for top job got the crown?
What if he made a hash of the position?
Would we be cruel and label him a clown?


Or if some hapless back-room chap (and father)
misread the very rules he helped to write
and drove to test his eyesight, wouldn’t we rather
look kindly (not with glee) upon his plight?


To relish downfalls as a cabaret
even when such behaviour’s absurd —
no, it’s not nice, it’s not the British way.
That’s why we need a funny German word.
D.A. Prince

No. 3159: read my lipogramms

You are invited to supply a poem that does not contain the letter ‘e’. Please email up to 16 lines to by midday on 22 July.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

Show comments