A Balliol rhyme is a doggerel verse form with a distinctive meter. They are quatrains consisting of two pairs of rhyming couplets, each line having four beats. The first couplet contains the name of a particular individual, and the second couplet usually elaborates on that person's character or exploits or weaknesses.

The form is associated with Balliol College, Oxford[1][2]. It originated with "The Masque of B-ll--l", published anonymously in 1875 by a group of Balliol undergraduates.

Balliol rhymes are almost always about a person. They are four lines long and the rhyme scheme is usually a-a-b-b. They are not to be confused with Clerihews.


About Benjamin Jowett, Master of Balliol (from "The Masque of B-ll--l"):

First come I. My name is J-w-tt.
There's no knowledge but I know it.
I am Master of this College,
What I don't know isn't knowledge.

About George Nathaniel Curzon:

My name is George Nathaniel Curzon,
I am a most superior person.
My cheeks are pink, my hair is sleek,
I dine at Blenheim twice a week.

About the building of the Athenaeum Club (it does not follow the AABB rhyme scheme):

I'm John Wilson Croker,
I do as I please;
Instead of an Ice House
I give you - a frieze!

See alsoEdit


  • Walter George Hiscock: "The Balliol rhymes".
  • The Times, Monday, Aug 30, 1954; pg. 7; Issue 53023; col F
  • Balliol Rhymes J. A. VENN.; CYRIL BAILEY. Balliol College, Oxford, Aug. 28.. Category: Letters to the Editor


  1. The Balliol College Annual Record 2002, pp.30
  2. The New Oxford Book of English Light Verse

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