Three monkeys sat in a coconut tree
The Monkeys Disgrace
Discussing things as they're said to be.
Said one to another, "Now listen, you two,
There's a certain rumor that cannot be true,
That man descends from our noble race -
The very idea is a disgrace.
No monkey ever deserted his wife,
Starved her babies and ruined her life;
And you've never known a mother monk
To leave her babies with others to bunk,
Or pass them on from one to another
Til they scarcely know who is their mother.
And another thing you'll never see -
A monk build a fence around a coconut tree
And let the coconuts go to waste,
Forbidding all other monks to taste.
Why, if I put a fence around this tree,
Starvation would force you to steal from me.
Here's another thing a monk won't do -
Go out at night and get on a stew,
Or use a gun or club or knife
To take some other monkey's life;
Yes, Man Descended - That ornery cuss -
But, brother, he didn't descend from us!"
An ancient ape, once on a time,
Disliked exceedingly to climb,
And so he picked him out a tree
And said, "Now this belongs to me.
I have a hunch that monks are mutts
And I can make them gather nuts
And bring the bulk of them to me,
By claiming title to this tree."
[read the entire poem here]
One source attributes The Monkeys Disgrace poem to Nettie Bates Thomas, another to Ogden Nash. Yet another compares it to a 1950s Broadway show tune, which you can hear here.
But I've also found a lot of other attributions for it, some which date it back to within Cooke's lifetime:
There is a Dear Abby column which reads as follows: Tri-City Herald, Thursday, July 30, 1987
DEAR ABBY: I see by your column in The Cleveland Plain Dealer that you are trying to find the author of the poem titled The Monkey's Disgrace. I was stationed in North Africa with the U.S. Army in 1943 and 1944, and I saved the clipping (enclosed) from the Stars and Stripes (a paper published for the armed forces in the European theater). As you can see, the original title of this poem is Man Descended and the author is Pvt. Edwin R. Pauley. Glad to be of help. -- Walter S. Zaborowski, Maple Heights, Ohio.
DEAR ABBY: I am happy to inform you that the author of the poem you printed in The Times-Picayune is none other than Fats Domino's bandleader, arranger and trumpet player -- Dave Bartholomew. You had the title wrong, however. The actual title is The Monkey Speaks His Mind. -- Jim Peddecord, New Orleans.
DEAR ABBY: The Monkey's Disgrace,
published in The Daily Ardmoreite, was written by Phil Kerr. He
wrote humorous poems comparing man to animals. He wrote a clever
one about a gum-chewing man and a cud-chewing cow. -- Phyllis Smee,
DEAR ABBY: I read you daily in The Punxatawney Spirit. I've
kept a copy of that poem, A Monkey's
Disgrace, for years. It was written by Richard
Rotor. -- Mrs. Charles S. Smith, Punxatawney, PA.
DEAR ABBY: Re The Monkey's
Disgrace: I can't help you -- but a similar message was
carried in the lyrics by Y. A. Harburg in Harold Arlen's "Monkey in the
Mango." It was featured in the Broadway musical "Jamaica" in
about 1957. -- C. Gayle Warnock, Scottsdale, Ariz.
DEAR ABBY: The author of that poem about the monkeys was Gene Racey
of Pulaski, Iowa. He operated a lumberyard for many years.
On one occasion, Gene was a passenger in our car with three other
men. Someone mentioned that poem, The Monkey's Disgrace, and we all
agreed it spoke the truth. The author was supposedly
unknown. After a chuckle, Gene said, "I wrote that poem. I
never claimed it because I didn't want public recognition." Gene
Racey is now diseased, but another mutual friend still recalls Gene's
fun in revealing that he was the author. -- The Rev. H. E. Harryman,
DEAR ABBY: Do you want to know who wrote The Monkey's Disgrace? It was
James Whitcomb Riley. -- Terry and Maureen
I have the poem, but it carried the title "The Monkey's Viewpoint," and the author is Bill Johnson. -- Mrs. Paul Haws, Omaha, Neb.
DEAR ABBY: My ex-son-in-law told me that one night he and a bunch of his buddies were sitting around in Vietnam when one of the guys made up the first few lines, then another soldier added a few more, and before they knew it the entire poem about the monkey's disgrace was put together. They called itThe Unknown Soldier's Poem, because several soldiers made it up. -- Ex-mother-in-law, Chippewa Falls, Wis.
DEAR ABBY: The Monkey's Disgrace, published in the Oregonian, has been in my file for about 35 years. The author is Vera Bender. --Clara Peyrollaz, Carson, Wash.
and, in the St. Petersburg Times, October 17, 1987, appears this:
DEAR Abby: After reading "The Monkey's Disgrace," I felt I should tell you that I've had that poem since I was 10 years old. (I am now 80.) I am sending you two more amusing poems I have had for at least 70 years. You may want to share them with your readers. -- Bertha D. Goff, Coldwater, Mich.at http://www.rampbbs.net/monkeyinfo.htm, it is attributed:
He was an older man when I met him and I remember seeing him on the old Art Linkletter TV show telling the same stories. We even wrote to the priest in Florida to see if he ever made the trip safely, but never got an answer.
I've always remembered the poem and have always seen it as author unknown. Maybe we can put a name to that poem at last. His stories seemed believable to me, but who knows.
William R. Milligan
In any case, I encourage you to read it side by side with Uncivilized, and see what you think.