Poets ranked by the gravity of their beards

poets and their beards

In his 1913 classic (if that’s the right word) publication entitled Poets Ranked by Beard Weight, Upton Uxbridge Underwood (1881–1937) ranked poets according to the gravity of their beards, assigning each one a “pogonometric index” score. (So I have learned from A Journey Round My Skull, which informs me that Underwood was “a deipnosophist, clubman, and literary miscellanist with a special interest in tonsorial subjects.”) A score of 10, for example, was “very very weak,” whereas a score of 58 was “very very heavy.” Leaving aside for the moment the particulars of his methodology, let’s see how the poets stack up.

Beard gravity increases as we move from left to right and top to bottom:

  • Row 1
    • Walt Whitman (1819–1892)
      Beard type: Hibernator
      Typical opus: O Captain! My Captain!
      Gravity (UPI rating): 22
    • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)
      Beard type: Dutch Elongated
      Typical opus: The Village Blacksmith
      Gravity (UPI rating): 24
    • Sir Walter Raleigh (1552–1618)
      Beard type: Van Dyke
      Typical opus: The Lie
      Gravity (UPI rating): 27
  • Row 2
    • Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)
      Beard type: Wandering Jim
      Typical opus: Within the Circuit of This Plodding Life
      Gravity (UPI rating): 29
    • Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892)
      Beard type: Maltese
      Typical opus: Crossing the Bar
      Gravity (UPI rating): 33
    • James Russell Lowell (1819–1891)
      Beard type: Queen’s Brigade
      Typical opus: Commemoration Ode
      Gravity (UPI rating): 34
  • Row 3
    • John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)
      Beard type: Full Velutinous
      Typical opus: Snow-bound
      Gravity (UPI rating): 38
    • Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882)
      Beard type: Italian False Goatee
      Typical opus: The Blessed Damozel
      Gravity (UPI rating): 38
    • Edwin Markham (1852–1940)
      Beard type: Box
      Typical opus: The Man With the Hoe
      Gravity (UPI rating): 39
  • Row 4
    • Sidney Lanier (1842–1881)
      Beard type: Spade
      Typical opus: The Song of the Chattahoochee
      Gravity (UPI rating): 41
    • William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878)
      Beard type: Van Winkle
      Typical opus: To a Waterfowl
      Gravity (UPI rating): 43
    • John Burroughs (1837–1921)
      Beard type: Claus-esque
      Typical opus: Waiting
      Gravity (UPI rating): 43
  • Row 5
    • William Ernest Henley (1849–1903)
      Beard type: Spatulate Imperial
      Typical opus: Invictus
      Gravity (UPI rating): 47
    • Joaquin Miller (1837–1913)
      Beard type: Mock Forked Elongated
      Typical opus: Kit Carson’s Ride
      Gravity (UPI rating): 51
    • Samuel Morse (1791–1872)
      Beard type: Garibaldi Elongated
      Typical opus: What Hath God Wrought
      Gravity (UPI rating): 58

So there you have it! Whitman is the lightest poet and Morse is the heaviest. (And he was the first code poet too.)


All of this unabashedly stolen (though  it did take me some while to arrange the poets in order) from A Journey Round My Skull, where you can see larger images and read more. There, for example, you will learn that “Poets Ranked by Beard Weight is the centerpiece of Underwood’s estimable, if fetish-fueled treatise on pogonology, or the study of whiskers and associated lore…. This quaint publication takes the reader on a fascinating excursion through such topics as False Beards, Merkins, and Capillamenta (chin wigs); Effusions of the Scalp and Face; Celebrated Chaetognaths (chaetognathous = hairy-jawed); and even includes an affectionate mini-essay about the wooly mammoth!”

You could check it out.


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  1. The pogonology meme boggles the mind! I also took the liberty to forward your excellent post to the fine David Malki whose oeuvre is somewhat beard-driven: http://store.wondermark.com/products/beards

  2. This certainly leaves women out – lost by a whisker, as it were. (ahem..) Does Alice B. Toklas’ mustache count?