Plowman/Daniells Poetry: Ode to a Bedpan


The following poem, undated and not attributed, was found among the poetry of the Plowmans and Daniells.  It was probably written by one of the five Daniells sisters, granddaughters of Dora Plowman.  Each of the sisters had a wonderful sense of humor — sometimes outrageous — , so the poem could have been written by any of them. 

Ode to a Bedpan

While recovering from an illness, I was very much annoyed,

For the toilet was denied me and a bedpan was employed.

I much preferred a thunder-mug, but nurse just shook her head;

“You’re far too weak,” she sternly said, “to be getting out of bed.”


My experience with the bedpan, to this day doth make me quail,

And I’ve been prevailed upon to write this harrowing tale.

In the wee small hours of morn, before the break of day

Came a yearning I could not ignore, nor very long delay.


The nurse brought me a bedpan, slipped it under my back-side,

While the chills ran up and down my spine as the cold thing touched my hide.

I tipped back my shoulders — soon my legs grew stiff and numb

The odds were all in favor that I’d die before ‘twould come.


In this upside down condition the leverage wasn’t there,

But with a mighty effort I released a little air.

And when at last I got results I grew faint with dread,

I wondered if I’d hit the pan or piled it on the bed.


While my heart was weakly fluttering I felt with cautious care,

With a sigh of satisfaction I discovered nothing there.

But my trouble wasn’t over, as I very soon would find,

For how could I maneuver to wipe the place behind?


All my muscles bulged with tension as I stood upon my head,

And I gave a few wild passes — then fell weakly on the bed.

With patience I continued, regardless of my pain,

For modesty prevents me from leaving any stain.


I had no more than finished this rear Herculean feat,

When I then became aware of something sticky on the sheet.

Cold sweat was beaded on my brow — I slowly raised my gown,

And there upon the lovely sheet a hideous spot of brown.


The law of gravitation once more proved sure as fate

That you cannot stand upon your ear when you evacuate.

‘Twas then I voiced a fervent prayer, as a soul in anguish can,

For something to improve upon this medieval plan.


Sick people often give up hope and here’s the reason why:

The bedpan is the rock upon which they’re tortured till they die.

There’s a fortune for the genius who’ll invent some kind of diaper

Or a back adjusted thunder-mug with an automatic wiper.



6 Responses to Plowman/Daniells Poetry: Ode to a Bedpan

  1. Rose Kanter says:

    I just discoverd this post and would like to let you know that I actually wrote this poem. The original is a little different than your version. I wrote this 56 years ago while a patient in the maternity ward (I am now 92). I believe that my obstetrician submitted it to an interactive service he belonged to and that is how it “leaked out.” What a coincidence! My original appears below:

    While recovering from an illness
    I was terribly annoyed
    For the bathroom was denied me
    And a bedpan was employed.

    I argued for a thunder mug
    But I was told instead
    That under no condition
    Could I get out of bed.

    What I said about that bedpan
    Could have landed me in jail
    And the agonies I suffered
    Prompted me to write this tale.

    Twas in the early hours of morning
    Just before the bread of day
    Came a warning so insistent
    That I dare not disobey.

    My nurse brought me a bedpan
    And it cannot be denied
    That chills began to seize me
    When the vessel touched my side.

    Upside down I struggled
    For the beverage wasn’t there.
    But with a mighty effort
    I expelled a bit of air.

    Trouble new had just begun
    And I was filled with dread.
    I wasn’t sure I’d hit the pan
    Or piled it on the bed.

    Racked with fear and trembling
    I slowly raised my gown
    And glimpsed upon the sheeting
    A horrid spot of brown.

    The laws of gravitation
    Demonstrated sure as fate
    That you cannot stand upon your head
    When you evacuate.

    Another problem now arose
    As I was soon to find
    For how could I negotiate
    To wipe the place behind.

    My neck was nearly broken
    As I balanced on my head.
    I made a few wild passes
    And fell weakly on the bed.

    Twas then I voiced a fervent plea
    As one in anguish can
    For someone to improve upon
    That medieval pan.

    It seems to me what would suffice
    Is neither pan nor diaper
    But a back-adjusting thunder mug
    With an automatic wiper.

    Rose E. Kanter
    Feb. 1955

    • winegar says:

      Dear Rose,

      Wow! What an unexpected surprise to receive your comment on my blog. As was stated in the blog, the Ode to a Bedpan was found with many family poems written by mother and her 4 sisters as well as several generations of their ancestors. It was very similar to the poems that they wrote. Most Christmas presents were accompanied by poetry. All 5 sisters are gone now so we have no way of checking where the poem came from but we never doubted that one of them had written it. We have had a number of discussions about who wrote it with different family members favoring one sister or another.

      Now, I am curious as to how they came upon the poem. What hospital where you in when the poem was “leaked?

      I have added your comment to my blog. This has been a very popular listing. Every once in a while someone discovers it and shares it with friends and I see a flurry of hits. Now you will get credit for it.

      Thanks for your comment. I hope to hear from you again to solve the mystery of how our family came across this “masterpiece”.

  2. Linda Christie says:

    My 96 yr old father told me today about this poem. He had a copy of it in his drawer as a kid. When he couldn’t find it one day, his mother said she had thrown it out. I found it for him online today, but I can’t print it. He really wants to have it again. And I want to tell him about the original author. Is it not printable, or am I doing something wrong??

    • Ann says:

      Both the original and the updated version of the poem are there for you to copy. All you have to do is HIGHLIGHT what you want to copy. Press the Copy button. Open a blank Word document then press the Paste button. I’m guessing you may have forgotten to highlight the poem before trying to copy and paste. Hope it helps.

  3. Julie Cunningham says:

    Hi Rose, I have just found this “ode”, after thinking on it for some years. I want to say that as a Nurse of over 40 years, i think it wonderful. I first came across it in the 70’s from a patient’s get well card. We (nurses) passed it around and all had a great laugh and thought it extremely accurate. What a pity it is not still in circulation for other patients to enjoy. It definitely lifted their spirits. Well done and a belated thank you. From the nurses. Julie (Australia)

  4. Jim Black says:

    Many years ago, while hospitalized, my father gave me a card with this poem inside.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: