Ovid (publius_ovidius) wrote,

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Black Perl

Some of you may have heard of the infamous Black Perl poem. This poem, written for Perl 3, appeared on April Fools day, 1990 on Usenet and was purportedly from Larry Wall, though as I recall, the headers were forged. However, it's for such an older version of Perl that it hasn't been able to compile for years. So I tweaked it. It still doesn't do anything, but it compiles.

BEFOREHAND: close door, each window & exit; wait until time.
     open spellbook, study, select it, confess, tell, deny;
write it, print the hex while each watches,
     reverse "its length", write again;
     kill spiders, pop them, chop, split, kill them.
          unlink arms, shift, wait & listen (listening, wait),
sort the flock (then, warn "the goats". kill "the sheep");
     kill them, dump qualms, shift moralities,
     values aside, each one;
          die sheep, die, reverse system
          you accept (reject, respect);
next step,
     kill next sacrifice, each sacrifice,
     wait, redo ritual until "all the spirits are pleased";
     do it ("as they say").
do it(*everyone***must***participate***in***forbidden**s*e*x*).
return last victim; package body;
     exit crypt (time, times & "half a time") & close it,
     select (quickly) & warn next victim;
AFTERWORDS: tell nobody.
     wait, wait until time;
     wait until next year, next decade;
          sleep, sleep, die yourself and
          rest at last

And from a friend of mine, Sparky, for whom I wound up rewriting this because of a couple of misconceptions of his (email reprinted with permission):

I was at a dive bar tonight. They had a poetry reading, open mic. and allowed non-original poetry.

I got on the net and looked up Black Perl.

I read the version at http://internet.ls-la.net/comppoems/black-perl.html. (with full attribution of course)


Before the read I asked, "Show of hands, how many here are computer programmers?". No hands went up. Then, "How many people here have heard of the programming language 'perl'?". A couple of cheers from the crowd.

I then told the crowd, "perl stands for 'Practical Extraction and Report Language', or, as those who actually program in the language call it, 'Pathologically Eclectic Rubbish Lister'"

After explaining that the following poem was written by the creator of perl, I explained, "This poem is NOT written in English. It is written in the programming language 'perl' ", and read.

It won two awards, Best Nonoriginal Poem, and Best Poem of the night. I won Best Presentation. Kudo's to Larry, he made me look good. ;-)

After the reading I was approached by a person who said that the peom couldn't possibly compile. I invited him to download perl from ActiveState and download a copy of the poem written for the version of perl that he downloaded and test it for himself. He told me, 'That was a great poem and poems do not compile'. Then came the Zen moment, I said. 'That poem is not a poem'. From one atheist to another, I swear to GOD that is what I said!

He is probably still blinking. ;-)

Tags: perl, programming, writing
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