You wouldn’t guess it from The Oxford Book of Satirical Verse, but satire was once a deadly activity. It literally killed, or was believed to, which sometimes had the same result. Robert C. Elliott’s classic study of The Power of Satire tells us that poems were used as weapons of war in pre-Islamic Arabia, and it is not only there, or in the curses of primitive tribesmen remote from our literary tradition, that this ‘power’ showed itself. It existed in the Greece of Archilochus and his descendants, and among Irish bards whose reputed ability to rhyme enemies or rats to death still excited the imagination of poets in the age of Ben Jonson or Swift.