In one of his letters Flaubert complains –
Or is he boasting? – that he spent the morning
Taking out a comma and the afternoon
Putting it back in. The afternoon’s comma
Was, I have reason to believe, quite different
From the one removed in the morning.
Disgusted at Flaubert’s treatment,
It had crawled painfully across his desk
To hide in an ink-stain on the blotter.
Ever afterward, when he took inventory,
Flaubert was always one comma short;
It irritated him intensely. George Sand
Offered to give him one of hers;
He politely refused, not letting her see
That the thought of an alien comma
Had brought back his neurasthenia.