Black Perl

By Wikipedia Contributors

Black Perl is a famous piece of Perl poetry. It was posted to Usenet on April 1, 1990. It is written in Perl 3 and will not parse under Perl 5. Multiple independent updates to Black Perl to make it parsable in Perl 5 have been published.[1][2] The full text of the poem is reproduced below.


When posted to the comp.lang.perl newsgroup the poem was attributed to "a person who wishes to remain anonymous".[3] Sharon Rauenzahn (née Hopkins), another Perl poet, has been suspected to be the author but has since denied the claim.[4]

Result of program execution

When executed, Black Perl exits on line one, upon reaching the function exit. The remaining lines are parsed by the Perl interpreter but never actually executed. The program produces no output.

"Black Perl"

BEFOREHAND: close door, each window & exit; wait until time.
    open spellbook, study, read (scan, select, tell us);
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 to reverse the system
        you accept (reject, respect);
next step,
    kill the 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 your next victim;
AFTERWORDS: tell nobody.
    wait, wait until time;
    wait until next year, next decade;
        sleep, sleep, die yourself,
        die at last


  1. ^ jonadab (2003-02-21). "Black Perl updated for Perl 5". Retrieved 2007-09-15.
  2. ^ Ovid (2006-10-17). "Black Perl Revisited". Retrieved 2007-09-15.
  3. ^ Wall, Larry; Christiansen, Tom; Orwant, Jon (July 2000). Programming Perl, Third Edition. O'Reilly. p. 649. ISBN 0-596-00027-8.
  4. ^ Sharon Hopkins (1993-04-16). "Re: Forking a bunch of processes..." Newsgroupcomp.lang.perl. Usenet: Retrieved December 5, 2014.