10 Limericks for Edward Lear's Birthday 12th May
The Man Who Published Limericks
Edward Lear is best known for his limerick poems and he is rightly celebrated each year on the 12th May for his unique contribution to the field of nonsense!. The artist, illustrator, cat lover, watercolourist, traveller, humourist and limerick meister has given us so much to think and laugh about it's high time we gave him something back!
I've written 10 limericks of my own for Mr Edward Lear. I hope you'll enjoy them.
As a boy I was taught his nonsense verse at school and grew to appreciate the inventiveness and the playful way he constructed his lines. They were so colourful and ridiculous, a joy to hear and a challenge to read out loud without giggling or falling off your chair.
It seems to me that Mr Edward Lear never quite grew up and was, right up until his death in San Remo, Italy in 1888, a child at heart. Despite his great beard and balding head towards the end of his life he remained full of nonsense inside.
Edward Lear loved limericks. But just what is a limerick poem? They're usually 4 or 5 line poems with a special rhythm and rhyming pattern,(anapaestic trimeter and dimeter) best served with a dash of humour. For example:
There was an Old Man who supposed,
That the street door was partially closed;
But some very large rats, ate his coat and his hats,
While that futile old gentleman dozed.
As a tribute to a very talented man I have composed some limericks of my own. With apologies to all who see the limerick as a true poetic expression of pure mirth (and not a rag bag of sentences that accidentally happen to rhyme).
There was an old 'gator called Mose
With his eye on a family of crows
He lay in the creek
For nigh on a week
Hoping they'd land on his nose.
There once lived a boy called Joe
Who developed an enormous big toe,
On it there sat
A contented cat,
A granny, a toad and a crow.
A greedy young giant from Rhum,
To get rid of his rumbling tum,
Drank the channel quite dry,
Ate the whole Isle of Skye
But was caught in the act by his Mum.
An eccentric old farmer from Maine
Fell in love with his hog it was plain,
But this upset the bull
Who chased them until
They came to their senses again.
When Wilfred bit into his pie,
Inside was a big letter I,
The more pie he ate
The more alphabet
Came tumbling over the guy.
There was an old planet called Earth
Who gave all the poets their birth
She span round the sun
Til spinning was done,
Til the poets had had their words worth.
A young city banker called Pete,
Whose credentials were almost complete,
Lost everyone's money
Which he thought rather funny
Til the mob took it out on Wall Street.
A gambler from old Alberqueque
Won millions consulting a turkey,
'I've won every bet
With this mysterious pet
Which I admit does make me sound quirky.
Whether the weather's the same,
Or whether the weather's to blame,
Wherever or never
The weather's still got the same name.
We'd better establish some rules,
Said the whales who swam in large schools,
'OK' one cried out
As he started to spout,
'We don't talk to humans they're fools!'
Edward Lear - In A Beautiful Pea Green Boat
Perhaps Lear's most famous nonsense poem is The Owl and the Pussy Cat. This tells of an exotic voyage by two animal characters, the owl and the cat, and the adventures they had out at sea. Published in 1871 it followed in the footsteps of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland which had been a surprise success in Victorian England. Carroll was also a writer of nonsense verse - Jabberwocky and The White Knight's Song being the most well known - making the years between 1846 and 1871 a prolific time for nonsense!
You can just picture these stout, upright disciplined gentleman strutting around spouting all sorts of surreal gibberish whilst pretending to be model citizens. Nonsense verse and the Alice factor didn't go down well with some sections of society however. Victorian England was supposed to be all about social aspirations based solidly on 'improvement and strict morality'. Jabberwockys and other such distractions were seen as subversive, turning the heads of the younger generations. Tut tut!
The Owl and the Pussy-cat
The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
'O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are!'
Pussy said to the Owl, 'You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?'
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.
'Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?' Said the Piggy, 'I will.'
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.
I've enjoyed writing about Edward Lear and bringing you these limericks, which are fun and occasionally profound at the same time. Whilst some may think them superficial - preferring more serious poetry - I'd like to hope they'll be around for a long time to come as a sort of antidote to all the dark stuff going on in the world.
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© 2012 Andrew Spacey