or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, September 01, 2008

Pure Poetry

I have had this limerick running through my head for a couple of days now.

I don't have to tell you what a limerick is, right? Light verse form, five lines long, rhyme scheme AABBA, three anapests (or an iamb and two anapests, or three amphibrachs) in the A lines, two anapests (or an iamb and an anapest) in the B, known to every child through Edward Lear's "Book of Nonsense"? (Lear didn't invent the style, though many people thought he did, and his own take on it, which did not get much use in later years, generally led him to repeat the last word of the first line as the last word of the fifth rather than finding a third rhyming word.)

Here's an illustration, the famous "There once was a man from Nantucket". No, not that one. The original. The nice one.

There once was a man from Nantucket
Who kept all his cash in a bucket.
But his daughter, named Nan,
Ran away with a man
And as for the bucket, Nantucket.

G.K. Chesterton, in his essay "On Bad Poetry", wrote of the Brontë sisters' minister father whom it pleased to write limericks in which the last word did not rhyme, as in Chesterton's example:

Religion makes beauty enchanting;
And even where beauty is wanting
The temper and mind
Will shine through the veil with sweet lustre.

"If you can read much of it," Chesterton notes, "you will reach a state of mind in which, even though you know the jolt is coming, you can hardly forbear to scream."

W.S. Gilbert, of Gilbert and Sullivan fame, wrote a terrific parody of Lear:

There was an old man of St. Bees,
Who was stung in the arm by a wasp;
When they asked, "Does it hurt?"
He replied, "No, it doesn't,
But I thought all the while 't was a Hornet.

But the one that's been running through my head is what's sometimes billed as "the dirtiest limerick in the world, with the worst words censored", but which I consider the very apogee of the form, the purest possible distillation of modern limerickism:

Dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah
Dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah;
Dah dah dah dah dah,
Dah dah dah dah dah dah,
Dah dah dah dah dah dah dah fuck.

If you can hear that without giving in to an explosive burst of laughter, well, you're stronger than I.


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