The Nantucket doggerel verse that appeared here a couple of weeks ago inspired my friend Irving Rosenfeld to new heights of creativity. It was close to a perfect limerick which, he reminds us, “is a five-line anapestic poem, rhyme scheme of a-a-b-b-a, and the first, second and fifth lines have three feet, with the second and third but two. An anapestic foot is two unstressed followed by a stressed syllable. The first foot in a limerick line may have but one unstressed syllable.
“Here’s a limerick I wrote in honor of Henry David Thoreau, whose birthday recently passed:
By the pond, sat Thoreau, who did ponder:
‘Can I live in this setting, I wonder?’
His thoughts he put down,
And sent them to town.
And meant for his wife to astound her.”
Well dog bite (as my grandfather used to say), if that’s not some fancy writing. After reading Irving’s limerick I did a quick web search on famous contributors to that art and — no surprise here — up popped the name of Ogden Nash, who broke a few rules, made up words, used irony, twists, nuance and creative wordsmithing to invent his own unique brand. Consider the following examples of limericks or limerick-like poems:
“There was a young belle from old Natchez
Whose garments were always in patchez.
When comments arose
On the state of her clothes,
She replied, ‘When Ah itchez, Ah scratchez.’ ”
“A flea and a fly in a flue
Were imprisoned, so what could they do?
Said the fly, ‘Let us flee!’
‘Let us fly,’ said the flea.
So they flew through a flaw in the flue.”
“The turtle lives ‘twixt plated decks
Which practically conceal its sex.
I think it clever of the turtle
In such a fix to be so fertile.”
Shakespeare even got into the act, so to speak, with limerick-like meter in Stephano’s drinking song from The Tempest:
“The master, the swabber, the boatswain and I,
The gunner and his mate
Loved Mall, Meg, and Marian and Margery,
But none of us cared for Kate;
For she had a tongue with a tang,
Would cry to a sailor, Go hang!
She loved not the savour of tar nor of pitch;
Yet a tailor might scratch her where’er she did itch:
Then to sea, boys, and let her go hang!”
On a more contemporary level, Salman Rushdie sang about America’s most famous-for-nothing celebrity a few years ago after he got married (with an obvious tip of the hat to Ogden Nash’s style):
“The marriage of poor Kim Kardashian
Was krushed like a kar in a krashian.
Her Kris kried, ‘Not fair!
Why kan’t I keep my share?’
But Kardashian fell klean outa fashian.”
Just for fun, here are a couple of originals:
The Donald to some folks is crass,
To others a pain in the ...
His ego, it’s huge.
There is no refuge
From the self-styled Republican wreck.
OK—no good? How about this?
The mayor of Charleston is Riley
Whose two score of service is nighly
History, by Joe.
There will be no mo
Unless there’s a change of heart slyly.
Yes! That’s better. Stranger things have happened.
Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.