nineveh_uk (nineveh_uk) wrote,
nineveh_uk
nineveh_uk

POETRY MONTH: a couple of limericks

I’ve not been doing Poetry Month, but I’m going to leap on its bandwagon nonetheless as an excuse to post the odd poem I like without giving any actual commitment.

When I was a child, Leeds Library Services had not yet advanced to electronic tickets and records, so that library tickets were still little cardboard sleeves. This had the inestimable advantage of allowing the child member who was formally only allowed 6 or 8 tickets (I forget) to ‘lose’ them and get replacements, forge the dates on some old ones, and co-opt a couple of her sister’s tickets, and have 16 instead - as long as she didn’t use more than 6 in her own name at the same library. Leeds Library Services also had no restrictions on what children were allowed to borrow (indeed, it never occurred to me that this was not the case universally - at least in the UK - and I was shocked to learn in my 20s that it was not so), which meant that the shelves were one's oyster, and among the many ‘unsuitable’ books that I borrowed (by this time aged about 14/15) was The Faber Book of Blue Verse.

This Christmas, Youngest Sister, having heard me go on about how funny said book was, through long labour on www.abebooks.co.uk obtained a copy for my present. To her, much thanks, to the internet, my favourite then and now. I like a poem that makes one work for it:

The Semantic Limerick According to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (1933)

There existed an adult male person who had existed a relatively short time, belonging or pertaining to St Johns*, who desired to commit sodomy with the large web-footed swimming birds of the genus Cygnus or subfamily Cygnidae of the family Anatidae, characterized by a long and gracefully curved neck and a majestic motions when swimming.

So he moved into the presence of the person employed to carry burdens, who declared: ‘Hold or possess as something at your disposal my female child! The large web-footed swimming birds of the genus Cygnus or subfamily Cygnidae of the family Anatidae, characterized by a long and gracefully curved neck and a majestic motions when swimming, are set apart, specially retained for the Head, Fellows and Tutors of the College!’

* A College of Cambridge University.

The Semantic Limerick According to Doctor Johnson’s Dictionary (Edition of 1765)

There exifted a person, not a woman or a boy, being in the firft part of life, not old, of St Johns*, who wifhed to --- the large water-fowl, that have a long and very ftraight neck, and are very white, excepting when they are young (their legs and feet being black, as are their bills, which are like that of a goofe, but fomething rounder, and a little hooked at the lower ends, the two fides below their eyes being black and fhining like ebony).

In confequence of this he moved ftep by ftep to the one that had charge of the gate, who pronounced: ‘Poffefs and enjoy my female offspring! The large water-fowl, that have a long and very ftraight neck, and are very white, excepting when they are young (their legs and feet being black, as are their bills, which are like that of a goofe, but fomething rounder, and a little hooked at the lower ends, the two fides below their eyes being black and fhining like ebony), are kept in ftore, laid up for a future time, for the fake of the gentlemen with Spanish titles.’

* A College of Cambridge University.

Gavin Ewert
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