Limericks from the Garden

More Limericks of a Vaguely Garden Substance

By —— Bio and Archives--September 14, 2007

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Some decried our previous publication of limericks both clean and bawdy, others only the latter. Given the nature of modern clergy, the following addenda certainly might be quoted in their company. Likewise to maiden aunts, in senior citizens homes, at gardening clubs, perhaps even to a bunch of Boy Scouts—most certainly to gatherings of Girl Guides. Only the politically correct must, alas, once again suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune ...

While not the originator of the limerick, Englishman Edward Lear (1812-88) certainly popularized the form in his mid-19th century books such as A Book of Nonsense (1846). The youngest of a family of 21 children, Lear was an artist by profession. A chronic epileptic and cat lover this bearded bachelor created 212 limericks plus the “The Owl and the Pussy-Cat,’ ‘The Jumblies,’ ‘The Akand of Swar’ and other classic poems.

There was an Old Man who said, ‘Hush!
I perceive a young bird in this bush!’
When they said, ‘Is it small?’
He replied, ‘Not at all!
It is four times as big as the bush!’

- Edward Lear: A Book of Nonsense (1846)

There was an old man in a tree,
Who was horribly bored by a bee.
When they said, ‘Does it buzz?’
He replied, ‘Yes, it does!
It’s a regular brute of a bee.’

- Edward Lear: A Book of Nonsense (1846)

There was a young lady of Greenwich,
Whose garment’s were border’d with spinach
But a large Spotty Calf
Bit her shawl quite in half,
Which alarmed that young lady of Greenwich.

- Edward Lear: More Nonsense, Pictures, Rhymes, Botany, Etc.(1872)

While not horticultural, a pair of classic limericks beloved of those of a scientific frame of mind came from a Canadian professor of botany at the University of Manitoba, internationally known fungi authority A. H. Reginald Buller. Strangely, the same seat of learning housed Professor Heibert, creator of that beloved prairie poetess, Sarah Binks ...

There was a young lady named Bright
Whose speed was faster than light;
She went out one day
In a relative way,
And returned the previous night.

To her friends said the Bright one in chatter,
‘I have learned something new about matter:
My speed was so great,
Much increased was my weight,
Yet I failed to become any fatter!’

The list of limerickers is a long and illustrious one: Lewis Carroll, W. S. Gilbert, Mark Twain, Aldous Huxley, Bertrand Russell, Ogden Nash—even men of the cloth such as William Ralph Inge, Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral from 1911 to 1934, and Monsignor Robert Knox, who penned this one:

There once was a man who said: ‘God
Must think it exceedingly odd
If he finds that this tree
Continues to be
When there’s no one about in the Quad.’

Then there was the late Isaac Asimov, never one to shy away from bawdy limerick lines ... but many such have been composed by, as Dr. Buller once complained, “that finest of English writers, Anon.”

There was a co-ed of Cayenne
Who ate onions, blue cheese and sen-sen,
Till a bad fright one day
Took her breath quite away,
And we hope she won’t find it again.

There was a young fellow named Dice
Who remarked, ‘They say bigamy’s nice.
Even two are a bore,
I’d prefer three or four,
For the plural of spouse, it is spice.

There was a lady named Mabel
So ready, so willing, so able,
And so full of spice
She could name her own price

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Wes Porter -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Wes Porter is a horticultural consultant and writer based in Toronto. Wes has over 40 years of experience in both temperate and tropical horticulture from three continents.

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