Thursday, 6 December 2012

Limericks in Utopia

2012 is not just the bi-centenary of Robert Browning (whose poetic relationship to Morris Peter Faulkner and I will be exploring in the Coach House on Saturday), but of Edward Lear too, whose great contribution to English literature is, of course, the limerick. Dante Gabriel Rossetti had quite a flair for limericks too, usually a good deal more malicious in nature than Lear’s genially nonsensical ones, and even Morris tried his hand at one or two as well.

Will the limerick survive in utopia? Who knows: utopia will be such a profound transvaluation of values (and genres) that we cannot legislate on this in advance. But I found that, on a recent re-reading of Morris’s utopia, some scenes were shaping themselves into the form of limericks in my mind, so I offer them here as my own small contribution to the Edward Lear bi-centenary.


There was an old man in utopia
Who said to the Guest, ‘I hope you are
Not disappointed, though
Society goes so slow’,
That grumbling old man in utopia.


The Obstinate Refusers
Thought all other utopians were losers;
They worked with obsession
And refused all digression,
Did Phillippa and her Refusers.

Is it just accident that it is two of the more dissonant moments in Morris’s Nowhere that seem to lend themselves to this curious literary form? I don’t know. Try inventing some of your own and we might find out.


Kotick said...

Your visual image of Lear's 'Young Lady of Fife' reminds me of the more unsettling aspects of Ellen in 'News from Nowhere' ("I have often troubled men's minds disastrously", etc). Surely she is 'dissonant' enough to be worth a limerick too.

Tony Pinkney said...

Hum, you're right, of course, but it's not easy to find rhyming words for Ellen! How about:

There was a utopian named Ellen,
Who made her lovers' lives hell on
Earth. But by pursuing the Guest,
She hoped to find rest,
That disturbing young woman named Ellen.

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