Thursday, 5 January 2012

Elephant No. 95: Limericks

I don't think I've written any kind of limerick since Grade 4, when it was probably something about cats and hats, so I thought I'd try it today. As I mentioned in my entry on haiku, although this blog is mostly visual, I don't want to neglect the literary side of things.

Limericks appear to have originated in the nineteenth century, as an extension of a parlour game that included the refrain, "Will you/won't you come to Limerick?" The "Limerick" in this game referred to the Irish city and county of the same name.

The first actual use of the word "limerick" to describe nonsense poems of this sort is thought to be a 1880 poem, published in a New Brunswick (Canada) newspaper:
There was a young rustic named Mallory,
who drew but a very small salary.
When he went to the show,
his purse made him go
to a seat in the uppermost gallery.
A notation on the poem said that it was to be sung to the tune of "Won't you come to Limerick". The phrase "Won't you come to Limerick" had been known in the United States since at least the Civil War (1861–1865), and is thought to have meant "Just get on with it."

Likely because of its association with the song, limericks now have a fixed form with five lines, in a strict AABBA rhyming pattern.

Some scholars suggest that limericks are meant to be rude and vaguely—if not profoundly—off-colour. The best-known practitioner of the limerick, however, would probably beg to differ. British poet Edward Lear wrote more than 200 limericks, mostly in the form of innocuous nonsense verse aimed at both children and adults. He was much derided for the form by others, leading to a number of "anti-limericks", including this one by W.S.Gilbert:
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 'twas a hornet.

The limerick form is simple to learn, and has long served as an easy means of writing doggerel. I like this one from the Second World War, composed by Captain Nicholl of Britain's Royal Navy, in reference to the Dutch sloop Soemba:
A report has come in from the Soemba
that their salvoes go off like a Rhumba.
Two guns, they sound fine
but the third, five-point-nine,
he am bust and refuse to go boomba.

For today's elephant, I decided to make up a series of nonsense limericks about elephants, since I'd be no good at the rude kind. I've put them here in the order I wrote them, as a nod to some sort of artistic (it is to laugh) process.  

An elephant packed in its trunk
A whole lot of old household junk.
“A hoarder I’m not,”
he said, dumping the lot,
while his brother fell into a funk.

There was a young elephant calf
who never did things by half.
He decided to raid
a fruit float on parade,
which was seen as a bit of a gaffe.

Three elephants entered a farm,
not meaning to do any harm.
They got zapped by a fence,
and took great offence,
stealing fruit, smashing trees and a barn.

A circus once came to town
with two elephants, dogs and a clown.
Elephants hate doing tricks
for people with sticks,
And are likely to bring the house down.

Elephants sleep standing up,
and can’t really drink from a cup.
They like a good bath,
but are rotten at math,
and eat from sundown to sun up.

Elephants never forget,
so it’s good not to make them upset.
They will push you around,
toss you onto the ground,
Then run off with your favourite pet.

Elephant Lore of the Day
Elephants living in the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia routinely enter Mfuwe Lodge, located in the Park. A herd of about ten elephants is led to the Lodge each day in mango season by its matriarch, nicknamed Wonky Tusk. 

The hotel was apparently built on a timeworn route to the herd's favourite mango trees, and the elephants see no reason to change the path taken by generations before them. Beginning in November each year, when the mangoes ripen, the herd arrives at the doors of the Lodge. According to the director of the Lodge, "This is a totally natural phenomenon. The elephants come here of their own accord. It is certainly a rare but magnificent sight."

Elephants in the bar at Mfuwe Lodge in Zambia. For more photos, see the
source article below.

To Support Elephant Welfare
World Wildlife Fund

World Society for the Protection of Animals

Elephant sanctuaries
(this Wikipedia list allows you to click through to information on a number of sanctuaries around the world)
Performing Animal Welfare Society


Bring the Elephant Home

African Wildlife Foundation

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