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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday - Some Early 19th Century Limericks for Children


Over Mother's Day weekend, my family travelled to Beaufort, SC - recently named America's Happiest Seaside Town by Coastal Living magazine. I was magnetically pulled into a wonderful little bookshop, where my daughter Morgan quickly found a large, hefty volume to put in my hands: A TREASURY OF ILLUSTRATED CHILDREN'S BOOKS - Early Nineteenth-Century Classics from the Osborne Collection by Leonard de Vries (Abbeville Press, 1989). Despite its equally hefty price tag, I didn't protest too much when the family suggested it as a Mother's Day present. In fact, I ventured to ask the proprietor for a Mother's Day discount, and he even obliged! Very kind.

I'm quite the sucker for these volumes chronicling early children's literature. (I posted about that on my art blog earlier this year, here, after Tabatha's gracious gift along these lines during our December poetry/gift swap.)

Here are the opening sentences from the jacket flap:

This beguiling volume reproduces thirty-two of the most enchanting English children's books, dating from 1805 to 1826. That brief period - sandwiched between the harsh didacticism of earlier centuries and the refined moralizing of the Victorian era - witnessed the first flowering of children's books meant to delight and amuse rather than simply to instruct.

Because Liz Steinglass inspired a limerick-laced spring over here, I was particularly delighted to discover two collections in this volume. From p. 223:

...Today the name most commonly associated with the limerick is that of Edward Lear (1812-1888), whose Book of Nonsense (1846) has inspired many imitations. But the limerick came into being at least two decades before Lear's famous book, and one of the earliest appearances of this delightful verse form is The History of Sixteen Wonderful Old Women, published by Harris and Son in 1820. ...

Here are a couple of examples:

There was an Old Woman at Glos'ter,
Whose Parrot two Guineas it cost her,
      But his tongue never ceasing,
      Was vastly displeasing;
To the talkative Woman of Glos'ter.


There lived an Old Woman at Lynn,
Whose Nose very near touched her chin.
      You may well suppose,
      She had plenty of Beaux:
This charming Old Woman of Lynn.


And here's one from "Anecdotes and Adventures of Fifteen Gentlemen." The final word is not printed in the reproduction, so I'm relying on my own poetic license for it - kind of like the limerick challenge on "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me" on NPR.

An old gentleman living at Harwich
At ninety was thinking of marriage
      In came his grandson
      Who was just twenty-one,
and went off with the bride in his carriage.


(I'm assuming it was carriage!)

Today's poetic fare was light, though our hearts are heavy for those in Oklahoma this week. Continued thoughts and prayers for all affected by the tornadoes and other recent tragedies across our country.

For all kinds of poetry today, please visit Alphabet Soup, where our wonderful Jama is serving up the Roundup and some mango-laden poetry and bread! Here, take a napkin before you go - it's really juicy....
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