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10 Limericks for Edward Lear's Birthday 12th May

Andrew has a keen interest in all aspects of poetry and writes extensively on the subject. His poems are published online and in print.

Portrait of Edward Lear.

Portrait of Edward Lear.

Edward Lear and The Limerick

Edward Lear is best known for his limerick poems and he is rightly celebrated each year on the 12th May for his unique contribution to the field of nonsense!. The artist, illustrator, cat lover, watercolourist, traveller, humourist and limerick meister has given us so much to think and laugh about it's high time we gave him something back!

I've written 10 limericks of my own for Mr Edward Lear. I hope you'll enjoy them.

As a boy I was taught his nonsense verse at school and grew to appreciate the inventiveness and the playful way he constructed his lines. They were so colourful and ridiculous, a joy to hear and a challenge to read out loud without giggling or falling off your chair.

It seems to me that Mr Edward Lear never quite grew up and was, right up until his death in San Remo, Italy in 1888, a child at heart. Despite his great beard and balding head towards the end of his life he remained full of nonsense inside.

A Typical Lear Limerick

Edward Lear loved limericks. But just what is a limerick poem? They're usually 4 or 5 line poems with a special rhythm and rhyming pattern,(anapaestic trimeter and dimeter) best served with a dash of humour. For example:

There was an Old Man who supposed,

That the street door was partially closed;

But some very large rats, ate his coat and his hats,

While that futile old gentleman dozed.

Some More Limericks

As a tribute to a very talented man I have composed some limericks of my own. With apologies to all who see the limerick as a true poetic expression of pure mirth (and not a rag bag of sentences that accidentally happen to rhyme).

Edward Lear: A self portrait

Edward Lear: A self portrait

There was an old 'gator called Mose

With his eye on a family of crows

He lay in the creek

For nigh on a week

Hoping they'd land on his nose.


There once lived a boy called Joe

Who developed an enormous big toe,

On it there sat

A contented cat,

A granny, a toad and a crow.


A greedy young giant from Rhum,

To get rid of his rumbling tum,

Drank the channel quite dry,

Ate the whole Isle of Skye

But was caught in the act by his Mum.


Toucan Colour lithograph by Edward Lear

Toucan Colour lithograph by Edward Lear

An eccentric young farmer from Maine

Fell in love with his hog it was plain,

You silly young fool

Said a disgruntled mule,

This will drive Quentin the Rooster insane.



When Wilfred bit into his pie,

Inside was a big letter I,

The more pie he ate

The more alphabet

Came tumbling over the guy.


There was an old planet called Earth

Who gave all the poets their birth

She span round the sun

Till spinning was done,

Till the poets had had their words worth.


A young city banker called Pete,

Whose credentials were almost complete,

Lost everyone's money

Which he thought rather funny

Til the mob took it out on Wall Street.


A gambler from old Alberqueque

Won millions consulting a turkey,

'I've won every bet

With this mysterious pet

Which I admit does make me sound quirky.'


Whether the weather's the same,

Or whether the weather's to blame,

Whatever, whenever,

Wherever or never

The weather's still got the same name.


We'd better establish some rules,

Said the whales who swam in large schools,

'OK' one cried out

As he started to spout,

'We don't talk to humans, they're fools!'



Illustration for The Owl and the Pussy cat

Illustration for The Owl and the Pussy cat

Edward Lear and The Owl and the Pussy Cat

Perhaps Lear's most famous nonsense poem is The Owl and the Pussy Cat. This tells of an exotic voyage by two animal characters, the owl and the cat, and the adventures they had out at sea. Published in 1871 it followed in the footsteps of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland which had been a surprise success in Victorian England. Carroll was also a writer of nonsense verse - Jabberwocky and The White Knight's Song being the most well known - making the years between 1846 and 1871 a prolific time for nonsense!

You can just picture these stout, upright disciplined gentleman strutting around spouting all sorts of surreal gibberish whilst pretending to be model citizens. Nonsense verse and the Alice factor didn't go down well with some sections of society however. Victorian England was supposed to be all about social aspirations based solidly on 'improvement and strict morality'. Jabberwockys and other such distractions were seen as subversive, turning the heads of the younger generations. Tut tut!

The Owl and the Pussy-cat



The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
'O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!'

II

Pussy said to the Owl, 'You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?'
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

III

'Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?' Said the Piggy, 'I will.'
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

One of Edward Lear's early nonsense books

One of Edward Lear's early nonsense books

Edward Lear lived and worked in Seymour Street, London.

Edward Lear lived and worked in Seymour Street, London.

Lear's Legacy

I've enjoyed writing about Edward Lear and bringing you these limericks, which are fun and occasionally profound at the same time. Whilst some may think them superficial - preferring more serious poetry - I'd like to hope they'll be around for a long time to come as a sort of antidote to all the dark stuff going on in the world.

© 2012 Andrew Spacey

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