Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Subversive Limericks by Anonymous

Too Short Progression

There once was a man from the sticks
Who liked to compose limericks.
But he failed at the sport,
For he wrote 'em too short.

There was a young man from Hong Kong
Who found limericks much too long.
He got to line three

There was a young man from Peru
Whose limericks stopped at line two

There was a young man of Verdun

A Decrepit Old Gas Man Named Peter,

A decrepit old gas man named Peter,
While hunting around for the meter,
Touched a leak with his light;
He rose out of sight,
And as anyone who knows anything about poetry can tell you, he also ruined the meter.

There Once Was a Man of St. Bees,

There once was a man of St. Bees
Who was stung on the arm by a wasp.
When asked, "Does it hurt?"
He replied, "No it doesn't.
I'm so glad it wasn't a hornet."
--W. S. Gilbert

Here are some of the sort of limericks that Peter likes. There are lots of this sort of thing out there if you look for them.

The other day, Peter asked me if I minded that he didn't like poetry much. I told him No. It used to bother me, lo many years ago, but it doesn't anymore. I like good poetry because it's got just the right words, cleverly arranged. A lot of what Peter does in editing translations is trying to find just the right word. He likes humorous poems like these because of the clever choice and arrangement of words. He likes, and has memorized a lot of filk songs that have to fit words and ideas to tunes that were meant to express something else entirely. In other words, he likes it when just the right words are cleverly arranged -- precisely what I like about poetry. Beyond that, it's just genre preference, which has no inherent virtue, it's just a question of taste.


  1. There was a young man from Japan
    Whose limericks never would scan
    When asked why this was
    He replied, "It's because
    I always try to get as many words into the last line as I possibly can."

  2. A king who was mad at the time
    Decreed limerick writing a crime
    But late in the night
    All the poets would write
    Verses without any rhyme or meter

    (That one's by David Gerrold)

  3. Well, it's not being prejudiced to say that most Filk is amateuerish, and suffers from the problems that plague amateurs everywhere. If what you care about are the ideas and the feelings you get when you listen or sing it together, that doesn't matter so much.
    I love it personally, but I can see the valid complaints of those who don't.

  4. I was inspired by the poems below and decided to write my own. Perhaps Mike can convert it to upside-down Unicode.

    evI .tS morf nam gnuoy a saw erehT
    evij t'ndid tsuj skciremil esohW
    detnuocer eh meop siht sA
    detnuom ecnedive ehT
    !evif evitagen derebmun senil ehT


  5. Peter says, "That's Good! Ha ha ha. That's a very good one!"

  6. Yes, I agree that a LOT of filk is amateurish. It's so painful when the lines don't quite scan. I should have said that the filk Peter listens to more than once and bothers to memorize is the good stuff--which is how I can tell that he does have good taste even if it's pointed in a slightly different direction than my current project.


  7. I really liked it, too, Doug!