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.