Thursday, 10 January 2013

Thankful Thursday

One of the advantages of getting older is that one has more memories: some good, some bad but at least there are a lot of them.  Some of mine have been brought to mind by a book a friend lent me entitled A Present of Laughter.

I was surprised by how many of the rhymes and so on I knew.

My brother, CJ, and I often come up with lines from well-known works like Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky, The Walrus and the Carpenter, or "You are old, Father William" but I had never heard of his The Mad Gardener's Song and I have to admit that although his The Hunting of the Snark is a title well known to me, when I read it I couldn't recall it at all.

How many of you have heard A Song About Myself

There was a naughty Boy,
A Naughty boy was he,
He would not stop at home,
He could not quiet be -
     He took
     In his Knapsack
     A Book
     Full of vowles
     And a shirt
     With some towels-
and so it goes on.   But can you recall who might have written it?  I know it well and I know it's author well - he was one of my favourite poets with great epics like Hyperion to his credit.  He was the serious John Keats (1795-1821).  But could I remember that he was the author?  No.

I'm not a great lover of Edward Lear (1812-1888) and his nonsense rhymes but I do love his The Owl and The Pussycat going to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat, eating mince and slices of quince with a runcible spoon and dancing by the light of the moon.  The wonderful illustration is by L Leslie Brooke (1862-1940).

W S Gilbert (1836-1911) is well known for his half of the pairing of Gilbert and Sullivan but how many have heard of his Gentle Alice Brown and it's sage tale of love and corruption most amusingly put.  I had not.

I'm sure that I heard the following limerick (anonymous) before I'd gone to school:

There was a young lady of Niger
Who smiled as she rode on a Tiger
     They came back from the ride
     With the lady inside
And the smile on the face of the Tiger.

Can you imagine this anonymous ditty being allowed anywhere near a politically correct book these days:

Little Willie hung his sister,
She was dead before we missed her.
"Willie's always up to tricks!
 Ain't he cute? He's only six!"

Hilaire Belloc (1870 - 1953) lived long and wrote much - very much - including his cautionary tales such as Jim (Who ran away from his Nurse and was eaten by a lion) or Rebecca (Who slammed doors for fun and perished miserably).

I shall finish with Ogden Nash's (1902 - 1971) The Wombat for no other reason than it has an  antipodean connection and, if you have ever seen a wombat, is quite ludicrous:

The wombat lives across the seas
Among the fair Antipodes.
He may exist on nuts and berries,
or then again on missionaries;
His distant habit precludes
Conclusive knowledge of his moods.
But I would not engage the wombat
In any form of mortal combat.

So why is this a Thankful Thursday post?  I'm very thankful I have known (most of) these wonderful pieces of nonsense and had so many years of enjoyment out of them and their authors.


  1. Nonsense is very important. It's a bit like having an excuse (if you need one) to be silly once you're an adult.

    I'm thankful for nonsense poetry too!

    "Said Hamlet to Ophelia,
    I'll draw a sketch of thee,
    What kind of pencil shall I use?
    2B or not 2B?
    - Spike Milligan"

    1. That is absolutely wonderful! I hadn't heard that one before. I must try to remember it.

      After seeing a rerun of an episode of the British "Antiques Roadshow," I have been humming, "Drip drip drop, little April shower ... " all day. The tune apparently comes from Disney's movie "Bambi." Childish or not, it's been brightening my day today! :o)

    2. I hadn't heard that one Katherine. Very SM though.

  2. The limerick was in my English text book at school when I was about 11, I think. I loved it and remember it very well, although slightly different from the version you posted:

    There was a young lady from Riga
    who rode with a smile on a tiger.
    They returned from the ride
    with the lady inside
    and the smile on the face of the tiger.

    As far as the other bits of rhyming nonsense are concerned, they were all new to me, but I can understand that you are grateful for knowing them :-)

    1. Now Meike you have me thinking. When I copied the limerick into the post I was a little puzzled because I hadn't recalled Niger as being the end of the first line. It wasn't until I read your version that I realised that yours is the version that I know as well. Thanks a lot for that correction.

      I may be wrong but I can't really imagine a lot of nonsense rhymes being part of the Deutsch Charakter.

  3. I once tried to trace the originator of

    Once there was a cassowary
    on the plains of Timbuktu
    killed and ate a missionary
    cassock, bands and hymn book too.

    (or the last line might go 'Legs and arms and humn book too' depending upon the version one learned.)

    Without success. Amongst the contenders are Tennyson, Thackeray and Bishop Wilberforce. Any ideas?

    1. No idea where it came from, but it's great! :o)

    2. I learned the last version and as it was always Mum who said it I don't think I ever wondered where she got it from. The only other person I've heard say it is you (so far as I can recall). Now I, too, shall have to do some research.

  4. Thank you for some wonderful memories.

  5. Do you know what is amazing? I actually knew some of these, having been brought up truly British and attending a private school with British teachers....I am thankful too that my life had a space in it for these pieces of nonsense to reside as well.

    1. I suspect that it is essentially a very British sort of humour Virginia so I'm not surprised that you've heard them.

  6. The limerick seems kind of familiar to me too but I can't say where I came across it. It may have been included in an English text book for me as well, I suppose. The others I don't know, except for the ones by Lewis Carrol. But I did not read them until much later in life, not in childhood (and I don't know them by heart). Your post does remind me of some Swedish nursery rhymes and songs of similar nonsense kind, though. And of Winnie-the-Pooh... (with both Pooh and other English children's books it was the Swedish translations I knew in childhood though)

    1. You are so bi-lingual Monica that you are bound to have come across it at some time in all your English readings. I think it must be one of the most common of limericks even though generally speaking

      The limerick's an art form complex
      Whose contents run chiefly to sex.
      It's famous for virgins
      And masculine urgin's
      And vulgar erotic effects

      None of which appear in the Lady from Riga nor in my favourite

      There was an old lady from Cheam
      Who was exceedingly stingy and mean.
      'If a sandwich' she said
      'had but one piece of bread,
      there'd be no need for meat in between'.