Once, a long time ago, I got into the hands of a funny Polish little book with a strange name – “Księga nonsensu” (“The Book of Nonsense”) – and with a completely creepy picture on the cover: a man in a hat who had at least three nose (one nose is normal and two – instead of ears). Opening the book, I immediately stumbled upon such a poem (I translate as I can – do not seek it):
“So …”, I thought. On the one hand … the five hundred looks quite elegant and in Italian: andante (moderately) and allegro con brio (fast-fast) are musical terms for the tempo of performance, and it is nice that the author considers me able to perceive them without any boring explanations. As well as assumes my acquaintance with the word “amant” (“lover” in French) and with the name of the Muse Clio. On the other hand … but what, exactly, does the author hint at? And why does this girl demand from flutist to play music without fail at a furious pace allegro con brio? Than this capricious girl did not please the pace andante? And what have, in fact, the muse of history and the former capital of Brazil.
That was my first meeting with the Limerick. It was already later that I learned that the Book of Nonsense, A Book of Nonsense, was the name of the classic collection of the English poet and artist Edward Lear, which was published in February 1846 and consisted entirely of nonsense written in such Here is the form and about the same spirit.
But Edward Lear was by no means the first writer of the Limerick. Fifteen-thousandths of this kind came to us from the XVIII century and from the XVII century … but what can I say! even the venerable Thomas Aquinas in his thirteenth century indulged in limericks! In Latin, of course, because he, after all, was a learned theologian and philosopher.
However, Thomas Aquinas cannot be considered the first. The roots of what from the end of the 19th century began to be called Limeriks go deep into and in breadth. They are folk, these roots. Limeriks in Europe were the same as chastushkas in Russia – a mischievous mixture of nonsense and common sense:
No, Edward Lear was not the first writer of the limericks. And his “The Book of Nonsense” was not even the first collection of limericks. But it was precisely the collection of Lear that came to court, as they say, and gained extraordinary popularity. Thanks to Edward Lir, this genre of comic poetry, nonsense verse, received its official recognition and took a very honorable place in literature.
The Limerics included in the collection were originally intended for the grandsons of the Earl of Derby, whom Edward Lear taught drawing. Probably, therefore, these Limericks form, as it were, a single whole with the drawings of Lear himself, who accompany every five hundred. And therefore, probably, there are so many place names in these Limericks — a conscientious teacher could hardly have passed such a good reason to pull up his students also in geography.
In total, Edward Lear wrote more than two hundred Limerick, and in his “Book of Nonsense” included them, eventually, a little more than a hundred. Literally, they all begin in English with the words “There was …” – “Once upon a time …”, “Once upon a time …”. In the overwhelming majority of Limerick, there was a living – it was some old man or middle-aged gentleman; then come the young ladies – there are a little more than two dozen of them – and the ladies are elderly. However, elderly Lady Lear didn’t welcome too much: he has only three of them …
“Stop talking – go to the horses!” – so says the French proverb. Indeed, we have gathered here not at all in order to talk endlessly about the Limerick. To horses so to horses … In front of you are exactly 25 limericks of Edward Lear from his “Book of Nonsense”, illustrated by his own drawings. However, this is not exactly Edward Lear, of course. It is unusually difficult to translate Limerick, and what you read now is only more or less successful translations (and most often retellings) into Russian, made by Mark Freudkin (numbers in order 3, 4, 6, 10, 12, 15 , 18, 19 and 20), Grigory Kruzhkov (1, 2, 14, 16, 17, 21 and 25), Sergey Shorgin (5, 7, 8, 11, 22) and Boris Arhiptsev (9, 13, 23, 24 ).