There Once Was…

May 6, 2007

Recently I found myself in Peter Seychelles’ comfortable study in his New York townhouse, where the candlelight was just right, the hi-fi was in the background and the wine was delicious. I was engaged in conversation with our host about Henry James’ second mental breakdown, and the place of Brandy Taylor in the thoughts of young men, when someone burst in reciting this charming little limerick:

“There was an old gourmand of Credition

Who at pate de foie gras having spread it on

A chocolate biscuit

He boomed ‘Hell, I’ll risk it!’

His tomb bears the date that he said it on.”

We all laughed and returned to our dining. Later, someone asked Peter what the secret to hosting such a good party was. “Naturally, I’ll say it’s the wine,” was his response, but we all knew it was the off-coloured limerick.

A limerick is a five-line poem with an A-A-B-B-A rhyme scheme, where lines 1,2, and 5 are composed of three metrical feet and 3 and 4 have two metrical feet. The form is very old, dating from at least the 16th century. According to the OED, the term’s origin probably comes from “a custom at convivial parties, according to which each member sang an extemporized ‘nonsense-verse’, which was followed by a chorus containing the words ‘Will you come up to Limerick?’” I hasten to guess what the custom was at non-convivial parties. Emory has a nifty little page about the limerick, offering this choice poem:

There once was a lady named Cager,
Who as the result of a wager,
Consented to fart
The entire oboe part
Of Mozart’s quartet in F-major.

Today the form is most famed for its “There once was a man from Nantucket” trope (and, yes, this is actually the correct use of trope). This form was popularized by the Princeton Tiger which printed a clean version of a man from Nantucket limerick that swept the nation’s newspapers, leading to limerick contests across the country. Here’s the ditty:

There was an Old Man of Nantucket
Who kept all his cash in a bucket
His daughter, named Nan,
Ran away with a man–
And, as for the bucket, Nantucket

Here’s a vulgar version as quoted on wikipedia:

There once was a man from Nantucket
Whose dick was so long he could suck it.

While wiping his chin,
He said with a grin,
“If my ear were a ****, I could **** it.”

I’m sorry for the vulgarity. I simply had to include the poem–with the link, copied directly from wikipedia. The link is to the wikipedia article on “autofellatio.” Whoever thought of linking to the article is probably the smartest man on the planet. Or at least from Nantucket.

More typical Salad fare (“a litter of pigs”; obs.) tomorrow.