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Nonsense verse
16.11.2010, 11:31:17

I. Different definitions of nonsense are found by students in various kinds of dictionaries.

Nonsense is an utterance or written text in what appears to be a human language or other symbolic system, that does not in fact carry any identifiable meaning.

Nonsense – ideas, statements or beliefs that you think are ridiculous or not true.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica nonsense is defined as ‘humour that abandons all attempts at intellectual justification’ and ‘folly for folly’s sake’.

The two masters of nonsense verse were Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear (1812-1888).

II. There are two types of nonsense verse, depending on the vocabulary used.

Compare them and try to notice the difference.

a) Carroll’s ‘Jabberwocky’ from Through the Looking-Glass

Twas brilig, and the slithy toves
Dig gyre and gimble in the wabe,
All mimsy were the borogroves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

b) Edward Lear’s verse:

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat.
They took some honey and plenty of money.
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.

(The first is an ideal example of how a poet invents his own words; the second author uses ordinary words to express delightfully absurd ideas.)

III. Lear and his Limericks

Probably the best known type of nonsense verse is the limerick.

Popular form of short, humorous verse, often nonsensical and frequently ribald.

Edward Lear is best known for popularizing the limerick.

1. The life of Lear, rather not ordinary, is unknown to most people. Let’s look through his biography.

Are there any amazing facts? Have they found reflection in his graphic products and in verse?

2. Structure

Reading some of Lear’s early limericks aloud, note the distinctive rhythm and tap or clap it out.

There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, "It is just as I feared! –
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!”

There was an Old Man who said "Hush!
I perceive a young bird in this bush!”
When they said, "Is it small?”
He replied, "Not at all!
It is four times as big as the bush!”

There was a young lady from Norway,
Who casually sat in a doorway,
When the door squeezed her flat,
She exclaimed, "What of that?”
This courageous young lady from Norway.

Working with a partner, compare the limericks in order to find the way the verses have been composed. Can you notice any similarities in wording, rhythm, rhyming, ideas, etc. in all three examples? [2]

(The first line traditionally introduces a person and a location, and usually ends with the name of the location, though sometimes with that of the person. A true limerick is supposed to have a kind of twist to it. This may lie in the final line, or it may lie in the way the rhymes are often intentionally tortured, or in both. Though not a strict requirement, many limericks are usually those that additionally show some form of internal rhyme, often alliteration, sometimes assonance or another form of rhyme.

In Lear's limericks, the first and last lines usually end with the same word, rather than rhyming. For the most part, they are truly nonsensical and devoid of any punch line or point; there is nothing in them to "get". They are completely free of the off-colour humour with which the verse form is now associated. A typical thematic element is the presence of a callous and critical "they".)

Limericks are invariably typeset as five lines today, but Edward Lear's limericks were published in a variety of formats. It appears that Lear wrote them in manuscript basically in as many lines as there was room for beneath the picture. In the first three editions, most are typeset as, respectively, three, five, and three lines. The cover of one edition bears an entire limerick typeset in only two lines, thus:

  There was an Old Derry down Derry, who loved to see little folks merry;

  So he made them a book, and with laughter they shook at the fun of that Derry down Derry

IV. Limericks and Anti-limericks

An example of a typical Lear limerick:

  There was an Old Man of Asta,
  Who possessed a large Cow, but he lost her;
  But they said, 'Don't you see,
  she has rushed up a tree?
  You invidious Old Man of Aosta!'

But according to Douglas R. Hofstadter, the crowning achievement in a nonsense limerick goes:

There once was a man of St Bees
Who was stung in the hand by a wasp;

When asked, "Does it hurt?”

He replied, "Yes, it does,

I’m so glad it wasn’t a hornet.”

A "limerick” that does not rhyme and is not funny, which makes it funny. The above limerick was actually a parody of Lear’s limericks by W. S. Gilbert. There is a sub-genre of poems that take the twist of the Limerick and apply it to the Limerick itself. These are sometimes called anti-limericks.

V. Limericks in other languages than English

Although limericks have been written in a great number of different languages, many of these suffer from the fact that the meter of the limerick does not adapt well to such languages as, for example, French or Latin. Immortal Lear’s "nonsense verse" is hardly translated into other languages. There is a centenary tradition of Lear‘s translation in Russia. Depth and charm of Lear’s miniatures attract new and new interpreters. At the same time Russian rather strongly differs from English, in particular. One of the reasons is that the English words, on the average, are much shorter than Russian and contain less syllables. So innumerous translation into Russian are generally none other than free retelling or imitation with different degree of talent, considering thus justified change of the size, places of action, some characteristics of the working persons and details of a narration serving the purposes of preservation of a general picture.

Let’s look how Lear is treated by modern Russian interpreters.

VI. In small groups try to write your own limericks.

Don’t forget that it is a five-lined stanza, rhyming AABBA, the third and fourth lines being a foot shorter than the others. All the devices are there (e.g. long and unusual names and place names, and unusual rhymes) with the sole aim of adding to the humorous effect.

First, decide on the topic/person. Then follow the style and structure of the genre and take unusual adjectives.

You can also choose one of Lear’s limericks and try to translate it working in groups.

Compare your versions.

Категория: ИНОСТРАННЫЕ ЯЗЫКИ | Добавил: tineydgers | Теги: открытый урок, в помощь учителю английского языка, конспект урока, английский язык в школе, скачать бесплатно, Teachers
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