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Edward Lear’s Russian Limericks

Many years ago I read the wonderful Book of Nonsense by Edward Lear. My interests lay at that point primarily in the field of Literature, so I never looked at those five-liners from the point of ethnographic or historical research.

When I came back from England the first thing I noticed, while reading this book again, is that quite a lot of limericks featured “old persons” from either Italy or Russia. And given that 2011 is the year when Russian culture is celebrated in Italy, and Italian culture is commemorated in Russia, I thought it would be good to assemble here “Russian” and “Italian” limericks by Edward Lear.

There was an Old Person of Tartary
Who divided his jugular artery;
But he screeched to his wife,
And she said, ‘Oh, my life!
Your death will be felt by all Tartary!’

There was a Young Lady of Russia,
Who screamed so that no one could hush her;
Her screams were extreme –
No one heard such a scream
As was screamed by that Lady of Russia

There was an Old Man of Kamschatka,
Who possessed a remarkably fat cur;
His gate and his waddle
Were held as a model
For all the fat dogs in Kamschatka.

Moldavia was once a part of the USSR, and still holds strong connection with Russia:

There was an Old Man of Moldavia,
Who had the most curious behaviour;
For while he was able
He slept on a table,
That funny Old Man of Moldavia.

And to judge by the illustration, this could also be a “Russian” limerick:

There was an Old Man of the East,
Who gave all his children a feast;
But they all ate so much,
And their conduct was such
That it killed that Old Man of the East.


Author: Julia Shuvalova

Julia Shuvalova is the author of Los Cuadernos de Julia blog. She is an author of several books, a translator, and a Foreign Languages tutor. She lives and works in Moscow, Russia.

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