What better way to start the week than with a bit of poetry? This past weekend marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Edward Lear, the man who popularised the limerick and gave the world The Owl and the Pussycat.
He was also a talented draughtsman and artist; his watercolour Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, which I believe is in the Ashmolean in Oxford, captures magnificently the timeless grandeur of the holy city. But it is as a writer of nonsense verse that we best know Lear, in particular his mastery of the limerick, a 19th century poetic form that was five lines long and was usually used to comic, and often scandalous, effect. There is usually a reference to something anatomical, "and the clean ones are seldom so comical", as the famous self-regarding verse has it.
Anyway, Lear occasionally used the form for sardonic commentary on current events, and in commemoration of the great man's birth – and with apologies to his descendants – I have taken the liberty of penning a few lines on the news story du jour, the Leveson Inquiry. Here goes:
There once was a lady called Brooks
Who said: it's not quite how it looks
We never discussed Sky
The Prime Minister and I
For that would have meant we were crooks
For a minute the outlook seemed bleak
And that's before they even mentioned the leak
But what to wear
When they ask about Blair?
I know, I'll give them some Puritan chic
Her inquisitor was now playing to the crowd
He leaned forward and just wouldn't be cowed
Peering over his specs
He quoted a text
And left us all laughing out loud
The judge wasn't happy at all
He'd not seen a display of such gall
How many ways
On how many days
Had he witnessed a lack of recall?
But surely you remember the hunt
With you and the PM up front?
And it can't be a blur
The dinners a deux
With the man Jim Naughtie called ****
It seems like it's gone on forever
With a nation at the end of its tether
But at the close of the day
As Cameron would say
They ARE all in it together!
So there it is, a rhyming submission to the Leveson Inquiry. And if they ask me what I know of poetry, I'll have a ready response. I don't remember anything! LOLFollow @Simon_Kelner