the Waste Land: Five Limericks

June 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

In April one seldom feels cheerful;
Dry stones, sun and dust make me fearful;
Clairvoyantes distress me,
Commuters depress me–
Met Stetson and gave him an earful.

She sat on a mighty fine chair,
Sparks flew as she tidied her hair;
She asks many question,
I make few suggestions–
Bad as Albert and Lil–what a pair!

The Thames runs, bones rattle, rats creep;
Tiresias fancies a peep–
A typist is laid,
A record is played–
Wei la la. After this it gets deep.

A Phoenician named Phlebas forgot
About birds and his business–the lot,
Which is no surprise,
Since he’d met his demise
And been left in the ocean to rot.

No water. Dry rocks and dry throats,
Then thunder, a shower of quotes
From the Sanskrit and Dante.
Da. Damyata. Shantih.
I hope you’ll make sense of the notes.

– Wendy Cope

Would I go so far as to say I think this is better than Eliot’s original? I would. For all its cultural significance and foreboding presence in the canon, “The Waste Land” is an overly cryptic, bloated slab of high modernism. Eliot wrote better poems before and after. Cope’s genius takes serious art and condenses it into the most unserious of forms — the limerick. Her version is pithy and hilarious, and both mocks and salutes the original.


Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the Wendy Cope category at Ondioline.