Four Polite Little Limericks


Four Polite Little Limericks- (2023)   

William Cosmo Monkhouse

for medium voice and piano


William Cosmo Monkhouse (1840–1901) was a British novelist, poet and well-admired art critic. Among his works, he wrote a monograph on the illustrator of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland entitled The Life and Work of Sir John Tenniel," (London: 1901). According to Encyclopedia Britannica: "As an art critic, Monkhouse's judgments were highly valued. He had the rare gift of differing without offending...."


As with the "lewd" limericks of Swinburne which are also set to music, these four are gathered into a single setting, medley-like, again for the fun of it. The first tells of that "young lady" who falls victim to her own foolishness as she "rode on a tiger." In modern parlance, she was a winner of one of the many so-called Darwin Awards, and as with the scansion of such limericks, in a 6/8 meter....


There was a young lady of Niger
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger;
They returned from the ride
With the lady inside,
And the smile on the face of the tiger.


An abrupt change of key slips from C to G flat, remaining in 6/8 time. This tale of another "young lady" ends without incident....

There was a young lady named Laura,
Who went to the wilds of Angora,
She came back on a goat
With a beautiful coat,
And notes of the fauna and flora.


From 6/8 to 3/4 time, this key and tempo change alter the mood, from comic to still comic.

There once was an old man of Lyme
Who married three wives at a time,
When asked, "Why a third?"
He replied, "One's absurd!
And bigamy, sir, is a crime.


A return to the 6/8 meter for the waltz time, counted out by "criminally" adding to the "lyric," the lilt of this Scottish event is carried through until the final cadence.

There was a young lady of Wilts,
Who walked up to Scotland on stilts;
When they said it was shocking
To show so much stocking
She answered: "Then what about kilts?"


4 pages, circa 3' 00"


The score is available as a free PDF download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this art song score.


Four Polite Little Limericks