nonsense verse Humorous or whimsical verse that features absurd characters and actions and often contains evocative but meaningless nonce words. Nonsense verse differs from other comic verse in its resistance to any rational or allegorical interpretation. Though it often makes use of coined, meaningless words, it is unlike the ritualistic gibberish of children's counting-out rhymes in that it makes such words sound purposeful. There are various specific forms of nonsense verse, including amphigory, double dactyl, holorhyme, and limerick.
Skilled literary nonsense verse is rare; most of it has been written for children and is modern, dating from the beginning of the 19th century. The cardinal date could be considered 1846, when The Book of Nonsense was published. The work is a collection of limericks composed and illustrated by the artist Edward Lear, who first created them in the 1830s for the children of the Earl of Derby.
Lear's book was followed by the inspired fantasy of Lewis Carroll, whose "Jabberwocky," from Through the Looking-Glass, may be the best-known example of nonsense verse.
Hilaire Belloc's volume The Bad Child's Book of Beasts (1896) holds an honored place among the classics of English nonsense verse, while, in the United States, Laura E. Richards, a prolific writer of children's books, published verses in Tirra Lirra (1932) that have been compared to those of Lear.