THE E-ZINE'S SPLENDID LIMERICKS
(Fanfare of French horns. Note that prolonged cheering may drown
out the first words.)
The limerick, says the Encyclopedia Brittanica,
first hit the literary scene
in the 18th century, returning from France with the
Irish Brigade as lyrics of a popular song whose chorus was, "Will you
come up to Limerick?" Each verse, which was usually made up on the
spot, told the adventures of persons from various Irish cities. By
1846, when Edward Lear's "Book of Nonsense," was published, the
limerick was a familiar form. One sample:
There was an Old Man with
Who said, "It is
just as I feared,
owls and a wren,
ducks and a hen
made their nests in my
As time passed,
limericks became more sophisticated and more popular.
By 1877A song
from the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta "The Sorcerer" is in perfect
My name is
John Wellington Wells.
a dealer in magic and spells.
In blessings and
witches and knells.
But the best limericks of all are more than verses.
They're also jokes
rhymes with an unexpected twist and a clever, and funny ending.
This one's a classic:
was an old man of
Who kept two live
sheep in his room.
he said, "They remind
Of one left behind
I just can't remember
To qualify as
a little five-line verse must rhyme in an a-a-b-b-a
pattern. That is, the first, second, and fifth lines all rhyme with
each other, and the third and fourth lines share a different rhyme. And
limericks are written in mostly dactylic verse: The stress in the
first, second and fifth lines is Ta-DAH-da, ta-DAH-da, ta-DAH, and the
stress in each of the third and fourth lines is ta-DAH-da, ta-DAH. It's
acceptible for the ending of the first line to have an extra beat or
two, but in that case, the second and fifth lines must match that
pattern perfectly. And the same is true of lines three and four.
Rhyming words need not all be single words, nor must they be spelled
alike. Here's an example: (and it helps if you know that the city name
There was a
young lady of Worcester
Who often would crow like
And she used
Two trees at a
Which was hard
but her sister would boost
Some limericks are rather horrible, such as this one:
A slender young miss from
When asked if she
might have anemia
For I love a
But I constantly
of course many familiar limericks are very
. . . naughty
(descriptive adjective courtesy of Monty Python). We won't offer you a
sample of those, thank you very much.