It’s another Amaze-ing Words Wednesday with a fun with language post! Who doesn’t love a good limerick?
|Leprechauns in the
City of Limerick, Ireland
Limericks are five-lined poems with the aabba rhyme scheme in which the 1st, 2nd, and 5th lines are longer and the 3rd and 4th lines form a rhymed couplet. Although poetry with this meter and rhyme appeared centuries earlier, it wasn’t until the late 19th century that such poems were referred to as limericks.
How they got they got the name limerick is a debated issue. Some suggest that it hails from the tavern song, “Will You Come Up to Limerick?” in which drinkers/drunkards made up their own verses, most with bawdy lyrics. However, Arthur Deex, editor of the Limerick Special Interest Group newsletter, makes a better case that the nonsense poems were adopted by Irish taverns, in particular the ones in the town of Limerick. By the late 1800’s, the name stuck to the poems themselves. (See The Assent of the Limerick.)
Edward Lear is the most famous purveyor of the limerick. His Book of Nonsense published in 1861 included 112 limericks, although he did not use that term. Here are a couple of examples of his children’s poetry in limerick form:
There was a Young Lady whose chin,
Resembled the point of a pin;
So she had it made sharp,
And purchased a harp,
And played several tunes with her chin.
There was an Old Person of Berlin,
Whose form was uncommonly thin;
Till he once, by mistake,
Was mixed up in a cake,
So they baked that Old Man of Berlin.
Lear’s limericks usually began with a person from a place, and that format has been followed by most. (Poor Nantucket.)
Of course, most of us don’t think of children’s poetry when we imagine a limerick. (Once again, poor Nantucket.) Limericks are often a vehicle for suggestive or even offensive poetry (such as the few I found from science fiction author Isaac Asimov). Since I try to keep this blog a mostly PG place, I am going to leave you to hunt down the most shocking limericks yourself if you wish. But here are two examples, the first featuring a military trumpeter:
There was a young bandsman of Dee,
Tried to play with a girl on his knee
But the point of the joke
Is he struck the wrong note
And the wedding’s on Thursday at 3.
There was a young girl named Bianca
Asleep on a ship whilst at anchor,
But awoke with dismay,
When she heard the mate say,
“Let’s hoist up the main sheet and spank her.”
Frankly, if you ask most people whether they like poetry, they would say no. But ask if they enjoy a good limerick, and you might get a different response. There is something about the rhythm of the limerick and ease of the beginning “There once was . . .” that endears it to most. It’s easy to hear the beats of the poem and find something interesting to say.
In fact, the limerick lends itself to many topics. I’ll give it a shot:
There once was a storyteller
Who wrote and wrote in her cellar
Though at times it was weary
She sent query after query
And now she’s a multi-bestseller
Do you enjoy limericks? Do you know any that you could share without blushing? Can you come up with your own limerick below? Have you ever been to Limerick, Ireland and sung a drinking song in a pub?