A Little about Limericks

In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, here’s a little information about limericks.

A limerick is a five-line poem, with the rhyming pattern A-A-B-B-A.

In other words, lines 1, 2 and 5 rhyme with each other. They usually have 7-11 syllables per line.

Lines 3 and 4 rhyme with each other and have 5-8 syllables per line.

Limericks can be sung or recited.

Here’s an example of a limerick, written by Frank Richards.

From the elephant paddock one day,
They took poor Barbara Woodhouse away;
There’s no harm in the least,
Shouting ‘Sit’ to the beast,
But she should have got out of the way

One tale behind the word Limerick is related to the city of Limerick in Ireland. It’s said that in the 1800’s, when people would gather together for parties and such, they would sing little nonsense songs. The songs talked about people of different towns around Ireland, but they ended with the line “Will you come up to Limerick?” It’s told that these songs followed the pattern of limericks. There’s no printed proof of any of this. But that’s one of the legends about limericks!

It seems that the limerick form was known in the 1800’s. But Edward Lear from England is the man who made it popular with “A Book of Nonsense”, which was published in 1846. It contained limericks that he illustrated.

Here’s one of Lear’s limericks with an illustration:

Picture of Lear's Limerick There Was an Old Man with a Nose

There was an Old Man with a nose,
Who said, ‘If you choose to suppose,
That my nose is too long,
You are certainly wrong!’
That remarkable man with a nose.

So when you’re celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, along with your corn beef and cabbage, don’t forget to recite a few limericks!

You can find more of Edward Lear’s Limericks online at Nonsense Books by Edward Lear at Project Gutenberg.

This article was posted on Thursday, March 15th, 2007 at 11:30 pm and is filed under A Book of Nonsense, Countries & Cultures, Edward Lear, England, English, Holidays Around the World, Ireland, Languages, Limericks, Poetry, Poets, St. Patrick's Day, USA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

One Response to “A Little about Limericks”

  1. Some Limericks by Edward Lear with Recordings | Mama Lisa's World Blog Says:

    […] Lear made limericks popular in England in the 19th century with his “A Book of Nonsense” (1846). It […]

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