So, we’ve all heard them, but since they’re typically meant for children they don’t get discussed much in academia as far as I am aware. But, they’re fun, so why not? I looked into them a bit. They’re usually nursery rhymes, but some limericks are rather lewd (like the infamous “There once was a man from Nantucket” poem, which won’t be finished due to its crudity). They’ve got a rigid rhyme scheme- a/a/b/b/a, and specific stresses— unstressed first syllable, followed by a single stress with two unstressed. Its syllable count per line (always 5 lines) is: 8-8-5-5-8.

Limericks tend to have a narrative, and focus on ridiculousness. Usually, I’ve noticed, they start with “There was (a person) with/from(prominent feature),” and sets up the problem in the second line.

Followed are a few by Edward Lear, from the website:

There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, “It is just as I feared!–
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!”

There was an Old Man in a tree,
Who was horribly bored by a Bee;
When they said, “Does it buzz?”
He replied, “Yes, it does!
“It’s a regular brute of a Bee!”

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.


I also feel the need to point out that poets such as Lord Tennyson and Rudyard Kipling have limericks. (Though, I wouldn’t put much stock in anything Rudyard Kipling did, considering he was a terrible racist).


Anyway, feel free to try and write a limerick. It could be fun!

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