Limericks

This Thursday May 12th is National Limerick Day. I rarely write them, but I find them fun to compose. It might be fun for you to put the form to the test.

  The Limerick Institute of Technology

 The form is named after the city of Limerick, in county Limerick, Ireland. The poem’s connection with the city is obscure, but the name is generally taken to be a reference to Limerick city or County Limerick and may derive from an earlier form of nonsense verse game that traditionally included a refrain that included “Will [or won’t] you come (up) to Limerick?” The earliest known use of the name “Limerick” for this type poem is an 1880 reference to an apparently well-known tune.

One of the men associated with creating the form is Edward Lear (shown below in 1888).Edwardlear.jpg

Lear’s self-description in verse, How Pleasant to know Mr. Lear, ends with this stanza, a reference to his own mortality:

He reads but he cannot speak Spanish,
He cannot abide ginger-beer;
Ere the days of his pilgrimage vanish,
How pleasant to know Mr. Lear!

The rhyme scheme is strict — AABBA, which is sometimes obscene with humorous intent. The third and fourth lines are usually shorter than the other three. T

The easiest limerick for me to remember is:

There was a young lady named Bright
Who’s speed was faster than light
She set out one day
In a relative way
And returned the previous night.

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