Limericks have remained popular over the years. Limerick poems can often be of a funny or even a bawdy, or dirty, subject. The history of limerick poems is detailed below and due to the location of Limerick in Ireland the Irish Limericks are often found to be the most popular. Is the Limerick a form of poetry or are limericks just childish rhymes? The defence of the Limerick is also covered in this section.

Limericks

A Form of Poetry? Limerick Poems? Limericks the genre? 
The form of poetry referred to as Limerick poems have received incredibly bad press and dismissed as not having a rightful place amongst what is seen as 'cultivated poetry'. The reason for this is three-fold:

  • The content of many limericks is often of a bawdy and humorous nature.

  • A Limerick as a poetry form is by nature simple and short - limericks only have five lines.

  • And finally the somewhat dubious history of limericks have contributed to the critics attitudes.

Limericks - The History
Variants of the form of poetry referred to as Limerick poems can be traced back to the fourteenth century English history. Limericks were used in Nursery Rhymes and other poems for children. But as limericks were short, relatively easy to compose and bawdy or sexual in nature they were often repeated by beggars or the working classes in the British pubs and taverns of the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventh centuries. The poets who created these limericks were therefore often drunkards! Limericks were also referred to as dirty.

Where does the term 'Limerick' come from?
The word derives from the Irish town of Limerick. Apparently a pub song or tavern chorus based on the refrain "Will you come up to Limerick?" where, of course, such bawdy songs or 'Limericks' were sung.

Limericks - The form 
Limericks consist of five anapaestic lines.
Lines 1, 2, and 5 of Limericks have seven to ten syllables and rhyme with one another. 
Lines 3 and 4 of Limericks have five to seven syllables and also rhyme with each other.

Limericks - A Defence - Shakespeare even wrote Limericks!
Admittedly the content of Limericks can often verge on the indecent, the dirty, or even the obscene, but they make people laugh! Limericks are easy to remember! Limericks are short and no great talent is necessary to compose one - Limericks are a form of poetry that everyone feels happy to try (especially when inebriated!). Limericks as a form of poetry has survived the test of time dating back for centuries! And whilst the poetic and literary skills of Shakespeare are not necessary for the composition of a limerick the great Bard himself did in fact write limericks which can be found in two of his greatest plays - Othello and King Lear.

The Limericks of Edward Lear - Limericks are Fun!!
Edward Lear's Book of Nonsense included the poetry form of Limericks. His work with limericks were, however, was not in any way indecent and this particular book proved to be extremely popular in the nineteenth century and this was contributed to by the humorous magazine Punch which started printing examples of limericks leading to a craze by its readers. The first edition of Edward Lear's Book of Nonsense was published by Thomas McLean on 10th February 1846. There were altogether seventy-two limericks in two volumes which sold at 3s 6d each. These limericks have proven to be extremely popular with children.

Limericks by Edward Lear from A Book of Nonsense
 
Limerick
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!'
Limerick
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!'
Limerick
There was an Old Man of Kilkenny,
Who never had more than a penny;
He spent all that money,
In onions and honey,
That wayward Old Man of Kilkenny.
Limerick
There was an Old Man with a flute,
A sarpint ran into his boot;
But he played day and night,
Till the sarpint took flight,
And avoided that man with a flute.
Limericks by Edward Lear
Limerick
There was an Old Man of Vienna,
Who lived upon Tincture of Senna;
When that did not agree,
He took Camomile Tea,
That nasty Old Man of Vienna.
Limerick
There was an Old Person whose habits,
Induced him to feed upon rabbits;
When he'd eaten eighteen,
He turned perfectly green,
Upon which he relinquished those habits.
Limerick
There was a Young Lady whose eyes,
Were unique as to colour and size;
When she opened them wide,
People all turned aside,
And started away in surprise.
Limerick
There was an Old Man of the Wrekin
Whose shoes made a horrible creaking
But they said, 'Tell us whether,
Your shoes are of leather,
Or of what, you Old Man of the Wrekin?'
Limericks by Edward Lear
Limerick
There was an Old Man who supposed,
That the street door was partially closed;
But some very large rats,
Ate his coats and his hats,
While that futile old gentleman dozed.
Limerick
There was a Young Lady of Dorking,
Who bought a large bonnet for walking;
But its colour and size,
So bedazzled her eyes,
That she very soon went back to Dorking.
Limerick
There was an Old Man of Columbia,
Who was thirsty, and called out for some beer;
But they brought it quite hot,
In a small copper pot,
Which disgusted that man of Columbia.
Limerick
There was an Old Person of Buda,
Whose conduct grew ruder and ruder;
Till at last, with a hammer,
They silenced his clamour,
By smashing that Person of Buda.
Limericks by Edward Lear
Limerick
There was an Old Man of the West,
Who wore a pale plum-coloured vest;
When they said, 'Does it fit?'
He replied, 'Not a bit!'
That uneasy Old Man of the West.
Limerick
There was a Young Lady of Norway,
Who casually sat on a doorway;
When the door squeezed her flat,
She exclaimed, 'What of that?'
This courageous Young Lady of Norway.
Limerick
There was on Old Man of the Isles,
Whose face was pervaded with smiles;
He sung high dum diddle,
And played on the fiddle,
That amiable Man of the Isles.
Limerick
There was a Young Person of Crete,
Whose toilette was far from complete;
She dressed in a sack,
Spickle-speckled with black,
That ombliferous person of Crete.
Limericks by Edward Lear
Limerick
There was an Old Person of Hurst,
Who drank when he was not athirst;
When they said, 'You'll grw fatter,'
He answered, 'What matter?'
That globular Person of Hurst.
Limerick
There was an Old Lady of Chertsey,
Who made a remarkable curtsey;
She twirled round and round,
Till she sunk underground,
Which distressed all the people of Chertsey.
Limerick
There was an Old Man with a gong,
Who bumped at it all day long;
But they called out, 'O law!
You're a horrid old bore!'
So they smashed that Old Man with a gong.
Limerick
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!'
Limericks by Edward Lear
Limerick
There was a Young Person of Smyrna,
Whose Grandmother threatened to burn her;
But she seized on the cat,
And said, 'Granny, burn that!
You incongruous Old Woman of Smyrna!'
Limerick
There was an Old Person of Chili,
Whose conduct was painful and silly,
He sate on the stairs,
Eating apples and pears,
That imprudent Old Person of Chili.
Limerick
There was an Old Man on a hill,
Who seldom, if ever, stood still;
He ran up and down,
In his Grandmother's gown,
Which adorned that Old Man on a hill.
Limerick
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.
Limericks by Edward Lear
Limerick
There was a Young Lady whose bonnet,
Came untied when the birds sate upon it;
But she said: 'I don't care!
All the birds in the air
Are welcome to sit on my bonnet!'
Limerick
There was an Old Man of Madras,
Who rode on a cream-coloured ass;
But the length of its ears,
So promoted his fears,
That it killed that Old Man of Madras.
Limerick
There was a Young Lady of Ryde,
Whose shoe-strings were seldom untied.
She purchased some clogs,
And some small spotted dogs,
And frequently walked about Ryde.
Limerick
There was an Old Man of Peru,
Who never knew what he should do;
So he tore off his hair,
And behaved like a bear,
That intrinsic Old Man of Peru.
Limericks by Edward Lear
Limerick
There was an Old Man of Moldavia,
Who had the most curious behaviour;
For while he was able,
He slept on a table.
That funny Old Man of Moldavia.
Limerick
There was an Old Man in a boat,
Who said, 'I'm afloat, I'm afloat!'
When they said, 'No! you ain't!'
He was ready to faint,
That unhappy Old Man in a boat.
Limerick
There was a Young Lady of Portugal,
Whose ideas were excessively nautical:
She climbed up a tree,
To examine the sea,
But declared she would never leave Portugal.
Limerick
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.
Limericks by Edward Lear
Limerick
There was an Old Man of Kilkenny,
Who never had more than a penny;
He spent all that money,
In onions and honey,
That wayward Old Man of Kilkenny.
Limerick
There was an Old Person of Ischia,
Whose conduct grew friskier and friskier;
He dance hornpipes and jigs,
And ate thousands of figs,
That lively Old Person of Ischia.
Limerick
There was an Old Person of Dover,
Who rushed through a field of blue Clover;
But some very large bees,
Stung his nose and his knees,
So he very soon went back to Dover.
Limerick
There was an Old Man of Marseilles,
Whose daughters wore bottle-green veils;
They caught several Fish,
Which they put in a dish,
And sent to their Pa' at Marseilles.
Limericks by Edward Lear
Limerick
There was an Old Person of Basing,
Whose presence of mind was amazing;
He purchased a steed,
Which he rode at full speed,
And escaped from the people of Basing.
Limerick
There was an Old Person of Cadiz,
Who was always polite to all ladies;
But in handing his daughter,
He fell into the water,
Which drowned that Old Person of Cadiz.
Limerick
The was a Young Lady of Bute,
Who played on a silver-gilt flute;
She played several jigs,
To her uncle's white pigs,
That amusing Young Lady of Bute.
Limerick
There was an Old Man of Quebec,
A beetle ran over his neck;
But he cried, 'With a needle,
I'll slay you, O beadle!'
That angry Old Man of Quebec.

Limericks by Edward Lear

Poetry Online - Limericks

The Poetry Online web site contains a huge selection of online poetry from the most celebrated authors. The funny limericks of Edward Lear have been used to illustrate this particular type of poem. His Limerick poems are taken from the Edward Lear's Book of Nonsense which was published in 1846.Poetry Online ' is solely for educational purposes and any reproduction of the poetry contained on this web site is not to be "used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research.". Please refer to our Copyright page and our Privacy Statement regarding Terms of Use. Choose Poetry online for the greatest poems by the most famous poets.

Limericks are Fun!!

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