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Wheeler English

Lines & Rhymes: Limerick

A limerick is often silly and humorous. That's its point. A limerick is a five-line poem. The first, second, and fifth lines rhyme and have three beats. The third and fourth lines rhyme and have two beats. The rhythm is usually anapestic (two unaccented syllables followed by an accented one).

Edward Lear (1812-1888) is often credited with inventing the limerick. He liked to draw and paint, and was Queen Victoria's drawing teacher. In 1846 he wrote and illustrated a book of poems called A Book of Nonsense.

Another theory is that soldiers returning from France brought it to the Irish town of Limerick in 1700, and still a third credits Mother Goose Melodies for Children, published in 1700.

Some Lear limericks:

There was an Old Lady whose folly
Induced her to sit on a holly,
     Whereon, by a thorn,
     Her dress being torn,
She quickly became melancholy.


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.

some more limericks:

There was an old man from Peru,
Who dreamt he waseating his shoe
     He awake in the night
     In a terrible fright,
And found it was perfectly true.

A diner, while dining at Crewe
Found quite a large mouse in the stew;
     Said the waiter, "Don't shout
     And wave it about
Or the rest will be wanting one, too!"

There was a young lady of Niger
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger;
     They returned from the ride
     With the lady inside,
And the smile on the face of the tiger

The bottle of perfume that Willie sent
Was highly displeasing to Millicent;
     Her thanks were so cold
     They quarreled, I'm told,
Through that silly scent Willie sent Millicent.