Limericks are humorous poems consisting of five anapestic lines and two rhymes; the first, second, and fifth line contain 7-10 syllables and rhyme, and the third and fourth lines contain 5-7 syllable and rhyme.
While the name originates from the Irish town of Limerick where they served as the chorus in tavern songs belted out by drunken men and containing naughty lyrics, some of the most famous of these poems were written for children. In 1846, Edward Lear published 72 limericks in his Book of Nonsense.
Here are two of my favorites from Edward Lear’s Book of Nonsense:
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 Person whose habits,
Induced him to feed upon rabbits;
When he'd eaten eighteen,
He turned perfectly green,
Upon which he relinquished those habits.
But make no mistake, these witty poems are not just for children or the inebriated. Many famous writers, like Mark Twain, T.S. Eliot, Rudyard Kipling, H.G. Wells, and Ogden Nash have penned limericks. Some even suggest that William Shakespeare included a couple in a few of his plays like Othello, King Lear, and Hamlet. While most agree that the Bard’s limericks don’t fit modern expectations of this poetic form, technically, they do qualify. Here’s two for you to consider:
From Shakespeare's Othello, Act II Scene III
"And let me the canakin clink, clink;
And let me the canakin clink
A soldier's a man;
A life's but a span;
Why, then, let a soldier drink."
From Shakespeare's King Lear, Act III Scene IV
Swithold footed thrice the old;
He met the night-mare, and her nine-fold;
Bid her alight,
And her troth plight,
And, aroint thee, witch, aroint thee!
Now, here are a few new limericks:
by Giselle Ates
There once was a teacher called Sorry,
Who was always in such hurry,
But she relished a test
Since it gave her a rest
Though it made all her students worry.
by Elijah (5th grade)
In the yard lived a troublesome dog
Who destroyed everything that he saw
And announced, “Why it’s night,
That’s the time when I bite”
And stretched himself out to go gnaw.
“Lick, Lick, Limerick”
by Miryam Gabriel (11th grade)
There once was a boy with a chapstick,
Who licked it until he was quite sick.
His mother cried, “Rude!
That stuff's not a food!”
So the dim lad switched to a lipstick.
"The Misfortune of a Bald Man"
by Marshall Jones (10th grade)
There once lived a brat who climbed trees
And discovered a nest full of bees
Then a bald man walked by
Who caught the brat’s eye,
And his suffering made the brat pleased.
"The Silly Giraffe"
by Parker Stockett (10th grade)
There once lived a giraffe who bestowed
The good looks that he always showed
He proclaimed, "Look at me!
I'm so high I can see!"
And fell flat on his face on the road.
"Hannah’s Limerick" by Hannah Brittingham
There once was a girl named Hannah
She always wore a bandana
She found a light
That was oh so bright
Then she went to Taco Cabana
"Limerick" by Delaney Brittingham
There once was a girl from Spain
Who liked it to rain and rain
For when it was sunny
She could not make money
Then she had nothing to gain
"The Bird That Sang" by Lauren Ingham
There once was a bird that was free
To sing all day long in a tree
Too bad for the bird
For he had been heard,
The bird that had sung had to flee.
"The Girl with the Lute" by Lauren Ingham
There once was a girl who was cute
And loved to go play on her lute
But something has happened to her
That set her to be a moper
For she cannot play anymore on the lute.
"The Warrior of Sound" by Josh Johnson
Behold the warrior of sound
Chasing rifts like a hound
His guitar he picks
The air he kicks
The melody he has found.
"Do Not Come Back" by Ben Johnson
I read a poem by Ben
It had to do with a hen
The hen flew up high
Up in the sky
Never to come back again.
"Cat and Bird" by Matthew Watts
There was a young cat with orange fur.
He sat on a log with a bird.
He jumped like a lion
And instead he went flyin’
And scared off the frightened old bird.
"The Girl with a Heart"
by Taylor Novosad
There once was a young girl with a heart,
Who had friends and couldn’t be apart.
She prayed for them each day,
And helped them in anyway,
Because she had Jesus in her heart.
"Zebras" by Aly Samsel
Zebras are so fun and cool
But thinking their tame you’re a fool
For when trying to ride
You’ll end up on your side
Or rather in a small muddy pool
"Luna" by Aly Samsel
O the luna has flown away
Not to be seen again today
She eats sweet gum leaves
And her greatest pet peeve
Is to mess up her bright green array
"Lions" by Aly Samsel
Lions are awesome and fun
They love to lie in the sun
They like to eat meat
From the wild beast
They fear not man or gun
"Lucky Ducky" by Aly Samsel
There was an old man from Spain
Who said it’s really quite plain
I’ve run out of luck
For two hens and a duck
On my shirt have each made a stain
"Chameleon" by Aly Samel
There once was a little chameleon
Who played with balloons of helium
Because he was hearty
He threw a big party
And gave out presents a million
"A Girl" by Roger Samsel
There once was a girl from North Porter
To bed she was given an order
I sent her to dream
She thought I was mean
But never the less I adored her