A limerick (see Wikipedia) is a
- five-line poem.
- Its meter is predominantly anapestic (ta-ta-TUM).
- Its rhyme scheme is AABBA.
- The first, second and fifth lines (A) are usually longer than the third and fourth.
- It’s intent is humorous.
- Limericks are probably named after the Irish County of Limerick
- The word ‘limerick’ was first used in St John, New Brunswick
There was a young rustic named Mallory, (A)
who drew but a very small salary. (A)
When he went to the show, (B)
his purse made him go (B)
to a seat in the uppermost gallery. (A)
Tune: Won’t you come to Limerick.
The First Limerick: Vice and Virtue
- Thomas Aquinas
The oldest attested limerick is a Latin prayer by Thomas Aquinas dating back to the 13th century.
Sit vitiorum meorum evacuatio
Concupiscentae et libidinis exterminatio,
Caritatis et patientiae,
Humilitatis et obedientiae,
Omniumque virtutum augmentatio.
- Edward Lear
- Lewis Carroll
The form appeared in England in the early years of the 18th century and was popularized by:
- Edward Lear (12 or 13 May 1812 – 29 January 1888), but Lear did not use the term ‘limerick.’
- Lear’s Book of Nonsense was published in 1846. A Book of Nonsense is Project Gutenberg [EBook #982].
- and by Lewis Carroll (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass).
- Lear wrote: “There was an old man of Quebec”
- Gershon Legman compiled the “largest and most scholarly edition” of limericks: The New Limerick: 2750 Unpublished Examples, American and British (New York, 1977, ISBN 0-517-53091-0)
Limericks are associated with children’s literature.
- Limericks are a form of literary nonsense.
- The comic text features literary nonsense (i.e. Molière‘s Latin & Turkish)
For a list of authors who use or have used literary nonsense, click on literary nonsense (Wikipedia).
Nonsense Device: The Twist
A clever twist makes for a spirited limerick. But never would I have suspected that the great Rudyard Kipling would have used a “small boy of Quebec” to give one of his limericks its rather naïve, but charming twist.
There was a small boy of Quebec,
Who was buried in snow to his neck;
When they said. “Are you friz?”
He replied, “Yes, I is—
But we don’t call this cold in Quebec.”
- La Fontaine’s Fables Compiled & Walter Crane, 2nd Edition (2 September 2014)
Sources and Resources
- Wikipedia: Limerick and Literary Nonsense
- Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll (Gutenberg [EBook #19033])
- Through the Looking-Glass, Lewis Carroll (Gutenberg [EBook #12])
- The Baby’s Own Aesop, illustrated by Walter Crane (Gutenberg [EBook #25433])
- A Book of Nonsense, Walter Lear (Gutenberg [EBook #982])
- Childhood’s Favorite and Fairy Stories, 1927 (copyright obtained in 1909), edited by Hamilton Wright Mabie, Edward Every Hale, William Byron Forbus, Gutenberg [EBook #19993]
- Page entitled: Fables and Fairy Tales
- Page entitled: Fables by Jean de La Fontaine