Today we observe that stalwart within the world of poetry…The Limerick!
Now, before I continue, I should point out that this post will have a small amount of sauce and bad words, nay even swear words within. Some may find the content upsetting, disturbing or offensive. So, now you know – points to a humongous, clearly oft-used set of saloon doors, swinging in the breeze that have a flashing neon sign above them declaring it to be ‘The Exit’. Someone has written ‘Beware of the Leopard’ above the sign in orange crayon.
The acorn for this sapling of a post was sown whilst browsing the work of a chap called Matty – whose blog be – Dry Sailor Boy (a place I recommend you all visit, and sample of his wares, as his writing is highly enjoyable and very well constructed. It is a bit odd, you might not always know what the hell he’s on about, and there is sauce, but look where you are now and shut up.)
Matty spoke of being set a challenge to write a limerick upon a forum he is a member of, and his unhappiness at being put on the spot and coming up with squat. He seemed somewhat in the doldrums by it, and esme, noting this, decided to write him his own limerick in the comment section. It took her two weeks for the words to arrive in the right order. Two weeks! He could have plaited his own noose from nasal hair and hung himself in that time. But arrive they did, hang himself he did not, and here (and there, points below), they lie.
Esme’s Limerick for Matty… (Originally published upon Dairy Pig by Dry Sailor Boy)
There once was an old man called Matty,
Whose smile was exceedingly twatty,
His writing had sauce, that felled with such force,
It must have a tenth Dan in karate.
esme bows to complete silence, broken only by a small amount of high-pitched wind courtesy of Hariod.
Limericks aren’t as easy to compose as one might think from observing the incredibly crafted example above, (not in a satisfactory manner anyway, if you have high standards that is, or medium to slouching ones at least) yet are capable of raising a roaring good guffaw, snort or groan, as though they be the older, ruder brother of the sensible, studious haiku.
The most common form of a limerick is a stanza of five lines, with the first, second and fifth lines rhyming with each another and having three feet of three syllables each, while the third and fourth lines rhyme with each other, but are shorter, having only two feet of three syllables. The metrical “foot” employed is usually the anapaest, (ta-ta-TUM), but limericks can also be amphibrachic (ta-TUM-tum). – (This info, and some other bits, on and off-like, can be found with rather more comprehensive information on the history of the limerick, (compared to the shambles you see before you) both here and here.)
Clear as mud eh? Hahahahaha. You’ll do better just reading a classic example such as the following by Edward Lear, known for both his limericks and wonderful nonsense rhymes to get the beat correct;
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!”
Tis said the Limerick originated in the Middle Ages, and there’s a tradition of sorts that they should always be ribald, or even plain filth-ridden in nature, indeed it has been said, and I quote:
“the limerick is the vehicle of cultivated, unrepressed sexual humor in the English language.” – I’m not quite sure who said that mind you, but someone definitely did. nods. And tis that bawdy element of the rhymes which feels so very quintessentially English, employing their love of toilet, bum, boob, poo and knob jokes. – curtsies
It’s worth bearing in mind however, that many children’s nursery rhymes are also, in fact, limericks and therefore not rude at all –
Hickory dickory dock,
the mouse ran up the clock;
the clock struck one
and down he run;
hickory dickory dock.
—Mother Goose, first published in 1744 in Tom Thumb’s Pretty Songbook
The word “limerick” was first officially documented in England in 1898, in the New English Dictionary, however there are examples found of them long before this date, and the county of Limerick in Ireland is thought, for obvious reasons, to be its birthplace. Indeed there is a song from 1880 called “Won’t you come to Limerick?” Which had the following verse within;
There was a young rustic named Mallory,
who drew but a very small salary.
When he went to the show,
his purse made him go
to a seat in the uppermost gallery.
That’s a Limerick folks. No doubt about it. And the yanks joined in shortly afterwards with what us said to be America’s most famous example, published in 1902 in ‘The Princeton Tiger’;
There once was a man from Nantucket
Who kept all his cash in a bucket.
But his daughter, named Nan,
Ran away with a man
And as for the bucket, Nantucket.
esme clashes two cymbals together and shouts (quite unnecessarily), “Ker-tish!”
I love a good Limerick myself, and have prepared a selection below for you from both the famous, the infamous (esme), and the anonymous. Not all are risqué in tone, Mr Ogden Nash wrote some crackers without knackers for example, but I hope they all manage to entertain a tad.
Before I chuck a volley of them at you I propose a . . .challenge! No, a challenge is not quite right. . . more a group activity – bursts out laughing and shoots the Professor a warning glance.
I’d like all of my readers, (or those who fancy it at least), to write an anonymous limerick, (or ‘limericks’, there’s no set limit, go wild nods a lot). My comments are all moderated, and so I shall take every offering and put them all in my next post, without saying who has written which one. The idea being that no-one need feel they are competing against the crowd, for anonymity is a very comfortable cloak to don when writing. So they say anyway…ahem… laughs. We can just all enjoy them. If you absolutely insist on being named in your comment, I promise I’ll ignore your wishes. Hahahahaha.
And – if you want to write a normal comment, one to be published below as usual, then write whatever you will, and I’ll edit out any limericks I find within, (alternatively just send a comment with nothing in it but a limerick, I’ll not be offended at the lack of small talk).
(If no one joins in esme shall retire to the back of the sofa with a plateful of toast, and a flask of tea, muttering darkly to herself for some days)
No pressure then folks.
So… with no further ado, (de do doe, don’t day doe?), here you are;
A wonderful bird is the pelican;
His beak can hold more than his belican.
He can hold in his beak
Enough food for a week,
Though I’m damned if I know how the helican!
– Dixon Lanier Merritt (often incorrectly ascribed to Ogden Nash)
There once was a man from Gosham,
Who took out his bollocks to wash’em,
His wife said “Jack, If you don’t put ’em back
I’ll stand on the bastards and squash’em.”‘
A flea and a fly in a flue
Were imprisoned, so what could they do?
Said the fly, “let us flee!”
“Let us fly!” said the flea.
So they flew through a flaw in the flue.
There was a young man from Savannah
Who died in a curious manner:
He whittled a hole
In a telephone pole
And electrified his banana.
esme steps forward to present her own offering, (An example of the kind of poor quality smut that pops into her brain snakes when put on the spot.) –
‘There once was a graphic designer,
With a face like a massive vag…’esme stops, back-tracks fast, and begins rewriting furiously…
‘A man once climbed out on a ledge,
And stood waggling his meat and two veg, He tripped and he fell,
Letting out a loud yell,
landing arse-up in his close neighbours hedge.
pegs it quick-smart and hides under the table
There was a young gal name of Sally
Who loved an occasional dally.
She sat on the lap
Of a well-endowed chap
Crying, “Gee, Dick, you’re right up my alley!
Our novels get longa and longa
Their language gets stronga and stronga
There’s much to be said
For a life that is led
In illiterate places like Bonga
— H. G. Wells
On a maiden a man once begat
Cute triplets named Nat, Tat and Pat;
‘Twas fun in the breeding
But hell in the feeding:
She hadn’t a spare tit for Tat.
There was a young lady of station
“I love man” was her sole exclamation
But when men cried, “You flatter”
She replied, “Oh! no matter!
Isle of Man is the true explanation.”
There is a poor sneak called Rossetti
As a painter with many kicks met he
With more as a man
But sometimes he ran
And that saved the rear of Rossetti.
—Dante Gabriel Rossetti
The marriage of poor Kim Kardashian
Was krushed like a kar in a krashian.
Her Kris kried, “Not fair!
Why kan’t I keep my share?”
But Kardashian fell klean outa fashian.
There was a young fellow named Bliss
Whose sex life was strangely amiss,
For even with Venus
His recalcitrant penis
Would seldom do better than
There was an old man from Peru
Who dreamt he was eating his shoe.
He awoke in a fright
In the middle of the night
And found it was perfectly true.
– SpongeBob SquarePants