Thursday, May 12, 2016

2086. It's Limerick Day!

Born today was the poet, Ed Lear
They* say 1812 was the year
Could he only look at
What his verse form's begat
At Phil's blog, he'd be blushing, I fear.

*The New York Times published the following today:

 Back Story
There was an old man in a tree,
Whose whiskers were lovely to see;
But the birds of the air,
Pluck’d them perfectly bare,
To make themselves nests on that tree. 

That might sound a bit like Dr. Seuss, but it was written by the British painter and poet Edward Lear, who popularized limerick poems in his “Book of Nonsense” (1846).  He was born on this day in 1812, which is why today is Limerick Day.

The limerick’s name has been traced to France, where an 18th-century Irish Brigade was serving.  The men returned with a song, “Will You Come Up to Limerick?” — an Irish city and county. The chorus may have developed into what became the limerick form, some scholars say.

Lear had been hired to paint an aristocrat’s private menagerie and he came up with his poems to amuse the children in the household. He said he got the idea from an old nursery rhyme.

The five-line poems have an AABBA rhyme scheme, meaning the first, second, and last lines rhyme, as do the third and fourth lines.

The first and second lines introduce a character, activity or setting, while the third and fourth lines are generally shorter to intensify the punch line.

The last line, of course, should be amusing.


  1. By modern limerick standards, Lear was a hack. He gets a pass because he pioneered the craft, but, well:

    In a limerick, don't use a line twice
    For it's lazy; just once will suffice
    It's bad form, which I hate
    So let me restate
    In a limerick, don't use a line twice.

    That about sums up my feelings. Lear had a nasty habit of doing this. This was OP39 (9/9/12), btw.