Thursday, April 09, 2009

Laughing with a Limerick

After a trying week, I needed cheering, and what better way to cheer up than to read a limerick or two? The first poem I ever memorized at a very young age was a limerick I can still trot out on a moment's notice:

There was a young lady from Lynn
Who was so excessively thin
That when she essayed
To drink lemonade
She slipped through the straw and fell in.

And here is one of my husband's favourites, by Arnold Bennett:

There was a young man of Montrose
Who had pockets in none of his clothes.
When asked by his lass
Where he carried his brass,
He said, ‘Darling, I pay through the nose.’

Still, as explained on the Wikipedia entry for limericks:

Gershon Legman, who compiled the largest and most scholarly anthology, held that the true limerick as a folk form is always obscene, describing the clean limerick as a periodic fad and object of magazine contests, rarely rising above mediocrity. From a folkloric point of view, the form is essentially transgressive; violation of taboo is part of its function.

Which is true enough, I suppose, but I don't want to post any off colour poetry today. ;)
Stephen Fry has written a book on poetic form, The Ode less travelled (yes, the man in a cross-disciplinary genius). He includes a section on the limerick, which has caused a bit of difficulty for a British school which had purchased many copies for student instruction. Discovering that they'd forgotten about the lascivious limericks, the school solved their problem by only giving out the textbooks to students in the higher grades.* (I think it was the limerick about the female parts which gave them trouble, because we all know that female parts are much more scandalous than those of the male).
*I read this in his Twitter feed but don't remember when.

Here's one last one to go (by anonymous):

The limerick packs laughs anatomical
In space that is quite economical,
But the good ones I've seen
So seldom are clean,
And the clean ones so seldom are comical.


  1. My very favorite of all is by Edward Lear:

    There was an old man of Khartoum
    Who kept a tame sheep in his room.
    "It reminds me," he said,
    "Of someone who's dead,
    But I never can recollect whom."

    Thank you so much for all this poetry this month -- I am enjoying ALL of it!

  2. John - me too! :)

    Jenny - thanks for reading along! And for sharing the Lear. He has so many silly poems, they're great fun to read.


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