Limericks have been around for a long time becoming popular in the nineteenth century with Edward Lear’s Book of Nonsense.

The Form

A limerick is a silly nonsensical poem usually written in 5 lines.

Lines 1, 2 and 5 rhyme with each other and contain 7 to 10 syllables.

Lines 3 and 4 rhyme with each other and contain 5 to 7 syllables.

The lines are usually written in the anapaest meter – two short syllables followed by one long one. This produces a rolling, frolicking rhythm.

Examples of anapaest meter

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house


from Byron‘s The Destruction of Sennacherib:

The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Examples of limericks

This example is from Othello, Act II Scene III:

IAGO Some wine, ho!


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.

This by Ogden Nash:

There once was a miser named Clarence
Who simonized[1] both of his parents;

“The initial expense,”
he remarked, “is immense,
But it saves on the wearance and tearance.”

A famous Anonymous limerick:

A flea and a fly in a flue

Were caught, 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.

Famous authors of Limericks include Rudyard Kipling, Mark Twain, H. G. Wells, T. S. Eliot, John Galsworthy, James Joyce and Lewis Carroll. Isaac Asimov wrote the infamous Lecherous Limericks.

Websites about limericks

Language is a Virus

Limericks (includes many examples, many by Edward Lear)

Limerick (poetry) – Wikipedia

* * *

The theme for the coming week is Spring.

Writing prompt for tomorrow:

“Spring has returned.The Earth is like a child that knows poems.” Rainer Maria Rilke


Poetry Playing Contest #1


Write a limerick using the following as the first line:

There was an Old Man of Limerick


Email me your contest submission by Wednesday, April 7, 2010. Deadline 11 PM eastern standard time

Email address: poetryplaying at gmail dot com


Voting will take place on Friday and Saturday, April 9 and 10, 2010. Deadline 11 PM eastern standard time on the 10th.

Pay Dirt

The winner will be announced Sunday, April 11, 2010.