Limerick (poetry)

Limerick (poetry)

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A limerick is a kind of a witty, humorous, or nonsense poem, especially one in five-line
A limerick is a kind of a witty, humorous, or nonsense poem, especially one in five-line

A limerick is a kind of a witty, humorous, or nonsense poem, especially one in five-line
{{H:title
Anapaest
An anapaest is a metrical foot used in formal poetry. In classical quantitative meters it consists of two short syllables followed by a long one; in accentual stress meters it consists of two unstressed syllables followed by one stressed syllable. It may be seen as a reversed dactyl...

 or {{H:title
Amphibrach
An amphibrach is a metrical foot used in Latin and Greek prosody. It consists of a long syllable between two short syllables. The word comes from the Greek αμφίβραχυς, amphíbrakhys, "short on both sides"....

 meter
Meter (poetry)
In poetry, metre is the basic rhythmic structure of a verse or lines in verse. Many traditional verse forms prescribe a specific verse metre, or a certain set of metres alternating in a particular order. The study of metres and forms of versification is known as prosody...

 with a strict rhyme scheme
Rhyme scheme
A rhyme scheme is the pattern of rhyme between lines of a poem or song. It is usually referred to by using letters to indicate which lines rhyme. In other words, it is the pattern of end rhymes or lines...

 (AABBA), which is sometimes obscene with humorous intent. The form can be found in England as of the early years of the 18th century. It was popularized by Edward Lear
Edward Lear
Edward Lear was an English artist, illustrator, author, and poet, renowned today primarily for his literary nonsense, in poetry and prose, and especially his limericks, a form that he popularised.-Biography:...

 in the 19th century, although he did not use the term.

The following example of a limerick is of unknown origin.
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.


Gershon Legman
Gershon Legman
Gershon Legman was an American cultural critic and folklorist.-Life and work:Legman was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania to Emil and Julia Friedman Legman, both of Hungarian/Romanian Jewish descent; his father was a railroad clerk and butcher...

, who compiled the largest and most scholarly anthology, held that the true limerick as a folk form is always obscene, and cites similar opinions by Arnold Bennett
Arnold Bennett
- Early life :Bennett was born in a modest house in Hanley in the Potteries district of Staffordshire. Hanley is one of a conurbation of six towns which joined together at the beginning of the twentieth century as Stoke-on-Trent. Enoch Bennett, his father, qualified as a solicitor in 1876, and the...

 and George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama, and he wrote more than 60...

, 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.

Form


The standard form of a limerick is a stanza of five lines, with the first, second and fifth usually rhyming with one another and having three feet
Foot (prosody)
The foot is the basic metrical unit that generates a line of verse in most Western traditions of poetry, including English accentual-syllabic verse and the quantitative meter of classical ancient Greek and Latin poetry. The unit is composed of syllables, the number of which is limited, with a few...

 of three syllables each; and the shorter third and fourth lines also rhyming with each other, but having only two feet of three syllables. The defining "foot" of a limerick's meter is usually the anapaest
Anapaest
An anapaest is a metrical foot used in formal poetry. In classical quantitative meters it consists of two short syllables followed by a long one; in accentual stress meters it consists of two unstressed syllables followed by one stressed syllable. It may be seen as a reversed dactyl...

, (ta-ta-TUM), but limericks can also be considered amphibrach
Amphibrach
An amphibrach is a metrical foot used in Latin and Greek prosody. It consists of a long syllable between two short syllables. The word comes from the Greek αμφίβραχυς, amphíbrakhys, "short on both sides"....

ic (ta-TUM-ta){{Dubious|date=August 2011}}.

However, from a rhythmic point of view, lines 1, 2 and 5 have a silent accent at the end, making 4 accents per line. Lines 3 and 4 combined also have 4 accents, making four lines with an overall total of 16 accents (i.e. foot tapping "beats" ). This is why limericks can be sung to sixteen bars of 3/4 music. Reading, or reciting, naturally follows the faster rhythm of 6/8 time, making eight bars of two triplets per bar. A triplet represents a "foot" of 3 syllables.

The first line traditionally introduces a person and a place, with the place appearing at the end of the first line and establishing the rhyme scheme for the second and fifth lines. In early limericks, the last line was often essentially a repeat of the first line, although this is no longer customary.

Within the genre, ordinary speech stress is often distorted in the first line, and may be regarded as a feature of the form: "There was a young man from the coast;" "There once was a girl from Detroit…" Legman takes this as a convention whereby prosody is violated simultaneously with propriety. Exploitation of geographical names, especially exotic ones, is also common, and has been seen as invoking memories of geography lessons in order to subvert the decorum taught in the schoolroom; Legman finds that the exchange of limericks is almost exclusive to comparatively well-educated males, women figuring in limericks almost exclusively as "villains or victims". The most prized limericks incorporate a kind of twist, which may be revealed in the final line or lie in the way the rhymes are often intentionally tortured, or both. Many limericks show some form of internal rhyme
Internal rhyme
In poetry, internal rhyme, or middle rhyme, is rhyme that occurs in a single line of verse.Internal rhyme occurs in the middle of a line, as exemplified by Coleridge, "In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud" or "Whiles all the night through fog-smoke white," in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." ...

, alliteration
Alliteration
In language, alliteration refers to the repetition of a particular sound in the first syllables of Three or more words or phrases. Alliteration has historically developed largely through poetry, in which it more narrowly refers to the repetition of a consonant in any syllables that, according to...

 or assonance
Assonance
Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds to create internal rhyming within phrases or sentences, and together with alliteration and consonance serves as one of the building blocks of verse. For example, in the phrase "Do you like blue?", the is repeated within the sentence and is...

, or some element of word play
Word play
Word play or wordplay is a literary technique in which the words that are used become the main subject of the work, primarily for the purpose of intended effect or amusement...

.

Verses in limerick form are sometimes combined with a refrain
Refrain
A refrain is the line or lines that are repeated in music or in verse; the "chorus" of a song...

 to form a limerick song
Limerick (song)
The Limerick is a traditional humorous drinking song with many obscene verses. Alternate titles for this song are "In China They Never Eat Chili", "Sing Us Another One", "Ya-Ya", "Rodriguez the Mexican Pervert" and "Aye-Yi-Yi-Yi". The tune usually used for sung limericks is "The Gay Caballero"....

, a traditional humorous drinking song
Drinking song
A drinking song is a song sung while drinking alcohol. Most drinking songs are folk songs, and may be varied from person to person and region to region, in both the lyrics and in the music...

 often with obscene verses.

Origin of the name


The origin of the name limerick for this type of poem is debated. As of several years ago, its usage was first documented in England in 1898 (New English Dictionary) and in America in 1902, but in recent years several earlier uses have been documented. The name is generally taken to be a reference to the City
Limerick
Limerick is the third largest city in the Republic of Ireland, and the principal city of County Limerick and Ireland's Mid-West Region. It is the fifth most populous city in all of Ireland. When taking the extra-municipal suburbs into account, Limerick is the third largest conurbation in the...

 or County of Limerick
County Limerick
It is thought that humans had established themselves in the Lough Gur area of the county as early as 3000 BC, while megalithic remains found at Duntryleague date back further to 3500 BC...

 in Ireland sometimes particularly to the Maigue Poets, and may derive from an earlier form of nonsense verse
Nonsense verse
Nonsense verse is a form of light, often rhythmical verse, usually for children, depicting peculiar characters in amusing and fantastical situations. It is whimsical and humorous in tone and tends to employ fanciful phrases and meaningless made-up words. Nonsense verse is closely related to...

 parlour game that traditionally included a refrain that included "Will [or won't] you come (up) to Limerick?" The earliest known use of the name "Limerick" for this type poem is an 1880 reference, in a Saint John, New Brunswick
Saint John, New Brunswick
City of Saint John , or commonly Saint John, is the largest city in the province of New Brunswick, and the first incorporated city in Canada. The city is situated along the north shore of the Bay of Fundy at the mouth of the Saint John River. In 2006 the city proper had a population of 74,043...

 newspaper, to an apparently well-known tune,
[Pie]: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.

Tune: Wont you come to Limerick.

Edward Lear


The limerick form was popularized by Edward Lear
Edward Lear
Edward Lear was an English artist, illustrator, author, and poet, renowned today primarily for his literary nonsense, in poetry and prose, and especially his limericks, a form that he popularised.-Biography:...

 in his first Book of Nonsense (1845) and a later work (1872) on the same theme. Lear wrote 212 limericks, mostly nonsense verse
Nonsense verse
Nonsense verse is a form of light, often rhythmical verse, usually for children, depicting peculiar characters in amusing and fantastical situations. It is whimsical and humorous in tone and tends to employ fanciful phrases and meaningless made-up words. Nonsense verse is closely related to...

. It was customary at the time for limericks to accompany an absurd illustration of the same subject, and for the final line of the limerick to be a kind of conclusion, usually a variant of the first line ending in the same word.

The following is an example of one of Edward Lear's limericks.
There was a Young Person of Smyrna
Whose grandmother threatened to burn her*;
But she seized on the cat,
and said 'Granny, burn that!
You incongruous old woman of Smyrna!'
*(best pronounced " 'er" with non-rhotic accent to preserve rhyme and syllabic stress pattern)


(Lear's limericks were often typeset in three or four lines, according to the space available under the accompanying picture.)

Variations


The idiosyncratic link between spelling and pronunciation in the English language is explored in this Scottish example (the name Menzies
Menzies
Menzies is a Scottish surname probably derived, like its Gaelic form Méinnearach, from the Norman name Mesnières.The name is historically pronounced , since the was a surrogate for the letter . Today it is often given its spelling pronunciation...

is pronounced icon {{respell|MING|iss}}).
A lively young damsel named Menzies
Inquired: "Do you know what this thenzies?"
    Her aunt, with a gasp,
    Replied: "It's a wasp,
And you're holding the end where the stenzies."


The limerick form is so well known that it can be parodied in fairly subtle ways, such as the following example, attributed to W.S. Gilbert:
There was an old man of St. Bees,
Who was stung in the arm by a wasp;
    When they asked, "Does it hurt?"
    He replied, "No, it doesn't,
But I thought all the while 't was a Hornet."

World War II


A series of limericks was used to great effect in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 to obtain priority in a dockyard to have new guns fitted to the Dutch
Royal Netherlands Navy
The Koninklijke Marine is the navy of the Netherlands. In the mid-17th century the Dutch Navy was the most powerful navy in the world and it played an active role in the wars of the Dutch Republic and later those of the Batavian Republic and the Kingdom of the Netherlands...

 sloop
Sloop-of-war
In the 18th and most of the 19th centuries, a sloop-of-war was a warship with a single gun deck that carried up to eighteen guns. As the rating system covered all vessels with 20 guns and above, this meant that the term sloop-of-war actually encompassed all the unrated combat vessels including the...

 Soemba.

The first was:
A report has come in from the Soemba
that their salvoes go off like a Rhumba
two guns, they sound fine
but the third five point nine
he am bust and refuse to go boomba.
by Captain Nicholl (Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

)


The series continued up to a final limerick by the vice-chief of staff of the Royal Dutch navy
Royal Netherlands Navy
The Koninklijke Marine is the navy of the Netherlands. In the mid-17th century the Dutch Navy was the most powerful navy in the world and it played an active role in the wars of the Dutch Republic and later those of the Batavian Republic and the Kingdom of the Netherlands...

.

Modern limericks


Limericks continue to provide an especially effective means for humorous comment on any issue of the day. Take, for example, this comment on the recent cyber-space phenomenon Facebook:
C'est superbe, Zuckerberg, your creation!
Have a flick, post a pic, poke the nation!
Stay in touch with the loop,
"Like" this thread, join a group
And stay hooked for X hours' duration.

See also

  • Dixon Lanier Merritt
    Dixon Lanier Merritt
    Dixon Lanier Merritt was a poet and humorist. He was a newspaper editor for the Tennessean, Nashville's morning paper, and President of the American Press Humorists Association.He penned this well-known limerick in 1910:...

    , the author of a famous limerick about pelicans
  • "The Negotiation Limerick File
    The Negotiation Limerick File
    "The Negotiation Limerick File" is a song by American hip-hop group the Beastie Boys, released as the third single from their fifth studio album Hello Nasty.It peaked at #29 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks Chart....

    ", a song by Beastie Boys rapped in the form of a limerick
  • There once was a man from Nantucket
    There once was a man from Nantucket
    "There once was a man from Nantucket" is the opening line for many limericks. The popularity of this literary trope can be attributed to the way the name of the island of Nantucket lends itself easily to humorous rhymes and puns, particularly ribald ones...

    , a popular limerick subject

----
  • Chastushka
    Chastushka
    A Chastúshka is a traditional Russian or Ukrainian folk poem which makes use of a simple rhyming scheme to convey humorous or ironic content...

     (Russian form with similar traits)
  • Clerihew
    Clerihew
    A clerihew is a whimsical, four-line biographical poem invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley. One of his best known is this :* It is biographical and usually whimsical, showing the subject from an unusual point of view; it pokes fun at mostly famous people...

  • Double dactyl
    Double dactyl
    A dactyl is a term used in formal English poetry to describe a trisyllablic metrical foot made up of one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed ones. Matador, realize, cereal and limerick as well as the word poetry itself are examples of words that are themselves dactyls...

  • Quintain
    Quintain (poetry)
    Quintain means any poetic form containing 5 lines such as tanka, cinquain, and limerick.- Example : All, all a-lonely: Three little children sitting on the sand, All, all a-lonely, Three little children sitting in the sand, All, all a-lonely...

     (any poetic form containing 5 lines such as tanka
    Waka (poetry)
    Waka or Yamato uta is a genre of classical Japanese verse and one of the major genres of Japanese literature...

    , cinquain
    Cinquain
    Cinquain is a class of poetic forms that employ a 5-line pattern. Earlier used to describe any five-line form, it now refers to one of several forms that are defined by specific rules and guidelines.-Crapsey cinquain:...

    , and limerick)

External links


{{Commons category|Limerick poetry}}
  • David Morin's physics limericks, from his mechanics textbook used for the advanced introductory Harvard physics course, Physics 16
  • Edward Lear's A Book of Nonsense from Project Gutenberg
    Project Gutenberg
    Project Gutenberg is a volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works, to "encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks". Founded in 1971 by Michael S. Hart, it is the oldest digital library. Most of the items in its collection are the full texts of public domain books...

  • OEDILF – A limerick dictionary

Limerick bibliographies:

{{DEFAULTSORT:Limerick (Poetry)}}