A lot of the people would have read or heard a limerick in their childhood days. Limericks are fun forms of poetry. When it comes to writing limericks, they are fun to write as well owing to their twisty and silly element. And still, they can exhibit your creativity and ingenuity.
You might want to learn how to write a limerick as a hobby or just for fun. Or, you might have to submit an assignment where you have to write a limerick. No matter what your case is, we have got you covered with this article on limericks. It covers everything about limericks, including what it is, its rules, how you can write one, and some famous examples of the same.
Limericks are short, funny poems that are simple, quick, and fun to read and write. They are generally hilarious, pornographic, or mean-spirited. Limericks are short and rhyming with a bouncy rhythm, which makes it easy to memorize them.
Even though there is no certain origin of the term “limerick,” a lot of people deem that it came from either the County or city of Limerick, in Ireland. Limericks were made popular by Edward Lear, the English poet. However, he was not the one who made the term “limerick.” The first limericks came to be known in the early 18th century. They are generally preserved in folk songs.
Lear is the most famous and prolific writer of limericks, which is why he is usually recognized as the father of the limerick. He wrote some of the best limericks worldwide. His limericks generally included stories about an old man. One example of a limerick written by Lear is:
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.
Just like all poetic forms have some rules, limericks also have some unique characteristics, which must be followed when writing one. A limerick has five lines in a strict rhyme and rhythm. Moreover, a limerick is generally funny.
The rhyming scheme in limericks is “AABBA.” In the rhyming scheme of AABBA, the last words in lines one, two, and five rhyme, which are denoted by “A.” And, the last words in lines three and four rhyme, which are denoted by “B.” Let’s take an example of Limerick, which was written by Lewis Carroll:
“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.”
Here, words “station,” “exclamation,” and “explanation” rhyme and the words “flatter” and “matter” rhyme.
Limericks have an anapestic (dadaDUM) rhythm. The specific rhythm of this mini-poem makes it unique and different from other types of poems. The typical rhythm of a limerick is like this:
da DUM da da DUM da da DUM
da DUM da da DUM da da DUM
da DUM da da DUM
da DUM da da DUM
da DUM da da DUM da da DUM
The syllabification in the poem is generally 8,8,5,5,8, with slight variations. The first, second, and fifth lines of the poem should have seven to 10 syllables. They should rhyme and have the same rhythm. The third and fourth lines should have just five to seven syllables. They should also rhyme and have the same verbal rhythm.
However, as mentioned above, this syllable count is not fixed and can have some variations since you can leave the first unstressed syllable in every line if you want. Lines one, two, and five is anapestic trimeter, while lines three and four is anapestic dimeter.
The number of beats or stressed syllables, called meter, in every line of a limerick is 3,3,2,2,3. Lines one, two, and five have 3 stressed syllables, whereas lines three and four have only 2 stressed syllables. However, with every stressed syllable, there are two unstressed syllables. This does not make the lines look extremely short.
Everyone can write a limerick, including you. Anyone who would love to write something silly will love writing limericks owing to their simple form and rhythm. So, let us now take a look at some of the tips that can help you in writing your own limericks.
Limerick poems are sometimes known as “nonsense” poems since they tell a hilarious and blunt story using bawdy and bizarre words that don’t make any sense. For instance, if you look at any one of Lear’s limericks, they are mostly complete nonsense. This allows you to make your own words in a limerick, just like Shakespeare did. However, ensure that the words you make have an implicit meaning.
The first line of a limerick establishes the setting and character(s) of the poem. The first line of your limerick should be such that the reader immediately recognizes what or who the story is about. You should begin your limerick with a place and/or a person. And, this place and/or person should be easy to rhyme since the first line generally ends with this name.
If it’s your first attempt, begin your limerick with “there once was” and add five more syllables to complete the first line. For example, there once was a man from Nantucket. Here, the name of the place is “Nantucket.”
Some first lines that can get you started with your own limerick include “He was an unusual boy,” “A beautiful girl in my town,” “There once was a very old dog,” etc.
As mentioned above, a limerick has a rhyme scheme of AABBA, wherein the first, second, and fifth lines should rhyme and the third and fourth lines should rhyme. You must ensure that you follow the right rhyming scheme when writing a limerick.
For instance, if you write the first line as above, the second line should have an event or feature in a word that rhymes with Nantucket, such as bucket, garnet, junket, etc. You can write something like “Who kept all his cash in a bucket.” When you come up with a second line, you should think of stupid or strange things that can happen to your chosen name of place or person.
Now, leave the third and fourth lines and straight away go to the fifth line. This is the final line, which is usually funny and has a punch line or a twist. You can go for a word that rhymes with bucket, like Nantucket, puppet, cutlet, couplet, etc. Make sure you come up with something clever or comical for your final line, such as “And as for the bucket, Nantucket.”
After this, you can work on your third and fourth lines, which are relatively easy to write. So, your final limerick can be something like this:
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.
This is a famous Limerick, whose first line is often used as the opening line for a lot of limericks.
Every limerick has a bouncy musical tune to it in order to suit its light subject matter. You will know the tune of your limerick once you read it aloud. Limerick has three beats in its first, second, and fifth lines and two beats in its third and fourth lines. A lot of nursery rhymes are limericks since they have a bouncy rhythm, which makes it easy to remember and recite them. For instance, the poem “Hickory Dickory Dock,” which you would have read in your childhood, is a limerick.
If you want to get better in the art of writing limericks, make sure you write limericks on a regular basis. You will find writing limericks a tad hard at first with all the rhyming, rhythm, and amusing elements. However, with practice, your limericks can turn out to be funnier and wittier.
So, now you can get started with writing your own limericks with all the rules and tricks mentioned above. You can take a look at some of the limerick examples given in this article for their rhyming and rhythm. And, don’t worry if you don’t know a lot of rhyming words. Just refer a rhyming dictionary in order to find out words that rhyme with your chosen name of place or person in your limerick. Have fun writing a limerick!