Limericks – Limerick poems are very popular, their content is usually funny or even coarse and they are by nature simple and short, five lines only. The origin of Limerick poems can be traced back to the fourteenth century when they were used in Nursery Rhymes and other poems for children. Afterwards, as they were relatively easy to compose and sexual in nature, they were often repeated by beggars or in people in pubs and taverns of the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventh centuries.The word derives from the Irish town of Limerick, probably from a pub song or tavern chorus based on the refrain “Will you come up to Limerick?” Then the great Bard, Shakespeare himself, wrote limericks which can be found in two of his greatest plays, Othello and King Lear.In the 1800 they became famous again thanks to Edward Lear’s Book of Nonsense (1846) which included the poetry form of Limericks. His work was not in any way indecent and to its popularity contributed the humorous magazine Punch which started printing examples of these short poems. In the first edition of the book there were altogether seventy-two limericks in two volumes which became extremely popular with children.
Limericks by Edward Lear from A Book of Nonsense
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!’
There was an Old Man in a tree,
Who was horribly bored by a Bee;
When they said, ‘Does it buzz?’
He replied, ‘Yes, it does!’
‘It’s a regular brute of a Bee!’
There was an Old Man of Kilkenny,
Who never had more than a penny;
He spent all that money,
In onions and honey,
That wayward Old Man of Kilkenny.
There was an Old Man with a flute,
A sarpint ran into his boot;
But he played day and night,
Till the sarpint took flight,
And avoided that man with a flute.
There was an Old Man of Vienna,
Who lived upon Tincture of Senna;
When that did not agree,
He took Camomile Tea,
That nasty Old Man of Vienna.