Saturday, March 14, 2015

Prompt #220 – Limericks

With St. Patrick's Day coming up this Tuesday, I thought it might be fun to work with a form of poetry that's associated with the Irish.

The limerick is a quintessentially Irish form of poetry. Humorous, and sometimes naughty (even downright bawdy), limericks contain three long and two short lines that rhyme in a pattern of a,a,b,b,a. The oldest limerick (format) on record (thirteenth century) is one in Latin written by Thomas Aquinas in the form of a prayer:

             Sit vitiorum meorum evacuatio
            Concupiscentae et libidinis exterminatio,
            Caritatis et patientiae,
            Humilitatis et obedientiae,
            Omniumque virtutum augmentatio

During the eighteenth century limericks appeared in Mother Goose’s Melodies, but was most widely popularized by Edward Lear in his 1846 Book of Nonsense; however, Lear didn’t use the term Limerick. Here’s an example from Lear’s book:

          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!”

Other poets who wrote limericks include Lord Alfred Tennyson, Rudyard Kipling, and Robert Louis Stevenson.

Guidelines & Tips:

Remember that limericks are typically humorous—have fun writing one or more this week.

Pick a topic and write your limerick using the typical pattern:

The first, second and fifth lines rhyme with each other and have the same number of syllables (typically 8).

The third and fourth lines rhyme with each other and have the same number of syllables (typically 5)

The fifth line either repeats the first line or rhymes with it.

Limericks have an anapestic rhythm that’s created through accented and unaccented syllables. The pattern is illustrated below with dashes for weak syllables, and back-slashes for stressed syllables:

 - / - - / - - /
 - / - - / - - /
 - / - - /
 - / - - /
 - / - - / - - /

Click Here for Limerick Examples


  1. Máire Ó Cathail (Ireland)March 14, 2015 at 12:50 PM

    I'm glad to be the first to wish you a Happy and blessed St. Patrick's Day! I hope you have a lovely day on Tuesday.

    1. Thank so much, Maire! I wish you and yours a blessed and happy St. Patrick's Day.

  2. Hi Adele, Happy St. Patrick's Day!

    Limericks are so much fun! However, I didn't stick to the correct rhythm of accented and unaccented syllables!

    Here's my attempt --

    Three devious Irish witches
    often referred to as bitches
    they spiked Pat's whiskey
    that made him frisky;
    his hernia needs some stitches.

    ~ ~ ~

    Thanks, Adele, I may try some more of these! :)

    1. Thanks for sharing, Lewis! Great fun. I hope you do write some more!

  3. Happy St. Patrick's Day, Adele!

    I know some lovely, naughty limericks, but I won't post them here. :-)

    Enjoy your 'wearing of the green.'

    1. I've read a few naughty ones myself, Jamie! All in good fun, of course.

      Happy "green day."

  4. Okay -- so here's one from my creative writing class this morning:

    There was a professor named Rich
    who got his car stuck in a ditch.
    As he walked through field
    poison ivy did yield
    a very uncomfortable itch.

    Last year, my car broke down near a field. I had to walk through the field to get help, The students thought it was funny that I came down with a most annoying case of poison ivy a few days later. Seems that story has been sent forward to this year's crop of students. I'll probably never live it down!

    1. This is great, Rich! Thanks so much for sharing it!

  5. Hello Adele,

    Just visited your blog and I must say what a breath of fresh air! I m so inspired!

    Don't do limericks but I do compose poetry! Would love your feedback!

    Looking forward to hearing from you.