May 12 is all about grimy rhymes, fun puns, and absurd wordplay. You wonder why? It’s Limerick Day, after all! Celebrated annually on May 12, National Limerick Day is observed to honor the birthday of English artist and poet, Edward Lear. Limerick, a form of poetry that has, for the most part, been shrouded in mystery, first sprung up in England during the 18th century. However, it only received widespread admiration after Edward Lear popularized it a century later. With his quirky enterprise called A Book of Nonsense in 1846, the poet took up the limerick form of poetry to only turn it on its head.
What once began as the likes of nursery rhymes became the folksong of beggars and drunkards and reached taverns and pubs in the bawdiest of versions. Lear later worked on his second venture under the name of More Nonsense, Pictures, Rhymes, Botany, Etc. that cemented the foundation of what came to be known as literary nonsense in poetry. Limericks after Lear got relieved of the supremacy and shackles of conventional literature and entered the pop culture scene all around the globe. Here’s a little something about the art form that you must not miss.
“The limerick packs laughs anatomical
Into space that is quite economical.
But the good ones I’ve seen
So seldom are clean
And the clean ones so seldom are comical.”
This limerick beautifully reiterates what most scholars have to say about this poetic art form. According to the who’s who of literature, the truest of limericks are essentially lewd, bawdy, and obscene while a clean limerick is nothing but a mediocre attempt to set up a “periodic fad.” To say the least, the funniest limericks are mostly the naughtiest and often the most offensive.
A limerick at the outset dates back almost 500 years and is a genre of verse that predominantly follows the anapestic meter (two short syllables followed by a long one) and a rhyme scheme of AABBA, quite like the one above. Other aspects of a limerick include incorporation of internal rhyme, assonance, alliteration, and word play. On the whole, limericks are best known for their simple form, delicious use of imagery, and delightful storytelling. Textually, most limericks are witty, humorous, and often obscene. Thematically, limericks are meant to follow an absurd demonstration of the subject through the introduction of a place or person while the rest of the poem describes a witty and often humorous situation that involves the place or the subject. While in most humorous poems, the last line offers the refrain; however, limericks do not work on the “punch line” principle. The humor in limericks usually comes from the tension and ambiguity between the meaning and the lack or absence thereof. What follows, therefore, is the creation of a nonsensical and circular effect that brings out the real essence and beauty of the art form.
From a functional point of view, limericks serve a transgressive purpose. While this may be true, the unique way in which Edward Lear used creativity to satirise the form without explicit violation is what contributed greatly towards the immense popularity of the form. Edward Lear’s genius, wit, and artistry indeed calls for a celebration on his birth anniversary. If you are a literature enthusiast or someone with mad writing skills, celebrate this Limerick Day reading some of the funniest limericks of all times. What’s more, if you have some free time at hand, a fair sense of rhyme, a dirty mind, and a warped imagination, give writing limericks a shot! For inspiration, here are 5 naughty limericks that will crack you up this Limerick Day and maybe aspire you to be the next Edward Lear.
There was a young sailor named Bates
Who danced the fandango on skates.
But a fall on his cutlass
Has rendered him n*tless,
And practically useless on dates.
My dog is quite hip,
Except when he takes a dip.
He looks like a fool,
when he jumps in the pool,
and reminds me of a sinking ship.
When I’m old and mankey,
I’ll never use a hanky.
I’ll wee on plants
and soil my pants
and sometimes get quite cranky.
If you’re lacking a little good cheer,
Go and tickle a bull in the rear.
For I’m sure that the rumor,
That they’ve no sense of humor,
Is a product of ignorant fear.
There was a young lady from Niger,
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger.
They came back from the ride,
With the lady inside,
And the smile on the face of the tiger.