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The History of Limericks

By Take Note Team on May, 13 2019
Take Note Team

In the middle of May we turn our hand to the linguistic thrill and witty spill of limericks, in honour of Edward Lear, who's birthday we celebrate on National Limerick Day, 12th May each year. 

 

For this blog, let me start with a quote, 

Some wise words from a kind fella’s throat.

He said, ‘I have heard

They’ll transcribe any word,

And that service, they say, is Take Note’.


I think it’s safe to say I won’t be joining the ranks of Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll any time soon, but my humble/terrible attempt at a limerick is but one among many to have been written since the verse’s inception in the early 18th Century.


These days, they’re most often seen in satire, and considered less refined than other forms of poetry, but with Edward Lear in our minds, let us put those stuffy opinions aside for a bit of poetical fun!


Although the limerick was invented over a century before, it wasn’t until Lear started writing them that the form became popular. In fact, he loved writing them so much, he went on to write hundreds, including The Owl and the Pussy Cat. Here’s just one of them:


There was a young lady whose nose,

Continually prospers and grows;

When it grew out of sight,

She exclaimed in a fright,

‘Oh! Farewell to the end of my nose!’


- Edward Lear

 

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Because of their simple form, based on the rhyming scheme AABBA, there are many limericks that are well known today which remain unattributed to anyone, such as these:


A canner, exceedingly canny,

One morning remarked to his granny,

‘A canner can can,

Anything he can can,

But a canner can’t can a can, can he?’

 

- Anonymous


I once had a gerbil named Bobby

Who had an unusual hobby.

He chewed on a cord,

And now – oh my Lord,

All that’s left is a gerbil named Blobby.

 

- Anonymous


Today, the limerick is most popular amongst comedians who often use them to remark on the rather perplexing world we now live in. Whatever could they be talking about?


The UK decided to vote

On a bridge or to dig a deep moat.

As mad as a hatter,

We plumped for the latter

And now we’re adrift in a boat.

 

- Paul Freeman


Anxiety hangs like a pall

Round the world, as it grips ones and all.

Other nations ask why

We would vote for that guy.

(I hear Canada’s building a wall).

 

- Tim James (USA)


And a final clever one to end with:


A forgetful old gasman named Dieter,

Who went poking around his gas heater,

Touched a leak with his light;

He blew out of sight –

And, as everyone who knows anything about poetry can tell you, he also ruined the meter.

 

- Anonymous

 

Written by Transcriber Lydia


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