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Poetry Guide: The Limerick

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The Limerick has become associated with Ireland; a catchy yet light verse, which consists of five lines a – a – b – b – a rhyming scheme.  It has been enjoyed these past two centuries or more, and lives within jokes, puns and quick yet short poetry verse.  It can be heard in the pub, on university campus and in nursery rhymes, and so the jovial Limerick lives on …

The Limerick form arrived on the scene, in France during the Middle Ages, crossed the English Channel and seen as a 11th century manuscript.

The lion is wondrous strong

And full of the wiles of wo;

And whether he pleye

Or take his preye

He cannot do but slo (slay)

Similar in form to that of an Irish Limmerick but the rhyme scheme of a – b – c – c – b has been used.

William Shakespeare used the Limerick style in “The Tempest, Othello and King Lear.”  Then in 1776, it appeared in publications of Mother Goose nursery rhymes, and since then has been part of children’s literature.

Edward Lear popularised the Limerick in his Book of Nonsense.  Punch magazine was created for the publication of Limerick’s.  This style of writing caught the attention of ; Alfred Lord Tennyson, Rudyard Kipling, Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson, who are known to have experimented with it, and published some works.

There was an old man with a beard

Who said, it’s just how I feared!

Two owls and a hen

Four larks and a wren

Have all built their nests in my beard

(Anonymous Poet)

 

Limericks are fun to create: humorous, bawdy, full of folk wisdom and ever so entertaining.

The first line of any Limerick needs to start with the subject, but make sure you don’t give the intended story away.

As one crafts the first line, it should work as follows:

An unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable, followed by two unstressed syllables, followed by one stressed syllable, followed by two unstressed syllables and one stressed syllable.

It can be very confusing in the beginning, but great fun and a thesaurus at hand makes light work of it.

The second line defines the subject or consequences of past action.  Relationship between first and second line, using a rhyming form is essential.

The next two lines detail the action taken, and the final line is the punch line, a surprise twist for the ending.

When one thinks of a Limerick, it is a type of poem which can be used by advertising companies to promote products, aimed at attracting buyer’s interests…

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