A short discussion of the limerick form of humorous poetry, with an example.
Earlier today I posted a limerick inspired by the ridiculous coverage the topless photos of Kate Middleton (wife of Prince William) are getting, comparing it to the complete lack of interest that would be engendered if I waggles my man-boobs about. But that also got me thinking about other “limericks” I’ve seen posted which I’d not say were really of the limerick form at all. So what constitutes a limerick as a specific form of poetry? I did a bit of digging and this is what I found.
A limerick is a five-line rhyme of humorous, silly or cheeky intent, with the rhyming scheme AABBA, that is the first, second and fifth lines all rhyme with each other (A) and the third and fourth lines rhyme with a different ending (B). The first, second and fifth lines are long, with three ‘feet’ each of three syllables, the third and fourth shorter with only two feet each of three syllables (though you can slip in or drop a syllable here and there without ruining the meter too much). The feet are either amphibrachic (stress on the middle syllable) or anapaestic (stress on the last syllable). For my limerick above I chose amphibrachic.
That all sounds a bit technical and it’s easier to understand if I give an example. Taking the above-mentioned limerick about man-boobs, here it is, firstly as originally posted and then rewritten as you’d as you’d actually read it aloud.
I stand at my window for ages
Removing my shirt in slow stages
I preen and I pout
With my man-boobs stuck out
But they don’t get on the front pages!
See how it is a mostly a repeating pattern of three syllables with the stress on the middle one?
I-stand-at my-win-dow for-a-ges
Re-mov-ing my-shirt-in slow-sta-ges
But-they-don’t get-on-the front-pa-ges!
It’s not perfectly regular though, and that makes it more interesting. The third line drops the last syllable of the second foot and the fourth switches briefly to amphibrachic i.e. putting the stress on the last syllable of each three.
There you go. Hopefully you’ve learned something about the limerick form and been entertained to boot!