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.
But limericks were not always bawdy. In fact the form was made popular in the 19th century by Edward Lear, a great believer in pure silliness. In 1846 he published A Book of Nonsense, which went through three editions and made limericks so popular that many people started using them to amuse, scandalise or satirise.
We used to have the Lear books and other collections of limericks, and as a child I read them so many times that I still remember my favorites. Here are some of them, interspersed with illustrations from the Lear books:
There was an old man from Blackeath
Who sat on his set of false teeth
Said he with a start,
Oh lord, bless my heart
I’ve bitten myself underneath!!
I sat next to the duchess at tea
Distressed as a person could be
Her rumblings abdominal
We’re simply phenomenal
And everyone thought it was me!
A feisty young girl from St. Paul
Wore a newspaper dress to a ball
The dress caught on fire
And burnt her entire
Front page, sporting section and all.
The wonderful artist Edward Gorey also liked witty and sometimes unsettling verse, and joined the party with gusto:
He illustrated the verse with his detailed ink drawings
British wordplay and recreational mathematics expert Leigh Mercer (1893–1977) even devised the following mathematical limerick:
This is read as follows:
A dozen, a gross, and a score
Plus three times the square root of four
Divided by seven
Plus five times eleven
Is nine squared and not a bit more
Quite clever, don’t you think?
Not to be outdone, I’ve produced a few limericks of my own over the years, some of which you might have seen, since I made illustrations to go with them for Inktober 2019. (Posted Here )
And so, dear readers, hoping I have sufficiently inspired you by now, I would like to urge you to send me your own efforts. We’re not talking about a competition here, just a fun thing to do. No prizes to be had, but if I get enough, I will do a post on them and make a few illustrations, too!
So come on, people, put your humorous thinking caps on!