Did you know that Saturday was National Limerick Day? May 12th celebrated the birthday of Edward Lear, perhaps the inventor of the modern limerick, and certainly the first person to make them so popular. Read on to find out about stanzas, Shakespeare, and St Thomas Aquinas.
1. The standard form of a limerick is a stanza of five lines, with the first, second and fifth rhyming with one another and having three feet of three syllables each; and the shorter third and fourth lines also rhyming with each other, but having only two feet of three syllables.
2. No one knows exactly why a limerick is so called. Various possibilities have been put forward including that one of its most famous proponents, Edward Lear, was born in Limerick in Ireland and so they are named for his birthplace. Another story states that one of the first poems published of this type includes the line ‘Won’t you come up to Limerick?’
3. Limericks however may be much older than this. The oldest one written in this form may come from a prayer written by St Thomas Aquinas in the fourteenth century, or from a fourteenth century poem, ‘The lion is wonderliche strong, & ful of wiles of wo; & whether he pleye other take his preye he can not do but slo.’ Neither are big on laughs!
4. Shakespeare includes a limerick in Othello.
5. The true limerick may be the only original form of poetry to originate in Britain.
We hope you enjoyed this little look at the world of limericks. We reckon they’re certainly a fun way to introduce children to some wacky rhymes and fun with words. If you’re inspired to have a try at one or two of your own you can have a look at some of Edward Lear’s most famous examples here and get scribbling!