History of the Limerick

Thursday, 12 May 2016  |  Richard

National Limerick - Day 12th May

National Limerick day is celebrated on the 12th May each year so we decided to take a brief look at its history and what makes one.

It is not known for sure, but the Limerick is thought to have come about in France during the middle ages. A limerick was found on an 11th century manuscript as follows:

The Lion is wondrous strong
And full of the wiles of wo;
And weather he pleye
Or take his preye
He cannot do but slo (slay)

The form appeared in England in the early years of the 18th Century and was popularised by Edward Lear in the 19th Century through his Book of Nonsense (1846) though he did not use the term Limerick . The earliest known use of the term Limerick for a poem of this was in  an 1880 Saint John New Brunswick newspaper where a poem was set against an apparently well known tune "Won't you come to Limerick"

What is a Limerick?

A Limerick has 5 lines long and traditionally, the first line starts with 'There was a...' and ends with a name, person or place. The first line also establishes the rhyme for the second and fifth lines.

Essentially, lines 1,2 and 5 should rhyme with one another and lines 3 and 4 should rhyme together.

An example of a Limerick by Edward Lear is as follows:

There was an old man with a beard
Who said, 'It is just as I feared,
Two owls and a hen
A lark and a wren
Have all built their nests in my beard!

Naturally, we decided to have a go at our own and came up with this:

There was a company called Delivered Gifts
Who had many ideas to sift
Hampers, Gifts and Baskets
The Chocolate is fantastic
Those that received them, declared the gifts a hit!