Wednesday, 11 July 2012

How to write a Limerick

Inspired by our Guest Blog on the 4th July by Mike Barfield, here is a guide to writing a limerick:

It is speculated that limericks were invented by soldiers returning from France to the Irish town of Limerick in the 1700s. Edward Lear is often associated with the limerick as he popularised the form. The sign of a good limerick is the last line, where the punchline or heart of the joke lies.

In its basic form, a limerick is a five-lined poem with one couplet and one triplet. The rhyme pattern is AABBA, with lines 1,2 and 5 containing three beats and rhyming. Lines 3 and 4 will have two beats and also rhyme. Limericks are meant to be funny, sometimes bordering on the darker sense of humour.

Below are examples of Edward Lear's (1812-1888) limericks:

There was an old man of Tobago
Who lived of rice, gruel and sago
Till, much to his bliss,
His physician said this –
To a leg, sir, of mutton you may go.

There was a Young Lady in White
Who looked out at the depths of the night;
But the birds of the air
Filled her heart with despair,
And oppressed that Young Lady in White.

There was a Young Lady of Lucca,
Whose lovers completely forsook her;
She ran up a tree
And said, 'Fiddle-de-dee!'
Which embarrassed the people of Lucca.

To help children write their own limericks, take a look at the great examples and ideas at Teaching Ideas -

To find out more about Edward Lear and his work, please visit or Mike Barfield's blog - see 4th July posts!


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