May 12, 2012 - Limerick Day

'Tis the birthday of Edward Lear 
Whose limericks brought us great cheer. 
   He had such a style 
   He makes us all smile 
So let's honor him from far and near!
Limericks are five-line poems with the rhyming scheme you see in my little attempt here: Lines 1,2, and 5 rhyme, and Lines 3 and 4 rhyme. These short poems usually have a bouncy rhythm that goes something like this: La-LA-la-la-LA-la-la-LA, and they are often funny or at least punny. (Bad puns abound!)

Edward Lear, born on this date in 1812, made limericks popular with his Book of Nonsense, which featured bunches of the short poems.

Why are these poems called limericks? Apparently a popular limerick mentioned the third largest city in Ireland—which is named Limerick—and somehow the name got applied to the poems themselves.

Read 'em!

You can read one of Lear's limericks here:

There was an Old Man with a beard, 
Who said, "It is just as I feared!
   --Two Owls and a Hen,
   Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!"

...and many more of them here and here.

A more modern poet who has published limericks is Ogden Nash. Here is one of his:

A jolly young fellow from Yuma
Told an elephant joke to a puma;
   Now his skeleton lies
   Beneath hot western skies
--The puma had no sense of huma.

My favorite limerick is this one by Graham Lester:

Is Algebra a fruitless endeavor?
It seems they’ve been trying forever
   To find x, y, and z
   And it’s quite clear to me:
If they’ve not found them yet, then they'll never!
Read more of Lester's limericks here.

Brownielocks has some limericks online. Here's one that's pretty cool:

A canner, exceedingly canny,
One morning remarked to his granny,
   “A canner can can
   Anything that he can;
But a canner can't can a can, can he?"
Write 'em!

Try your hand at writing a limerick. Author Bruce Lansky can help. 

Also on this date:

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