10 Limerick Poem Examples

What is a Limerick Poem?

A limerick poem is a short, funny poem that has five lines. It follows a specific rhyme scheme, which is AABBA. This means the first, second, and fifth lines rhyme with each other, and the third and fourth lines have their own rhyme. Limericks often tell a brief and humorous story.

Limerick Poems Examples in Literature

Example#1

“There was an Old Man with a beard” by Edward Lear

“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!”

The aforesaid stanza is a typical limerick poem, which uses the pattern of five lines with a distinctive AABBA rhyme scheme. The limerick describes the life of a man who has nestled the beak and feet of birds in his long beard. 

The first two lines creates a situation in which the old man reveals that maybe his beard as taken undesirable overnight visitors, that he can see through the window panes. The next three lines reveal the comic twist: but, it is surprising that not only one, but at least five birds stay and nest in there (an elderly owl, a Hen, four larks, and a wren). 

Limericks commonly end with a series of unexpected and comical events and therefore they often have a humorous and absurd conclusion. The birds living in his beard and the bird’s character mocking him for having that view makes this conclusion funny and typical for limerick poems.

See also: Litotes Examples in Literature

Example#2

“There was a Young Lady of Ryde” by Edward Lear

“There was a Young Lady of Ryde,
Who ate some green apples and died.
The apples fermented,
Inside the lamented,
And made cider inside her inside.”

A short humorous poem that starts with an A, then repeats after b to the fifth line and ends with A. This poem is famous in western society and is marked by a distinctive rhyme scheme (AABBA) and rhythm. 

It narrates a fantastical fairy tale about a young girl from Ryde who fed on fermenting green apples that were saturated with cider, showing that the apples were probably literal ones transmuted into the beverage therein. 

The lyrical expense comes from employment of fancy language and the bizarre elements of the storyline to produce a comic effect. 

The use of “died” in the first and last line rhymes with “inside” twice, which describes the strange activity of ferment taking place inside a human being depicts the commonly found whimsy and offensive humor illustrated in the majority of traditional limericks. 

The stanza utilizes the surprise and shock of the unfortunate consequences of the lady’s luckless act that took whether delicious or apples into fortune while she ate them, thus hooking the reader that the previous world of an act and its outcome was totally different.

Example#3

“A flea and a fly in a flue” by Ogden Nash

“A flea and a fly in a flue
Were imprisoned, so what could they do?
Said the fly, ‘let us flee!’
‘Let us fly,’ said the flea.
So they flew through a flaw in the flue.”

The stanza is a limerick, characterized by the sound play and imageries. The poet uses funny but smart rhyming words to illustrate a scene where a fly and a flea get stuck inside a flue (it is the duct for smoke in chimneys). The limerick follows AABBA rhyme scheme, which is a traditional feature that adds the rhythmic beauty to the song.

The poem starts with a description of a setting where the flea and the fly are sharing compelled feelings of being entangled. The choice of the words are “flea” and “fly” that are sound alike, renders a fun character in the poem, which becomes more interesting to read. 

The exchange between flea and fly demonstrates the desire of every one of them to escape and the use of homophones “flee” (to run away from) and “fly” (to move through the air) in a pun adds more fun to the dialogue. They found the last way of escape when they saw a flaw (a crack or gap) in the blaze of the chimney.

Read further: Literary Devices That Start With L

Example#4

“There was an Old Man in a tree” by Edward Lear

“There was an Old Man in a tree,
Who was horribly bored by a bee;
When they said, ‘Does it buzz?’ He replied, ‘Yes, it does!’
‘It’s a regular brute of a bee!”

The verses are typical example of limericks such as many others, that aim is to tickle the nerve of the audience painting them with the rhythm and rhyme that they expect (AABBA). 

This shameful incident revolves around the old man who is sitting in a tree and is agitated by the bee. These two sentences give us a general idea about the scenery and indicate the coming of the main character, the old man’s trouble. 

His cousin’s question about a roaring if a bee buzz about bass sounds funny because it is usually clear that bees buzz. Old man’s comment where he says “yes, it does! It is a regular brute of a bee!” shows a bit of comic rhetorical exaggeration that helps us to identify the bee not merely as an insect but it also is one irritating person.

The limerick brings the classic structure to life, where the full story is told in a short, humorous account with the last line, referring to the old man, taking the wise-crack and making the humorous part end in a way that highlights his upset, but comically. 

The meter and rhyme help build the mood that the bee sting of the old man is both humorous and distracted from the reality.

Example#5

“There was a Small Boy of Quebec” by Rudyard Kipling

“There was a Small Boy of Quebec,
Who was buried in snow to his neck;
When they said, ‘Are you friz?’ He replied, ‘Yes, I is—
But we don’t call this cold in Quebec.”

The snow in this stanza is a clever motif that symbolizes the deep issues that the boy, who was from Quebec, is going through. A comedy stems from the protagonist’s very calm way of dealing with possibly unpleasant or even dangerous situations. 

Through the first two lines, the author creates a setting with the boy in the snow by himself. This might be the situation where anyone can think of him in a smart manner. Nevertheless, the poem brings out the comicity through the conversations presented in the next paragraphs.

When the man in the crowd asks if he is really cold (“are you friz?”), the boy answers: “Yes, I is, but we don’t call this cold in Quebec,” by using twenty-fourth grammar intentionally (“I is” instead of “I am”), and emphasis on the Quebeckers’ fearlessness of which they face their cold winters. 

Unsurprisingly, the limerick revolves on traditional Canadian stereotypes that not only expose harsh winters but also exemplify Canadian guts and perseverance, showing the boy’s nonchalant body language while medication which is otherwise unpardonable may be acceptable in warmer countries.

Limericks associated with different AABBA rhyme scheme could be perceived as a ready-made punchline which could help to deliver the joke more powerfully.

It improves a contrast between the boy’s outside humorous attitude and the situation inside, where he is freezing. It is just a short verse but it can skillfully receive both humorous and a somewhat cultural message all in disguised light-hearted way.

Example#6

“There was an Old Person of Ischia” by Edward Lear

“There was an Old Person of Ischia,
Whose conduct grew friskier and friskier;
He danced hornpipes and jigs,
And ate thousands of figs,
That lively Old Person of Ischia.”

This limerick talks about Ischia, an Italian island and its funny people who are always up to something amusing. The poem opens with the apparent change of an old person´s behavior from “friskier and friskier.” The whole line enhances the mood for the stanzas that follow.

Another triumphant stanza that shows the lively nature of the old man and how it energizes him to move to the accompaniment of the lively music. The old man enjoys his favorite traditional dances such as hornpipes and jigs. 

The linkage in the text of the number of figs he is mentioned as eating “thousands of figs” that adds a sense of absurdness to the picture.

The last line continues to emphasize the man’s life, adding a humorous touch by calling him a “lively Old Person of Ischia”. It has the nifty rhyme scheme of AABBA, which is how limerick rhymes is characteristics.

The overall outcome is a humorous characterization of a man who is youthful in nature and defies the view of how an old person ought to act, with the limerick’s success of mixing the young behavior with a final line which is interesting is all evident.

Limerick Poem Examples in Literature
Limerick Poem Examples in Literature

Example#7

“The limerick packs laughs anatomical” by Dixon Lanier Merritt

“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.”

This limerick by Dixon Lanier Merritt is a metalinguistic poem of another limerick- it speaks about limericks themselves in a humorous way, mentioning the type of content and form that one finds in them. 

The poem begins by mentioning that it is, like with the other limericks, the particular job of the limerick to successfully execute the “quite anatomical” (body-related) laughs within only a few lines and in the shortest possible form, the thought being that a very compressed unit of verses is the best to deliver the joke most quickly and obviously.

The line follows with an analysis of limerick’s content itself. There expresses that the pleasing kinds of limericks usually touch upon impolite or unclean humor, which is familiar with the form. 

It affirms that of the two limericks: “the good ones,” which are frequently inappropriate (“seldom are clean”), are hardly ever clean (“so seldom are comical”), and those that stay longer away from off-color material (“the clean ones”) usually becomed funnier (“so seldom are comical”).

This self-referential ditty depicts and satirizes what are the grounds of attractiveness and chaotic nature of limericks so that we must now be able to caper. Regardless, it adds a fun twist to the limerick genre with a self-aware and light touch.

Example#8

“There was a Young Lady whose bonnet” by Edward Lear

“There was a Young Lady whose bonnet,
Came untied when the birds sate upon it;
But she said: ‘I don’t care!
All the birds in the air
Are welcome to sit on my bonnet!'”

This stanza tells about an lady sitting on a park bench and a gust of wind that altered the position of her bonnet. At the onset of the poem, a young lady who is accompanied by birds is described; she is identified by the fact that these birds had sat on her bonnet (which became untied as a result of their presence and the reaction that ensued). 

This certainly introduces a kind of magical comedy to the poem, while at the same time it resembles limerick hilarity.

The third line develops the scene while the fourth line shows the cause of the bonnet falling off, that is the birds sitting on it. The fact that the bonnet is increasingly becoming the favourite of birds is one of the unexpected scenarios that make reading the limerick to be interesting and funny because the world is full of playful nature.

Astonishingly, her reaction changes the way people were thinking and instead of getting annoyed, the young woman welcomes others in a light setting. 

She is heard saying, “I don’t give a damn! These birds can sit on my bonnet anytime they wish!” This reaction is funny as she makes the typical build-up phrase Sweet or two in the middle of the verse, a call to action or attention.

Example#9

“A canner, exceedingly canny” by Carolyn Wells

“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?'”

It creates an absurd, pun-filled, lucrative idea about meaning and multi-dimensional uses of the ‘can’ verb arrangement in this precarious situation. The object is a canner whose nickname is “Canny, Canny,” which eloquently expresses that he is synthetic and astute. In this paragraph, the stage is set for the wit and word games that subsequently emerge.

The canner with a rhetorical question poses a riddle to his granny about the boundaries of the canned food industry complemented by the play of language.

The riddle is a fulfillment of the grammar rule, that is a question with a double entendre. Mr. Chennault renders the statement, “A canner can can anything that he can,” which makes him think that as a canner, he is skilled in conservation, even the things he can reach or handle. 

Nevertheless, there is a humorous doubt that “But a canner can’t Can a can, can he?” is expressed. This phrase shows the word “can” both as a verb and as a noun and generates a humorous logical puzzle about whether a canner can actually can a can in the same way he cans food.

The repeated use of “can” in those lines tests the reader or listener to stay with those meanings in different forms yet in a humorous way, hence, the language in it becomes that of a faithful tongue-twister. 

This mode of rhyme used in limericks is similar to AABBA (which is also known), and it enhances the playful or rhythmic tongue used in verse, making it one of the best examples of how the language is tied to humor in poems.

Example#10

A Wonderful Bird is the Pelican” by Dixon Lanier Merritt

“A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill holds more than his belican,
He can take in his beak
Enough food for a week
But I’m damned if I see how the helican!”

The poem opens with “A wonderful bird is the pelican.” This tone is almost immediately humorously reversed through the carefree, if not sarcastic, mention of the bird’s size and weight.

The second line humorously inserts the word “belican”( sic bely can) which confuses pelican with the homonym but lures the reader because it is rather plausible that the bird could hold more stuff in its bill than its belly. 

The third and fourth lines talk about one stand out quality, that is, the capability to store “a week in its beak” in a comic exaggeration. This is an easy game to see the bird cannot really hold all that much food for that long.

So, the last line is again a pun; it is “But, I am damned if I see how the helican!” This is very funny; it has got quite subtle humour with “helican” which is a pun upon priest, priestess, or holy pellegrand who is a deity and gives an answer to everything. 

Lines that follow the old rhyme scheme (AABBA), a common trait in limericks, helps the verse to settle in a pleasing and memorable rhythm together with the comical and magical elements of the poem.

Read also: Literary Devices That Start With A

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