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  Rick Sutcliffe


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There once was a man...

Limericks are short stories, slices of life, ofttimes profound in the points they make. Though expressed as what sounds like doggerel poetry, they are quite difficult to write. They always have five lines, often play on a geographical location, and vary in metre. In the classic limerick the first two and last lines have one rhyme, while the third and fourth have another (and are typically shorter). Purists would have the first and last lines end in the same word. Occasionally you see the third and fourth lines combined into one, but this difference is mere layout. Alas, many limericks are scatological, some are racist, and the genre suffers from a lack of clean material. Some better ones follow--anonymous except where readers have helped with attributions:

There once was a student from Trinity,
Tried to take the square root of infinity.
Whilst counting the digits
Was seized with the fidgets.
Gave up math and took up divinity.

There was a young lady from Niger,
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger.
At the end of the ride
The lady was inside,
And the smile was on the face of the tiger.

There was a young lady named Bright
Whose speed was much faster than light;
She set out one day,
In a relative way
And returned on the previous night.
- by Arthur Henry Reginald Buller, in the December 19, 1923 issue of Punch
- Thanks to Michael O'Byrne for the correction and attribution.
- There are many versions of this one around.
There was a man from Nantucket
Kept all his cash in a bucket.
His daughter named Nan,
Ran away with a man,
And as for the bucket, Nantucket.

Pa followed the pair to Pawtucket,
The man and Nam with the bucket;
He said to the man,
You're welcome to Nan,
But as for the bucket, Pawtucket.

Me granther Molley Ryan
Was very feared o' die'n.
But whilst soused with liquor
She slugged the vicar.
Now in his yard she's lie'n.

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Alien Limerick Generator
More about Nan and her man
The Limerick Leader (Irish newspaper)
Limerick Institute of Technology
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Updated 2009 03 04