What are some examples of Limerick poetry

Limerick (poem)

A limerick is a short, usually joking poem in five lines with the rhyme schemeaabba and a (relatively) fixed syllable scheme that tells a story that usually ends with a punchline. The rhythm is more important than the number of syllables.


The first limericks appeared in England around 1820. Already in the Middle Ages [1] there was this rhyme form.

There are various hypotheses as to the origin of the name:

  • The Irish city of Limerick gave it its name.
  • The name is derived from the Irish soldier song "Will you come up to Limerick" (18th century).
  • An explanation refers to the collection of nursery rhymes Mother Goose’s Melody by 1765.

Hickory, dickory, dock!
The mouse ran up the clock.
The clock struck one -
The mouse ran down.
Hickory, dickory, dock!

A distinction must be made between the first occurrence of shape and the appearance of the name limerick. Examples of this are found in Shakespeare's drinking song in Othello or Ophelia's song in Hamlet. Edward Lear is considered the first famous representative and one of the greatest classics. Edward Lear mostly uses a form in which the rhyming word of the first or second line is repeated in the last line, especially in the "Book of Nonsense" (German: "Edward Lear's complete nonsense - limericks, songs, ballads and stories. In German smuggled. ”by Hans Magnus Enzensberger). Later this form was rarely used. Many of his limericks are illustrated.

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! "[2]

As soon as this young man saw
what gathers together with him
on chickens, orioles,
Owls and jackdaws,
he certainly curses his beard.[3]

In Germany, the Limericks came back into fashion in the 1970s through the folk singers Schobert and Black, who for the most part made up the works Limerick Teutsch by the poet duo Georg Bungter and Günter Frorath set to music and performed. Ulrich Roski also has a multi-stanza song in limerick form on his LP Next please (A song for the cracked up, 1977). The satirist Dieter Höss also used this form of poetry; well-known authors are also Ogden Nash and Isaac Asimov.


In the three a- Lines follow each other by three amphibious ice (dadida = easy - difficult - easy), in both b-Lines often two anapastes each (dadadi = easy - easy - difficult). Dactyls are also possible (difficult - easy - easy). The decisive factor in Limerick is the characteristic rhythm caused by the meter, in which (inside) two unstressed and one stressed syllable alternate. The rule “Rhyme dich or I'll eat you!” Is fun for some (especially German) poets and they also use deviations from the meter. Most good limericks adhere to both rhyme and meter, with meter allowing variations in the first and last unstressed syllables of each line. The first foot of the last line is often preceded by a light syllable so that the verse appears to begin like an anapast. The ending can be “male” or “female”.

Some examples

Rhythm- and (rhyme) scheme

(da) dadida dadida dadida (da) (a)
(da) dadida dadida dadida (da) (a)
(da) dadida dadida (da) (b)
(da) dadida dadida (da) (b)
(da) dadida dadida dadida (da) (a)


(da) dadida dadida dadida (da) (a)
(da) dadida dadida dadida (da) (a)
(da) dadi dadadi (b)
(da) dadi dadadi (b)
(da) dadida dadida dadida (da) (a)

less common

dadi dadi dadadida (da) (a)
dadi dadi dadadida (da) (a)
dadi dadi [or di dadadi] (b)
dadi dadadi (b)
dadi dadadi dadadida (da) (a)


Usually the first line contains an acting person and ends with a place or landscape name. The place name is rhyming and the rhyme for the second and fifth lines is determined by it. The second line, also longer, describes a quality or behavior of the named person. The following two lines three and four are short and continue the second line with their own rhyme. The last line is followed by a surprising, comical punchline, the rhyme of which belongs to the first and second.

A chain smoker from Nice
who looked in the tank of his car for fuel,
it flew with a noise
through the garage canopy
an astonished guest into the pizza.[4]

Most limericks don't have a title; some limericks with their own title are known. In their joint book, Isaac Asimov and John Ciardi argued whether or not titles are permissible: Limericks: Too Gross / or Two Dozen Dirty Dozen Stanzas. There are also illustrations for some limericks.

A well-known example is a poem attributed to Cosmo Monkhouse. The presumed author was a British poet (1840-1901).

There was a young lady from Riga,
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger.
They returned from the ride
With the lady inside
And the smile on the face of the tiger.

In a Latin version

Puella Rigensis ridebat
Quam tigris in tergo vehebat.
Externa profecta
Interna revecta
Sed risus cum tigre manebat.

Place name

In terms of craftsmanship, it is primarily the rhyme specification that determines the place name. The recognizable reference to regional peculiarities or stereotypes is a very rare quality feature.

In different languages, the possibilities of poetry in Limerick form differ due to the linguistic structures. In view of problematic rhymes for city names, difficulties arise in the German language for Limericks, as a poem by Curt Peiser demonstrates:

A boy from Tehuantepec
he ran away on his aunt's path;
she ran after
because she loved him very much
and he also carried her hand luggage.

The poet often resorts to simpler city names, since usually no local reference is intended. Here is the example of Kersten Hanke.

A Limerick poet from Aachen
not knowing what limericks promised
he drove it too colorful,
and that was the reason
that the friends broke up with him last.

Diversity of topics

Limericks often contain deep deliberations. There are “clean” and “dirty” (ie lewd, crude) limericks.

“On the beach,” said John sadly, “there’s such
A thing as revealing too much. "
So he closed both his eyes
At the ranks of bare thighs,
And felt his way through them by touch.[5]

There was a young lady of Wright
Who traveled much faster than light
She departed one day
In a relative way
And returned in the previous night.[6]

Famous and infamous are the Limericks (Nursery Rhymes) from The Pearl, a collection of Victorian erotica, published in London in 1879 and 1880:

There was a young man from Peru
Who had nothing whatever to do
So he took out his carrot
And buggered his parrot[7]
And sent the result to the zoo.

There was a young nun from Siberia
Who grew every day wearier and wearier
One night after prayers
She bolted upstairs
And buggered the mother superior.

Among the more serious subjects is a self-deprecating, political limerick by Robert Matthees.

The old Herr Bismarck - the good one -
I praise him and honor his blood,
(... only unfortunately in France,
where Bismarck was victorious ...)
but then I felt the rod![8]


The Swiss cabaret artist César Keizer (1925-2007) wrote his so-called “Keizericks”, interwoven with Swiss dialect, with versions in German-Swiss.

There was Mr. Stöckli from Stocken,
he washed his feet and socks.
The Siegrist von Meggen,
acted frightened
and rang all the bells.

Limericks are often sorted in the alphabetical table of contents according to the main place or name, i.e. the last word of the first verse.


Limericks differ from the related, similar sounding "Klapphornverses". These are short, amusing poems that, unlike the Limericks, must have 4 lines. Knittelverse, Zoten or nonsense poems are not related to the poem form of the Limericks.


  • Georg Bungter, Günter Frorath: Limerick German. Piper, Munich 1969, ISBN 3-492-01738-X.
  • Jürgen Dahl: Limericks, limericks. Fischer Taschenbuchverlag 1973, ISBN 3-436-00800-1.
  • Wiard Raveling (Ed.): Limericks. Reclam, Stuttgart 1999, ISBN 3-15-009060-1.
  • Anonymous: The Pearl. Ballantine Books, 1996, ISBN 0-345-41004-1.
  • The Great César Keizer and Margrit Läubli Cabaret Book. Huber, Frauenfeld 2005, ISBN 3-7193-1400-6.
  • Ole Haldrup: Book of Limericks. With drawings by Horst Dubiel. 3rd edition, 136 pages. Nereus Verlag, Marburg 2003. ISBN 3-9809295-0-7.
  • Ole Haldrup: Lirum, larum, Limerick: The second book of five-liners. With drawings by Christine Happle. 140 pages. Nereus Verlag, Marburg 2004. ISBN 3-9809295-1-5.
  • Jürgen Dahl (Ed.): Limericks & Clerihews. An introduction to Limerick and 222 Limericks, an introduction to his little brother, the (four-line) Clerihew - pronounced klerri.juh - and 77 Clerihews, as well as informal translations to bridge any vocabulary problems. Langewiesche-Brandt, Ebenhausen near Munich 1981, ISBN 3-7846-0503-6. (illustrated by Paul Flora)
  • Richard O'Toole: More of the World's Best Dirty Limericks. With cartoons by Graham Morris, Harper Collins Publishers, London 1994. ISBN 0006383742

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ Thomas Aquinas, cf. la: Limericus
  2. ^ Edward Lear, Book of Nonsense
  3. ↑ Transfer by Hans Magnus Enzensberger
  4. ↑ Ole Haldrup: Book of Limericks, Nereus Verlag, Marburg
  5. ↑ Limerick by Isaac Asimov. In: Isaac Asimov and John Ciardi: Limericks: Too Gross / or Two Dozen Dirty Dozen Stanzas
  6. ↑ A Limerick from the book A brief history of time by Stephen Hawking on the topic of Relativity / Theory of Relativity.
  7. ↑ "to bugger" = to engage in sodomy; "parrot" = parrot
  8. ↑ according to own information about the Franco-German friendship