Have a little fun with these 10 limerick examples from famous writers.
If you are looking for some fun and interesting poetry to read, but that doesn’t require a lot of deep thinking, you may want to look into the limerick. These whimsical, five-line poems typically use humor to make a point or simply entertain.
All funny limericks follow the same rhyme scheme of aabba. The “a” lines have a meter of three combinations of unstressed and stressed syllables, while the “b” lines have a meter of two combinations of the stressed and unstressed syllables.
The name “Limerick” comes from the county of Limerick in southwest Ireland, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Taking a look at some famous Limericks examples to help you understand this poetic form.
- 1. “There Was an Old Man with a Beard” by Edward Lear
- 2. “A Wonderful Bird is the Pelican” by Dixon Lanier Merritt
- 3. “There Was a Young Lady of Station” by Lewis Carroll
- 4. “There Was a Small Boy of Quebec” by Rudyard Kipling
- 5. “There Once Was a Man from Nantucket” by Princeton Tiger
- 6. “There Was a Young Lady of Lynn” by Anonymous
- 7. “Our Novels Get Longa and Longa” by H.G. Wells
- 8. “There Was a Young Bell of Old Natchez” by Ogden Nash
- 9. “A Man Hired by John Smith and Co.” by Mark Twain
- 10. “Hickory Dickory Dock” by Mother Goose
- Poetry Resources
1. “There Was an Old Man with a Beard” by Edward Lear
Edward Lear was a famous British poet often credited as the father of the limerick, even though the first limericks came from folk songs of the 1700s. His famous limericks popularized the form. This funny limerick poem makes fun of an old man who lets his beard grow so long, it becomes a nest of sorts for animals.
“There was an Old Man with a beardEdward Lear
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. “A Wonderful Bird is the Pelican” by Dixon Lanier Merritt
Often mistakenly attributed to Ogden Nash, this funny poem is actually the work of Merritt. In the second line, it shows a made-up word designed to keep the aabba rhyme scheme intact.
“A wonderful bird is the pelican,Dixon Lanier Merritt
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.”
3. “There Was a Young Lady of Station” by Lewis Carroll
Many examples of limericks are funny because of an unexpected twist in the last line, and this is one of those. It seems the young lady in question has a crush on men, only to twist the answer to be a love for the Isle of Man.
“There was a young lady of stationLewis Carroll
‘I love man’ was her sole exclamation
But when men cried, ‘you flatter’
She replied, ‘Oh! No matter!’
Isle of Man is the true explanation.”
4. “There Was a Small Boy of Quebec” by Rudyard Kipling
This humorous poem shows that the brave people of Quebec can withstand very cold temperatures. Even buried up to his neck and frozen solid, the boy won’t say that he is cold.
“There was a small boy of Quebec,Rudyard Kipling
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.'”
5. “There Once Was a Man from Nantucket” by Princeton Tiger
This limerick became famous when it was published in a Nantucket newspaper, and the Chicago Tribune published a reply, followed by several limerick replies from other publications. Still, the original poem remains the most famous of the works that came from the Nantucket limerick battle.
“There once was a man from NantucketPrinceton Tiger
Who kept all his cash in a bucket.
But his daughter, named Nan
Ran away with a man,
And as for the bucket, Nantucket.”
6. “There Was a Young Lady of Lynn” by Anonymous
Though the author is not known, this limerick is quite popular because of the funny visual picture it creates. Every reader can imagine the fictional lady slipping right into the straw.
“There was a young lady of Lynn,Anonymous
Who was so uncommonly thin
That when she essayed
To drink lemonade
She slipped through the straw and fell in.”
7. “Our Novels Get Longa and Longa” by H.G. Wells
Science fiction writer H.G. Wells tried his hand at limericks too. He wrote using some nonsense words to make them interesting and engaging. Here is one of his most famous Limericks:
“Our novels get longa and longaH.G. Wells
Their language gets stronga and stronga.
There’s much to be said
For a life that is led
in illiterate places like Bonga.”
8. “There Was a Young Bell of Old Natchez” by Ogden Nash
This poem is the work of Ogden Nash, an American poet known for his lighthearted works. In many of his works, he uses inventive spelling to not only make the words rhyme but also to make them appear the same. This is one of the most famous of his limerick poems:
“There was a young belle of old NatchezOgden Nash
Whose garments were always in patchez.
When comments arose
On the state of her clothes,
She replied, ‘When Ah itchez, Ah scratchez.”
9. “A Man Hired by John Smith and Co.” by Mark Twain
Mark Twain wrote several funny limericks, which is not surprising in light of the author’s humorous tales. One of his most famous is this one, though it is not a perfect example of a limerick due to its less than perfect rhyme:
“A man hired by John Smith and Co.Mark Twain
Loudly declared that he’d tho.
Men that he saw
Dumping dirt near his door
The drivers, therefore, didn’t do.”
10. “Hickory Dickory Dock” by Mother Goose
The nursery rhymes of Mother Goose are often written as limericks. This makes them easy for children to remember and fun for adults to read aloud. One of the most famous Limericks is the one about the mouse and the clock:
“Hickory Dickory Dock,Mother Goose
The mouse ran up the clock.
The clock struck one;
The mouse did run.
Hickory Dickory Dock.”
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