Prompt: Limerick

The prompt this week was to write a limerick. A limerick is a poem style that gained popularity in the early 18th century and has a strict form and rhythm. It is such an accepted form of poetry, many can finish the last line if the writing compels them to do so with rhythm and rime.

According to Wikipedia:

Limerick is a form of poetry, especially one in five-line, predominantly anapestic meter with a strict rhyme scheme (AABBA), which is sometimes obscene with humorous intent. The third and fourth lines are usually shorter than the other three.

According to some experts, a limerick isn’t a true or pure limerick unless it has an obscene element, and that clean limericks were just a “passing fad.” Edward Lear (19th century poet) truly popularized the form and was published in the papers, though he claimed these were not limericks.

An example of an early form of limerick by an unknown author is:

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.

A limerick consists of the standard form of a stanza of five lines. Using the measurement of a “foot” as the limerick’s meter and pattern, it is ta-ta-TUM, an anapaest. The first, second, and fifth rhyme with each other and have three “feet of three syllables each.” The third and forth lines are shorter and rhyme together with two “feet of three syllabus.”

The storytelling order of a limerick is:

  1. Introduce a person and a place, with the place words at the end of the first line.
  2. Line two continues the action, and rhymes with line one.
  3. The third line sets up the “fall” of the person and is short and sets up the rhyme for the next line.
  4. Another short line continues the action and rhymes with the line above it.
  5. The last line is the punch line, and rhymes with the first and second lines. Sometimes this is a repeat of the first line through a twist of works, but not always.

One of the most famous examples of limerick forms is:

There was an Old Man of Nantucket
Who kept all his cash in a bucket.
His daughter, called Nan,
Ran away with a man,
And as for the bucket, Nantucket.
– Anonymous

The prompt was to write a limerick. Play with rhymes and storytelling, and attempt to create a twist at the end.


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