Web teaser: Limericks

It is rather unlikely that this form of poetry has anything to do with the Irish town of Limerick, but its name has stuck to this five-lined poem anyway. Many limericks have no author’s name attached to them, which is typical of a lot of folk traditions. This type of popular poetry is humorous and often naughty. The form is still extremely popular.

There are certain rules to follow when you write a limerick. A limerick has five lines in all. Lines one, two and five rhyme and lines three and four rhyme. Very often the first line ends with a geographical name or the name of the main character and the final line ought to contain a surprise. However, these rules are not always followed!


Examples of limericks:


tiger There was a young lady of 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.


There once was an old man of Esser,

Whose knowledge grew lesser and lesser,

It at last grew so small

He knew nothing at all,

And now he’s a college professor.


Task 1

Now you have a go at it. Try to find the words that are left out of this limerick:


There was a young lady named Bright

Whose speed was far faster than …

She went out one day

In a relative way

And returned on the previous

(A.H.R. Buller)



Task 2

Rearrange the lines of these limericks:


He puked on the stairs

There was an old man of Peru

Before he could get to the loo

And all over the chairs

Who was sick with a touch of the flu

(Nicholas Appleby, aged 13)


And the man gave a shout

Who made his way home with a lantern

The lantern went out

I hope I don’t meet with a phantom!

There was a young man from New Hampton

(Claire Gunn, aged 13)


Task 3

Finish this limerick:


There was a young man from Berlin

Who didn’t know how to begin


Task 4

See if you can write your own limerick now. You can either use the suggested rhyme words or make up your own:

fame, name, sad, mad, aim