|Limericks for St. Patrick's Day
| by Kevin Shortsleeve
Now hold on, don't worry. This isn't what you think. I want
to clear the
name of that poor Old Man once and for all. The original Limerick,
which dates back to the 1800s runs like this:
There was an old man of Nantucket
Who kept all his cash in a bucket
But his daughter, named Nan
Ran away with a man
And as for the bucket, Nan-tucket
It is with ancient Greek marching songs that we first find
the metrical form
of the Limerick. These songs were probably much like our modern equivalent:
"We're in the army now.
We're not behind a plow.
We'll never get rich, - By digging a ditch.
We're in the army now."
Though poems with forms similar to limericks have been found
dating back to the 12th century in England, the modern literary
limerick appears to be an
eighteenth century Irish innovation. One legend tells of a song
brought back to Ireland from France by returning members of the Irish
Brigade. The chorus of this song was "Will you come up to Limerick?"
Impromptu verses were added to this chorus telling the adventures of
persons from various Irish cities.
In London, in 1820, the first book of limericks was
published. It was entitled The History of Sixteen Wonderful Old
Women and it held selections such as this:
There was an old woman named Towl
Who went to sea with her owl,
But the owl was sea-sick
And screamed for a psychic;
Which sadly annoy'd Ms Towl.
Limericks, however, owe their great fame more to Edward Lear
else. His Book of Nonsense, published in 1846 held selections such as:
There was an old man on whose nose
Most birds of the air could repose
But they all flew away
At the closing of day
Which relieved that old man and his nose.
Limericks enjoyed their greatest fame during the late 1800's
and early 1900's. At parties, guests were expected to improvise
limericks and shout them out as they stood in a circle. When one
person had finished, the crowd would call out the line from the Irish
soldier song "Will You Come Up From Limerick?" and move on to the
next person. It is from this heyday of 'limerickmania' that we owe
the invention of the rhyming dictionary.
With everyone eventually joining in the act, including the
likes of Rudyard
Kipling and Woodrow Wilson, limericks eventually got funnier and funnier.
There once was a plesiosaurus
Who lived when the world was all porous;
But it fainted with shame,
When it first heard its name,
And departed long ages before us.
And now, in honor of St. Patrick's Day, HERE'S A grand finale
THAT'S SURE TO TICKLE FUNNY BONES GREEN WITH BLARNEY:
A tutor who taught on the flute
Tried to teach two tooters to toot.
Said the two to the tutor,
"Is it harder to toot, or
To tutor two tooters to toot?"
Copyright © 2001 by Kevin Shortsleeve