Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Limerick

My nephew Mark just turned fifty,

The limericks he wrote were nifty,

He wrote with great humor and wit,

His friends agreed they were a hit,

They can't wait 'til he turns sixty.

At his recent fiftieth birthday celebration, my nephew Mark read fourteen (I'm impressed) limericks to 140 of his best friends. They cleverly spanned the story of his life and were a tour de force for some one his age. Also, to show how impressed I was, I borrowed his rhyming scheme for the first two lines of my limerick above.

Since we're discussing age, here's a little of the history of the limerick.

It appears to have originated sometime in the 18th Century in England and/or Ireland.

And according to the limerick scholar Gershon Legman the true limerick is always obscene. How could it not be with a name like that. It seems George Bernard Shaw agrees with him. Need I say more.

In fact, I will. I like the idea that the origin of this type of poem was in the City or County of Limerick in Ireland. The Maigue Poets of Ireland were a fun bunch who liked to play nonsense verse parlour games, which became prototypes for the limerick as we have come to know and love it. Ah, for the good old days.

But, as Mark has shown us the form is old, but not dead. It is simply a five line poem with the rhyme scheme aabba. (Forget meter for now). It is an interesting thing to do with your spare time (think of sitting in traffic) or as a family ties enhancer. It is important NOT to be offensive if you are doing it for the last mentioned reason, although the insult was one of the limerick's main objectives, as popularized by Edward Lear. (It can be used as a way of channeling anger, if you rip it up immediately.) Rule out obscene also unless it's just for private use. We have enough offensiveness and obscenity in other forms. Just have some good, clean fun.