A limerick is a very short, humorous, nonsense poem. A true limerick has five lines; the first, second, and fifth rhyme with each other, and the third and fourth rhyme with each other. In addition to rhyme, consider:
- Number of syllables. The first, second and fifth lines should have eight or nine syllables, while the third and fourth lines should have five or six.
- Meter. A limerick has a certain "rhythm" created by how the syllables are stressed.
- Anapaestic meter - two short syllables are followed by a long (stressed) one (duh-duh-DUM, duh-duh-DUM). Here's an example (note that the emphasis naturally falls on the italicized syllables): Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
- Amphibrachic meter - a long (stressed) syllable is sandwiched between two short ones (duh-DUM-duh, duh-DUM-duh). Example: There was a young lady of Wantage
-Lines can begin on two, one, or occasionally no unstressed beats. Some prefer to continue the rhythm across from one line to the next, especially when a sentence carries across lines, but this is not essential.
Here’s one of the limericks credited to Lear:
There was an Old Man in a tree,
Who was horribly bored by a Bee;
When they said, ‘Does it buzz?’
He replied, ‘Yes, it does!’
‘It’s a regular brute of a Bee!’
Edward Lear (12 or 13 May 1812 – 29 January 1888) was an English artist, illustrator, author and poet, and is known now mostly for his literary nonsense in poetry and prose and especially his limericks, a form he popularised. His principal areas of work as an artist were threefold: as a draughtsman employed to illustrate birds and animals; making coloured drawings during his journeys, which he reworked later, sometimes as plates for his travel books; as a (minor) illustrator of Alfred Tennyson's poems. As an author, he is known principally for his popular nonsense works, which use real and invented English words.