Limericks are gloriously simple. Five lines long. Lines one and two rhyme with the fifth, while the third and fourth have a separate rhyme. Popularised by Edward Lear (1812-1888), limericks are the best known variety of nonsense verse and are adored by school children, stand-up comedians and fans of word-play. There is a certain train of thought that the only good limerick is a bawdy one but that would exclude a lot of clever verse.
Born on 12 May (National Limerick Day in some parts), Lear is a fascinating figure who travelled widely despite suffering from ill health throughout his life. An accomplished artist (especially in ornithology and landscapes), illustrator and author, he will always be most famous for his Book of Nonsense from 1846. It’s time to rhyme.
"There was an old man of Calcutta,
Who perpetually ate bread and butter;
Till a great bit of muffin on which he was stuffing,
Choked that horrid old man of Calcutta."
-- Book of Nonsense