In high school, I took a class called “Experiences in Writing,” where the teacher had us try our hands at various types of poetry. That’s when I wrote my very first limerick:
A gentleman visiting France
Was seen doing an odd little dance.
When asked as to why,
Gave this hasty reply:
“I dropped escargot down my pants.”
Unfortunately, the teacher liked it and encouraged me to write more. That spurred on a lifetime hobby that has entertained my friends but never yielded a penny in royalties.
There is, sadly, no money in limericks.
Named for a county in Ireland, the form always consists of five lines. Lines 1, 2 and 5 must rhyme with each other, and so must the shorter lines 3 and 4. The final verse delivers the punch line, as illustrated by one of my favorites. I wish I could take credit for this one:
There once was a pious young priest
Who lived almost wholly on yeast.
He said with a grin,
“We shall all rise again,
And I want to get started at least.”
As you may know, limericks have a somewhat sordid reputation. I once found a whole volume of them in a bookstore and was thrilled with my purchase — that is, until I got home and started reading. There was not a single verse in all 517 pages that can be quoted in polite company. And that’s mostly the kind of company I keep.
But I’ve found that limericks made great poems for special occasions: birthdays, retirements and whatnot. They are ideal for gentle teasing.
For example, one of my colleagues is known for his boisterous guffaws, a fact which inspired the following:
There once was a teacher named Larry,
Whose laughter could sometimes be scary.
A student one fall,
Heard it way down the hall. And said,
“Boy, that is loud.” We said, “Very.”
When my friends in Oklahoma had their second child — a son — I sent this foolishness:
There is a fine couple named Paris,
Who live in a house with a terrace.
And I’m happy to say
As of 25th May,
They now have an heir and an heiress.
When another couple celebrated their anniversary, they got this poetic toast:
Ryan almost wed some other dame,
But then he forgot what’s-her-name.
When he laid eyes on Paula,
Where she went he did folla,
And his whole life was never the same.
My love of basketball has inspired a few lines, including these that I wrote for Harding guard Sam Brown in 2008:
A dazzling player named Sam
Can dribble, can dunk and can slam.
His plays are red hot,
And he showed what he’s got
In that game against North Alabam.
I had an aunt compete in a long-distance run in 2011. I sent these congratulatory lines:
There once was a champion named Suzie,
Whose 13-mile run was a doozy.
When she crossed the finish
At a quarter past 10-ish, S
he was winded and wobbly and woozy.
When a dear friend turned 60 in 2012, I joined in the roast:
We thought that our dear Doctor Justus
Was much closer to forty, but trust us,
He looks rather youthful,
But we have to be truthful:
He is older than Caesar Augustus.
Without fail, I post to Facebook at least once per year, on April Fools’ Day. About five years ago, I got inspired to put up a limerick:
A reluctant Facebooker named Clax
Updates once a year all his facts.
Announcing with pride
That he has not yet died
So his friends can breathe free and relax.
In 2014, our English department chair went overseas. His return inspired this:
While missing our chairman named Terry,
The department went too wild and merry.
But now that he’s back
To see all our slack,
His response will be disciplinary.
If you liked all this nonsense, you can thank Dr. Tim Baird, who requested that I write a column of my limericks. If you didn’t care for it, please complain to my department chair. Who is missing too much of his hair. But I cannot say more, or he’ll show me the door, and will give me a heave down the stair.