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Limericks were first popularized by Edward Lear. If you ask me, the wonder is that the specimens he composed didn't manage to kill off interest in the topic from the start. But perhaps I am overlooking the social context of the time. In any case, these days it goes without saying that the last word of the first line is better not repeated in the final line, unless you want to be thought of as uninventive.
The specimen below was sent to our friends Ailsa and Bill, a couple we met up with at Burnthwaite Farm, once a favourite haunt at the head of Wasdale in the English Lake District. You have to know that Ill Crag, Lingmell and Piers Ghyll are well-known features of the local terrain; fell means mountain, Bill was a medical doctor.
When a couple named Ailsa and Bill
Went to visit a crag that was "Ill",
They could tell from Lingmell
That the fell was unwell
And confined to the bed of Piers Ghyll.
Back in the 1980's when I was still besotted with self-enumerating sentences and suchlike, I wrote a number of self-referential limericks, a hobby that culminated in the triple-limerick below. The first stanza numbers its syllables, the second its words, while the third announces the total number of letters used by all three. As the note below explains, there's a bit more to it besides. Or in short, it's too clever by half.
Soon after this I launched into an even longer "limerick", The Last Word, that occupied me for some months. I suspect that this is also too clever by half. At least, it seems to sail clean over the heads of many readers, among them even some bright minds, although an enthusiastic response from Donald Knuth was consoling. The Last Word can be seen (not to say savoured) here.
|Copyright © Lee Sallows|