There once was a man from Nantucket,
Who kept all of his cash in a bucket,
But his daughter, named Nan,
Ran away with a man,
And as for the bucket, Nantucket.
– by the Princeton Tiger (1924)
It’s the week of St. Patrick’s Day, and it’s as good a time as any to talk about Limericks. Often bawdy, and usually humorous, limericks are an example of a poetic form working with humor to make something memorable. The example above is a classic, printed in 1924 by the Princeton Tiger and drawing responses from other newspapers. The creative tension of the above poem comes from a rhyme which does not get stated – the reader waits for another “ucket” rhyme that never comes.
Often, the unmentionable does, in fact, get stated, and that is part of the fun. Clean limericks appear in childrens’ books and bawdy ones draw a laugh in raucous bars.
I won’t go into a lengthy recitation of the history of the lyric, except to observe that Edward Lear’s reputation far outstrips his talent (he often repeats the first rhyme), and that St. Patrick’s week is a fine occasion to try writing a few of your own.