Mammoth Memory


A limerick is five lines long and uses the anapestic foot – two unstressed syllables followed by one stressed syllable, or Short-Short-Long (SSL).

A limerick is five lines long

The old sailor lost his limb to rickets (limerick) and a pest (anapest) on his leg. His five (five lines) toes were preserved and placed on his new leg.

The five lines are a mixture of trimeter (three feet per line) and dimeter (two feet per line).

Lines 1, 2 and 5 should ideally consist of three anapests each (trimeter); lines 3 and 4 are shorter, constructed of two anapests each (dimeter), as follows:

Line 1:            da da DA da da DA da da DA

Line 2:            da da DA da da DA da da DA

Line 3:            da da DA da da DA

Line 4:            da da DA da da DA

Line 5:            da da DA da da DA da da DA

However, there are often fewer or more short syllables. In the following example note, for instance, that line one starts with just one short syllable (“There”), and finishes with a short syllable (the “et” on the end of “Nantucket”):

The man from Nantucket

There once was a man from Nantucket
Who kept all his cash in a bucket.
But his daughter, named Nan,
Ran away with a man,
And as for the bucket, Nantucket.

Notice that the rhyme scheme of a limerick is:


A limericks structure

Limerick rhythms can vary

Sometimes, the stressed syllables can be:

da DA da da DA da da DA

as in

There WAS a young MAN from KharTOUM.

Or, sometimes:

da da DA da da DA da da DA da da

as in:

What a WONderful BIRD is the PELican

Another example limerick 

The pelican         

What a wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill can hold more than his beli-can.
He can take in his beak
Food enough for a week
But I’m damned if I see how the heli-can.

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