One limerick is, "There was an old man with a beard / Who said, 'It is just as I feared! / Two owls and a hen / Four larks and a wren / Have all built their nests in my beard!'" Another begins, "A wonderful bird is the pelican."
More examples of limericks include "There was a young lady of Niger" by Edward Lear and William Cosmo Monkhouse, "A flea and a fly in a flue" by Ogden Nash and the famous Mother Goose rhyme, "Hickory Dickory Dock."
A limerick is a form of poetry written in five-line anapestic meter that follows a strict rhyme scheme of AABBA. Generally, lines one, two and five have three stressed syllables while lines three and four have only two. Limericks appeared in the early years of the 18th century in England and were popularized by Edward Lear in the 19th century.
Limericks are often bawdy and written with humorous intent. Gershon Legman compiled and the largest anthology of limericks, entitled "The New Limerick: 2750 Unpublished Examples, American and British." In his book, Legman maintained that a true limerick is always obscene and that clean limericks were "periodic fads" that rarely rose above mediocrity.