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What are limerick poems?

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Quick Answer

A limerick is a humorous poem that contains five lines and a rhyming scheme of AABBA. The first, second and fifth lines are between seven and 10 syllables, and the third and fourth lines contain five to seven syllables.

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Limerick history began in the 11th century. Researchers believe the form started in France before coming to England. Literary pieces with limericks include as William Shakespeare's "Othello," "King Lear" and "The Tempest," as well as the children's book "Mother Goose's Melodies" written in 1776.

19th century English poet Edward Lear wrote many humorous and nonsensical limericks throughout his career, such as "There was an Old Man of the West" about a man who can't sleep, and "There Was a Young Lady" about a young woman who plays the harp with her chin. Limericks can also be obscene, such as the American poem "There Once was a Man from Nantucket."

Traditionally limericks begin with the phrase "There once was a..." or "There was a..."

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