Our pick of the greatest limericks
The limerick is a poetic form shrouded in mystery: nobody knows why they’re named after Limerick, who invented the form, or when they were first composed. What we do know is that they’ve been with us for a long time – the earliest limericks date back to the Middle Ages – and that, at their best, limericks can be very, very funny. They can also demonstrate a masterly control of verse form and admirable economy of language. In this post, we’ve gathered up a dozen of our favourite limericks, which are among the funniest limericks ever written and the finest examples of the form. Many of them are anonymous, but where the author of the limerick is known, we’ve added their name in brackets after the poem. Warning: some of these classic limericks are rather rude, to say the least.
The limerick packs laughs anatomical
Into space that is quite economical.
But the good ones I’ve seen
So seldom are clean
And the clean ones so seldom are comical.
While Titian was mixing rose madder
His model reclined on a ladder.
The position to Titian
So he ran up the ladder and had ’er.
There was a young girl of Aberystwyth
Who took grain to the mill to get grist with.
The miller’s sun, Jack,
Laid her flat on her back,
And united the organs they p*ssed with. (Algernon Charles Swinburne)
There was a young lady of Norway
Who hung by her toes in a doorway.
She said to her beau
‘Just look at me Joe,
I think I’ve discovered one more way.’ (Swinburne)
There was a young man from Dundee
Who b*ggered an ape in a tree.
The results were quite horrid:
All a*se and no forehead,
Three balls and a purple goatee. (Swinburne)
There was a young girl of Baroda
Who built an erotic pagoda;
The walls of its halls
Were festooned with the balls
And the tools of the fools that bestrode her.
God’s plan made a hopeful beginning.
But man spoiled his chances by sinning.
We trust that the story
Will end in God’s glory,
But at present the other side’s winning. (Oliver Wendell Holmes Senior)
I met a lewd nude in Bermuda
Who thought she was shrewd: I was shrewder;
She thought it quite crude
To be wooed in the nude;
I pursued her, subdued her, and screwed her.
There once was a young man named Cyril
Who was had in a wood by a squirrel,
And he liked it so good
That he stayed in the wood
Just as long as the squirrel stayed virile.
There was a young lady of Chichester
Who made all the saints in their niches stir.
One morning at matins
Her breasts in white satin
Made the Bishop of Chichester’s britches stir.
The thoughts of the rabbit on sex
Are seldom, if ever, complex;
For a rabbit in need
Is a rabbit indeed,
And does just as a person expects.
The frequenters of our picture palaces
Have no use for psychoanalysis;
And although Doctor Freud
Is distinctly annoyed
They cling to their old-fashioned fallacies. (Norman Douglas)
If you enjoyed this pick of the best bawdy and risqué limericks, you can find more classic limericks, courtesy of SF writer Isaac Asimov, here. You might also enjoy these classic humorous poems and our short biographies of Victorian writers told in limerick form.