Date: Fri, 11 Oct 1996 01:31:42 -0400

From: "Barry A. Popik" Bapopik[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM

Subject: LIMERICK STANZA: an antedate

"Limerick stanza" eluded me during my short stay in Limerick, Ireland,

but my stuff is still better than the standard references.

OED: "Said to be from a custom at convivial parties, according to which

each member sang an extemporized 'nonsense-verse', which was followed by a

chorus containing the words 'Will you come up to Limerick?'" The earliest

cite is May 1896, and it doesn't provide much meaning.

In 1846, Edward Lear's book of "nonsense verse" came out. In Judy: The

London Serio-Comic Journal of 23 October 1895, pg. 193, there are four

"Romantic Rhymes" starting "Quoth a musical Old Maid of Lee," "A certain

masher of Pandy," "A bloodthirsty brigand of Greece," and "'Observe,' cried a

man from Penang." In Judy's Almanac for July 1894, it's called a "rhymelet."

In FUN (London) of 15 January 1895, pg. 91, it's titled "Geography in

the Nursery." In FUN of 14 January 1896, it's "Nursery Rhymes."

The earliest "Limerick stanza" is a month away from OED's "Limerick" and

is in Judy of 24 June 1896, pg. 615, col. 1, in a story about the "Guest of

the Hour: The G. O. M.":

...I propose to call 'Recreations of a Retired Life.' It's a collection

of little poems scribbled on spoiled post-cards, and mainly autobiographical

in character, though not invariably so. The metre is presumably an Irish

one, commonly called the "Limerick stanza." It does not occur in Horace.

Shall I begin?"

"If you please," said Judy eagerly.

The young men were also eager.

The Ancient arranged a bundle of post-cards on the table, and then,

selecting one, proceeded to read aloud, with fine elocution :--

"There lives an old Woodman in Wales

Who cut Parliamentary pales,

And fled from the bustle

Of politic tussle

To annotate nursery tales."

"Therein," said Judy, "I find at least one essential of great

poetry--Truth. Pray proceed." ...