annually on May 12th
Limerick Day celebrates both the limerick poem and the birth of Edward Lear, who popularized the poems and was born on this date in 1812. It has been celebrated since at least 1987 and is marked by the reading and writing of limericks. Limericks are short, often humorous or ribald poems. They consist of five lines: the first two lines rhyme with the last line, and the middle two lines rhyme with each other. This is an example of an AABBA rhyme scheme. They are named after Limerick, Ireland; more specifically, the name comes from the chorus of the eighteenth-century Irish soldiers' song "Will You Come Up to Limerick?"
The first limericks were written around 1820, and popularized by Edward Lear, starting with the release of his Book of Nonsense in 1846. He said he got the idea for the book from a nursery rhyme that began with "There was an old man of Tobago." Limericks gained in popularity at the beginning of the twentieth century, and limerick contests were created by organizations such as magazines at that time.
Edward Lear was born on May 12, 1812, in Highgate, England, a suburb of London. He became a landscape painter, a writer of nonsense verse, and the popularizer of the limerick. At the age of fifteen, he began making his living, by drawing and soon started working at the British Museum, drawing birds for ornithologist John Gould. Between 1832 and 1837, he made illustrations of the Earl of Derby's private menagerie. It was for the Earl's grandchildren that he created the Book of Nonsense. However, painting remained his main source of income; he made many sketches with pen and watercolor, and published three volumes of bird and animal drawings, and seven illustrated travel books. In addition, he published four "books of nonsense."
How to Observe
Celebrate the day by reading Edward Lear's limericks. Pick up a copy of Book of Nonsense, or read it online. There are other limericks you could read by Lear and others. You could also write your own limericks, and share them with others, or plan a trip to Limerick, Ireland.