The Monday Poem: ‘Limericks’ by Gary Johnson

The Monday Poem is brought to you by Professor Jim Gormley of the English Department. Enjoy!

Gary Johnson

A young man climbed up Mount Rainier
On a day that was perfectly clear
And through his telescope
He watched a big dope
Steal his bicycle and disappear.

There was a young lady of Newark
Who rode a train daily to work
Then returned to the station
For the same transportation
At six o’clock when she was through work.

An old Lutheran near Owatonna
Raised ten acres of marijuana.
It went up in a blaze
And for seventeen days
He had visions of the Blessed Madonna.

A young fellow left Puget Sound
To move to Spokane and he found
That he hated blue sky
And the air was too dry
And the coffee improperly ground.


The form appeared in England in the early years of the 18th century. It was popularized by Edward Lear in the 19th century although he did not use the term. Gershon Legman, who compiled the largest and most scholarly anthology, held that the true limerick as a folk form is always obscene, and cites similar opinions by  and George Bernard Shaw, describing the clean limerick as a “periodic fad and object of magazine contests, rarely rising above mediocrity”. From a folkloric point of view, the form is essentially transgressive; violation of taboo is part of its function.