ANALYZING THE LIMERICK. Brad Leithauser had an article about Edward Lear in the New York Review of Books (November 5, 2009) in which he provided serious literary criticism of the verse form of Lear’s limericks. Lear was unusual in making the last line of a limerick identical (give or take a word) with the first line. Leithauser points out that the first line of a Lear limerick grounds us in the commonplace; the “second line catapults us into the air”; the couplet which constitutes the third and fourth lines “enhances or resolves the peculiarity”; and the fifth line restores us to the commonplace. To take an example from Leithauser’s article:
There was an Old Man in a barge,
Whose nose was exceedingly large;
But in fishing by night,
It supported a light,
Which helped that Old Man in a barge.