For the new installment of the American Scholar's Next Line, Please contest, David Lehman has invited readers to write a limerick:
Everyone who likes rhymes and jokes has at least one good limerick in him or her. No one has yet figured out a way to put the limerick to anything but lighthearted use. But the British poet Wendy Cope showed great originality in paraphrasing (and parodying) the five sections of T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” as five limericks, which you’ll find if you click here.
The five lines of a limerick amount to a rhyme sandwich, an eminently suitable form for saucy wit. The best limericks are bawdy but too good-natured to seem truly obscene. Their humor keeps offense at bay.
Here’s a famously anonymous example that has made it into several light-verse anthologies:
An Argentine gaucho named Bruno
Said, “Sex is one thing I do know.
Women are fine,
And sheep just divine,
But a llama is numero uno.”