Rowing Limericks: ‘There was a young sculler from…’

In his Boating (in the Small Oxford Books series, published in 1983), rowing historian Chris Dodd writes about poetry on rowing, that “A volume of good rowing poetry would be a slim one, indeed.” I agree, although Dodd shows in his little book that it is not impossible to find some good poems on oarsmanship. And I have tried to show some good ones in earlier entries (click on ‘Rowing Poetry’ under Labels in the green-colour column on the right).

However, I have found it hard to come across rowing in limericks. This kind of poem has five lines, anapestic or amphibrachin metre with a strict rhyme scheme: aabba, so that line one, two and five rhyme; and line three and four rhyme. Traditionally, the first line introduces a person and often a geographic place, the latter at the end of the first line. It seems, though, as in many limericks nowadays ‘the place’ has been dropped. One important element in limericks is that they should be witty and humorous, and even risqué at times. A ‘poor’ versemonger is even allowed to sacrifice a good quality rhyme if the final result produces a funny limerick.

Here are some rowing limericks:

A certain rowing historian at Yale
whose varsity training made him pale,
cried out in space
– blue in his face –
“Cox, get me the god damn pail.”

There was an old sculler of Mystic
whose style was very ancient and rustic.
When he got a boat with a slide,
he complained about the ride:
“This going back and forth makes me seasick.”

And then a little naughty one:

A young handsome lad from Mystic
was out rowing with a beautiful ‘hot chick’.
Though she was not very bright
he found the outing a delight
as she was steering the boat with his ‘joystick’.

The Tideway Slug actually posted a whole page with rowing limericks once upon a time. Read them by clicking here.

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