A Straight Dope Classic from Cecil's Storehouse of Human Knowledge

How does the limerick "There was an old man of Nantucket ..." conclude?

March 8, 1985

Dear Cecil:

I've never been much of a poetry buff, but there are two poems that have been bugging me for years. I've only heard their opening lines on television. The first one from an episode of "The Honeymooners" in which Ed Norton recites the lines, "As he stepped into the night air, little did he realize the fire escape was not there …" — and that was all I heard. The other one is a limerick that has been quoted on various TV shows. It starts, "There was a young (man, girl, woman — I've heard several versions) from Nantucket …", and the reciter is always cut off at that point. Knowing the rest of these poems will surely put my mind at ease.

Cecil replies:

Willie, I'm trying to fight down the gnawing suspicion that you're the kind of guy who goes around ruining jokes by piping up, "And then what happened?" right after the punchline. As anyone with a sense of literary form has already deduced, the two lines you remember constitute the entire poem (or at least they're all that Norton recited). Here's an accurate transcription: "As he crept into the stealthy night air/Little did he realize the fire escape was not there."

On to limericks, the most sublime and meaningful of all poetic forms. There are innumerable versions of the famous "Nantucket" verse, ranging from the cute to the irredeemably vile. It all started innocuously enough with the following stanza, published years ago in the Princeton Tiger:

There was an Old Man of Nantucket
Who kept all his cash in a bucket
His daughter, named Nan,
Ran away with a man
And, as for the bucket, Nantucket

This inspired numerous sequels, the most distinguished of which are believed to be the following, from the Chicago Tribune and the New York Press, respectively:

Pa followed the pair to Pawtucket
(The man and the girl with the bucket)
And he said to the man,
"You're welcome to Nan,"
But as for the bucket, Pawtucket
Then the pair followed Pa to Manhasset
Where he still held the cash as an asset
And Nan and the man
Stole the money and ran
And as for the bucket, Manhasset

Nothing like a little good clean fun, I always say. Unfortunately, things have gone downhill since. Out of consideration for the dainty feelings of my readers, I bleeped out portions of the following, but you can probably fill in the blanks yourself:

There was a young man from Nantucket
Whose dong was so long he could @%#?$! it
Said he with a grin
As he wiped off his chin
"If my ear was a %$#!! I could #&@?! it."

Vulgar, I know, but you asked.

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