There was a young rustic named Mallory,
who drew but a very small salary.
When he went to the show,
his purse made him go
to a seat in the uppermost gallery.

Can you explain to me the point of this limerick? Are the three last lines meant literally or figuratively? I am not able recognize the comic effect except some vague sort of paradox.

  • 3
    I think the problem here is that limericks are usually made for comic effect, but this one appears not to be. I certainly can't see any jokes or puns, which is confusing if you're expecting one.
    – Bob Tway
    Oct 13, 2015 at 13:59
  • 1
    This limerick actually appears to be one of the earliest published ones, dating from 1880 (thehypertexts.com/The%20Best%20Limericks%20of%20All%20Time.htm).
    – Ric
    Oct 13, 2015 at 14:57
  • 3
    The only "humor" I see here is the dactylic rhyme "Mallory / salary / gallery", which sounds kind of funny. Oct 13, 2015 at 15:08

1 Answer 1


It's saying that the subject of the poem, Mallory, did not get paid much, so when going to the theater he had to settle for the worst, farthest away seats.

  • you nailed it. +1 for the quickness. I was writing this!
    – Maulik V
    Oct 13, 2015 at 12:06
  • 8
    @bart-leby: This is the physically uppermost position - it's far away from the performance.
    – Deusovi
    Oct 13, 2015 at 12:15
  • 2
    In an auditorium or pavilion the uppermost seats are bit 'cheaper'. The reason is the 'distance'. The first row down has better and closer view of the artists playing roles.
    – Maulik V
    Oct 13, 2015 at 12:18
  • 8
    These uppermost seats are in what is sometimes called the "nosebleed" section because of their "high altitude".
    – TimR
    Oct 13, 2015 at 13:00
  • 2
    Also know as "the gods" due to their proximity to heaven. :-) Oct 13, 2015 at 13:14

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