Tag Archives: didactic poetry

“Cautionary Tales”

Lear:Dost thou call me fool, boy?

Fool: All thy other titles thou hast given away; that thou  wast born with. [Emphasis mine]


Kent [disguised]: This is not altogether fool, my lord. (William Shakespeare, King Lear. 1.4.146-48)

[Before becoming outraged that I have used Shakespeare to preface limericks, remember that he often juxtaposed the highbrow and lowbrow and the comical and the serious.  He was the sort of person to place, at a dramatic point in a tragedy, lines such as the following: “Villain, I have done thy mother” (Aaron from Titus Andronicus)…

“Tattoo Granny”
There was once a lady in pink
Who covered her skin all in ink.
But when she was old,
Those tattoos would fold,
And she’d wish that to nothing they’d shrink.

“Death of a Parasite”
A man was once sent to his grave
By a people he’d tried to enslave.
‘twas and ending quite fit
For that greedy old Brit
Who took always more than he gave.

“Disco Dummy”
A man with a hole in his brain
Once boogied in front of a train.
As the train came along,
The man danced to a song
About the avoidance of pain.

“A Dream of Cream”
There was once an old man with a dream
To ingest a few gallons of cream.
When the task was complete,
He arose from his seat,
And his trousers then split at the seam.

“Confessing Carl”
With too great an abundance of time,
Carl confessed to too many a crime.
‘Til came there a day
When cops blew him away
For having thus wasted their time.

5 limericks by Paul Burgess

P.S. I do not intend to imply any comparison between a limerick-writing hack and the language’s greatest writer…

*I have added the previously missing line to “A Dream of Cream”


“Actaeon” [Morals from Mythology]–an epigram by Paul Burgess

You will become your canines’ food
If, by some chance, you see a goddess nude. *

*In classical mythology, Actaeon, separated from his hunting party, accidentally comes across the goddess Diana while she is bathing. The kindly goddess immediately turns him into a stag, and his friends and hunting dogs kill him when they see him.

“Titian’s Flaying of Marsyas”

Below you’ll find a cheesy, didactic poem I composed in ’06 when an assignment required us to write about a work of art. The poem demonstrates, yet again, why I tend to stick to “nonsense” verse.

“Titian’s Flaying of Marsyas
Head dangling over oily crimson ground—
A grisly dripping feast for a hound—
Does he now curse the sweetly singing sound
Of that once discarded instrument he found?

As he’s being peeled like some soft, ripe fruit,
Does he wish he’d never blown into that flute?
For the tunes he played, he grew to so admire
As to claim them fine as those of Apollo’s lyre.

Did he unwisely neglect to recall
The tragic fate that one day did befall
Arachne—challenger of the grey-eyed Goddess—
Notoriously punished for her art’s success?

Perhaps he remembers, as coldly his death nears,
How came old King Midas to possess asses’ ears
And realizes that he has been such a sorry fool
To incite the wrath of a god not often cruel.

Though the ever-steady hand of Phoebus slowly flays
The sinful satyr, ‘tis truly hubris that slays
Him and dyes the barks of pines forever red
As the one on which his final blood is bled.

5 Limericks a Day (To Keep the Dr. Away)–By Paul O’Burgess [Day 8]

“An Aspiring Cardinal”
A man whose behavior’s absurd
Insists he’s becoming a bird.
“In Rome, by the sea,
A card’nal I’ll be”
Says that man whose behavior’s absurd.

“Mr. ________, Teacher of Middle School English”
There was once a man whose career
Induced him to drink lots of beer.
Whenever he’d teach,
There were bottles in reach
To help him endure his career.

“Tithonus of Dell”
There was an old miser from Dell
Whose age no person could tell.
He was freakishly old
And all covered with mold
And was better to see than to smell.

“A Boring, Moral, and Clean Limerick”

There was once a man who enjoyed
To do what most others avoid.
To repay what he’d owe
And be kind to a foe
Were some things that this person enjoyed.

“A Less Boring, Moral, and Clean Limerick–About a Beaver [Castor]

I saw once a beaver so big
It could swallow the whole of a pig.
It knew lots of tricks
With berries and sticks.
What a sight was that beaver so big!

8 Worldy Dharmas (A Mnemonic Device) By Paul Burgess

“8 Worldly Dharmas”
Confused, we cling to “this,” from that we flee,
Not seeing ways we cause our misery.
A person never finds himself at peace
Unless aware he must begin to cease
Recoiling from DISGRACE, embracing FAME,
Desiring only PRAISE, while dreading BLAME,
Lamenting LOSS, obsessing over GAIN,
Pursuing PLEASURE, and avoiding PAIN.


P.S. 1.While  the poem sounds too heavy-handed and didactic, it works fine as a mnemonic device. 2. The use of the masculine pronouns “he” and “himself”–as opposed to neutral plural pronouns–made it easier to stick to the meter. If I were a female writing a mnemonic device for myself, I would likely use “she” and “herself”.