Tag Archives: Epic Poetry


In Love and War, what’s foul is labeled “fair”
(At least that’s what a lot of people claim).
For love of Fame to cause a war’s not rare—
Desire can turn to wild what once was tame,
And winners often are the bold who dare
To play as though contestants in the game
Obeyed, at most, a single ruthless rule:
That mercy is the virtue of a fool.

The present episode will illustrate
How flames of envy’s fiercely raging fire
Can burn a friendship ‘til what’s left is hate.
To save myself from readers’ anxious ire,
I’ll start my tale and end your restless wait
To hear my song of anger and attire:
I’ll tell how dearest friends were turned to foes
When Fate arrayed the two in matching clothes.

Once Missy Priss and Kimberley McQueen—
The heroines who occupy this episode—
Were friends as close as Earth had ever seen
(Or poet praised in eulogizing ode).
But, as a tower never known to lean
One day might crack and suddenly implode,
Some friendships crash as quickly to the ground
As lightning seen ahead of thunder’s sound.

The cause that brought their lovely friendship down
And made eternal rivals of the pair
Was nothing other than a gaudy gown
The ladies both were seen one day to wear.
The Queen of Fashion’s chrome and golden crown
Was not an ornament they’d gladly share.
The choice of dress appeared to each to say,
“A fearsome fashion war is underway.”

Once Missy saw the latest breaking news—
Which showed McQueen enjoying drinks and lunch
While wearing Missy’s style of gown and shoes—
She quickly ate her bowl of Cocoa Crunch,
Then rushed to find McQueen at Eats and Brews
(To give her face a bruising power punch).
On reaching Kimmy, Priss did what she’d planned—
She gave her face a not-so-helpful hand.

Then, Missy shrieked, “How dare you steal my style
And strut around as though it were your own!
That masterpiece, designed by Leonard Lyle,
Was meant to beautify my form alone.
And now the world will think that, all the while,
I’ve tried to be your slavish fashion clone.”
The bruised and bloodied Kimberly McQueen
Replied that Missy’s skin was turning green

(Which, readers know, is often Envy’s shade).
Then Kimmy said, “It’d be a sorry waste
To only dress a plain but haughty maid
In clothing suited more to royal taste.
If gowns could choose, they certainly would trade
A girl ignored for one who’s wildly chased.
If gowns could talk, they’d say, “I don’t delight
In clothing bottoms full of cellulite.”

Offended, Missy gave her gut a kick
(Each moment seemed to make her rage increase),
Yet, Kimmy’s hands delivered not a lick,
[But not because she sought to keep the peace—
She fought with words and never stone or stick
And favored most the Nasty Press Release
Of any lethal weapon one could choose
Because it helps to shape the public’s views].

The rage of Ajax Telamon denied
His prize of armor great Achilles wore—
The rage which drove the man to suicide
And then to Hades’ life-forsaken shore—
Would match the ladies’ rage if multiplied
Perhaps a hundred thousand times or more.
…And feeding anger better left unfed
Were words the House’s chatty servants* said.

*The Press [servants in the House of Fame]

The servants formed a pair of warring camps
(A group on Kim’s and one on Missy’s side).
The words they wrote and spoke became the lamps
That served the voting public as a guide
To granting Popular Approval Stamps
To Missy or the foe with whom she vied.
Debates about who best had worn the gown
Incited fights on streets in ev’ry town.

And soon the people also would debate
About* whether Missy should forgive
Or whether Kimmy’s acts had earned her hate.
Some thought it best to make one’s heart a sieve
(Which filters dross to reach a purer state*),
But others wondered how McQueen could live
And shouted, “Kim McQueen deserves the chair
For wearing what she had no right to wear.”

*meter trumps grammatical correctness

*What passes through the sieve,–and not the sieve, itself—reaches a purer state

“McQueen’s among the worst who have betrayed.
Aeneas leaving Dido’s sandy shore
And Brutus piercing Ceasar with his blade
Are slight compared to Kimmy’s act of war.”
To bloody Mars the warring parties prayed.
They crossed their hearts devoutly and then swore:
“By God and everything in which I trust,
I know my cause to be the one that’s just.”

Behind computer screens, each raging horde
Prepared to give the foes their just desserts.
With barbs they borrowed from a comment board
And “I Adore McQueen” or “Missy” shirts,
They armed themselves before they wildly warred
And caused the blood to flow in crimson spurts.
[All thought that Kim and Missy’s bitter feud
Would only end if civil war ensued.]

…To tell of tears and blood the people shed
Surpasses any mortal poet’s skill.
To say that armies drowned in seas of red
Or piles of corpses made a human hill
(Or any metaphor a poet’s said)
Would not deserve the name of “overkill.”
Instead of seeking heights I can’t attain,
I’ll leave the rest to ev’ry reader’s brain.

I’ll only tell you what the war achieved:
As often happens when two armies strive
To win the crown for causes much believed,
The heroic leaders kept themselves alive
While soldiers’ friends and kin were much bereaved
That loving husband John did not survive.
And, once the course of war was fully run,
The parties both exclaimed, “Hurray, we’ve won!”


“In the Underworld”

[Selections from The New House of Fame by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess

In epic poems, it’d be a fatal fault
To find no journey to the world below.
To shield myself from critical assault,
I’ll lead you, readers, where I dread to go:
The House’s dank and dreary burial vault
As black as feathers from the darkest crow.
[No matter how you earn your daily bread.
The worms and flies will feast upon your head.]

“That hair, those lashes curled by skillful hand
Will fall one day from your decaying skull.
That skin you have so diligently tanned
Will fade until it has become quite dull.
Your famous frame, your sunken ship unmanned,
In time,  will be a rotting, hollow hull.
For many decades your body will endure
without a perm or proper pedicure.”

“Who’d think that Death could take so many souls

across the river Greeks once knew as Styx?
The Reaper reaps the carriers of coals.
He buries builders skilled at laying bricks
and people smiling when the cam’ra rolls
[but,when it’s off, assaulting aides with kicks].
Of spirits dead there’s such a high amount
that I’d not try to take a thorough count.

“Pop Star”

A song might take you to the House’s* stair.
Although you sound just like an ill raccoon,
You have no reason, darlings, to despair
Or practice scales and “Fly Me to the Moon.”
Undress your body ‘til it’s nearly bare,
Then dress your naked voice in auto-tune.
You’ll rise on ev’ry major music chart
By learning how to dress and play the part.

*The House of Fame


You’ll never have to write or learn a song–
Just know its lyrics and your dance routine.
Although your singing’s not exactly strong,
Producers’ magic can deceive a teen.
Who cares about a note delivered wrong
When bathing in a tub that’s full of green?
What better proves a product truly great
Than being sold at such a rapid rate?

With instruments you’ll need facility
…enough to pick one up and seem to play.
The peak of musical ability
Is holding instruments the proper way.
With youthful swagger plus agility,
You’ll soon devour a crowd of willing prey.
Just learn to walk the walk and dance the dance–
I guarantee you’ll wear the Diva Pants.

selected stanzas from The New House of Fame–By Paul “Whitberg” Burgess

“The Rage of Odysseus and the Cyclops”


[Polyphemus, painted by Jean-Leon Gerome]

“The Rage of Odysseus and the Cyclops”
Escaping near disaster made me bold.
Against the pleas companions wisely spoke,
I would not cease to taunt a wounded foe—
To make him feel again the blow
That rendered sightless that unsightly eye—
An eye that saw a meal, and little more,
Where gentler eyes would see a man in need.

The crash of boulders and resulting waves
Alarmed the crew, but rage was further fueled,
Not quenched, by drenching rains of salty sea—
The fire inside my spirit roared with flames
That strove to match the waves in height.
I thought I’d shout the fire ‘til none remained.

Despite increasing vehemence and force,
The hills he hurled and fiery words I shot
Became more futile as our distance grew.
Although I was exhausted, flames still burned.

Enraged about the men he had devoured,
I had endangered friends who were alive.
The smoke I blew had made me nearly blind,
And boulders hurled did not restore his sight.

a poem in blank verse–by Paul Burgess

Certain scenes from Homer continue to inspire me. This is the third poem I have written on this scene. The other two are here: https://paulwhitberg.wordpress.com/2014/06/09/cyclops/   https://paulwhitberg.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/the-blinding-of-the-cyclops-polyphemus/[As with everything I post, this is a first draft.]

“The Blinding of the Cyclops Polyphemus”

Modern Heroic Couplets by Paul Burgess–inspired by a scene in Homer [Book 9 of The Odyssey; one might view these lines as a compressed adaptation and modernization of a much longer passage.]

While clutching at his mutilated eye,
To Ulysses, the Cyclops gave reply:
“An oracle, whose words I could recite,
Predicted that the man who’d take my sight
Would be the famous hero Ulysses.
From mini morsels, shorter than my knees,
I had no fear of death or even harm—
A shadow might have caused me more alarm!
Assuming only force could make me blind,
I was not ready for a deadly mind.


–Anyone interested in Homer, Classical Poetry, or Early Modern English Literature* should check out George Chapman’s brilliant translations of The Iliad and The Odyssey. The following link leads to information on an inexpensive edition of the translation so famously praised by Keats: http://www.amazon.com/Chapmans-Homer-Odyssey-Classics-Literature/dp/1840221178/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1401367076&sr=1-3&keywords=wordsworth+classics+chapman%27s+homer

*from the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods in which Shakespeare was one among several brilliant minds