Tag Archives: History


A fragment (in progress) from “In the Underworld” by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess
“Elizabeth I”

“His* famous child, Elizabeth the First,
Was never his intended royal heir,
But—though her mother Anne was killed and cursed—
Elizabeth possessed a gift that’s rare:
She rose to reign–a ruler far from worst–
Despite a youth that’d drive some to despair.
Though, like all people, Bessie had her flaws,
She helped advance her struggling kingdom’s cause.”

*Henry VIII’s

My guide’s nostalgia caused my mind to ponder
The art of world-dissecting and division
Into “Our Land” and “Countries over Yonder”.
The human race has marked with great precision
Where people may and may not dare to wander,
And when the boundaries require revision,
The sage solution favored by this race
Is wiping people off the Planet’s face.



[from “In the Underworld” by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess]

“There’s Henry, [king once Henry Number Seven
Departed, like a bird that’s migratory
To dwell in Hell, oblivion, or Heaven
…or maybe controversial Purgatory.
…Let’s hope his lucky number helped to leaven
His soul and make it rise to peaceful glory.
…Though what’s required of one who leads or reigns
Is apt to ‘merit’ everlasting pains.]

He was as cherished by the pious Pope
As grain is by a city-dwelling pigeon
‘Til his divorce received a papal ‘Nope’
[Which made him father Anglican religion.
With changed belief, some people couldn’t cope,
But, of remorse, he never felt a smidgeon.
One had to seem to ridicule and scorn
The system held supreme when he was born.

In time, few people seemed to think it odd
To be eternally at war and strife
With those denying it was willed by God
To change a nation’s form of afterlife
Because a king desired a diff’rent broad
To serve his craving for a fertile wife.
Divorce thee,” holy God was heard to say,
And England’s king was willing to obey.]

Three Cath’rine’s plus two Anne’s and Lady Jane
Is not a modern television show
Or lyrics to a musical refrain
But wives on Henry’s list. [Although not low,
The number might’ve soared if Henry’s reign
Weren’t ended by ‘the fate all undergo’
which is a fancy way of saying ‘death’—
A state that’s known to take away one’s breath].

To torture, Henry’s shade is now subjected:
The Lord of Hades’ says, “The earthly plea
To be divorced must always be rejected.
The ring you gave to each on bended knee
Ensures your wives and you remain connected
Throughout the rest of cold eternity.”
I thought to ask if Henry’s wives approved,
But Will insisted it was time we moved.

Edgar Allan Poe, Marie Antoinette, Mary Queen of Scots, and Ernest Hemingway–4 Clerihews by Paul Burgess

“Edgar Allan Poe”
Edgar “Raven” Allan Poe
To cemeteries liked to go
And mourn the cousins lying dead
Who nevermore would share his bed. *

*While many of my clerihews are absurd, this one comes somewhat close to the truth.

“Marie Antoinette”
The queen, Marie Antoinette,
In Vegas made a foolish bet.
She wagered both her neck and head
On men forgetting what she’d said.

“Mary Queen of Scots”
Mary, lovely Queen of Scots,
Refused to sleep on hay or cots.
She cried, “This cot’s no feather bed!”
Queen Bess* replied, “Off with her head!”

*Elizabeth I’s nickname.

“Ernest Hemingway”
Insecure old* Ernest Hemingway
Was afraid that people’d think him gay*,
So he vowed he’d never leave Japan
‘til he’d fought Godzilla like a man.*

*In the first foot of each line, I have used anapests instead of iambs.
*Hemingway was the sort of “manly man” who would exaggerate his masculinity to alleviate his sexual confusion.

*I apologize for the sexist assumption that only men would fight Godzilla.

Devil’s Derivations (or Etymologies from Hell) [Day 1]


In the 1600s, missionaries sent to the New World would often promise to “help” a person only if she or he would concede that the missionaries’ beliefs were “all true”–or, as the phrase was sometimes written in the 1600s, ‘al true’. Like Puritans and Quakers, Altruists initially resisted but eventually embraced the term applied to them by cynical critics.