The HyperTexts

Less Heroic Limericks by Michael R. Burch
Less Heroic Limericks: Definition and Examples

The Less Heroic Limerick (LHL) is the invention of the American poet Michael R. Burch, and the logical, if nonsensical, extension of his earlier invention, the Less Heroic Couplet (LHC). Both are forms of light verse that can also be considered light poetry, humorous verse, humorous poetry, nonsense verse and/or doggerel.

The standard form of the Less Heroic Limerick is essentially a "normal limerick" modified to the rules of the Less Heroic Couplet, which can be found here: Less Heroic Couplets. The standard LHL has the rhyme scheme AAbbB with L3/L4 forming one couplet and L4/L5 another. The "bb" lines are shorter, as in a "normal" limerick. For example:

The Artful Science of the Less Heroic Limerick

Ass-Tronomical I
by Michael R. Burch

Einstein, the frizzy-haired,
proved E equals MC squared.
Thus, all mass decreases
as activity ceases?
Not my mass, my ass debriefs us!

Ass-tronomical II
by Michael R. Burch

Relativity, the theorists’ creed,
says all mass increases with speed.
My (m)ass grows when I sit it.
Mr. Einstein, get with it;
equate its deflation, or quit it!

Relative to Whom?
by Michael R. Burch

Einstein’s theory, incredibly silly,
says a relative grows willy-nilly
at speeds close to light.
Well, his relatives might,
but mine expand at rest, overnight!

The Heimlich Limerick (II)
by Michael R. Burch

for Tom Merrill

The sanest of poets once wrote:
"Friend, why be a sheep or a goat?
Why follow the leader
or be a blind breeder?"
But he didn't convert a single believer.

"Of Tetley’s and V-2's," or, "Why Not to Bomb the Brits"
by Michael R. Burch

The English are very hospitable,
but tea-less, alas, they grow pitiable ...
or pitiless, rather,
and quite in a lather!
And thus we ask Nazis: "Why bother?"

Pell-Mell for Hell Mel
by Michael R. Burch

There once was a Baptist named Mel
who condemned all non-Christians to hell.
When he stood before God
he felt like a clod
to discover His Love exceeded his rod!

The rhyme scheme of a Less Heroic Limerick can be inverted to AAABB:

A True Story
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

Jeremy hit the ball today,
over the fence and far away.
So very, very far away
a neighbor had to toss it back.
(She thought it was an air attack!)

Jeremy hit the ball so hard
it flew across our neighbor’s yard.
So very hard across her yard
the bat that boomed a mighty “THWACK!”
now shows an eensy-teensy crack.

Originally published by TALESetc

Another variation of the Less Heroic Limerick consists of three couplets rhymed AABBCC, with L3 and L4 being shorter, as in the common limerick.

Caveat Spender
by Michael R. Burch

It's better not to speculate
"continually" on who is great.
Though relentless awe's
a Célèbre Cause,
please reserve some time for the contemplation
of the perils of EXAGGERATION.

Yet another version of the Less Heroic Limerick uses the same rhyme word five times, creating four less Less Heroic Couplets:

Sarah Palin: Going Rogue in Rouge
by Michael R. Burch

It'll be hard to polish that apple
enough to make her seem palatable.
Though she's sweeter than Snapple
how can my mind grapple
with stupidity so nearly infallible?

Copyright 2012 by Michael R. Burch
from Signs of the Apocalypse
all Rights and Violent Shudderings Reserved

There is a more advanced form of the LHL which, befitting its greater complexity, has two names: the Leering Learian Less Heroic Limerick (LLLHL) and the Fliss-Flossian Limerick (FFL). Here's an example, followed by the officious announcement which includes the rules:

Ding Dong ...
by Michael R. Burch

for Fliss

An impertinent bit of sunlight
defeated a goddess, NIGHT.
Hooray!, cried the clover,
Her reign is over!
But she certainly gave us a fright, we clover!

Officious Announcement and Pronouncement of the Fliss-Flossian Limerick
by Michael R. Burch

I have very good news to report. The latest poetic rage: the Fliss-Flossian Limerick has arrived! This is the official announcement, made on my Facebook page and via Twitter…

As everyone knows, or should know, I am the inventor of the Less Heroic Couplet and the Less Heroic Limerick.

Rules and examples can be found here:

For those with harried schedules and/or short attention spans, most likely the latter, suffice it to say the Less Heroic Couplet is a nonce nonsense poetic form in which laziness, cowardice, failure to do one's duty or bathe, etc., are at long last given their dues. Tercets are allowed because the middle line of the tercet forms two couplets: L1/L2 and L2/L3.

Allowing tercets (since I get to make the rules but really don't care for them) allowed me to create the Less Heroic Limerick, which ends with a tercet: AAbbB, with L3/L4 being shorter, as in a more normal (albeit a far more ordinary and thus less exceptional) limerick. The last line may be elongated for a devious reason disclosed herein.

The above was not the end of my creative madness, for which I will no doubt be celebrated when future generations finally catch on, in their usually laggard fashion where poets are concerned...

A variation of the Less Heroic Limerick can be created by "cheating." Just graft a word or two onto the tail end of a normal-but-far-less-extraordinary limerick. Interestingly, this nonce nonsense form can look back to the original limericks of Edward Lear, as in the example below, since Lear repeated one of his rhyming words.

Ding Dong ...
by Michael R. Burch

for Fliss

An impertinent bit of sunlight
defeated a goddess, NIGHT.
Hooray!, cried the clover,
Her reign is over!
But she certainly gave us a fright, we clover!

I call this variation the Leering Learian Less Heroic Limerick. And because the first such limerick was written for and dedicated to F. F. Teague, the "Fliss" of my poem, and because no other poet to my knowledge has come as close to Mr. Lear as Fliss has, I will also dub the new form the Fliss-Flossian Limerick.

Please note that the last line of the example still contains a rhyme with L1/L2, in this case "fright," but also rhymes with the line above it: over/clover. This is not a requirement of the form, but having two rhymes earns an extra gold star and the title of "Master Ding-Dong-er."

And thus I have very cleverly immortalized myself by adding just two words to the end of an existing limerick!

When can I expect my truckload of laurels to arrive?

This was my second attempt at the Fliss-Flossian Limerick:

Be very careful what you pray for!
 by Michael R. Burch

Now that his T’s been depleted
the Saint is upset, feeling cheated.
His once-fiery lust?
Just a chemical bust:
no “devil” cast out or defeated, we trust.

This was my third:

The Flu Fly Flew
 by Michael R. Burch

A fly with the flu foully flew
up my nose—thought I’d die—had to sue!
Was the small villain fined?
An abrupt judge declined
my case, since I’d “failed to achoo” in his mind.

These are others of mine:

Trump’s Golden Rule
by Michael R. Burch aka "The Loyal Opposition"

Donald Trump is the victim of leaks!
Golden showers are NOT things he seeks!
Though he dearly loves soaking
the women he’s groping,
get real, 'cause he pees ON the meek and the moping!

Toupée or Not Toupée, This is the Answer
by Michael R. Burch aka "The Loyal Opposition"

Oh crap, we elected Trump prez!
Now he's Simon: please do what he sez!
'Cause if anyone thinks
And says his "plan" stinks,
He'll wig out 'neath that weird orange fez, the finkx!

Stumped and Stomped by Trump
by Michael R. Burch aka "The Loyal Opposition"

There once was a candidate, Trump,
whose message rang clear at the stump:
"Vote for me, wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee!,
because I am ME,
and everyone else, a chump deportee!"

I called my original nonce form the "Not-So-Heroic Couplet" before settling on "less is more." This was the original definition of the form:

Not-So-Heroic Couplets
by Michael R. Burch

In an attempt to demonstrate that all couplets need not be heroic, I have created a new poetic form called the “Not-So-Heroic-Couplet.” I believe poets should abide by truth-in-advertising laws, even in their nonsense verse! The rules for the form are simple and flexible: light verse written in rhyming or near-rhyming couplets, in any meter, with the goal of making readers wince or giggle. Nonsense is preferred, of the wiser variety. Poems about cowardice, laziness, not being especially honorable, and/or shirking one’s duty get extra gold stars. I am dedicating the form to my friend and fellow poet Richard Thomas Moore.

The form was later renamed the "Less Heroic Couplet" and the rules were changed to allow tercets, as explained herein, and eventually also unrhymed free verse couplets when I found myself having a "bad hare-brained" rhyme day.

Here are some examples of the Less Heroic Couplet:

Less Heroic Couplets: Murder Most Fowl!
by Michael R. Burch

for and after Richard Thomas Moore

“Murder most foul!”
cried the mouse to the owl.

“Friend, I’m no sinner;
you’re merely my dinner.

As you fall on my sword,
take it up with the LORD!”

the wise owl replied
as the tasty snack died.

Originally published by Lighten Up Online then in Potcake Chapbook #7

Less Heroic Couplets: Meal Deal

by Michael R. Burch

for and after Richard Thomas Moore

Love is a splendid ideal ...
at least till it costs us a meal.

Originally published by The HyperTexts

While the primary medium of the less heroic couplet is the rhymed couplet, tercets are allowed since L1 rhymes with L2 which rhymes with L3, creating two rhymed couplets in three lines. For example:

Less Heroic Couplets: Bed Head
by Michael R. Burch

for and after Richard Thomas Moore

“Early to bed, early to rise”
makes a man wish some men weren’t so wise
(or at least had the decency to tell pleasing lies).

Less Heroic Couplets: Sex Hex
by Michael R. Burch

for and after Richard Thomas Moore

Love’s full of cute paradoxes
(and highly acute poxes).

Published by Asses of Parnassus, Lighten Up Online and Poem Today

Less Heroic Couplets: Funding Fundamentals
by Michael R. Burch

"I found out that I was a Christian for revenue only and I could not bear the thought of that, it was so ignoble." — Mark Twain

Making sense from nonsense is quite sensible! Suppose
you’re running low on moolah, need some cash to paint your toes ...
Just invent a new religion; claim it saves lost souls from hell;
have the converts write you checks; take major debit cards as well;
take MasterCard and Visa and good-as-gold Amex;
hell, lend and charge them interest, whether payday loan or flex.
Thus out of perfect nonsense, glittery ores of this great mine,
you’ll earn an easy living and your toes will truly shine!

Originally published by Lighten Up Online

"Crop Duster" is an example of the rare Antinatalist Less Heroic Couplet.

Less Heroic Couplets: Crop Duster
by Michael R. Burch

We are dust and to dust we must return ...
but why, then, life’s pointless sojourn?

Less Heroic Couplets: Shady Sadie
by Michael R. Burch

A randy young dandy named Sadie
loves sex, but her horse neighs she’s shady.

The couplet above is based on the limerick below:

Shady Sadie
by Michael R. Burch

A randy young dandy named Sadie
loves sex, but in forms fancied shady.
(I cannot, of course,
involve her poor horse,
but it’s safe to infer she’s no lady!)

The very flexible Less Heroic Couplet is not limited to couplets and tercets:

Less Heroic Couplets: Just Desserts
by Michael R. Burch

“The West Antarctic ice sheet might not need a huge nudge
to budge.”

And if it does budge,
denialist fudge
may force us to trudge
neck-deep in sludge!

NOTE: The first stanza is a quote by paleoclimatologist Jeremy Shakun in Science magazine.

The Bachelor Spectacular
by Michael R. Burch

One heart? Tossed aside.
The other? A bride’s.
In all his great wisdom, the bachelor decides.

Eeenie, mean-ie, mine-y, mo’,
one gal must stay and one must go.
If she hollers? That’s the show!

No heart can handle such despair!
But hearts get broken, hearts repair.
Next season? The treasoned will rule the air.

Originally published by Light

The Unspectacular Bachelor
by Michael R. Burch

The bachelor is back, he’s black,
and some fair-skinned gals sure want him in the sack!
And, yes, he’s a whole lot smarter
than the previous knights of that peculiar garter.

We can hear the white supremacists stewing:
What the hell are the screenwriters doing?
They know love requires a nice white spark,
and this apprentice is far too dark!

Free verse versions of the LHC are allowed, both unrhymed and irregularly rhymed, as long as couplets remain the primary form employed. Slant rhymes are also allowed. For example:

by michael r. burch

u are charming
& disarming,
but mostly alarming
since all my resolve

u are chic
as a sheikh’s
harem girl in the sheets
but my castle’s no longer my own
and my kingdom’s been overthrown!

Untitled Nonsense

There's a bun in auntie's oven;
now soon you'll have a cousin!
Michael R. Burch

Animal Poems

Generation Gap
by Michael R. Burch

A quahog clam, age 405,
said, “Hey, it’s great to be alive!”

I disagreed, not feeling nifty,
babe though I am, just pushing fifty.

Note: A quahog clam found off the coast of Ireland is the longest-lived animal on record, at an estimated age of 405 years.

by Michael R. Burch

Preposterous bird!
Inelegant! Absurd!

Until the great & mighty heron
brandishes his fearsome sword.

by Michael R. Burch

love was a little treble thing—
prone to sing
and sometimes to sting

Kissin’ ’n’ buzzin’
by Michael R. Burch

Kissin’ ’n’ buzzin’ the bees rise in a dizzy circle of two.
Oh, when I’m with you,
I feel like kissin’ ’n’ buzzin’ too.

Don’t ever hug a lobster!
by Michael R. Burch

Don’t ever hug a lobster, if you meet one on the street!
If you hug a lobster to your breast, you're apt to lose a teat!
If you hug a lobster lower down, it’ll snip away your privates!
If you hug a lobster higher up, it’ll leave your cheeks with wide vents!
So don’t ever hug a lobster, if you meet one on the street,
But run away and hope your frenzied feet are very fleet!

Less Heroic Couplets: Rejection Slip
by Michael R. Burch

pour Melissa Balmain

Whenever my writing gets rejected,
I always wonder how the rejecter got elected.
Are we exchanging at the same Bourse?
(Excepting present company, of course!)

I consider the term “rejection slip” to be a double entendre. When editors reject my poems, did I slip up, or did they? Is their slip showing, or is mine?

Doggerel about Doggerel

The Board
by Michael R. Burch

Accessible rhyme is never good.
The penalty is understood—
soft titters from dark board rooms where
the businessmen paste on their hair
and, Walter Mitties, woo the Muse
with reprimands of Dr. Seuss.

The best book of the age sold two,
or three, or four (but not to you),
strange copies of the ones before,
misreadings that delight the board.
They sit and clap; their revenues
fall trillions short of Mother Goose.

Humorous Haiku Couplets

Right at my feet!
When did you arrive here, snail?
Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I toss in my sleep,
so watch out, cricket!
Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

In a better world
I'd leave you my rice bowl, little fly!
Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

All's well with the world:
another fly's sharing our rice!
―Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Cries of the wild geese
spreading rumors about me?
Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

An enormous frog!
We stare at each other, both petrified.
Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Skinny frog, hang on ...
Issa to the rescue!
Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

An ancient pond,
the frog leaps: the silver plop and gurgle of water.
Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The frog returns to its lily pad.
—Michael R. Burch

Subversive Poems

These are "sub-versive" poems of mine, pardon the pun:

Bible Libel
by Michael R. Burch

If God
is good,
half the Bible
is libel.

I came up with this epigram after reading the Bible from cover to cover at age eleven, and wondering how anyone could call the biblical God "good."

What Would Santa Claus Say
by Michael R. Burch

What would Santa Claus say, I wonder,
about Jesus returning to Kill and Plunder?

For he’ll likely return on Christmas Day
to blow the bad little boys away!

When He flashes like lightning across the skies
and many a homosexual dies,

when the harlots and heretics are ripped asunder,
what will the Easter Bunny think, I wonder?

A Child’s Christmas Prayer of Despair for a Hindu Saint
by Michael R. Burch

Santa Claus, for Christmas, please, . . .
(Santa, please, I’m on my knees!)
. . . Don’t bring me toys, or games, or candy . . .
Just don’t let Jesus torture Gandhi!

Willy Nilly
by Michael R. Burch

for the Demiurge, aka Yahweh/Jehovah

Isn’t it silly, Willy Nilly?
You made the stallion, you made the filly,
and now they sleep in the dark earth, stilly.
Isn’t it silly, Willy Nilly?

Isn’t it silly, Willy Nilly?
You forced them to run all their days uphilly.
They ran till they dropped—life’s a pickle, dilly.
Isn’t it silly, Willy Nilly?

Isn’t it silly, Willy Nilly?
They say I should worship you! Oh, really!
They say I should pray so you’ll not act illy.
Isn’t it silly, Willy Nilly?

When I Was Small, I Grew
by Michael R. Burch

When I was small,
God held me in thrall:
Yes, He was my All
but my spirit was crushed.

As I grew older
my passions grew bolder
even as Christ grew colder.
My distraught mother blushed:

what was I thinking,
with feral lust stinking?
If I saw a girl winking
my face, heated, flushed.

“Go see the pastor!”
Mom screamed. A disaster.
I whacked away faster,
hellbound, yet nonplused.

Whips! Chains! Domination!
Sweet, sweet, my Elation!
With each new sensation,
blue blood groinward rushed.

Did God disapprove?
Was Christ not behooved?
At least I was moved
by my hellish lust.

Children's Poems

The Aery Faery Princess
by Michael R. Burch

for Keira

There once was a princess lighter than fluff
made of such gossamer stuff—
the down of a thistle, butterflies’ wings,
the faintest high note the hummingbird sings,
moonbeams on garlands, strands of bright hair ...
I think she’s just you when you’re floating on air!

Maya's Beddy-Bye Poem
by Michael R. Burch

for Maya McManmon, granddaughter of the poet Jim McManmon aka Seamus Cassidy

With a hatful of stars and a stylish umbrella
and her hand in her Papa’s (that remarkable fella!)
and with Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore in tow,
may she dance in the rain, cheek-to-cheek, toe-to-toe,
till each number’s rehearsed ... My, that last step’s a leap! —
the high flight into bed when it’s past time to sleep!

Note: “Hatful of Stars” is a lovely song and image by Cyndi Lauper.

hey pete
by Michael R. Burch

for Pete Rose

hey pete, it's baseball season and the sun ascends the sky,
encouraging a schoolboy's dreams of winter whizzing by;
go out, go out and catch it, put it in a jar,
set it on a shelf and then you'll be a Superstar.

When I was a boy, Pete Rose was my favorite baseball player; this poem is not a slam at him, but rather an ironic jab at the term "superstar."

Doggerel about Dogs

Dog Daze
by Michael R. Burch

Sweet Oz is a soulful snuggler; he really is one of the best.
Sometimes in bed he snuggles my head, though he mostly just plops on my chest.

I think Oz was made to love from the first ray of light to the dark,
but his great love for me is exceeded (oh gee!) by his Truly Great Passion: to Bark.

Excoriation of a Treat Slave
by Michael R. Burch

I am his Highness’s dog at Kew.
Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?
—Alexander Pope

We practice our fierce Yapping, for when the treat slaves come
they’ll grant Us our desire. (They really are that dumb!)

They’ll never catch Us napping — our Ears pricked, keen and sharp.
When they step into Our parlor, We’ll leap awake, and Bark.

But one is rather doltish; he doesn’t understand
the meaning of Our savage, imperial, wild Command.

The others are quite docile and bow to Us on cue.
We think the dull one wrote a poem about some Dog from Kew

who never grasped Our secret, whose mind stayed think, and dark.
It’s a question of obedience conveyed by a Lordly Bark.

But as for playing fetch, well, that’s another matter.
We think the dullard’s also as mad as any hatter

and doesn’t grasp his duty to fling Us slobbery balls
which We’d return to him, mincingly, here in Our royal halls.

Donald Trump Less Heroic Limericks aka Slimericks (pronounced "slimer-icks")

Viral Donald
by Michael R. Burch aka "The Loyal Opposition"

Donald Trump is coronaviral:
his brain's in a downward spiral.
That pale nimbus of hair
proves there's nothing up there
but an empty skull, thick and unfair.

Toupée or Not Toupée, That is the Question
by Michael R. Burch aka "The Loyal Opposition"

There once was a brash billionaire
who couldn't afford decent hair.
Vexed voters agreed:
"We're a nation in need!"
But toupée the price, can we cede?

Humpty Trumpty
by Michael R. Burch

Humpty Trumpty called for a wall.
Trumpty Dumpty had a great fall.
Now all the Grand Wizards and Faux PR men
Can never put Trumpty together again.

15 Seconds
by Michael R. Burch aka "The Loyal Opposition"

Our president’s sex life—atrocious!
His "briefings"—bizarre hocus-pocus!
Politics—a shell game!
My brief moment of fame
expired before the boor learned my name.

Is Trump the ANTICHRIST? When the Hebrew prophets spoke of "the Trump of Doom" and a "little horn" were they speaking literally? (For a YUGE slew of 666 connections, see Is Donald Trump the Antichrist?)

Other Political Less Heroic Limericks

As one critic put it, the limerick "is the vehicle of cultivated, unrepressed sexual humor in the English language." But while some experts claim that the only "real" limerick is a bawdy one, the form really took off initially, in terms of popularity, as a vehicle for nonsense verse and children's poems. And the limerick has has frequently been used for political purposes. Here are are three muckraking limericks of mine:

Baked Alaskan

There is a strange yokel so flirty
she makes whores seem icons of purity.
With all her winkin’ and blinkin’
Palin seems to be "thinkin’"—
"Ah culd save th’ free world ’cause ah’m purty an' finkin'!"

Copyright 2012 by Michael R. Burch
from Signs of the Apocalypse
all Rights and Violent Shudderings Reserved

Pls refudiate

“Refudiate” this,
miffed, misunderstood Ms!—
Shakespeare, you’re not
(more like Yoda, but hot).
Your grammar’s atrocious;
Great Poets would know this.

You lack any plan
save to flatten Iran
like some cute Mini-Me
cloned from G. W. B.

Admit it, Ms. Palin!
Stop your winkin’ and wailin’—
only “heroes” like Nero
fiddle sparks at Ground Zero.

Copyright 2012 by Michael R. Burch
from Signs of the Apocalypse
all Rights and Violent Shudderings Reserved

I wrote the last poem above after Sarah Palin compared herself to Shakespeare, who coined new words, rather than admit her mistake when she used "refudiate" in a Tweet rather than "repudiate." The copyright notices above are ironic, as the poems above were written and published before 2012.

Door Mouse
by Michael R. Burch

I’m sure it’s not good for my heart—
the way it will jump-start
when the mouse scoots the floor
(I try to kill it with the door,
never fast enough, or
fling a haphazard shoe ...
always too slow too)
in the strangest zig-zaggedy fashion
absurdly inconvenient for mashin’,
till our hearts, each maniacally revvin’,
make us both early candidates for heaven.

For an expanded bio, circum vitae and career timeline of the author, please click here: Michael R. Burch Expanded Bio.

Michael R. Burch Related Pages: Less Heroic Couplets, Early Poems, Rejection Slips, Epigrams and Quotes, Free Love Poems by Michael R. Burch, Romantic Poems by Michael R. Burch, Cowboy Poems by Michael R. Burch

The HyperTexts