Flammeus Gladius

Carmina et Verba pro Discipulis Meis

Tag: idiocy

Talent Scout

Talent Scout


Blockhead claims a clear talent for writing.
Inner eye must be stuck with poor lighting.
Sure, he scribbles, word-giddy.
But a sentence that’s witty?
As of now, there has not been one sighting.


–Tom Riley


The Dunciad: Alexander Pope, Carl Japikse, Nancy Maxwell ...

Unwise Blood

Unwise Blood



What? Did she say things activists today
Forbid? Another problem: she could write—
Unlike, say, Ta-Nehisi Coates. The sight
Of crafted prose, that deftly-chiseled way
With words: it makes lame wokesters want to flay
An author till the author screams. Their spite
Knows no restraint. Hard truth is brought to light—
And idiots see darkness on display.
Therefore, she’ll be erased. Her books must burn.
Post mortem, such a gal must have such luck.
If once our culture commissars discern
A deviation, then you’re toast. Don’t buck
The trend! Another lesson we can learn:
The Jesuits interminably suck.



–Tom Riley


American writer Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964) with her book 'Wise Blood' 1952


(Loyola University cancels Flannery O’Connor.)

Sympathy Card

Sympathy Card

You have my sympathies, Barack Obama.
I know how hard you struggled to evade
This resolution to your party’s drama.
I understand that you were sore afraid
Of how a fool who’d never made the grade—
Biden, who had few brains to disappear,
Biden, a lame-ass joke that you once played—
Would be the guy. And now that moment’s here.
The legacy that you and yours hold dear
Is in the keeping of an idiot
Who sniffs whenever female hair draws near
And sucks on fingers too – the stupid shit.
Yes, I opposed you. Doesn’t matter, though:
No one should have to opt for Creepy Joe!

–Tom Riley


Obama Surprises Biden With Presidential Medal of Freedom

Hail, Genius!

Hail, Genius!


I got a lecture from an idiot.

The genius of the idiot I hailed.

With all my vast store of sarcastic wit.

I got a lecture from an idiot.

Yes, I was bored – but did not throw a fit.

Jerk never even knew he’d been assailed.

I got a lecture from an idiot.

The genius of the idiot I hailed.


–Tom Riley

Contra Stultos

Contra Stultos


“Do you argue with fools, lad?”  Ach, nein.

Sir, my self-control’s almost divine.

Although idiots scream,

I do not grow extreme—

Except (like other sages) online.


–Tom Riley




The idiocy will

continue until at last you

all smarten up.


–Tom Riley

Candidate Impersonation

Candidate Impersonation

Alec Baldwin thinks he is the one
To unseat Trump. Now, this will be fun!
Can he sell the whole nation
On a poor imitation?
Hope he tries. Come on: run, Alec, run!

–Tom Riley

(Alec Baldwin teases presidential run.)



Does Shea’s brain ever manage to pass
Hard exams? No, it doesn’t – alas!
Half the cells there are dead.
But don’t worry your head,
Mark Shea fan – for he thinks with his ass!

–Tom Riley

Respect the Silence

Respect the Silence

(contra Iohannem Longisocium)

Oh no: more blather from a po-biz whore
Who thinks his leftist twitches truly matter!
Respect the silence, punk, a little more.

I posted simple common sense. Therefore,
My fate was sealed. My brief peace had to shatter.
Oh, no: more blather from a po-biz whore

Who’s twice-recycled urine at his core,
Who lacks a heart and substitutes his bladder!
Respect the silence, punk, a little more—

And spare us all the piss you have in store.
Tweets or restraint? I urge you: choose the latter!
Oh, no: more blather from a po-biz whore

Who hopes that lies and ignorance can score!
His vile critiques, you’ll find, could not fall flatter.
Respect the silence, punk, a little more.

No triumph when your knees are on the floor.
I’m sneering at your half-considered patter.
Oh, no: more blather from a po-biz whore!
Respect the silence, punk, a little more.

–Tom Riley

(Poor Longfellow! His good name has been inherited by a semiliterate punk!)

A Note on the Text

A black gal who’s totally MAGA and who has a large Twitter following occasionally posts political satires from this blog. Her handle is @iMSmedley. I myself don’t tweet, so, if my stuff finds its way into the Twitterverse, @iMSmedley is probably responsible.

On Feb. 7th, she posted this little limerick about a gutless bishop:

Bishop of Covington

The mob raged at the horrible sin
Of a smile. What a foul racist grin!
“Facts be damned! We judge quick!
Pro-life kids make us sick!”
And the pro-life kids’ bishop joined in.

Then she received the following comment from a leftist po-biz type, who presumed to analyze my scansion and rhyme:

Your meter is way off. Lines one and two should be in anapestic trimeter; lines three and four in anapestic dimeter; and line five should return to anapestic trimeter. Meanwhile, while masculine rhymes end line one and two, a feminine rhyme ends line five. This limerick sucks!

Followed by this:

Look at how much more closely this limerick I wrote adheres to convention:

Limerick for “Base Mom”

Let’s pretend that Hitler’s a Leninist
And Christina Hoff Sommers a feminist,
Then pretend that it’s classy
She defends Joseph Massey
And not say that she’s really a meninist.

Followed by this:

All this reminds me of the sage words spoken by Douglas M. Levison to a neophyte trumpet player: “An artist respects the silence. It serves as the foundation of creativity.”

Followed – yawn! – by this:

Also, your take on the matter sucks as badly as your “poem.” If those students were old enough to be at an anti-abortion march, then they’re old enough to be criticized for their racist behavior.

To which the proper immediate response was, of course, “What is this idiot talking about?”

Anyone who can read even a little bit is able to look up the meter of a limerick – and Johnny Longfellow (this idiot’s name) is right in the facts he vomits forth from his source. The inflexible meter of a limerick does indeed require anapestic trimeter in lines one and two, anapestic dimeter in lines three and four, and anapestic trimeter again in line five. Congratulations, Johnny! You win a sucker!

Unfortunately, although Johnny can read – somewhat – he apparently can’t see that anapestic trimeter, trimeter, dimeter, dimeter, and trimeter are precisely what “Bishop of Covington” delivers on the old metrical level.

The anapestic meter requires every third syllable to be accented. What syllables are accented in line one? RAGED, the first syllable of HORRIBLE, and SIN – or, in other words, every third syllable – as the meter requires.

What syllables are accented in line two? SMILE, FOUL, and GRIN: every third syllable again!

Line three? DAMNED and QUICK: every third syllable!

Line four? KIDS and SICK: every third syllable!

Line five? The first syllable of PRO-LIFE, the first syllable of BISHOP, and IN. We have BINGO! Perfect anapestic scansion throughout!

Johnny Longfellow may object here that I have not listed all the accented syllables. On this point, he would be right – but he’d be wrong in thinking that it makes any difference. The syllables in the whole limerick that receive an accent where none is required by the meter are MOB, the first syllable of RACIST, FACTS, JUDGE, both syllables of PRO-LIFE in line four, the second syllable of PRO-LIFE in line five, KIDS in line five, and JOINED. That’s a lot of extra accents! Isn’t it really a problem?

No, it’s really not. In practical terms, you won’t find any limerick anywhere that leaves all those syllabic places unaccented. As long as you have accents where they’re needed, everything’s fine. (This is a general rule of English scansion, not limited to the limerick.)

Here’s a classic by James Joyce:

There’s a ponderous pundit MacHugh
Who wears goggles of ebony hue.
As he mostly sees double
To wear them why trouble?
I can’t see the Joe Miller. Can you?

The syllables that require an accent according to the meter are the first syllable of PONDEROUS, the first syllable of PUNDIT, the second syllable of MACHUGH, the first syllable of GOGGLES, the first syllable of EBONY, HUE, the first syllable of MOSTLY, the first syllable of DOUBLE, WEAR, the first syllable of TROUBLE, SEE, the first syllable of MILLER, and YOU. But are those all the syllables that receive accents? Not at all! WEARS must receive an accent (it’s the main verb in a clause, Johnny), SEES receives an accent (same reason), CAN’T (same reason), and JOE. That’s a lot of extra accents! They don’t matter because the required accents remain undisturbed.

Is some creature named Johnny Longfellow going to tell James Joyce that his meter is way off?

Johnny’s comment on the rhyme is even dumber. Line five of “Bishop of Covington” ends in a feminine rhyme? How’s that? SIN rhymes with GRIN rhymes with IN. Those are all masculine rhymes and they’re all absolutely exact.

(For those who aren’t, like Johnny Longfellow, into hollow pretense, a masculine rhyme consists of one syllable, a feminine of two or more. In the example from James Joyce, HUE and YOU constitute a masculine rhyme, DOUBLE and TROUBLE a feminine one.)

Here’s what Johnny’s little brain may be thinking as it floats in its urinary bath. He may be thinking that IN fails to receive an accent. Even if that were the case – and it’s not – it wouldn’t mean you were dealing with a feminine rhyme. It would mean that line five didn’t rhyme at all. But this delusion about feminine rhyme may be what the confused Johnny is thinking.

If you’re a native speaker of English, or if you have achieved native proficiency, say the following sentence aloud: “Am I just going to watch, or am I allowed to join in?” If you don’t give the final word IN a pronounced accent, you need further English lessons.

Checkmate, Johnny. You’ve been bitch-slapped all the way back to the People’s Republic of Massachusetts. But in case you still don’t get it, which seems highly likely, here’s a little tour de force – a limerick which also features the line-final words JOINED IN, but in which the meaning of this phrase is different, so that the accentual pattern is different, too:

Bitch of a Wedding

Here’s the chapel the couple was joined in—
The fine place that their free vows were coined in.
But the poor bride was heading
For a bitch of a wedding:
Here’s the room that her ring was purloined in!

You see? You see, Johnny? Accent depends on meaning – and, according to the meaning, the IN at the end of “Bishop of Covington” does receive an accent. It has to.

Now let’s look at Johnny’s own exemplary limerick!

First of all, it seems to have been written in July of 2018, which is when Joseph Massey was in need of a defense after standard #MeToo charges. Really, Johnny? All the way back in July? I wrote six limericks yesterday, twelve the day before, and a bunch the day before that and the day before that. You are not practicing the art very assiduously.

Here’s Johnny’s limerick again – so you, the poor, put-upon reader, don’t have to look back:

Limerick for “Base Mom”

Let’s pretend that Hitler’s a Leninist
And Christina Hoff Sommers a feminist,
Then pretend that it’s classy
She defends Joseph Massey
And not say that she’s really a meninist.

How does line one scan? Well, according to Johnny’s made up rules, it starts out very badly, since LET’S has to get an accent, which (again, according to Johnny) would spoil the perfection of the anapest. According to the actual rules, the first foot is fine. But the second foot is a violation of the meter. Since the first foot ends with the accent on the second syllable of PRETEND, the second foot must begin with THAT – but the first syllable of HITLER is the one that gets the accent. Ouch! Johnny has substituted an iamb for the required anapest!

This is a serious no-no. Folk limericks frequently allow iambic substitution in line-initial position – and James Joyce allows himself one in line four above. But the limerick does not admit of substitutions in line-medial or line-terminal position. Johnny’s limerick actually cheats!

How about Johnny’s rhymes?

Folks, LENINIST does not rhyme with FEMINIST. An exact rhyme resides in the identity of sounds from accented vowel to the end of the word. But the sound after the accented vowel in LENINIST is an N, while the sound after the accented vowel in FEMINIST is an M. This is what’s known as a false rhyme. Johnny’s limerick cheats again!

LENINIST and MENINIST do rhyme – but using MENINIST as the final rhyme is a cheap trick because MENINIST is a word coined in imitation of the word FEMINIST. I wouldn’t exactly call this cheating – but Johnny’s reaching here. He’s really reaching. It’s clear that he’s not comfortable with the limerick form. He writes limericks the way a chimpanzee plays chess.

As the reader has no doubt already figured out, Johnny Longfellow’s final comment constitutes the true explanation for the whole series. He didn’t in fact perceive any flaws in scansion or rhyme. He took umbrage at the poem’s attitude toward the Covington Catholic kids and made up the rest of his performance, confident that his status in the insulated world of po biz would stand him in good stead. Alas, he only managed to make a fool of himself!

He’s made a fool of himself with his own stance toward the Covington Catholic kids, too. The Diocese of Covington is no longer threatening dire consequences to kids who smile while white. The bishop is furiously backpedaling. It is he, not Nick Sandmann, who faces consequences. Soon, very soon, he will be sued for defamation of a minor. Considering the video evidence and the reality that trial will take place in Kentucky, the bishop is sure to lose. Elder Nate Phillips, that scrawny old liar, is going to face the same fate.

I sure hope Sandmann’s lawyers go after the Indigenous People’s March – whose GoFundMe account raised money from Elder Nate’s slanders. Clean those grifters out and put them out of business!

Yes, I am looking forward to that!

–Tom Riley

A “Sonnet” for Christmas

A “Sonnet” for Christmas

Shea thinks that “poems” neatly rhymes with “groans.”
He also thinks that “shaved” can rhyme with “slaves.”
Oh, if precision’s what the reader craves,
He will not relish Shea’s affected tones!
Yet from Shea’s editors, who must have bones
In place of brains, he wins unending raves.
Neanderthals exchanging grunts in caves
Had better sense than our day’s anglophones.
The Little Drummer Boy, so goes the tale,
Lacked proper gifts and therefore banged his drum.
The gesture that he offered didn’t fail:
Up went the young Messiah’s infant thumb!
In contrast, ruddy Shea should now turn pale.
God’s not a liar, and he isn’t dumb.

–Tom Riley

A Note on the Text

Long before this post, of course, I have found delight in mocking Mark Shea’s poetic pretensions – most enjoyably in “Sweet Sonneteer,” which I addressed to Shea’s wife in an attempt to get the Devourer of Donuts to challenge me to a duel. Nothin’ doin’! That little piece mocked the wretched excuse for a sonnet that Shea took a whole afternoon to write. Considering the result, the expense of time struck me as incredible, and an indication that Shea is not only addle-pated but markedly slow-witted. As Bugs Bunny would say, what an ultra-maroon!

I’ll take time here to confess that every piece of verse I produce in which Shea’s drooling leftism, bogus Christianity, suety physique, or vicious hatred of dogs serves as subject matter – every bit of it, no matter how remote the focus may appear – is actually about Shea’s incompetence as a writer, and especially as a versifier. These pieces are mostly light verse, not serious poems, and the point behind the arras they present is that I can write verse and Shea can’t. Ha! To the sufficiently literate, the contrast offered in itself communicates that point.

However, when I saw Shea’s “Sonnet for Christmas” — published on Dec. 22nd, 2018, but only discovered by your humble servant on the very last day before Ordinary Time, Sunday, Jan. 13th, 2019 – it occurred to me that the editors of Australia’s Catholic Weekly must not be sufficiently literate. If they were, they’d never publish such embarrassing drivel, however committed they were to Shea’s fraudulent religious and political views. That’s why my response points out, as if to a child, that “poems” doesn’t rhyme with “groans,” and that “shaved” doesn’t rhyme with “slaves.” Of course, these observations only scratch the foul surface of what’s wrong with Shea’s ill-wrought insult to the Christ Child.

I need to resort to prose to attempt an exhaustive treatment.

The first objection is to Shea’s scansion – which is practically non-existent. Sonnets in English are traditionally written in iambic pentameter. Well, Shea’s line 2 scans as pentameter without substitutions. It’s actually not a bad line. Line 7 also scans. It’s impossible to get the rest of the undisciplined mess to scan at all, however liberal the charitable reader may become in his interpretation of metrical substitution. The two lines that should be the smoothest – the alpha and omega lines, the first and the last – are among the sloppiest. Line 1 contains only four metrical feet: an anapest, two trochees, and an iamb with feminine ending to accommodate the rhyme. How’s that supposed to establish the meter for the rest of the so-called poem? Line 14 is similarly a twisted jumble of syllables containing only four stresses. It really does excruciating, irrecoverable violence to the rhythm Shea has claimed by calling his abominable exercise a sonnet in the first place.

There’s a reason for expecting a sensible meter of the sort of poem that Shea is pretending to write. Once the meter is established, the poet can use all sorts of techniques to control the pace and emphasis of his lines. As long as the meter is maintained, polysyllabic words speed up the line. As long as the meter is maintained, monosyllables and spondaic substitutions slow it down. And so on. And so on. For many centuries – from Chaucer to the nineteenth century and beyond – these sorts of subtleties constituted a major part of the art of the poet. None of it is possible if the meter is not maintained. And Shea cannot maintain the meter.

You can just see our globular third-rate humanities undergraduate squirming here, trying to justify his semi-literacy and inattention to the tradition he has invoked. He’s going to pretend that he’s John Donne, writing the “strong line,” stuffed with spondees and significance. Donne did stuff his line with stresses – but they always scanned nevertheless. Why? Because spondees always retain their stress in the same position as iambs, and therefore never truly upend the iambic pattern.

Then Shea the Sham is going to pretend he’s Gerard Manley Hopkins, boldly promoting a “sprung rhythm” rooted in the ancient Anglo-Saxon accentual meter. In reality, there’s no comparison. Shea can’t even maintain the number of stresses per line, or be consistent about the alliteration – and these two features are essential to the prosody that Hopkins pioneered. The real reason Shea screws up the meter is that he has a tin ear and absolutely zero control over his own language. He is a bumbling, stumbling compositional klutz, visibly inferior to the most sing-song of Hallmark greeting card artistes. The reality of the English metrical tradition spurns him with its heel as the fraud he has always been.

Hold still, though. Shea’s mangling of the meter is as nothing next to his felonious abuse of the art of rhyme.

An exact rhyme between two words commences at the accented vowel and continues to the end of the word. All those sounds have to be the same if an exact rhyme is to be achieved. Moreover, the sounds immediately prior to the accented vowel in each word have to be different. Otherwise, you’re stuck with an identical – and that’s not a valid rhyme. It’s not fair to rhyme “bored” with “board.” Essentially, you’re rhyming the word with itself.

Just look at Shea’s miserable performance as a rhymester! We’ve already observed that “shaved” doesn’t rhyme with “slaves,” and that “poems” doesn’t rhyme with “groans.” “Poems” is in reality a two-syllable word with the accent on the first syllable. You have to mispronounce it as “pomes” even to get an assonance out of it. Sheesh, Shea! What a blunder!

“Molten” and “golden” don’t rhyme, either. One has a voiceless T where the other has a voiced D. Different sounds, Shea: different sounds. Start with the alphabet and work your way forward!

It is true that, in ordinary speech, many T’s become D’s. Many people pronounce “later,” for example, to rhyme with “Darth Vader.” It’d be perfectly valid to rhyme these two in a sonnet featuring the Star Wars villain. But nobody pronounces “molten” as “molden” – not even Shea, who is a pretty perverse specimen. Shea’s is not a valid rhyme.

Why is it that Shea has to resort to such false rhymes? Is he just trying to be avant garde, as he pretended to be with his incompetent meter? No, Gentle Reader, Shea can’t offer this excuse. He can’t say that he’s using slant rhymes, half rhymes, or even mere assonances according to his super-strategic judgment, as some poets have done since the beginning of the Modernist movement. He can’t legitimately claim any such thing – because, in the few cases where he can manage, he uses exact rhymes. “Liturgies” and “energies” constitute an identical. But “made” and “blade” rhyme. “Lead” and “dead” rhyme. Shea is trying with all his oversized ass to rhyme for real. He just can’t do it with any consistency. He doesn’t have the skill, and he doesn’t have the brains. So, more often than not, he cheats.

Shea abuses rhyme in another way, too. When he rhymed “blade” with “made,” he must have reached around with one of his oily anterior flippers and given himself a pat on the back. Hey! That was a real rhyme! Shea must have felt like a regular Edgar Allan Poe.

But what’s all this about the “blade” of Achilles? Achilles’ sword is not the object celebrated in Homer’s Iliad. The special equipment bestowed on Achilles by Hephaestus is his armor and especially his shield, which is described at great length. The real poet W. H. Auden wrote a fine poem entitled “The Shield of Achilles.” But the sword of Achilles was just a sword. So why does Shea tell us that The Iliad is about the “blade” of Achilles?

The answer is once again rooted in Shea’s utter incompetence. He has to talk about Achilles’ “blade” rather than his “wrath” or his “shield,” because he desperately needs a rhyme for “made.” The requirement to rhyme in a sonnet is just too much of a challenge for Shea’s cerebral cortex – if he wants to do it with grace and with respect for the truth. He has to falsify one of the great texts in the Western canon in order to scrape by according to the standards he has himself set. Homer is said to have nodded, but Shea has never even succeeded in lifting his furry head.

This point leads us to the final major problem with Shea’s putative “sonnet.” Not only does the prosody exert copious suction, but also the content, in terms of images and ideas, is an execrable failure. Shea rips off his initial governing image – the world created by music – from Tolkien’s Silmarillion. It’s a glorious image as Tolkien develops it. Alas, Shea’s appropriation only cheapens Tolkien’s idea!

Shea’s assumption is that poetry is more “molten” – that is, more fluid – than prose. But he’s wrong. Oral-formulaic poetry may shift its details to a greater or lesser degree, but literary poetry is as hard as diamond. Indeed, that’s part of the object of writing it. Oh – and the Jews of Christ’s time were not “a race of slaves” any more than all mankind has been enslaved since Eden. Greco-Roman society had a very precise definition of slavery, and the Jewish race did not, in the main, conform to it. St. Paul, some may recall, was a Roman citizen.

I could go on here, but what would be the point? The question is: about what is the “savant” Mark Shea ignorant? And the answer is: everything.

The real problem here is not Shea at all – not his effective idiocy, not his fraudulent self-importance. The real problem is the salivating gullibility exhibited by the editors of Australia’s Catholic Weekly. They allow themselves to take Shea’s crap seriously! What a dismal message they convey concerning Catholic culture! Shea’s blatant stupidity doesn’t matter. His incompetence doesn’t matter. His risible imitation of the poetic art is embraced – and even recommended – all because he throws in some religious language and ersatz piety. The editors are hoodwinked – and rush to hoodwink others – because they refuse to exercise any critical judgment whatsoever. Duh! Catholic good! Critical standards bad!

As a Catholic, with all my soul, I strive to evade the ghetto these people have constructed for me.