Set your priorities—don’t be uncouth—know the
Secret to happiness lies in this truth: “Though the
Sum of all things is a secret worth looking for,
Perfect lasagna is something worth cooking for.”

Take what you know, do a Ted Talk and teach on it.
Don’t overdo it, present it, don’t preach on it.

Happiness follows from love, so the sages say.
Death and despair are the things that sin’s wages pay.

Sleep in a casket, save time when you die in it.
Foot in your mouth? Dig a hole and then lie in it.

Never give up, keep a stiff upper lip and you’ll
Overcome trials and rise above ridicule.

Use to advantage your greatest ability;
Anything less will result in futility.

Hot tempered? Angry? Your temperature? Lower it!
You didn’t get your way? Boo hoo! Get over it!

Loving both neighbor and self is what you should do.
Do unto others as you’d have them do to you.

Dactylic verses can sometimes be comical.
Unlike investments they’re un-economical.

Small things like mustard seeds often grow big and tall.
Without an acorn an oak tree won’t grow at all

Sand castles, volleyball, something for everyone.
Life is a beach, just lie down and enjoy the sun
But keep in mind while your soaking up all that fun,
Medium rare is far better than too well done!

Over the Rainbow was Dorothy’s wistful song
But in the end home was where she was all along.



James A. Tweedie is a retired pastor living in Long Beach, Washington. He has written and published six novels, one collection of short stories, and three collections of poetry including Mostly Sonnets, all with Dunecrest Press. His poems have been published nationally and internationally in The Lyric, Poetry Salzburg (Austria) Review, California Quarterly, Asses of Parnassus, Lighten Up Online, Better than Starbucks, WestWard Quarterly, Society of Classical Poets, and The Chained Muse.

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19 Responses

  1. C.B. Anderson

    Words of wisdom to live by? Maybe. Words of humor to laugh by? Definitely.

    Some of your falling rhymes (e.g. know the/though the, lip and you’ll/ridicule & everyone/-joy the sun) have a satisfying lilt to them that reinforces the dactylic meter throughout. Perhaps these belong in the 32nd chapter of the Book of Proverbs.

    • James A. Tweedie


      I maybe wrong, but I believe this is the first time I have attempted extended dactylic verse with rhyme. The falling rhymes were one way to accomplish this. There are tricks to learn in doing new things. Although every proverb in the set has truth in it, it is possible, as you point out, to wrap serious matters in lightweight packaging!

      • C.B. Anderson

        Oh, James, there are plenty of tricks, but the falling rhymes are nearly inevitable when one is writing in dactylics. And as many great comics (George Carlin comes to mind) have discovered, there is nothing quite as funny as the truth, and there is no truth that can’t be made funny (with one or two exceptions). Good art need not be shy about playing to the crowd, because the crowd is, after all, the plenary assembly of all of us.

  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    These are really great. I wish more of us would do some writing in dactyls. It’s a wonderful exercise for strengthening one’s sense of meter.

    • James A. Tweedie


      Thank you for your good word. I have been encouraged, corrected, and guided by your comments over the years and am a more knowledgable and skilled poet as a result. I look forward to what I will learn in future!

  3. Cynthia Erlandson

    Very clever! I love the end-rhymes that span over multiple words. Is there an official name for those?

    • James A. Tweedie


      C.B. Calls them “falling rhymes” so that must be the name for them!

    • C.B. Anderson

      Falling rhymes, Cynthia, are just rhymes that occur on unstressed syllables, regardless of how many words are involved. Otherwise, as compilers of rhyming dictionaries put it, these are just three-syllable rhymes. Lignify/signify is an example of this. A skilled rhymer will employ the latter, or at least force the reader into pronouncing words in an unnatural way, which is part of the humor. No official name for this exists, as far as I know.

    • James A. Tweedie

      Ty Yael. I hope I will be able to take my own advice

  4. Julian D. Woodruff

    Great, Mr. Tweedie. So inventive! I’ll have to give those dactyls a try. (Though his aren’t quite dactyls, some of your “falling near-rhymes” remind me a bit of Tom Lehrer’s lyric in “National Brotherhood Week”: “It’s fun to eulogize / The people you despise …”

    • James A. Tweedie


      Ah, Tom Lehrer. We could use some real humor shot out in all directions in these dismal times. Lehrer was gently partisan but spared no one and no subject–not even National Brotherhood Week. Humor has descended into a dark hole since the days of TW3.


    James, each one of these is a source of much pleasure. I am particularly partial to the satisfying rhymes in “Never give up, keep a stiff upper lip and you’ll/Overcome trials and rise above ridicule.” I also like the tongue-twisting of the “sages say”/”wages pay” verse. These gave me a smile this afternoon. Thank you.

  6. James A. Tweedie

    Thank you, Brian. Each proverb was a challenge in its own way. It’s not often that I feel completely satisfied with a poem, but I do feel that way about these.

    That does not, however, preclude someone offering a suggestion for improvement!

  7. David Watt

    Excellent poetry for a first go at it-
    Dactylic phrasing is right up your street.
    Pity the person who tries to surpass,
    Only to finally admit defeat.

    • James A. Tweedie


      Thank you, good David, for words most encouraging.
      Being a poet is often discouraging,
      Thinking of something to say and then saying it
      Is much like holding a banjo and playing it.
      “Pity the person who tries?” One can misconstrue
      “Practice makes perfect,” they say, and I know it’s true.
      If you can sing things like “My Country ’tis of Thee,”
      You can write rhyming dactylics the same as me.
      But you’re an Aussie, so “God Save the Queen’s” the phrase–
      Oh! I forgot! It’s “Australia Fair,” these days!
      Speaking of “Banjo” reminds me of Patterson,
      Who, using dactyls, wrote poetry just for fun..
      In his “Bush Christening” dactyls are full in view.
      If he could do it, then others can do it, too!

      • David Watt

        Hello James, i’m a bit late responding to your tremendous response, having been away for a few days.

        Most of Banjo’s poetry really does provide the reader with a sense that he wrote with a smile on his face. “A Bush Christening” is a pretty good example, as is the iambic “Mulga Bill’s Bicycle”.

  8. David B. Gosselin

    These are interesting couplets and quatrains. I also like the idea of playing around with proverbs, writing both comical and philosophical ones.

    I myself have really enjoyed writing couplets, both rhyming and blank verse. They allow for dense, compelling and impressionistic lines. They also allow for a strong aphoristic quality, which makes them good for philosophical musings about beauty, life and nature.

    Though part of the charm of this poem is that it does have different voices with varying contemplative and comical degrees, I do think some of the lines maybe read as a bit tooo silly, like the line on lasagna or the one that says boo-hoo. But the poem overall has a strong imaginative freedom, which I really like.

    I think it’s still possible to perfect this poem James, but it really has a fresh and original quality. Good stuff!

    • James A. Tweedie

      Thank you, David. Nothing under heaven is perfect, of course, but one can be content and satisfied with something nonetheless. After all, if God was satisfied with “good” and “very good” in his acts of creation, I can be also (or as George Burns/God once said to John Denver, re avocados, “I made the pits too big.”)

      As far as the constituent parts, I never conceived of this as “a” poem, but as a collection of 21 separate couplets or quatrains several of which contain more than one proverbial reference. In this sense, there is no discontinuity between serious, formal or flippant since no such continuity was intended. Oddly enough, the “boo hoo” couplet is my favorite!


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