Satan’s Limericks on the Seven Deadly Sins

Sepulchrum patens est guttur eorum; linguis suis dolose agebant:
venenum aspidum sub labiis eorum.

Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they acted
deceitfully: the poison of asps is under their lips.

—Psalms 13:3



Be proud and aggressive and tough—
Don’t take any backtalk or guff.
Dream and aspire
And hold your head higher
To show that you’ve got the right stuff.



Strict chastity’s aim is to vex.
There’s nothing like unshackled sex
To tear down repressions
In hot private sessions,
Leaving you and your partner sheer wrecks.



The slothful are wise in a way:
They’re ready for leisurely play.
They go on vacation,
Enjoy relaxation,
And sleep until ten every day.



Explode like a bomb when required.
Make sure your adrenaline’s fired.
For letting off steam
Is a well-practiced scheme
That leaves your foes weakened and tired.



A fixed and immutable law
Says your belly and gullet and maw
Demand satisfaction
And digestive action—
So stuff what you can in your craw.



If someone’s got something you crave,
Just wish him right into the grave.
Make no concessions—
Steal all his possessions,
And stash them away in your cave.



Your stocks and your bonds and your gold
Are what you must cling to and hold.
Spongers are fickle
So don’t give a nickel—
Ignore the sob-stories you’re told.



Joseph S. Salemi has published five books of poetry, and his poems, translations and scholarly articles have appeared in over one hundred publications world-wide.  He is the editor of the literary magazine TRINACRIA and writes for Expansive Poetry On-line. He teaches in the Department of Humanities at New York University and in the Department of Classical Languages at Hunter College.

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The Society of Classical Poets does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or commentary.

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19 Responses

  1. jd

    I love Limericks and these don’t disappoint. The seven deadly sins are definitely in ascendency and
    not only in daily life. Yours is the second focus on them that I’ve read on line today.

  2. Julian D. Woodruff

    Good fun, Joseph. I think I like Gluttony best, but they’re all a treat.

  3. Paul Freeman

    Amazing stuff, especially the sustaining of the content and the quality of each poem.

    Thanks for the reads.

  4. David Whippman

    Fabulous stuff. CS Lewis’s Screwtape would be proud of you, Joseph!

  5. Sally Cook

    Dear Joe –

    Here I recognize several people I know, as well as their uncles and their cousins and their aunts and their cousins and their wives and what do you know — here comes Sally !
    If you can manage to push pomposity or stuff stuffiness in somewhere, please let me now: I’m sure you will never find yourself in company with either.

    PS – planning any other Biblical translations ?

    Great stuff !

  6. Brian Yapko

    This is a marvelously conceived matched set of Sin poems which one can almost imagine being featured in a satanic primer for newly trained tempters. Each one is told with economy, humor, pith and bulls-eye accuracy. Gluttony in particular made me chortle — perhaps because it struck far too close to home.

  7. Joseph S. Salemi

    Thank you all for your kind comments, and especial thanks to Evan Mantyk for picking the Hieronymus Bosch table-top painting of the Seven Deadly Sins as the illustration. Note the central figure of Christ, with the Latin legend “Cave, cave, Dominus videt” (Beware, beware, the Lord sees!)

  8. Mia

    The juxtaposition of fun limericks with the serious topic of the seven deadly sins makes these understated genius.
    From Chaucer to Victor Hugo to the Bible and more, what an absolute delight, congratulations SCP.

  9. Margaret Coats

    Joe, you have the wit of Chaucer’s Parson, whose Tale is more fun than one might think. “Gluttony is the devil’s storehouse where he hides and rests.” More inclined to sloth myself, I like your limerick that sheds indulgent limelight on it.

  10. Yael

    If I were the devil I think I could not make these 7 deadly sins look any more fun, entertaining and desirable than you have done in these delightful limericks. I love good limericks and reading these almost inspires me to go out to sing, swing, sin and celebrate!

  11. C.B. Anderson

    I’ll take these, Joseph, as useful instruction, and if I get into trouble I’ll just tell them that the devil made me do it.

  12. Norma Pain

    Thank you for these Joseph. I love limericks and these are all so entertaining. I have on my desk “The Lure of the Limerick” by W.S. Baring-Gould, published in 1970, containing about 500 limericks. One reads:
    The limerick’s an art-form complex
    Whose contents run chiefly to sex
    It’s famous for virgins
    And masculine urgin’s
    And vulgar erotic effects!

    Naughty but Nice!

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Limericks on the subject of limericks are an entire genre in themselves. Here’s one I recall from a collection, the name of which escapes me now:

      The limerick packs laughs anatomical
      In space that is quite economical.
      But the ones I have seen
      So seldom are clean,
      And the clean ones so seldom are comical.

      • Norma Pain

        That one is very true. The really good ones are the ones that are a little bit naughty or have a surprise ending.

    • Joshua C. Frank

      If I were writing a book of limericks, my preface would be:

      When dirty limericks get old
      And start to leave you cold
      Just try some of these
      Of mine if you please
      That break the limerick mold!

  13. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    I love a good limerick and you do the form every justice in this timely and highly amusing series. Thank you, Joe.

  14. b

    So good… Salemi is the only poet whose words are absorbed… no effort… at least this was…

    Because he’s real. He doesn’t care what you think (I would say). AND… he KNOWS what he’s talking about and doing. He’s put in and puts in the work!

    And related…
    I’m listening to the Black Crowes’ album before the frost until the freeze. You may not think it, but these drunks and sometime junkies made some of the most traditional music in 2009. Who understands tradition today? The classical arts are still revered, and always will be, but who of the upper class that upholds tradition understands its inner meaning? But rednecks…a lot of them do! They don’t know the classics in depth but most have a deep appreciation for it, even if they spend little time on it. They understand.

    I love the classics, but there’s just no time to spend a lot of time on it. In fact, once you get what it’s all about, you move on. You live the classics. Living is about accomplishing. Getting meaningful things done, for me, a plug of tobacco and a solid redneck track is fuel. But I LIVE the classics. I’ve studied them. I understand them. That’s what makes rednecks rednecks. Their faith is above all else. Not as many people who uphold the classics today are like that. They have too many thoughts.

    Revere the classics. But I LIVE the classics… Love the meaning!


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