by Peter Gabriel Neumann,
being an epic annotated limerick written for the retirement in 1973 of my High School English Teacher, Marsden V. Dillenbeck, together with 1978 notes on the original annotated version.

Copyright Peter G. Neumann, 1973,1978,1999,2002.


Marsden V. Dillenbeck was my senior-year English teacher at The Rye High School (Rye, New York). He taught an advanced college-prep course, full of Shakespeare, lots of poetry, precise grammar, and inspiration, in short, all the things a really good English class should contain. He was delightful to have as a teacher, and flexible in many ways (for example, letting me write poetry in place of prose assignments) -- although grammatically very strict (no use crying over misspelled words, faulty punctuation, etc.). He was deeply versed (pardon the pun) in poetic feet ("pods") such as iambs, dactyls, and anapests.

The occasion of his retirement in 1973 provided the initial inspiration for the following tribute. He was always known as "Dilly", which fact serves here as a Dil-leit-motiv. He was truly a Dil(l)i-gent teacher. He was in no way a Dilletante (although perhaps he had a European aunt who was). The following limerick and original set of annotations were sent to him in 1973. For his benefit, and for that of the uninitiated reader who may stumble (sic) upon this work, I have added to the original annotations a newer set of annotations intended to be somewhat more generally understandable. PGN 1978.


       A PITHY DITHYRAMBLE FOR DILLY                (1) 
       In Pterodactylic Tri(cho)pod                 (2) 
         For Marsden V. Dillenbeck                    
            From Peter Neumann  
              June 10, 1973

      There once was an orDilly manDilly,           (3)
      Who handled the  vanDilly banDilly,           (4)
               But now that he's elDilly,           (5)
               It's time,  wothehelDilly,           (6)
      For him to be  beardDilly sanDilly.           (7)
(Each parenthesized number refers to a note that follows, first in the original annotations, then in the newly added annotations.)

THE ORIGINAL NOTES (June 1973) and THE NEW NOTES (June 1978)

Note (1). With apologies to Harry Karl Jasper John Henry James Joyce Kilmer, while eschewing Tobacchus and playing a nectarina on the horns of a Dillyrama.

New Note (1), concerning the title of the limerick (Line (1)). The Greek word "dithyrambos" signifies a kind of lyric poetry in honor of Dionysius, the Greek god of grapes and wine, who was worshipped with orgiastic rites. He was also called Bacchus. (See Note (1).) In early art, Dionysius was bearded. (See New Note (7).) Later he was depicted as clean-shaven. The term "dithyramb" is now also used to denote a poem "in a wild irregular strain", clearly a reference to the annotations rather than the regular meter of the limerick itself -- despite its "Dilly" suffixes!

The relevance in Note (1) of Harry Karl is somewhat moot (he was once married to Debbie Reynolds, but was also known as a wealthy shoeman who loved chamber-music -- perhaps he secretly loved the soul of Rubbert Schumann). (He had a house near Rye.) The German literary figure Karl Jaspers had relatively little influence on this work. (However, Jaspers knew my father, my father knew Jaspers, and I should therefore have been able to include Lloyd George, on account of the song along those lines [recently used as the basis for a play by Tom Stoppard, which I saw in London in April 1978, and which might have been entitled either "Lloyd George Knew My Father" or "My Father Knew Lloyd George", but was actually called "New Found Land"].) Jasper Johns likewise was blameless, except that his name was one of the exjasperating links in this (except for the two plurals) unbroken chain of name associations. On the other hand, John Henry was a yammering man, and Henry James was a Washington square. The real influence (if any) seems to come from James Joyce, although (Alfred) Joyce Kilmer has always been arboring a grudge. (He was on a one-two-tree kick, Alfredsco). (I wonder what how long such a string of names might become! We could also include Harold Lloyd George Scott Fitzgerald and Upton Sinclair Lewis Carroll. We can also throw in folks like King James and James (C.) King [formerly of IBM, later at Adobe], and introduce some loops in the string.)

Note (2). You wouldn't want to meter on a dark night, although there's three (hairy) feet in my yard, too. (Also known as a Dreifuss.) (It must be a shoe-fly wing-bat, carrying spondeeneous anapestillence...or was it playing trochee with the doormouse?) In any event, we wish you a hairy Krishnamouse.

New Note (2). The original Note (2) illustrates the convoluted mind of the writer. The pterodactyl was well known as a flying dinosaur (but perhaps was really a soaring dynofly). Despite the meaning of "ptero" as "feather" (but also "wing"), the pterodactyl was featherless. (I hate to think of tarring and feathering a PTEROdactyl with PTARmigan feathers.) A dactyl is a poetic foot of THREE syllables (long, short, short, denoted here for convenience as (-..)). And there are of course three feet to a yard, which is sort of like a meter. "Tri" is simply a combining form for "three", while "tricho" is a combining form meaning "hair". "Pod" is a combining form for "footed". ("Dreifuss" is German for three-footed, an affliction from which Emile Zola apparently suffered.) The overall impression, therefore, is that this limerick has the meter of a hairy-footed beast tripping over the footprints that his meter made. (I'm sure most of you who are still reading figured that one out without the notes.)

A spondee is a two-syllabled foot with two long syllables (--), while a trochee has a short second syllable (-.). The anapest is three-syllabled, with the last one long (..-), and has recently been discovered to be the rhythym in hard rock that interferes with the nervous system to create tension and loss of muscle control. Perhaps this limerick will have a similar effect on its readers, since limericks are basically anapestic with fifteen feet (five rows of three), except that two internal rows are each missing one foot. No wonder it gives the impression of tripping along. (I imagine that rendezvousing with a foot doctor who writes love poetry adhering to a strict meter would be involved in a podietryst.) The Christmas Carroll could be Lewis (note the German version, Alice in Ordnung), but if you don't like "we wish you a hairy Krishnamouse", you might try chanting "Hari Truman, Hari Truman, Truman Hari, Truman Hari".

Note (3). On the Road to Kipulling the wool over his eye-Dilly idly idylly, existenD(h)illy interpreting blacksheep reaDilly oDil(l)y Read on and on.

New Note (3). Line (3) in the limerick contains a tribute to Dilly's organizational abilities (orderly), and a Kiplingesque pun on the man, Dilly. This is a somewhat near-fetched example of namedropping of idols, such as Kipling, Stendhal, and Odilon Redon, all of whom get into the act (well-read, in the black, at that) on the Road to Man-delay (not to be confused with Rebecca West Road, leading to Manderly by way of Erskine Caldwell).

Note (4). Alternate line: "Who'd lenDilly frienDilly hanDilly."

New Note (4). The original Line (4) alludes to bands of unruly kids (Vandals and Invisigoths?). Dilly was very good at disciplinary action, but was also helpful to students with problems. Thus the alternate line given in Note (4) is equally appropriate.

Note (5). An obviously erroneous conclusion, based on the writer's being (The) Rye High School, vintage 1950.

New Note (5). Note (5) refers to the classical problem of age misinterpretation by the young. When I was graduated from The (as our principal Elizabeth Jean Brown always insisted, since it was the only high school, and seemed fairly distinguished in its own right) Rye High School in 1950, even the young teachers seemed much older. (I admit it is all relative, but I never had any relatives with whom to compare, and besides, I was an only child on the last branch of the family tree. I also noted that being childless is hereditary -- if your parents didn't have any children, then you won't either.) Thus, it somehow seemed amazing to me in 1973 that Dilly was still teaching, but I imagine he was probably just as vital and as stimulating then as he had been in 1950!

Note (6). Clearly a reference to
"toujours or not toujours gai don'm'archie time"
which in turn inspired such infinitely split MOD English as
"To be or to NOT be, that is the contamiter."
and that other great harDilly barDilly MOD play,
"It's, You Know, Like You Like It, Man"
which comes on absurDilly like a worDilly hurDilly fleur-Dilly (stir,Dilly?).

New Note (6). Don Marquis' "archie and mehitabel" was an old favorite, although this annotation assumes archie the cockroach would have had a lower-case keystroke for a single quote, since he typed by jumping on the keys of the typewriter, one at a time, in keeping with being characteristically shiftless.

One of Dilly's favorite stories stemmed from an answer he got on a written test when he asked his students to identify the meter in which Shakespeare wrote. The answer given by a particular student was "I am a contamiter", obviously whispered from behind. Dilly felt that this horrible example should help to discourage cheating on exams, since it was so flagrant. (For the reader who is not a student of Shakespeare's iambic pentameter, listen to the iambs all a-crying! [an old spiritual]: an "iamb" is a two-syllabled foot (.-), and "pentameter" means it has five feet. I guess you are lucky I didn't resort to (ptero)dactylic demeter, in honor of the three-legged goddess of the fruitful soil and her feather-in-law.) Incidentally, a fleur-de-lis is an iris, and Iris was the Greek goddess of the rainbow (or "arc-en-ciel", perhaps the root for the Ark-on-soil Traveller, which seems somehow related to the No-ways Arc in a Too-Terrible Sub-Giraffe [due to Bob Ashenhurst, in a purgated edition of Rick Gould's 1957 Harvard Doctoral thesis on two-terminal graphs]). The last parenthetical rhetorical question in Note (6) is a wistful reference to Bob and Ray, now only vaguely remembered as a funny radio team (Hey, Bob 'n' Ray-Bop?).

Note (7). "BeardDilly" is preferable to "bearDilly", which can easily be misread in trichorus as "bared..." rather than "beered...". An expected potential misinterpretation would be "scantDilly (but not unDilly) clad". "BeardDilly" could also be misread as "beet-Dilly", like John in Yokomotion (perhaps in a '73 VW). This is clearly a tact-Dilly experience. Or a toast, Marlon BranDilly. But the reader must be careful not to get too Dill-lapidated (stoned?).

New Note (7). The significance of the "beard" is noted in New Note (1) above. "Trichorus" denotes some sort of hairy hippie singing group, and the common association with beards, sandals, and generally unruly attire is legion (American!). The Beetles (both kinds) get a plug they didn't really need, although "Yokomotion" could have been in Lennongrad or Yokohamaha. Perhaps "John's Yokomotive" would have been better. (Numero Ono?) I'm not too sure about the fishy (Marlon) reference to burnt toast, flambee. However, I do like the final pun, "Dill-lapidated", which also conjures up the image of running a lapidairy for people who cannot drink milk because of their gallstones (stoned again?).


The uninitiated reader may by now have concluded that the writer has been out of his gourd since at least 1973, or that his "achs" have been gored. I apologize for fostering paronomasochism or paronomia among my readers (paronomasia = pun [Latin]). However, I also apologize for insulting the intelligence of any reader who already understood most of my pseudoliterary references without the new annotations. Nevertheless, I cannot promise not to write an even more extensive set of annotations to this set of annotations to my original annotations, for the creation of such annotations seems to have a Dil(l)uvial effect. Further annotations might, for example, illucinate various things: in New Note (2), the veiled reference to the old Greek literary dish "shoe-fly pi", or why I did not refer to "tricho-gnosis" as the wisdom of the bearded ancients who ruled against the eating of pork; in New Note (3), the obscure implication of a kippled herring aid for a deaf newt; in New Note (6), the origin of "toujour gai, archie, wothehel" (a little like "Play it, Sam", first said by Ingrid Bergman [not Humphrey Bogart] at limber Rick's Place), or the use of a corruption of the Italo-Shakespearean "bardDillo"; or in Note (7), the relationship between "scantology" and the tactile movement. However, I will try to wait at least another five years -- unless I hear from Dilly in the meanwhile. I am sorry only that Dilly was Dilatory in not responding to the 1973 version. Perhaps the sound of all this made him Dill-earious. But I admit that it is largely because I had not heard from him that I felt it necessary to produce this further set of annotations.

Peter G. Neumann
Palo Alto CA, 10 June 1978

[Note added 3/79: This version actually incorporates a few minor changes. I did get to talk with Dilly in the summer of '78, and I now understand why he did not respond. Perhaps that knowledge will inspire further amendations -- making amends mete?]

[Slight update on 3/2002 on the whereabouts of James King, one of the few things here that did not transcend timeliness.]


The following is an unsolicited testimonial received from my esteemed colleague, Bernie Elspas, after he read the new annotated version. I am very grateful to him.

        Your poem is quite a dilly,
        'Though some might think it silly
        Their reaction's uptight,
        It's so Eurydite                      (8)
        I really enjoyed it Orfilly.          (9)
Note (8). An obvious reference to Orfeus and Eurydice.
Note (9). See Note (8).

Bernard Elspas, Palo Alto CA, 22 May 1978

POSTFACE (after that hit Broadway TV show, "Preface the Music")

(We must be careful not to show our face in the underwhirled to your Odyssey. I gave at the orifice. PGN.)

[Perhaps this limerick was anapest destiny? Peter Wayner, 8 March 1993]


Date: Tue, 20 Apr 1999 12:40:21 PST
From: Dan Drake
Subject: Re: Harry Karl Jasper John ...

Your list of spliced names is impressive. There is another version of the game, no less difficult but less interesting to other people, in which one uses only names of people whom one has encountered personally. Under those rules I can match your eight names; but if allowed to combine personal encounters with dead celebrities, the list goes to ten:

Joseph Henry James Franklin Tom Leonard Ross Dugan Barr Rosenberg.

If allowed to mess with plurals, I could, of course, steal the head of your list to make it still longer.

I swear to the existence of everyone on the list. The last and least probable name you might recognize as belonging to an economist specializing in securities markets and author of Barr's Bionic Betas.