Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Do you clerihew?

Edmund Clerihew Bentley died today in 1956. He invented the verse form named after him, the clerihew. Here is one of his famous ones:

Sir Humphrey Davy
Abominated gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium

Bentley's first collection of verse in this vein, Biography for Beginners, was published in 1905. The name clerihew was bestowed on the form soon after.

There are no rigid rules to creating a clerihew, but basically it should be a humorous quatrain about someone well-known, rhymed as two couplets with lines of unequal length. The name of the subject usually ends the first or second line.

Here are some clerihews by the Master:

The people of Spain think Cervantes
Equal to half-a-dozen Dantes;
An opinion resented most bitterly
By the people of Italy

The meaning of the poet Gay
Was always as clear as day,
While that of the poet Blake
Was often practically opaque

I doubt if King John
Was a sine qua non.
I could rather imagine it
Of any other Plantagenet

Dante Alighieri
Seldom troubled a dairy.
He wrote the Inferno
On a bottle of Pernod

Nicholas Bentley followed in his father's footsteps with this admirable clerihew:

Cecil B. De Mille,
Rather against his will,
Was persuaded to leave Moses
Out of 'The Wars of the Roses'

Here’s my attempt:

The playwright Moliere
Could be quite a holy terror.
While telling audiences they were vile,
He had them rolling in the aisle

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