This evening, trawling the befuddled back waters of the English language, the Clerihew swam back into my mind. Many years ago I had an English master who was besotted with this poetic form. His name came up during a telephone conversation with a friend earlier this evening.
I can only conclude my frontal lobes did the rest! I thank you Mr Walton.
The form was invented by and is named after Edmund Clerihew Bentley. As a student, Bentley invented the clerihew during his studies, and it was a great hit with his friends. The first use of the word in print was in 1928.
Bentley's friend, G. K. Chesterton, was also a practitioner of the clerihew and one of the sources of its popularity. However, other serious authors also produced clerihews, including W. H. Auden, and it remains a popular humorous form among other writers and the general public.
A Clerihew has the following properties:
It is biographical and usually whimsical, showing the subject from an unusual point of view; but it is hardly ever satirical, abusive or obscene
It has four lines of irregular length (for comic effect); the third and fourth lines are usually longer than the first two
The rhyme structure is AABB; the subject matter and wording are often humorously contrived in order to achieve a rhyme
The first line consists solely (or almost solely) of the subject's name.
They target famous individuals and reposition them in an absurd or commonplace setting, often with an over-simplified and slightly garbled description.
The unbalanced and unpolished poetic meter and line length parody the limerick, and the clerihew form also parodies the eulogy.
Here is a classic example;
- Daniel Defoe
- Lived a long time ago.
- He had nothing to do, so
- He wrote Robinson Crusoe
Let's have a go shall we?
Here is my attempt.....
Mr Samuel Pepys,
Wrote diaries in heaps
And with the newspapers read
He'd snuff out the candle, saying 'and so to bed'.
Don't be shy........lets do the Clerihew.....Have a grand Friday nice people.