This holiday is one dear to my heart. Several years back my dad went through a clerihew phase. I remember getting letters with some of his latest creations. In celebrating the day, it also brings memories of my dad’s literary pursuits to my mind. (Thank you Luther Cline, I love you!)
English journalist and author, Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956), is best known for his popular verse form named in his honor, the clerihew. A clerihew is a whimsical, four-line biographical poem. It consists of two rhymed couplets of unequal length.
According to Wikipedia:
A clerihew has the following properties:
- It is biographical and usually whimsical, showing the subject from an unusual point of view; it pokes fun at mostly famous people
- It has four lines of irregular length and metre (for comic effect)
- The rhyme structure is AABB; the subject matter and wording are often humorously contrived in order to achieve a rhyme, including the use of phrases in Latin, French and other non-English Languages.
- The first line contains, and may consist solely of, the subject’s name.
Clerihew published three volumes of his own clerihews: Biography for Beginners (1905), published as “edited by E. Clerihew”, More Biography (1929); and Baseless Biography (1939).Wikipedia claims that one of his best known clerihews (from 1905) is:
Sir Christopher Wren
Said, “I am going to dine with some men.
If anyone calls
Say I am designingSt. Paul’s.”
I think my favorite is the winning entry from the 1983 “Do You Clerihew?” contest in Games Magazine:
With the thought
“Therefore I’m not”?
Clerihew was a sport
To make his poems short
So pick up a pen,
And give it a spin!
Happy Clerihew Day!