Happy Clerihew Day!
I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts most people haven’t heard that before.
Born is 1875, Edmund Clerihew Bentley, a.k.a E. C. Bentley, was a popular English detective novelist and humorist in the early part of the last century. He’s credited for inventing the clerihew, an irregular form of humorous verse on biographical topics. Sort of like writing a humorous eulogy just four lines long and it rhymes. To me it sounds like a mini limerick.
Story has it Bentley dreamed the clerihew into being when he was a schoolboy. Instead of paying attention in class, he was doodling rhymes. Here’s his original boyhood stab at the little humorous verse that bears his name:
Sir Humphrey Davy
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium.
That must have been a real side-splitter in it’s day. I guess you’d have to know Sir Humphrey and his eating habits. lol
My morning coffee and web hunt uncovered a few definitions to explain the clerihew:
- Standard Definition: [noun] a witty satiric verse containing two rhymed couplets and mentioning a famous person.
- In Poetry~
A Clerihew is a very specific kind of short humorous verse, typically with 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 first line generally contains a well-known person’s name.
- Frances Stillman in The Poet’s Manual and Rhyming Dictionary defines clerihew as ‘a humorous pseudo-biographical quatrain, rhymed as two couplets, with line of uneven length more or less in the rhythm of prose’.
That last definition just flew right over my sleepy head.
But, I discovered if you desired to write one, you’d basically follow five classic rules:
- Four lines in rhyming couplets of AA/BB.
- A person’s name, usually in the first line and a bit about that person that brings a smile.
- There is no fixed meter — similar to something Dr. Seuss might write.
- The poems are mostly used in jest but are occasionally critical.
- When completed, the rhythm has a sing-song ring to it
I tried to write one but it’s just too early for this old brain. I’ll leave you with these four examples instead:
James Earl Jones,
His award winning voice, rough like stones
Darth Vader, Mufasa, stuttering Jubilee
When I die can he be the one narrating my eulogy?
King Henry VIII wed them
In order to bed them.
When they no longer suited
Had them executed.
Sir Isaac Newton
didn’t think gravity was fun,
when at the tree he did slump,
from an apple that caused a lump.
Edgar Allan Poe
Is he friend or is he foe
He wrote a great poem called The Raven
A sly bird known for misbehavin’
My musings are still up on
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My Family’s Living History
For 100 days, I’ll post something from my chosen topic: Clichés.
There are 75 entries to come.
Here’s a cliché for today:
Rhyme or reason
Today is Author R. Ann Siracusa’s blog day
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