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Clerihew

From Academic Kids

A clerihew is a humorous verse, rather similar to a limerick, that generally uses the name of a well known person at the end of the first or second line. The form was invented by and is named for Edmund Clerihew Bentley. The clerihew is usually whimsical, showing the subject from an unusual point of view. It is hardly ever satirical or abusive, and unlike the limerick, it is not often obscene. The form includes four free verse lines with irregular, prose-like rhythm, with two pairs of rhymes (aabb).

Culturally, the form has encouraged a Nash-like use of strained metre and rhyme for humorous effect, as can be seen in some of the examples below.

Edmund Clerihew Bentley
Worked swiftly if not gently,
Tracking murderers down by a hidden clew
In whodunit and clerihew.
Edmund Clerihew Bentley
Mused, when he ought to have studied intently;
It was this muse
That inspired clerihews.
Sir Karl Popper
Perpetrated a whopper
When he boasted to the world that he and he alone
Had toppled Rudolf Carnap from his Vienna Circle throne.
(by Armand T. Ringer)
Sir Christopher Wren
Said, "I am going to dine with some men.
If anyone calls,
Say I am designing St Paul's."
John Stuart Mill,
By a mighty effort of will,
Overcame his natural bonhomie
And wrote 'Principles of Political Economy'.

Clerihews usually give potted history on a particular person, but they can also cover different subjects as well, as in this example by Bentley:

The art of Biography
Is different from Geography,
Geography is about maps,
But Biography is about chaps.

The World's Shortest Clerihew

"To the Poetry Editor of the New Yorker" was composed, over breakfast, by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman, in honor of Howard Moss, poet, critic, and editor of poetry at The New Yorker. Despite or because of the poem's brevity, Auden and Kallman manage to rhyme the names of three different people. The poem was discovered years after Auden's death in a manuscript notebook donated by his heirs to the New York Public Library. It has apparently never been printed in The New Yorker:

TO THE POETRY EDITOR OF THE NEW YORKER

Is Robert Lowell
Better than Noel
Coward,
Howard?

External link

nl:Clerihew

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