A clerihew is a biographical poem invented by English writer and humourist Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956) in order to amuse his fellow pupils at St Paul’s School – a private school which in Bentley’s time was located at Hammersmith in London, (the school moved to Barnes on the south side of the Thames in 1968).
Clerihew rules are straightforward: four lines with the rhyming pattern AABB; line 1 contains the name of the subject, usually someone famous; line lengths and metre are random, irregular and awkward for comic effect; the rhymes are forced or clumsy; the humour is not satirical or abusive but deliberately lacklustre, spurious or anticlimactic.
Bentley’s first published clerihews set the template. For example:
Sir Humphry Davy
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered Sodium.
John Stuart Mill,
By a mighty effort of will,
Overcame his natural bonhomie
And wrote Principles of Political Economy.
I’ve never composed a clerihew – until now.
King Charles the third
Quite understandably inferred
That Mummy would never join the choir invisible.
No wonder his Coronation arrangements are so risible!
Ok, Ok, I admit it’s not up to scratch. To improve, I will just have to compose a lot more and regularly try them out on readers…