Clerihew Who? Or What?

Today, July 10th is celebrated as National Clerihew Day in honor of English novelist and humorist Edmund Clerihew Bentley (July 10, 1875 – March 30, 1956).  He is credited with developing a poem style where the rules state:

  • Include four lines
  • The first and second lines rhyme with each other
  • The third and fourth lines rhyme with each other
  • Include a person’s name in the first line
  • The second line ends with something that rhymes with the name of the person
  • Say something about that person
  • Be humorous as it is meant to be a funny poem

Edmund Clerihew Bentley penned his first clerihew when he was a 16 years old student at St. Paul’s School in London.  He was in a science class and wrote about Humphry Davy, a Cornish chemist and inventor who invented the Davy lamp, more commonly known as a miner’s safety lamp, and several chemical elements and compounds.  It went like this:

Sir Humphry Davy
Abominated gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium.

“Clerihew” was not officially a word until 1928 when the Oxford Dictionary documented it.  Of course Edmund Clerihew Bentley is not the only poet to write in this genre; however, he is considered to be the best clerihew writer.  Here are a couple of his other works:

George the Third
Ought never to have occurred.
One can only wonder
At so grotesque a blunder.

Edgar Allen Poe
Was passionately fond of roe.
He always like to chew some
When writing something gruesome.

Clerihews poke fun at people whether they are real or not.  They are meant to be funny; therefore if you cannot take a joke, you may not want to read them.  However, if you are interested in exploring the world of Clerihews, check out these resources:

The Nature of Writing
Poem Hunter
Clerihew Day Pinterest Board
The Call of the Clerihew Facebook Page

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