Friday, November 27, 2009

Meryl Streep Can Make You Weep

Some of the customers of this blog have demanded to know exactly what a clerihew is, inasmuch as there have been some verses in earlier blogs characterized by that name. Okay: a clerihew is a verse form invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956), an English journalist and author.  As a bored 16-year-old in chemistry class—and who hasn’t been?—he idly doodled these lines about the subject of that day’s lecture:

     Sir Humphry Davy
     Was not fond of gravy.
     He lived in the odium
     Of having discovered sodium.

Once he got in the habit of writing these bits of doggerel, he couldn’t stop (you know how that is), and in 1905, under the name of E. Clerihew, he published Biography for Beginners. It was a whole blooming book of four-line verses, in AABB rhyme scheme, in which the first line contained the name of a famous person, the second line rhymed with the name, and the last two lines made a whimsical comment about that person.  One of the terrific things about writing clerihews is that they don’t have to conform to metrical regularity, and you can toss around your dactyls and anapests with impunity.

Fuller details about E. C. Bentley and more samples than you would really like of actual clerihews (both his and mine) will be found in Words Gone Wild, a book-like object that will be on sale at your neighborhood icehouse next spring.  Meanwhile, please try to subsist on this latter-day clerihew, fetched up from the bottomless trunk of the Bard of Buffalo Bayou.

    Meryl Streep
    Can make you weep,
    Especially when you see a
    Movie like Mamma Mia!

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